A Knife in the Dark – Dark Souls 3


Beware. This post will have spoilers for Dark Souls 3. I know its been a while, but I’ll still put the disclaimer here. 

I’ve been having a revitalization in playing Dark Souls, and I’ve put a bunch of time into it lately. Come, stay a while and listen!

I spoke, briefly, about the start of my Dark Souls III Playthrough back in November. I’ve been pretty quiet on that front though. Most of my video game time was spend over the holidays playing Destiny 2 with a couple of friends. It had an event going on and, sometimes, I can really get caught up chasing baubles. 

a bit ago, however, I picked up Dark Souls 3 again in order to avoid finishing painting my Bane Riders. These things are killing my drive for huge periods of time. The last time this happened to me was way back when with the release of Bane Knights. I’m strugglin’. 

Getting back to where I was took some time fiddling around in lower level areas because I was rusty and rusty can cost you dearly. However, once I was back on track I started off right where I left off. Where was that? Well, from the setup article, I’d chosen to use knives and a shield. I’m just not deft enough to not get completely smashed by bosses, so I was definitely going to have to use one. The knife was an excellent choice, it turns out, because in addition to causing damage, it also adds bleed. Bleed is something that I’d not played with in either of the other games. in DSI it was a faith Based build, and in II it was all Stab all the time.

Bleed is an interesting mechanic. If a weapon has a bleed stat (in this instance, the Bandit knife has a bleed of 30), it will apply a that number as bleed to the enemy. When an opponents bleed resistance is overcome (bleed total is greater than bleed resistance) then they will suffer blood loss and massive damage. Because Bleed resist is unique to each enemy, it is difficult to know which enemies are harder to proc bleed on, and those which are easy. Trial and error! 

Combining the swift attacks of the Knife with the bleed status effect being a static number applied per hit, and you can very easily pop the bleed bar to get the extra damage. If you can wend your way into position to attack multiple times without taking a hit, you’re in a great place.  Additionally, the Bandit Knife does significant backstab damage creating an incentive to get behind a target and get those juicy critical damage spikes when the target is vulnerable. Generally, being behind a target also is a pretty safe place to make a bunch of attacks creating situation where you’re almost always trying to swing around a target and wail in their backs.  A very different approach to both the mace and spear, which can attack headlong into whatever came my way. 

Alright, so enough about how rad my character is (He’s really rad!) 


The absolute best part about the Dark Souls games is the challenging and engaging combat. There are so many different direction to approach the game, with each one having its own set of puzzles and quirks to work out. These combats come to fruition in different times of the game, with the satisfying and climactic boss fights that the series is known for. While I’ve made it through plenty in the past, including back in November, I’ve taken on four recently. I enjoyed most of them, and even the one that I didn’t enjoy, the feeling of beating the boss and traversing that experience into the new area is completely worth it. 

Remember: SPOILERS

The Abyss Watchers

This fight was, by far, the hardest I’ve had in the game. I’m not built for it, not by a long shot. 

This is a simple fight. I come into a room strewn with bodies, some in piles and some just tossed aside. There are a few soldier in combat in the center, and they all kill each other. Then, one rises and, menacingly, makes his way towards me. He’s lightly armored, wielding a large sword in one hand and a dagger in the other. No big deal. I fight him for a few seconds and then BAM, another of the corpses ambushes you, having resurrected itself from the pile. So, I retreat, as is my style, to watch and wait. After a few more moments a damned third warrior rises from the pile of corpses. This… does not end well. 

Over the next few tries at fighting these guys I realize a few things. 

First: The Boss and his associated hit points are linked the the first one that rises and is there to start the fight. 

Second: The third corpse to rise is different. He will fight whoever is closest to him, be it me, the boss, or the extra corpse. 

Third: The extra corpse, the second of the two to rise during the fight, has hit points and can be killed fairly swiftly. The same goes for the third guy. 

My strategy works its way, over a number of iterations, to a very basic and cowardly routine. Remember, I’m dressed in a cloak with some light armor, as shield and a tiny little bandit knife. I cannot stand many sword strikes to the ‘ol noggin. I’ve, by this time, become pretty familiar with their attack patterns, making sure that I don’t burn through my healing flasks, but still have to use them to get through. 

First, I run in and dodge left, because the main dude is going to do a running slash into my chest if I don’t. I also go run and grab my souls. If possible, I’ll get a few decent stabs in on the boss, prior to the extra corpse joining the fray. When he does that, the boss becomes a little more cautious. I’ve learned where the third wheel here resurrects himself, so I try to direct the fight in that direction. I’ll be actively engaged in combat with the extra corpse, but I don’t want to kill him, just yet, because then the boss will actually engage. Instead, I play along until the Third wheel returns, and if I did it right he charges and engages the boss, doing damage for me, and playing the distraction. I hope to quickly finish off the extra corpse, and then just hang out. The boss will, eventually, kill the Third wheel. Repeat the process until Third wheel kills the boss for you. Easy-peasy. 

but wait, there is more. 

It turns out – and I learned this accidentally during one of the earlier stages, that if you do defeat the boss, You’re not done. Instead, all the corpses will funnel their charnel energy into a single body, and his will resurrect himself. He will also, because why the hell not, light his sword on fire. His moves are all basically the same as the previous incarnation, except they feel like they hit exponentially harder and have much longer reach. Every attack wreaths him in flames, and sometimes he creates fire on the floor that I had to watch out for. 

