A Guide to Dark Souls 3 Multiplayer
Prepare to die, yet again. As if Bloodborne wasn't torturous enough, FromSoftware is back with the third (and most likely the final) installment of the Dark Souls franchise. Dark Souls 3 is aiming to be a combination of the most sought after aspects of FromSoftware's previous hits. Demon's Souls, Dark Souls 1 & 2, and Bloodborne all made their mark as haunting and nerve wracking dives into madness. And, if the early game footage holds true, it appears that Dark Souls 3 will be no different. Luckily for those faithful to Souls, multiplayer is back in a big way. This time around, it looks as if there will be more room for jolly cooperation, as well as a for hostile invasions to destroy any inkling of hope. Whether you’re summoning others or being summoned, invading or being invaded, Dark Souls 3 looks to be a wonderfully punishing experience for those multiplayer maniacs.
First is the basics, which start with recognizing phantoms. As with the previous Souls games, players appear in other worlds as spectral phantoms with a glowing aura. Color is used to differentiate hostile versus non-hostile players; red representing hostile and white representing non-hostile. The hosting world’s character will remain as is, void of any spectral glow that the other players exhibit. Though if you are to enter another player's world, you will also take on the appearance of a red or white phantom.
It should be noted that previous Dark Souls games also made it possible to summon and be invaded by NPC’s. If this features remains, not all phantoms will be players in the real world.
Summoning and Being Summoned
There are two ways in which a friendly player can interact with other players online; by summoning or by being summoned. As with previous Dark Souls games, the “White Sign Soapstone” will be returning as the key item for this. This non-consumable item enables a player to leave their “sign” on the ground, allowing others to touch it in their own world. Likewise, touching a sign in your own game summons a co-operator to alleviate the despair of adventuring alone. There is one stipulation to co-operative play, though. Much like "humanity" and "hollowing" in previous Souls games, Dark Souls 3 will make use of consumable items called "embers." By using an ember, the player enters "Lord of Cinder" mode, boosting the character's max HP and adding a unique aesthetic to their appearance. Once in this state, players can then summon white phantoms via soul signs.
Early access suggests that players will be able to summon up to four co-operators, meaning the largest possible party can contain five players total. While these odds seem a bit overwhelming, it should be noted that for each player summoned, enemies and bosses in the area receive buffs in health (an extra 50% for normal enemies, while boss HP doubles). What's more, white phantoms enter a host's world with 70% of their maximum health, as well as half of their "Estus Flasks" (refillable health replenishment items). The number of co-operators and enemy buffs are still subject to change though, given that these were merely the guidelines for early stress tests. Lastly, a much-loved Bloodborne feature will be implemented in Dark Souls 3. Password matching will be used to eliminate the "random" summoning mechanic, thus transporting a player to a world with the same password. This makes it easy for friends to suffer together! In short, Dark Souls 3 won't require your thirst for souls to be a solo endeavor, but FromSoftware isn't afraid to ramp up the punishment to even the field.
Invading and Being Invaded
For some, invading others is the cherry on top for the Dark Souls franchise. For others, it is the bane of their virtual existence. Regardless of what side of the spectrum you fall, invasions will be a big part of Dark Souls 3. As was the case with the original Dark Souls, invasions will require the use of the "Red Eye Orb." While this was once a consumable item, Dark Souls 3 will have it as a permanent, allowing for an infinite number of uses. Once a player has used the orb, matchmaking will take place for the given area. In other words, a player won't be transported to a completely different area of the game for an invasion.
Dark Souls 3 matchmaking will also depend on "Soul Level," as opposed to the Dark Souls 2 matchmaking mechanic of "Soul Memory," which tracked the total number of souls collected by a player. "Soul Level" is simply the level of a player's character, which should make for more even invasions (regarding player abilities and equipment). Early gameplay also revealed that invasions only took place if a host had summoned white phantoms for aid, making for more one-sided skirmishes. While it remains true that more than one red phantom can invade concurrently, invaders will see the same de-buffs as white phantoms (70% max HP and half the number of estus flasks). This may seem like successful invasions are only possible with more than one red phantom, but FromSoftware has introduced a new mechanic to reward the skilled. Killing an opponent rewards a player with more "Estus Flasks," which should make for longer and more dramatic fights. All in all, it seems that invading in Dark Souls 3 may be more difficult for those new to the game, but experienced players will undoubtedly adapt quickly and reap the benefits of the new multiplayer system. For a more in-depth look at the mechanics and some intense gameplay, check out VaatiVidya's PVP breakdown from the Dark Souls 3 online stress test.
Other Online Features
Although world-hopping enshrines the more exciting aspects of Dark Souls 3 multiplayer, there are other online features to assist in your questing. Players have the ability, via a different "Soapstone," to leave helpful (or harmful) messages on the ground. These can be seen in the games of others at the exact location in which they were cast. Bloodstains will also be returning, marking the ground where another player has met an untimely death. Touching the bloodstain summons an ephemeral "ghost" of that player, showing for a brief amount of time the events that lead to his/her death. While these two aspects may not seem like much, being warned of a trap or hinted to some hidden treasure could very well keep you from death's icy grasp.
Dark Souls 3 promises to make some changes for the better in regard to multiplayer, all the while maintaining that Souls feel we know and love. By implementing favorable aspects from previous FromSoftware titles, it seems like the latest addition to the Souls series will be making online interaction more of a prevalent factor. Of course, players will undoubtedly still have the option to unravel the mysteries of Lothric offline. Though, with such a pool of new features, it's safe to assume there will be a vast online community come the April 12th release. Whether you're a player hunter or co-op savior, Dark Souls 3 is looking to be FromSoftware's most immersive online experience to date.