Underneath my yellow skin

Dark Souls III: Bossing My Way Through NG Pluses

down to the wire with the dancer.
Tears of Denial saved my ass!

Hi, my name is Minna Hong, and I’m addicted to Dark Souls III. I have written before how it’s not the best Soulsborne¬†game (Dark Souls. No question. But, man, is it so janky and has issues), but it’s the most replayable–at least for me. It’s also a game I can comfortably play on my laptop, so it’s my go-to when I’m in the mood to play something, but I can’t be stuffed to get up and go to my desktop. (Like when I was sick. I didn’t even want to get up and move the two feet to the recliner I use to play Bloodborne on my PS4.) I’ve also gotten back into Binding of Isaac: Rebirth to finish off the achievements, but that’s another post for another day.

I’ve played all the Soulsborne games more than once except Demon’s Souls, which I haven’t played because I don’t have a PS3, please god let it be remastered for the PS4, but I hadn’t done more than NG+ on any of them. I also hadn’t played a tank character up until I finished Dark Souls III and decided to give it a try. I’d heard all the griping in ‘the community’ about how easy magic/casting made the game, that it was babby mode, that only scrubs used magic, and I decided I had to give another build a try so I could make a comparison of my own. Before being a tank, I would still have argued that being a caster is more difficult because I had less health and stamina, had to wear lighter armor, and I didn’t have enough magicks/pyromancy/miracles to make my way through a whole area or boss fight. That meant I had to do some melee, usually with a starting/first area weapon (battle axe was my jam), which meant plinking away for potato damage until I reached a bonfire and replenished my spells.

One of my favorite changes to DS III was switching from a limited number of spells to mana (FP, focus points, but it’s mana) and having two Estus Flasks (Ashen Estus Flask to replenish the FP bar) which you can allocate any way you like. By the end of the game, I had fifteen gulps of my Estus Flasks, and I had a ten/five split between regular and Ashen.

Once I finished the game as a pyromancer, I decided to do another pyromancer run and a tank run (separately). I needed to know if my hunch that being a tank would be easier in the long run was right or wrong. Short answer–right. Having that fat health bar and endurance for days made such a difference. Being able to wield the Greataxe (what I used for my first tank run) or the Executioner’s Sword (another early fave) with ease meant dishing out massive damage. Being able to use more than a base shield meant blocking was viable, and if I wear the Wolf Ring +3, I don’t even flinch when I get hit.

When I started the first Dark Souls game, I chose pyromancer because I like fire, yes, but also because I thought being ranged would be better for an old, slow-reaction gal like me. After playing a lot of tank, however, I have to say that being a tank is better if you have slower reactions. Why? Because as a caster, I had to do a lot of dodging. A LOT. As a tank, I could trade blows and come out mostly intact. Right now, I’m rocking the Black Iron Set with the matching Black Iron Greatshield +10. If I wanted to truly cosplay as Black Iron Tarkus, er, Knight Slayer Tsorig, I’d use the Fume Ultra Greatsword, but I find it too unwieldy and, frankly, underwhelming. I switch up weapons during different playthroughs (and for different bosses), but my main is Lorian’s Greatsword, which is by far my favorite weapon in the game.

a most satisfying win.
Standing up to the Nameless King.

In addition, I use the Hidden Body spell/Slumbering Dragoncrest Ring combo so I am invisible/soundless as I approach enemies. I discovered this combo as a caster (plus the Lingering Dragoncrest Ring+2), and I’m a fucking ninja tank now that I’ve applied it to my warrior. I think the Hidden Body spell was nerfed which it needed because with the Lingering Dragoncrest Ring +2, it was ridiculous how long I remained invisible.

I’m currently finishing up the DLCs in NG++++ (just finished Ashes of Ariandel, am about to tackled The Ringed City), and then I’m going to go into NG+5. Why? Because new game pluses playthroughs are WAY more fun than NG. Let me enumerate the reasons why. One, I know the layout of the game, and that’s more than half the battle. One of the hardest thing about Soulsborne games is the surprise element, so by the fifth or sixth time through, I’m no longer jumping out of my seat as a skeleton flies at me out of nowhere. There’s something comforting about thinking, “I go through the archway, and there’s a dog in front of me. Hike to the left and fight the dog without having flame arrows shot in my face. Then, attack the archer, but be mindful of the next dog.”

