Atop the High Wall of Lothric in Dark Souls III, two players circle each other, looking for their opportunity to strike a killing blow. Soulless, from the UK, and Gadelong, from the U.S., are competing in what’s been dubbed the Tryhard Meta Invitational. They fight for their share of a small $500 prize pool. More importantly, they fight for the accolades of the wider Dark Souls community. Created and led entirely by fans, this community-driven player versus player tournament is keeping the Dark Souls III fandom alive.
If you’ve got a large chunk of time, you can watch the full tournament above. It’s a joy to watch a surprising amount of player diversity on display. While the tournament scene is still young, there have already been some amazing duels and at least one hilarious incident of an oblivious invader. Scott Jund, one of the hosts of the first Tryhard Invitational, was kind enough to answer some of my questions about the Dark Souls III tournament and what makes this competition so exciting.
Fandom: What is it about Dark Souls III PvP that you find interesting?
Scott Jund: I would say, like any fighting game, a lot of my personal enjoyment comes from understanding how players react to certain actions, and the strategies surrounding making a player fall into patterns you want them to be in. Dark Souls PVP is very psychological in a sense, and it’s the satisfaction of “calling” what a player is about to do and punishing them accordingly that makes the game so rewarding to play.
Fandom: Why organize a tournament?
Jund: Unfortunately, the changes made to Dark Souls in the third installment drove a lot of the player base away from PVP, and I can understand their criticisms. However, I still love the series and want to promote its life for as long as I can, so a tournament seemed like a good way to promote excitement about the game. Smash wouldn’t be a competitive game if people didn’t make it into that, and although that may be a pipe dream for Dark Souls, its fun to think about it and fun to — at least for now — pretend it is on that level.
Fandom: Dark Souls III has received a lot of criticism targeted at PvP in particular. What do you make of these criticisms? What does Dark Souls III get wrong w/ PVP?
Jund: There are definitely issues with the game. Most of the issues boil down to stamina costs being far too low, which promotes a Bloodborne-style metagame consisting of spamming rolls and generally being very hard to punish for being sloppy. Conversely, in a game like Dark Souls II, you could barely roll more than four times in a row, and everything was slowed down, meaning if you screwed up, you paid for it. In Dark Souls III, you can roll upwards of 11 times in a row and are invincible for a very generous time while doing so, so it truly promotes players being sloppy. It’s as if they tried to mix Bloodborne and Dark Souls but didn’t really give any thought as to why they should do that.
Additionally, and this will most likely be rectified by DLC, there is very little variety in terms of the weapons. A good example is the Axe class, where almost half of the weapons are the exact same, other than visual appearance. Several other weapon classes have this problem as well, with move-sets that are just too similar, which causes people to simply gravitate to the best option in each class, which in turn makes the variety even smaller. However, I compare PVP in Dark Souls III to the finished, post-DLC version of Dark Souls II, so the comparison isn’t quite fair yet.
Fandom: What’s the best thing about Dark Souls III PVP that separates it from its predecessors?
Jund: The netcode is surprisingly good considering how bad Bloodborne was in that department. Obviously with Peer-to-Peer it will never be perfect, but I’ve noticed low-latency fights were among the best in the series. Weapon Arts are a welcome addition, but I wish there was more variety in that regard. This final bit is more of an opinion, but I prefer the Hyper Armor system compared to something like Dark Souls‘ poise.
Fandom: What game in the Soulsborne franchise had the best PVP?
Jund: In my opinion, Dark Souls II, hands down. I appreciate the amount of depth that surrounded abusing glitches in Dark Souls, but I definitely enjoyed the higher recovery times and higher stamina costs of Dark Souls II. It promoted calculated and controlled combat, where a single mistake would punish you heavily. The time between attacking and being able to roll was increased, meaning you couldn’t just swing wildly – everything you did had to be planned. Dual-wielding was great, weapon variety was excellent, and build variety was excellent. Overall, it took people way longer to get bored of Dark Souls II compared to Dark Souls III, in terms of PVP. A lot of people disliked the PVP in Dark Souls II because they felt it was “sluggish,” but I actually think that was a good thing, and my proof is, well, look at Bloodborne and Dark Souls III, the two least favorites of the PVP scene. I’d take slow and calculated over sloppy and frantic any day.
Fandom: What tips do you have for Dark Souls fans wanting to up their PVP game?
Jund: It depends how you want to tackle it. If you are really looking to only fight the best, you should start by looking at some streamers and trying to fight them during their fight clubs. Obviously, just because you stream doesn’t mean you are good at the game, but the high-level PVP community tends to circulate around a few content creators, so that’s a decent place to start. Alternatively, join some forums or online communities and start looking for well-known or good players.
The thing is, if you fight only the best over and over, you get on a different level compared to someone who just beats up random people at Pontiff‘s. You will undoubtedly be better than the majority if you spend your time fighting good players, not random people. However, most people don’t really care about getting to that level because the game isn’t very competitive, so it really does depend on what your goals are. If you want to just be above average, there is no secret, just keep dueling until you’re better than average.
Fandom: What would you want to see from the developers to support the PVP scene, either in DLC or for the community at-large?
Jund: I would love to see them even acknowledge any form of tournament, or acknowledge any of the numerous complaints the community has. Sadly, From Software seems to genuinely not care about the PVP scene, which is fine. It’s just a shame because they’ve created something so unique and they just don’t focus on it. Any form of involvement with them would be wonderful.
Fandom: TAPOR became a sort of meme among fans of Dark Souls III PvP. Can you explain who TAPOR is and why you think fans responded to positively to the clueless invader?
Tapor was a guy who invaded during one of Havok’s tournaments because Havok, for some reason, decided to remain Embered (which allowed him to be invaded). It created this hilarious awkward situation where the invader thought he just happened upon a random fight club, when in fact it was a tournament being streamed to thousands of people. It broke up the relatively serious tone of the tournament and created this tension of “Is this guy gonna screw everything up?” It only became funnier when he just kept coming back with multiple invasions. So, lesson learned: don’t host tournaments while in Embered form.