Dark Souls is known for its easy-to-understand yet hard-to-master combat layered with multiple physical weapons and magical spells. New players may be intimidated by the sheer variety, yet it's hard to deny how rewarding it is for players who learn the mechanics. Dark Souls 3 simplified several features introduced in the first game, including bonfire warping, gem infusion and even some attacks. Yet one of the major features of combat that retained its difficulty is the parry system, which allows for a powerful critical strike after countering an opponent's attack.
While not new to action games, Dark Souls' parry system is particularly unforgiving and hard-to-time, even among those experienced with games fast-paced action games and Soulslikes. The player can use a compatible left-hand weapon to parry any incoming attacks with proper timing, stunning them for a brief moment and leaving them open for a critical attack. Done consistently, this is more reliable than trying to run around the enemy's back or striking them with a sneak attack, but parrying often leaves the player wide open, and it can be easy to get the timing wrong.
Because parrying is generally very difficult, most players opt to simply block with a massive shield or dodge as best as they can, maybe using spells that aid in defense. But because of the massive amounts of damage dealt and how it is essentially available to use at almost any time, there's a lot of players who wish to learn and practice this skill to help n battle, whether its against terrifying bosses or to get revenge on other players in PvP. Since a lot of players have a tendency to spam R1, parrying is an extremely satisfying punish.
Parrying can be done with an empty hand, fist weapons, regular shields, cestuses or parrying daggers, but most players will typically equip a shield for extra protection -- even if the player misses the parry, having a big shield can at least mitigate the bulk of the damage. Still, it's a good idea for a player to try to practice their parrying skills, especially in the starting area around Firelink Shrine with little to no souls available. Almost any relatively human-sized enemy with a weapon can be parried, with very few exceptions that often include bosses.
The timing window for a successful parry varies from enemy to enemy, too, and is often very strict but ultimately predictable, often found in a sweet spot right before an enemy's attack potentially hits the player. It's a good idea to reserve the effort in parrying for stronger enemies with varied weapon strikes, particularly enemies such as Lothric Knights and Silver or Black Knights. Parrying is also useful for mini-boss NPCs and enemy players, with an especially satisfying example in the Sword Master at Firelink Shrine.
There are also several tools and weapons that help the player in parrying, such as the Parrying Dagger or the Cestus, both of which greatly increase the speed at which a player parries and thus make it safer to parry an enemy last minute. Smaller shields like the Buckler and the Target Shield also have fast parry speeds while still granting the player some amount of protection, though using them like regular shields is often not recommended. With all of these in mind, the player should be able to get much better at parrying in no time.
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