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Dark Souls 3: How to play online, summon friends, terrorize enemies and earn tons of souls

PREPARE TO DIE LESS

Your journey through Lothric doesn't end here. Be sure to check out the rest of Polygon's Dark Souls 3 guide , which offers everything from tips for beginners and returning masochists to detailed walkthroughs of every area — including all of the secret, bonus content.

Dark Souls 3 continues the series' tradition of nontraditional multiplayer, where by "nontraditional," we mean "unique and opaque." It's not quite like any other game, and most of it isn't explained within the game. But knowing how multiplayer works can make you a better, richer players.

In this guide, we'll teach you everything you need to know about Dark Souls 3 multiplayer. That begins with an overview of how to connect with other players. Just as importantly, we'll explain why and when you might want to do that, too. Whether your intentions are to be helpful, harmful, multiplayer is a unique twist on the core game — and one of the best ways to earn souls in Dark Souls 3.

Table of contents

Online systems
Messages
Bloodstains
Summoning
Summoning other players
Where to summon players
Where to find ember
Joining other games
Summoning and covenants
Invasion
Playing with your friends

Online systems

Being connected to Dark Souls 3's servers expands beyond playing with another person in real-time. It can make your game better and blunt the blows of the notoriously difficult series.

Before we dive into Dark Souls 3's summoning system, there are a handful of other multiplayer-related components you should know about.

Messages

When you launch Dark Souls 3, you automatically connect with the game's servers. You're online, but you can change that in the game's Network settings tab, switching the Launch Setting toggle to Play Offline. Even if you do that, there are situations in which Dark Souls 3 mimics the behavior of a game connected to the internet.

The first example is apparent the moment you take control of your character in the Cemetery of Ash. The glowing orange lines on the ground appear are tutorials from the developers disguised as message. That that flavor or message is sparse, though. Most messages you'll encounter in Dark Souls 3 come from other players, who can write them for good or for evil.

Everyone playing Dark Souls 3 online can leave messages. All you need to do is invoke game's menu with a press of the button. From there you can construct your own messages and scribble them onto the ground. Those will show up in other players' games, where they can rate them. If someone rates your message, you'll get an instant bonus to your health. Imagine how useful that would be, say, in the middle of a boss fight.

Dark Souls 3's most basic online interaction is also emblematic of the game's duality. You can just as easily leave a message warning players of danger ahead as you can tell them to jump off of a cliff to their deaths. You could give someone the heads up about an illusory wall, or you could write a message about an illusory wall that doesn't exist and, in games around the world, cause players to bang their weapons against regular walls in frustration.

Bloodstains

When you're playing online, you'll also see the occasional Bloodstain splattered on the ground. They represent other Dark Souls 3 players who met their ends right around there. Approach, press a button, and you'll see the last few seconds of someone's life.

These are sometimes funny and sometimes pointless. In the best of times, they show you pitfalls to avoid. Imagine trying to decide what to do about a message telling you to jump off a cliff. Is there a secret path below, or will you fall to your death? A nearby bloodstain that shows someone leaping to their doom might tell you.

That's not a perfect system, though. Even when Bloodstains imply peril, you should do your own research. It could be that the people who died jumping off the cliff only met their ends because they didn't have enough health to survive the fall damage.

Summoning: playing with other players

Playing with others in real-time takes two forms in Dark Souls 3: You can bring other players into your game as Phantoms, or you can leave yours temporarily and join someone else's game as a Phantom.

To balance the odds, Dark Souls 3's difficulty scales to the number of players in its world. If you summon someone, everything from the smallest enemy to the most gigantic boss will be that much harder to kill. On the other hand, you'll receive greater rewards for vanquishing your foes. Co-op rewards everyone playing with a bonus to the number or souls you collect for each kill.

Dark Souls 3 also limits the number of Estus flasks that your summoned version carries, though you can earn them back by defeating enemies.

Summoning other players

If you want to bring other players into your game, you must become what we refer to ask kindled in our beginners guide. In that state of being where your clothes burn orange like pieces of paper, you can see and use summon signs. You can see several summon signs glowing on the ground in the screenshot above.

To bring — summon, in Dark Souls 3 parlance — other players into your game, first use an Ember. As the consumable item's in-game item description says, "the summoning signs of unkindled become visible and seekers of embers can be summoned to join in co-operation."