Two, by this point, I’ve maxed out all my stats, which means I can use high level spells as well as be a tank. It’s very good for specific situations (boss is weak to a certain element, for example), even though I allocate less Ashen Flasks (13/2 split) than I do with my pyromancer so I can’t use the spells as much as a tank. I forgot to mention that I use the Tears of Denial miracle as well, which brings you back to life with 0 health once. It’s saved my ass so many times, and it was a pro tip by EpicNameBro.

Three, I don’t care about soloing the boss if I’ve already done it (which I’ve usually done in the NG. I really try to solo bosses my first time through, with the exception of the DLCs. I soloed all the DLC bosses in the original DS as well as all the bosses in the vanilla game, but I haven’t since). I will summon without thinking about it twice once I’ve beaten a boss solo. Also, it takes an ember to summon (except one certain NPC in the first DLC, but that’s besides the point), and by NG+, I have tons of them to spare. In addition, I can allow myself to be summoned and get an ember in return if I help another player beat a boss–which is a lot of fun.

There are NPC summons for most, but not all bosses. Human summons are usually better, but they’re harder to find the more pluses I add to the end of the new game moniker. There are a few bosses I have to fight solo most of the time. Wolnir is one, the Dancer is another. No one ever wants to help on the Champion Gravetender & Gravetender Greatwolf, so I fight that boss solo. Same with Friede, so I only use Gael, who is a badass, really. Oh! I didn’t use embers for boss fights during my first playthrough because I like to hoard them, which meant 30% less health. Having a 30% health boost is huge. Anyway, during this playthrough, I actually managed to summon a player for the Dragonslayer Armour, and with the player and Eygon, we made really short work of the boss.

I also managed to get a human summon for the Twin Princes, which shocked the hell out of me. I usually have to make do with the two NPC summons (and still struggle), but this time, with Orbeck and the player summon, it was cake. I also like to think I’m getting better, but let’s face it–a human summon is such a huge advantage.

Quick note: I had to summon for four boss fights on my first playthrough of the vanilla game as a pyromancer. Abyss Watchers, Pontiff, Twin Princes, and the Nameless fucking King. I beat the first three in my first playthrough as a tank, but the Nameless King had to wait for NG+ as my pyromancer to be beaten solo. He’s by far the hardest boss for me in the main game, and so I’m especially proud that I beat him solo during my NG+4 playthrough. I used the Sunlight Spear miracle on the dragon followed by viscerals, which made short work of the King of Storms phase. Then, I used my beloved Lorian’s Greatsword and Affinity spell on Nameless King, and though it went down to the wire, I gutted out a win.

get out of here with that invisibility bullshit.
Sister Friede ain’t no joke!

Four, I can just dick around with different loadouts without feeling any pressure. I have so much upgrade material, I can upgrade any weapon I please just for the fun of it. I have something like 25 titanite slabs (the final upgrade material), which is ridiculous as I’ve used at least half a dozen if not more. In the original game, there’s three I think in the entire game. In Bloodborne, there’s two blood rocks. Period. There are less weapons in general in BB, but still.¬† I recently upgraded the Millwood Battle Axe just because I love axes so much in these games. I started with a Hand Axe as a pyromancer in the original, and my love affair with axes has continued ever since.

It’s funny, though. No matter which weapons I upgrade, I end up coming back to my Lorian’s Greatsword time and time again. It feels like an extension of my hand, and I love smacking enemies with it. Yes, it takes time to swing it, but it’s actually one of the faster greatswords.

Once I move into NG+5, I’ll probably switch up my armor and weapon again. As much as DS III is now comfort food to me, I still want to try new things. Maybe, when I finally git gud, I’ll try a dex build. It’s really the only thing left I have to do.

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