Combat in Dark Souls 2 is the main interaction and mechanics of the Dark Soul 2 game and environment. The Dark Souls games are well known for their in-depth and detailed Combat mechanics which diversify the way different players approach the game and build their characters when facing each of the Locations and foes of the game. This page features a list of combat mechanics with in-depth insights to their workings and correlations, as well as helpful tips for beginners and veterans alike who are looking to take the next step in character development. This include a breakdown of different freures and systems that may not be included in in-game tutorials. Players of the community have also shared their own calculations and findings in order to better gameplay experiences and provide insight on their own encounters with combat in the game.
Dark Souls 2 Combat
Lock-On is a feature which focuses the camera on a target, letting the player easily direct their attacks and other abilities. It makes it harder for the target to get access to the player's back and forces the shield to face the enemy. Moving around the target also becomes easier.
The player is also able to move more freely during lock-on, and is, able to roll and run away from the target while remaining locked on, whereas in the previous game lock-on would always make the player face the target. However, lock-on no longer causes your weapons to autotrack the target; the player must manually aim swings with the left stick. Players walk slower and take longer to start running (in directions other than the target) when locked-on.
Projectile Deflection DS2
It is possible to knock projectiles out of the air by hitting them with an attack, the deflected projectile can apply damage to the enemy.
Not all projectiles can be deflected.
Parry, Guard Break and Riposte DS2
Parrying is the act of using a weapon or shield to knock away an incoming blow, riposting is the act of using this opening to get a critical hit. Parrying an enemy player will cause them to fall onto the ground in a seated position for a short time. Riposting is done by using the light attack button on an available enemy and typically involves using a downward attack on the seated enemy, dealing significant damage.
Enemies can also be riposted after they have had their guards broken. After being reposted, a character will be invincible for a short period.
Parry Frame Data
(UPDATED by Donkey Freckle)
Backstabs are done by pressing the light attack button while behind an enemy and facing towards them. This will start a backstab attack, if this attack connects, it will place both characters into the backstab animation. In PvP, if the backstab connects on the attacker's end it will count as a successful backstab even if it didn't connect on the receptor's end. Some enemies cannot be backstabbed and some equipment offers protection from backstab. After being backstabbed, a character will be invincible for a short period.
- Rolling and Backstepping grant the player invincibility frames (iframes) for a set duration.
- The amount of iframes granted depends on the Agility stat which is based on the player's Adaptability and Attunement stats.
- The distance traveled during a roll or backstep depends on the equipment load a player has.
The length of a roll or backstep is proportional to the equipment load of a player from 0 to 70%. If the player surpasses the 70% mark, they are penalized with a slower version of the roll referred to as a Fat Roll. Fat rolls have the same iframes as a regular roll but more recovery frames. If the player surpasses 100% equipment load they cannot perform rolls or backsteps.
Shoulder Push/Guard Break DS2
By pressing forward them immediately pressing the light attack button, the player will perform a shoulder push. When a shoulder push connects to a shield, the shield-bearer's guard immediately is broken (with the notable exception of enemies with greatshields).
After breaking a humanoid foe's guard with the shoulder push, it is also possible to perform a riposte-like attack for a short period.
Attack Rating DS2
This is a value that determines the power of your attacks, it is the only part of the damage formula immediately visible to the player. The damage a weapon does is calculated by multiplying the weapon's Attack Rating (AR) by the motion value for any given move the weapon has.
The AR changes depending on your stats, chosen weapon, upgrades and infusions. Please see our Weapon Attack Rating & Scaling Calculator for details on each weapon.
Poise is a stat that depends on armor, weapons and player stats to determine whether a character will be interrupted during an attack. Poise only matters during attacks, attacks will stagger any enemy that is not in an attack regardless of poise. Every attack has a different poise damage value which determines how much poise is subtracted from the enemy. When poise reaches 0, the character will stagger, getting stunned for a brief period. Poise naturally regenerates at a rate of under 1 poise per second. Most enemies in PvE have more poise than a player will typically have.
Blocking is the act of using a shield or weapon to reduce or completely negate the damage that would be otherwise taken. It involves holding up said weapon or shield in the direction of the attack coming at the player. Certain shields and weapons will block higher percentages of damage and also reduce different types of damage. For example a shield might have high magic resistance but low physical.
