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The Three Cs of Multiplayer in Dark Souls III

Dark Souls III can be a harrowing experience, no doubt about it. But as challenging as the game may seem, it includes a number of multiplayer features to make the journey somewhat easier – and some to add a whole new type of challenge. Let’s take a look at the game’s unusual take on multiplayer.

Communication

The first thing you’re likely to notice about Dark Souls III’s multiplayer is a red splotch on the ground. We’ll explain that in a moment, but first let’s talk about the second thing you’re likely to notice: three orange splotches on the ground. Upon closer inspection, you’ll notice that those splotches look like writing… which is, of course, exactly what they are. This is the message system, and it can be a godsend in a game as challenging as this. By hitting your Menu button and picking Message, you can leave a note for any other player to see.

But this isn’t a matter of pecking out a message on an onscreen keyboard; instead, you choose from message templates and fill in the blanks by choosing a preset word or phrase. Now, there are a lot of preset words and phrases, covering just about anything you can think of – but you might need to get a little creative in order to convey complex concepts. For example, you may encounter a multi-enemy ambush, which can be best dealt with by backing into a narrow passage and forcing them to attack one-by-one. You might write “enemy horde ahead, therefore try tight spot.” It’s entertaining as heck to see the novel ways in which players use the presets to communicate. You can even add a gesture for a bit more context (and as an aside, know that you can acquire more gestures as you progress through the game). Just beware: Not every message-leaver has your best interests at heart. “Griefing” with false messages isn’t entirely common, but it does happen, so don’t believe everything you read without verifying for yourself as much as you can. “Try jumping” is an especially common message near bottomless pits.

Oh, and about those red blotches? Those are blood stains; they’re recordings of other players’ final moments. Grim, sure… but by touching one, you might get a glimpse of a hidden danger lurking just ahead. Fortunately, you can periodically encounter living players, too. Every so often, you’ll notice a shadowy phantom roaming through your area. This is another player just going about their business; you can’t communicate with them directly, but you can acknowledge their presence with a gesture. If nothing else, it can be comforting to know that others are going through the same trials and tribulations.

Cooperation

Of course, there’s a more traditional form of multiplayer in Dark Souls III, too. But, like everything else in the game, it’s handled a little bit differently than what you’d expect. You can either join another player’s game or bring another player into yours, but in both cases, you’ll need a special item first. To enlist aid, you first need to use an ember to “gain the strength of flame” and allow you to see other players’ summoning signs. Touch a sign, and you can bring in another player, which can be enormously helpful in boss fights (note, though, that once the boss of a particular area is defeated, you’ll no longer be able to summon aid in that area).

If you’re feeling charitable, you can also offer your services to others in need. By using your white sign soapstone (which you should purchase ASAP back in the hub area), you can leave a summoning sign for others to use – and if you help defeat a boss, you get a free ember as a reward. You can even choose to set a password on your summoning sign, so that only players you want to actually join you can use your sign.

Competition

But there’s another, darker side to being ember’d. When in this state, you’re also susceptible to very much non-cooperative play: invasions. An invasion is when another player forcibly enters your own world in search of one thing, and that’s your death. If they manage to take you out, they get serious rewards… but if you successfully repel the invasion, the spoils go to you. This concept adds a layer of uncertainty and variety to the game, and while invasions can be distracting, they can also be a refreshing change from dueling with A.I. enemies.

Of course, you have the option of invading others, too. With the use of a red eye orb, you can insert yourself into the games of players near to you in both level and location. Now it’s up to you to track down and dispatch your prey. But be warned: If you thought the regular enemies in Dark Souls III were a challenge, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

A third method of invasion exists too, and it’s certainly the most civilized of the three. By using the red sign soapstone, you can leave a special summoning sign for other players. If one chooses to use it, the game will bring you into their world for a head-to-head match-up that’s essentially initiated by both parties.

As if all this weren’t novel enough, there’s a whole other layer to competitive multiplayer: covenants. By joining a covenant, you gain special benefits and/or obligations when it comes to invasions. By joining the Way of Blue, for example, you’ll get defenders automatically summoned to your world when you’ve been invaded. Joining the Blue Sentinels, on the other hand, means that you get summoned to defend a member of the Way of Blue. Each covenant has different qualities and rewards, so if you’re really into the idea of player-versus-player competition, check them all out.

Sure, Dark Souls III can be a harrowing experience. But at least you don’t have to experience it alone!