This guy is a huge pain because, until you figure out how to make it through the first portion of the fight unscathed, you’ve got little to no healing to back you up and he could kill  easy with two or three attacks. Learning all of this made the first two hours of the fight extremely frustrating, but once I was able to reliably get to phase 2 without being out of healing, it became interesting to try and figure out. I played the patient game, waiting out his attacks and seeing what I could do to take advantage of his position and it took me way to much trial and error. There were two specific instances that I could take advantage of.

First, he does this jumping spin-slash-slam. Get the hell out of dodge when it starts coming. Fortunately, he telegraphs the hell out of this shit, as its his fourth in a series of four attacks. If I could dodge and roll away from all four – which he locks on and follows me through the attacks, after the fourth attack, he had enough recovery that I could either get a stab in or, more importantly, take a swig from the flask and heal up. 

The second was a long diving forward slash  with fire attached to it, to everyone’s surprise. If I could dodge to the right of that attack, I could get in a backstab, if I was lucky, or a hit or two if I wasn’t. Which was how I beat him. Patiently waiting for that single move, healing when damaged and trying to not to make too many mistakes. At the end of almost three hours, I took him down, finally defeating the Abyss watchers and, unknown to me, my first Lord of Cinder. 

After The Abyss Watchers, I wandered through the catacombs a bunch before settling into the second and third bosses. 

The Old Demon King

This guy was a bit of a difficult boss, but only because I was learning what he did, and how he did it. At the end of a long and treacherous route, I found a fogged door and beyond it, a room filled with… Demon corpses. One in the center rose and decided I needed to pay the price for my insolence. 

He’s got a huge hammer, and a few pretty unimpressive attacks. His Fire Breath can reach extremely far and does a ton of damage, but it limited in width. His hammer and fist strikes are slow and clumsy, but recognizing the difference between his hammer strike, which I should attack through, and his Flame Ring of Doom, which I should flee from, was tough. It took me a little while but the simple combination of stabbing him in his tail, legs and ass while fleeing from him every time he stopped moving for more than a few seconds, served me will. the whole combat probably lasted about 25 minutes, including multiple loads and running to his fog. Overall, not really a big deal. I was, and am, more scared of the stupid 2 story tall fire crabs out in the lake of fire. 

High Lord Wolnir

High lord Wolnir was a punk. 

I can’t really say a lot more about his difficulty. It took me one true go at him to take him down, as the first fight is always a test run to see what he does and how it works. 

Dark souls bosses can often have a single point of them touching the ground, and you should always try to attack that point, as its your only vulnerable area. Ceaseless Discharge taught me that. In this case, its Wonirs hands and wrists. They extend down the to the ground while the rest of him rests comfortably 40′ in the air. I attacked his left(my right) hand first, and did almost no damage to him. He eventually summoned skeletons, which I ran from, because there were tons of them. Fortunately, Like the Old Rotted Oak before him, he does a really good job killing his friends, smashing them with his hands when attacking and with the darkness surrounding him when he chases me down because I’ve run like a coward. Repeat this a few times and – crash – his armlet breaks. Excellent. He has two more armlets. Lets get this done. However, when I broke the first armlet, he decided that he’d had enough of my shit, and summoned a giant dagger for his right hand. He kept trying to stab me with it, and would often stab it into the ground and create a huge pulse of energy. I simply rolled away or ran away as best I could. I took a few more swigs of the Estus Flask before I could break the second armband on his left hand, and then repeating the process, I broke his right hand, the final armlet, and the boss. 

Simple. Attack one hand, let him kill all his friends for you, and then attack the other. No problem! 

Finally, we get to the most recent boss, 

Pontiff Sulyvhan

Following the death of High Lord Wolnir,  I wandered around the Boreal Valley for some time until I happened into the church at the top of the hill. Therein, I met the most gracious of their clergy, Pontiff Sulyvahn. 

He was kind enough to simply wander towards me, which game me some time to see what he does. He has two big swords. I got in nice and extra close – where the swords of Dark Souls bosses tend to not be that effective, and was calmly stabbing his back and sides while he impotently flailed at me. Every once in a while, he would pull off this pesky jump-slide move which would break my lock on him, and I would have to roll quickly to make sure I wasn’t hit but the follow up overhand slam. It didn’t take long before I had him on his knees, literally. However, at 50% of his health, he explodes out massive shadow wings and summons a ghostly duplicate of his self that, depending on the situation, either mimes him or he mimes in turn. The first try did not end well. 

The second try, I knew what was coming, so I got in a few stabs while he was on his knees but didn’t press my luck. Still took a whole host of damage, though. Then, when he summoned his duplicate I just.. fled. I stayed as far away from that bastard as I could, gauging their attacks and responses, playing super carefully lest I get killed by a stupid ghost. I got beat up pretty bad at one point, so I ducked behind a wall, healed up with my Estus, and waited for the ghost who never came. Instead, the ghost had vanished, I assume from duration. I went back to my old and clever ways of stabbing the poor fool in the kidneys every time I had a chance, and it worked. Second try, took down the Pontiff through sheer, unbridled patience. 

Well, those are the bosses to date. I’ll have an update in February with more of what I have done. 

As always – if your looking for more, I’m on Twitter, Instagram, and facebook, though they all aren’t equally active.