The blocking of an attack also will cost the user stamina, depending on the shield or weapon used the amount of stamina consumed will be different. For example weapons will typically use up more stamina to block an attack as opposed to shields.
When the player runs out of stamina as their shield is hit during a block the shield will be knocked away. During this time they will take more damage, the player may also be riposted when their shield is knocked away.
Stamina is a resource that limits the actions the player has available at any given time. Stamina is gaged by the green stamina bar on the top left corner of the screen. Attacking, running, rolling, back-stepping, blocking, parrying, casting spells and fast-climbing ladders all consume stamina.
Any action that requires stamina can be done even if the player has less than the required amount but, attacks will be slower and cause less, also, upon depleting the stamina bar, the player will not be able to run for a set period of time.
Stamina naturally recovers while not being used at a base rate of ~52 stamina points per second at 0% equipment load. Equipment load affects stamina regeneration relative to it's percentage. At 10% equipment load you lose 2% of the stamina recovery, at 20% you lose 5% of the stamina recovery and for each additional 10% equipment load you lose 5% stamina recovery up until 120% when you are considered over encumbered, at which point increases in equipment load do not affect stamina regeneration. Equipment load always affects stamina regeneration in proportion to itself, there are no breakpoints unlike other titles.
Stamina regeneration can be affected by items the player can use. Firstly, the , Slumbering Dragon Shield, Blossom Kite Shield, and Shield of the Insolent give a bonus of 5% stamina regeneration speed. Meanwhile, Green Blossoms give 15% additional stamina recovery. Lastly, the Chloranthy Ring gives bonuses of 12.5%, 20% and 25% at +0, +1 and +2 respectively. All stamina regeneration items can be applied at the same time (stacked).
Keeping your guard up with a shield or while 2-handing a weapon will decrease the speed of stamina regeneration.
Getting hit on a ladder will subtract stamina, if the player's stamina is reduced to 0 this way, they will fall off the ladder.
For more information on stamina recovery you can check out this post
Studying Stamina Recovery by AcuteAnthrax
Attributes in Dark Souls 2
When engaging in different Combat interactions, players can consider how their Armor, Weapon, Equipment and Build affect their stats and how that weighs against the foes they are facing and what kind of weaknesses their opponents will have. Each equipment piece will affect and modify different stats and will require players to find their perfect balance through gameplay, trial and error. Be well versed in your stats and how to increase them, be aware of your own and enemy weaknesses to create an ideal build.
Soft cap: 29, 49 & 70
Increase your equipment load. Also slightly increases your physical defence and poison resistance.
Soft cap: 40 & 50
Attribute for wielding heavy, powerful weapons, heavy armor and big shields. Increases the damage you do with strength scaling weapons and boosts physical defense. When two handing a weapon your effective strength is doubled, but this only counts for weapon requirements and not for attack strength. To power stance two weapons you must have 1.5 times the strength requirement of the weapon with the highest strength requirement.
Attribute governing agility and all resistances (not defences). Also boosts poison bonus and poise.
Soft cap: 20
Increases your stamina. Also slightly increases your physical defence and poise.
Attribute governs the number of spells that can be attuned and the number of casts per spell. Also boosts spell casting speed, agility and curse resistance.
Soft cap: 40 & 50
Attribute for wielding weapons requiring finesse. Increases the damage you do with dexterity scaling weapons. Boosts poison and bleed attack bonus and physical defence. To power stance two weapons you must have 1.5 times the dexterity requirement of the weapon with the highest dexterity requirement.
Dark Souls 2 Combat Mechanics and Movesets
Breakdown of Dual Wielding and Power Stance Mechanics
The power stance move set is determined by a priority system of these things: the weapon itself, heaviest weapon class, weapon type, and right hand weapon. But to put it simply, what determines the move set is the weapon that will be referred to as the dominant weapon.
The dominant weapon is determined by the following set of rules and priorities. Keep in mind that there may be exceptions, as almost all, but not all weapons were tested with this system in mind.
- The dominant weapon's specific move set - Note that some weapons that are the same type as others can have different move sets. For example, the Warped Sword has a completely different strong attack in power stance than other curved swords, such as the falchion.
