Dark Souls II can be very confusing if you’re not familiar to the gameplay and mechanics of the series. What’s poise? What do the symbols on this weapon mean? Though the game has been out for a few months now, there are still plenty of new players jumping in, and we all ask these questions at one time or another, so let’s clear the air of some of this confusion, shall we?
What is a stun-lock?
If you’re out of stamina and you try to block an attack, you will go into an animation that’s known as a stun-lock. Stamina is arguably more important than your health bar, and there will be enemies and players that will use your inferior stamina to their advantage. This animation lasts a couple seconds and can very well mean your death is near. If you don’t think you have enough stamina left to appropriately block an attack, then don’t be a hero and roll. In fact, when facing an enemy with a large weapon then you should always roll through their attacks rather than blocking. That is, of course, unless you’re using an appropriate shield.
What is poise?
Poise, to put it simply, is a third invisible bar that you can imagine beneath the bar representing stamina. It’s essentially how many hits you can take before you lose your footing. This stat is heavily affected by the armor the player is wearing. For instance, if you hit, say, a hollow with a longsword, it will make a sort of flinching animation. This is because it has little to no poise. If you hit a heavily armored invader while online with the same sword, it’s going to take several hits to have the same effect. Though it may seem trivial, poise can be the difference between life and death in a fight. It’s kind of like a miniature stun-lock, actually, and it works the same way. There are many enemies (and bosses) that can decimate your poise in one hit, so stay frosty.
Rolling is my personal go-to when in a fight. It’s critical to any character that isn’t too weighed down to do it, as they probably don’t have the defense to take a lot of hits. The important thing to know about the roll is that there are a couple frames in the animation in which you’re invincible. This moment isn’t even a second long, and it takes a while to master the timing of it, but you can increase the length of it (and your poise) by increasing your adaptability stat when you level up. I’m not saying roll from everything; sometimes blocking is the wiser choice. However, Dark Souls II is a lot more difficult if you don’t get the roll down.
Scaling is a concept that took me a long time to grasp. When looking at a piece of equipment, there will be two rows of symbols on the bottom left. From left to right. the symbols on the top row represent strength, dexterity, intelligence, and faith. These symbols represent the stat requirements for that piece of equipment. The bottom row of symbols from left to right represent strength, dexterity, magic bonus, fire bonus, lightning bonus, and dark bonus. These symbols represent what the item scales off of. The best way to explain this is through an example. My favorite melee weapon is the Dragonslayer’s Crescent Axe, which I infused with lightning. When I look at it in menu, the axe requires 18 strength and 12 dexterity to use, and there is a C in the strength slot, an E in the dexterity slot, and a C in the lightning slot. Essentially, scaling refers to the boost an item gets from certain stats, and how significant that boost is. So, according to the menu, my axe will scale more off of my strength stat and lightning bonus stat than it will my dexterity. The amount of damage it inflicts will increase more if I increase my strength or faith (faith increases your lightning bonus) than if I were to level up my dexterity, so that’s what I’ll have to level up to get the most out of my axe. To get the most out of your equipment, make sure to keep an eye on scaling as it can make a big difference when going for a high defense and damage output.
What Increases What?
Increasing a stat has more benefits than you might think. What you’re increasing when you level up are referred to as your attributes, which also increase your performance (the stats to the right). This is important when you’re going for a particular build for your character, so here’s what each attribute in turn increases in performance. Keep in mind that sometimes it takes more than one additional point into an attribute to increase a certain stat.
VGR (vigor) – Pump points into vigor for more hit points. It can also increase your petrification resistance.
END (endurance) – Endurance determines how much stamina you have, but also increases your hit points, physical defense, and poise.
VIT (vitality) – If you want to put on heavier gear, then put more points into vitality, as it increases your equip load. It also increases hit points, physical defense, and your poison resistance.
ATN (attunement) – the higher attunement is, the more spells you can equip at once. It also affects your casting speed, curse resistance, and agility.
STR (strength) – Strength is what you’re going to need if you want to wield those huge weapons. It also increases the damage you do through strength scaling, and your physical defense.
DEX (dexterity) – dexterity is similar to strength in that most weapons require some of it to be used properly. It also increases your damage output through dexterity scaling, your poison bonus, and your bleed bonus.
ADP (adaptability) – adaptability is an important stat for anyone who wants high resistance, and to be quick on their feet. It increases your poison bonus and resistance, bleed resistance, petrification resistance, cures resistance, agility and poise.
INT (intelligence) – if you want to be a pure spellcaster, then you’re going to be putting the majority of your points into intelligence. It increases your casting speed, magic bonus, fire bonus, dark bonus, and their respective resistances.
FTH (faith) – faith is for miracles as intelligence is for magic. It increases your casting speed, fire bonus, lightning bonus, dark bonus, bleed bonus, and their respective resistances.
Pyromancy and Hexes
You may have noticed that the only way to increase your fire and dark bonuses is to increase your faith and intelligence. This is incredibly important for anyone looking to add some pyromancy to their build, or if you want to try out some of those powerful hexes. For pyromancy, I found that faith increased the fire bonus faster than intelligence does. So I would recommend that for pyromancy spells. I can’t say I really recommend hexes for anyone unless they’re willing to put points into both faith and intelligence as it increases well off of both. If you want the most out of your hexes, then pump them both up evenly for more damage.
A nice new addition to the series is the ability to effectively dual-wield. What’s really cool, however, is the ability to go into what’s called a power stance. If you have a weapon of the same type in each hand and have at least 150% of the required strength and dexterity (intelligence and faith requirements don’t matter in this case), you can go into the stance. It’s actually pretty cool. I haven’t had the stats to try this with too many weapons, but it’s fun to experiment, and the damage output is insane if you get the hang of it.
These are mostly things that took me a long time to figure out, so I hope they come across as useful to you! If I missed anything you think is important, then be sure to let me know in the comments below!