Using an Ember isn't the only way to reverse your unkindled state, though. You'll "gain the strength of flame" and "the strength of fire" after you beat bosses and after being summoned and helping other players beat bosses, too. Same effect, different methods.

Either way, if your clothes are burning, then you have the ability to summon two players into your game. Just look for the telltale summon signs on the ground and listen for a whooshing sound that signified new signs appearing in your vicinity.

The summoned can be actual humans (provided you're online and connected to the game's servers) or non-playable characters placed in fixed locations throughout Dark Souls 3. Generally, the summoned arrive to help you fight your way through, but there are exceptions that we'll talk about below.

Where to summon players

You can find summon signs almost anywhere in Dark Souls 3, but your odds increase dramatically in a couple of areas.

Human players tend to drop their summon signs around bonfires. It makes sense, given that those are high-traffic areas. If you want to summon help, burn an Ember as you're standing in the relative safety of a bonfire, approach a summon sign and hit a button to summon the player behind it. They'll join your game and fight alongside you until you die, they die or you beat a boss together.

For non-playable characters, From Software tends to place summon signs in close proximity to the fog walls and doors that lead into boss fights. These are purpose-built, AI-controlled friends designed to give you a bit of help as you fight monstrosities many times your size.

NPCs are particularly helpful if you're playing offline. Their locations are baked into Dark Souls 3, and though they appear and behave as Phantoms, they're coming from inside your hardware, not from a server.

You can also find summon signs from actual humans outside of boss battle areas, too.

Where to find Embers

From Software isn't quite stingy with Embers in Dark Souls 3, but they are a limited resource, and that makes them valuable. Don't burn them carelessly. You don't want to find yourself in a situation where you run out and can't use them when you really need help.

If you do run out, you can purchase them from NPC merchants like Greirat of the Undead Settlement and the Shrine Handmaid in Firelink Shrine. Or you can throw down a summon sign of your own (more on that in the next section) and help someone defeat a boss. Among your rewards is a transformation into the state of being kindled.

If you explore the world of Dark Souls 3, you'll find the occasional Ember on a corpse to pillage or, rarely, an enemy you kill. And if you're paying attention to where you find them, you'll notice that the game's creators tend to give you an Ember at just about the point where you might need it most.

Joining other games

Up until now, we've talked about others joining your game, but the reverse is also possible. In fact, we'd encourage it.

To be summoned into someone else's game, you'll need a White Sign Soapstone, which you can purchase for 500 souls from the Shrine Handmaid in Firelink Shrine.

Use the White Sign Soapstone to draw your own summon sign on the ground, and it will appear in other players' games, just as summon signs appear in yours. When players summon you as a Phantom, you'll join their game as a phantom and fight alongside them until either one of your dies or you defeat a boss together.

Given the bonus souls you get for every kill, this is a fantastic way to farm for souls in Dark Souls 3. If you're saving up for an item or just want to collect more souls to increase your level, drop a summon sign.

You can earn rewards as a helpful Phantom, too. If you defeat a boss as a Phantom, you'll receive an Ember and instantly become kindled — and the only other way to do that is to burn an Ember. Those aren't the only rewards possible, though.

Summoning and covenants

Dark Souls 3's covenants offer rewards for co-op gameplay — though some covenants are nicer than others.

The Covenants system is entirely optional, but it adds a layer of functionality to the game. To join a Covenant, you need to find or receive an item. Equip it in the Covenant slot on your Equipment menu, and you're now a member. In the screenshot above, you can see a member of the Warrior of Sunlight covenant.

Doing your duty as a covenant member earns you items specific to that covenant. You can turn those items in for rewards. If you're a member of the Warrior of Sunlight covenant, for example, you'll receive a Sunlight Medal for helping someone defeat a boss. As the reward implies, that gold-hewed covenant is all about being nice and helpful and engaging in jolly co-operation.

Over covenants, like the Mound-Makers, inhabit a weird middle that can either be helpful or harmful. They have purple summon signs, and they can attack pretty much anything in the world they're summoned into — including you. Summon one, and you might get help or your might get hurt.

The Watchdogs of Farron covenant, on the other hand, is dedicated to protecting Farron Keep. Join that covenant, and you'll be summoned automatically as a Phantom to attack anyone who trespasses on an unsuspecting player. The Aldrich Faithful covenant has a similar role around the Cathedral of the Deep.