2. The heaviest weapon class - All weapons have been broken up into rough "weight classes." No matter which hand the "heaviest" weapon is in, it will become the dominant weapon. Priority is as follows:
I. Super heavy - Ultra Greatswords, some Greataxes
II. Heavy - Great hammers, Greatswords, Greataxes, Curved Greatswords, Halberds
III. Medium - Axes, Hammers, Spears, Halberds, Reapers, Lances, Twinblades
IV. Light - Straight Swords, Curved Swords, Katanas, Thrusting Swords, Whips
V. Super light - Daggers
Within their individual weight classes, there are certain priorities that must take place as well, as explained below. Also note that some weapons can only be used in power stance with another weapon of the same type, such as whips.
Dark Souls 2 Combat Secondary Priorities
1. Weapon type - Depending on weapon types, the dominant weapon can be determined by which types take precedence over others, despite being in the same weight class. This gets a little complicated, so here's a brief look at some of the weapon combinations in various weight classes: the dominant weapon is noted with (D).
Ex. Left hand weapon / Right hand weapon (D)
(D)Lion Greataxe / Greatsword - Interestingly, the faster-swinging move set of the Lion Greataxe takes precedence over the much slower, ground-smashing move set of the Greatsword. This is an example of odd priorities, making it possible to exploit the normally slow but hard hitting ultra greatswords into swinging as fast a normal greatsword when utilizing power attacks.
(D)Large Club / Claymore
(D) Bandit Axe / Longsword
Light weapons require a mini-priority list:
I. Straight Sword/Curved Sword
III. Thrusting Sword
Ex. 1 (D)Falchion / Uchigatana
Ex. 2 (D)Longsword / Rapier
Daggers have the lowest priority of all and will never be a dominant weapon over any other type.
2. The right hand weapon - This takes very last priority and cannot be relied upon to determine the dominant weapon.
(Breakdown contributed by: SummonTheNight)
Dual Wielding and Power Stance
- See the Power Stance page for details.
Dual Wielding refers to the practice of wielding a different weapon in each hand.
Weapons retain their entire moveset no matter what hand they're in and may be used by using the respective hand's buttons, allowing for alternating usage.
If a player wants to 2-hand a weapon, they may press the Triangle (on Playstation)/Y (on XBox)/N key (default keyboard setting) button to change their hold, pressing the button will 2-hand the right handed weapon and, holding it will either 2-hand the left handed weapon or, enter a Power Stance if available, when in 2-handed or Power Stance mode, pressing the button again will take the player out of it.
While left handed usage lowers most weapons' damage output, Dual Wielding allows the player a more varied, planned out moveset that can more than make up for the difference in power. For example, a player may have a thrusting sword in one hand for single-target damage and a curved sword in the other for dealing with multiple enemies at once.
If you have at least 1.5x the required STR and DEX stats for your equipped weapons and the weapons are compatible with each other, you may enter a Power Stance by holding down Triangle/Y. The stance change is indicated by the character raising the off-handed weapon to a ready position. While in the Power Stance, primary hand attacks will be carried out as normal while off-hand attacks will be replaced by an entirely new move set which incorporates both weapons. The actual moveset is based on the weapons equipped and their handedness, some weapons give a special Power Stanced moveset when being the dominant weapon (example: Warped Sword). Generally speaking, the moveset attacks over a wide area, making it useful for dealing with multiple opponents. The Power Stance has very important drawbacks however: while the character does strike twice for each attack, stamina use is applied as around double the stamina cost of the respective move of the dominant weapon (can be seen Power Stancing Ricard's Rapier or Broken Straight Sword with a Rapier). Additionally, attacks animations have a longer wind up, leaving the character open to attack if used recklessly.
Dark Souls 2 Movesets
All weapons have their own moveset of 1-handed and 2-handed moves. Both 1-handed and 2-handed movesets vary within every weapon class.
Weapons have their own running attacks, standing attacks, falling attacks, backstep attacks, critical attacks (backstabs and ripostes) and roll-attacks.
2-handing cuts the STR requirement of a weapon in half.
Most weapons (with exceptions such as rapiers) have an initial and a follow-up attack for every attack button and for 1 and 2-handed wielding. The stamina consumption and motion value for each attack is different. Initial attacks are the first attack that comes out when using an attack button and the follow-up is a move accessible while the initial attack is still recovering that is done by pressing the same button. Follow-up attacks have an available window that varies between movesets.
- Running attacks are done by pressing the light attack button while running.
- Falling attacks are done by pressing the light attack button while falling
- Rolling attacks are done by pressing the light attack button while/after rolling.
- Backstep attacks are done by pressing the light attack button while/after backstepping.
Dark Souls 2 Damage Types
Damage is generally divided into Elemental and Physical. Elemental and Physical defenses are calculated differently.
Elemental damage types are Fire, Lightning, Magic and Dark.
Physical damage is divided into Slash, Thrust and Strike.
Elemental defenses reduce damage by a percentage while physical defenses reduce damage by a flat amount. As such, physical defenses have almost no value even when prioritized.
Dark Souls 2 Status Effects
There are five main status effects: Poison, Toxic, Bleed, Curse, and Petrify. All status effects have associated "resistances," which lengthen the bar that appears when hit by the effect. The length of the bar determines how much exposure (termed "build-up") a character can withstand before succumbing to the status effect.
- Poison: when triggered drains ~1000 HP in ticks of 15 damage. Poison can be cured with Poison Moss,Monastery Charms, and Dragon Charms and Caressing Prayer, (charms also restore health). Poison damage is typically counteracted by use of Lifegems.
- Toxic: Toxic is effectively a faster form of Poison. Items that cure Poison also cure Toxic, so Toxic is seen as a stronger variant of Poison (a player can be inflicted by both at the same time). There are limited ways a player can cause toxic build-up.
- Bleed, when it triggers, does 200 damage to HP instantly, as soon as it is inflicted after build-up, and has the secondary effect of reducing a target's maximum Stamina by about 25% until the effect ends. Note that in PvE, enemies and bosses do not have stamina, limiting the use of bleed against such foes. In PvP, bleed is more effective due to its ability to limit both of the target's main resources.
- Curse: causes the target's hollowing to increase by one step, just as though the target had died (albeit without killing them). This causes the character's maximum HP to be reduced by 5%, down to a max of 50% (exceptions for wretch characters and ring of binding usage). This means that characters who are currently in human form lose their humanity, becoming hollowed (this also causes the player to lose the ability to summon phantoms). Players cannot inflict the curse status. Curses are treated as hollowing, so are cured in the same way, via Human Effigies.
- Petrification: when triggered results in instant death and a death penalty equal to 4 deaths (20% max health penalty). Death penalty can be mitigated with Rings of Life/Soul protection. Players cannot inflict petrification.
Dark Souls 2 Combat Controls
Camera Position Aiming DS2
Tilting the camera up or down will aim certain weapons slightly, allowing you to hit over objects or attack small enemies.
Positioning your camera is important to keep your opponents in check.
Attack Aiming DS2
Attacks while not locked-on will be done in the direction the character is facing, while in the attack wind up, the player may change the direction of the attack with directional inputs, allowing some heavy weapons to turn around entirely before hitting.
Aiming with Magic (First Person View) DS2
Binoculars allow for magic to be aimed the same way arrows are.
- Attack (L1 Attacks when weapon is equipped in off-hand): L1/ R1
- Guard (shield), Attack (weapon, catalyst): L1
- Parry: L2
- Guard Break: Forward + R1/L1
- Takedown: R1/L1 (While falling)
- Backstab (must not be blocking): R1/L1 (Behind Foe)
- Dash Attack: Double Tap Circle + R1/L1
- Heavy Attack: R2/L2
- Jumping Attack: Forward + R2/L2
- Swap target: Move the Right Stick (R3). Move it in the direction of the preferred target, from its current position.
- Lunge Guard Break (Can be used with any weapon): Forward + RB
- Takedown: RB (While falling)
- Backstab: RB Behing foe (Weapon must not be blocking when you press RB).
- Dash Attack: B + RB RB
- Heavy Attack: RT
- Jumping Attack: Forward + RT
- Target lock/release: Swap target by moving the Right Stick. Move it in the direction of the preferred target, from its current position.
- Guard (shield): LT Attack (weapon, catalyst).
- Parry: LT (small shield), Bash (large shield), Parry (weapon)
- Riposte After successful Parry: RB to riposte when enemy is on the ground.
- Jump: Hold B + Left Stick + L3
- Slide down ladder: Hold down on the left stick, and hold down B
- Upward attack: RB/RT (On ladder)
- Downward attack: LB/LT (On ladder)
- Climb faster: Hold B + Left stick (On ladder)
- Shift+LMB: Interact
- E: Use selected item
- N: Equiv to "Y" can press or hold.
- M: Toggle Block
- Left Mouse Button: Attack with left-hand weapon.
- Right Mouse Button: Attack with right-hand weapon.
- O: Reset Camera/Target Lock/Release
- ↑/←/↓/→: Selected Items and Equipment.
- Up: Cycle remembered spells
- Down: Cycle equipped items.
- Left: Swap left hand weapon.
- Right: Swap right hand weapon.
Primary Priorities & The General Idea of Dark Souls 2
Both PvE & PvP encounters can be broken down to:
- Knowing the controls, the different attacks, gear and scenarios in play. Practice by studying different attacks and scenarios. It pays off big time to contemplate, and study a bit to win at the game.
- Attack smartly, don't leave openings. That means don't get trapped by using your weapons in ways that leave you defenseless.
- Use distance and momentum to your advantage and don't get caught, enemies are great at counterattacking, both in PvE and PvP.
- Know the levels of power and varieties of builds. This is how you enter PvP and assume effective problem solving.
- Don't stay in your opponents' effective attack zone when you're not attacking, move around it.
- Time your dodge rolls. You are invincible for 5-16 frames during these, they make your hitbox too low to get hit by some attacks and, they allow you to reposition yourself. Dodge rolling in the opposite direction of a horizontal move will remove a big chunk of tactical failures in the game. Moves that attack in the vertical or diagonal directions tend to have bigger hitboxes than the weapon's model which paired with tracking can make them hard to dodge.
- Exploit openings in your opponents' moves, whether it be the wind up, a blind spot, their recovery or simply their range.
- Use Lock-On as is fit for the situation, when fighting multiple enemies, for example freecam can be more useful but 1 on 1 you want to hit as many attacks on the single enemy as possible and it's easier to attack while moving when locked-on.
- Attacking the same way always makes getting parried or otherwise countered easier.
- Opponents have calm moments, fake calm moments, fake aggro moments, and aggro moments. You will see these in how their body parts queue up, and calm down.
- Always scan the room piece by piece. Sometimes something as small as a goblet on a table is a key item, or a progression item. Sometimes the terrain can limit wither yours or your opponent's moves in a significant way.
- Groups of opponents are always smoke and mirrors. There is always one or two opponents that leave an opening for damage out of a lack of mind, and you have to see those openings.
- Use your camera to look around corners. Corners and such indestructible barriers are also great as shields against opponents.
- Always have a melee option. Casting spells is usually not an option at close range and you can't always get out of your opponent's range. A good build must have the ability to reasonably be able to deal with any enemy.
- Have effective alternative options to your attacks (keep a spare weapon that is not just a copy of your main one), some enemies are weaker to some elements, some are weaker to thrust attacks, some are just too fast for heavy weapons. This is not necessary, but it makes the game more nice and smooth. Focusing too much on damage types can make a player forget about DPS, accuracy, and flexibility of use, as well, so don't get hung up on that stuff.
- Filter out the stuff that is natural to you, and manually put focus on the aspects of a scenario that you don't have a solution for. This is how you stop yourself from getting killed.
- Play with whatever weapons &/or build(s) that you are comfortable with - just remember you should explore those other weapons &/or build(s). More than likely you have been using a single weapon type that you have come to favor without any real particular reason besides that it just happened to be what you had come across and tried.
- For bosses, it makes sense that if you are having difficulty then you need to take a deep breath, analyze the fight and really make sure you are thinking through your strategy. Do not rely on healing and burst DPS - learn how to properly defend against the boss you're up against and properly capitalize your attacks.
- Healing during a fight is a skill, don't heal just to get hit again, learn the openings you have to recover yourself, there is no shame in needing more health, only in instantly losing it again.
General rewrite by Qui