In yet another twist on the formula, join the Blades of the Darkmoon or the Way of Blue covenants to get automatic help. When you're invaded, you'll automatically summon other players to your world to help vanquish the evil-doer.

The Blue Sentinels covenant also includes automatic invasion, except this time, you're the one getting summoned. Joining this covenant means that you pledge your service to the Way of Blue. When they get invaded, you arrive to help.

The Rosaria's Fingers covenant might be the most unique in Dark Souls 3. It is, first and foremost, a hostile gang. Their mission: to invade other players' games, kill them and earn rewards. So, yes, you have to be a jerk. But being a jerk has a huge payoff: Up to five times, you can cash in the reward you get for successful invasions, the Pale Tongue, and use that to reallocate the points you've used to level up your character.

There's every reason to join a covenant, and you can make solid assumptions about the kind of Phantom you're summoning by knowing their covenants' role. If you're looking for a buddy to help you, seek out the gold-hued summon sign of the Warriors of Sunlight. If you want to be a jerk, join Roasria's Fingers.

Invasion

There's another way that players can appear in your game and that you can appear in others' games. It's called Invasion, and it trades combat for cooperation. As with so many things in Dark Souls 3, Invasion is protean.

Real player Invasion

Depending on your point of view, you'll either appear as a red phantom, or you'll see an uninvited red phantom in your world.

You can invade someone else's game after using either the Cracked Red Eye Orb or the Red Eye Orb. The former is a single-use item you can obtain from Leonhard the Ringfinger in Firelink Shrine. The latter is a reusable item that you obtain after defeating a Darkwraith behind a locked door in the High Wall of Lothric. You can only invade those who are kindled.

Likewise, you can only be invaded if you're kindled after having used an Ember or received the power of flame after defeating a boss. Thus, if you want to avoid invasion completely, don't burn an Ember. Then again, you could burn an Ember and summon Phantoms into your game to protect against potential, random invasions. Or you could join a covenant like the Way of Blue, which automatically summons helpful players into your game when you've been invaded.

NPC Invasion

Though it's built for online play, Invasion sometimes works even if you're offline.

Dark Souls 3 includes several NPCs who can invade your game when you're kindled, even if you're not online. They are, in a sense, miniature boss fights, though not nearly as difficult.

Defeating AI-controlled NPC invaders tends to net you rare items. For example, if you're kindled, an NPC invader will appear in the area around the Dilapidated Bridge bonfire in the Undead Settlement. In some cases, those you've defeated become allies, when their summon signs appear near boss fights.

There's a bit of crossover here with covenants. Though you don't have to be part of a covenant to invade another world, covenants like the Aldrich Faithful reward their members for invading and killing other players.

Player-versus-player summoning

If you have a Red Sign Soapstone, which you can find late in the game on a white worm in Rosaria's Bed Chamber Bonfire , you can drop a red summon sign.

It's Dark Souls 3's most honest form of PvP combat. If you're dropping it, you're saying you want to fight. If you summon someone from a red summon sign, you're accepting their invitation for a duel.

The password system: playing with your friends

Everything we've talked about so far has been about summoning random players. That's how it's always worked in Dark Souls games. You could leave a summon sign and join the random game of anyone who called you, or you could ask for help and summon other random players.

There's a new system in Dark Souls 3 that allows you to play with a friend of your choosing, and it's inspired by a system that first appeared last year in From Software's PlayStation 4-exclusive Bloodborne.

If you and a friend want to play together, here's what you need to do. (Also, just to be perfectly clear, you and your friend must be online for this to work.)

  1. Head to the same location in each of your games, preferably away from bonfires and the doors that lead to bosses. There are usually tons of summon signs there, and you don't want to confuse the summoner.
  2. Open the in-game menu and select System.
  3. Navigate to the Network tab.
  4. Turn Cross-region play to Matchmaking ON. (Though it sounds like it's designed to keep you from connecting with someone half a world away, in our experience it increases the odds that your friend will find your summon sign. We suspect that "region" is synonymous with "server" not so much "country.")
  5. Select Password Matching and choose an easy-to-type, mature password.
  6. Tell your friend the password.
  7. If you're the one to be summoned, exit the menu and use the White Sign Soapstone to create a summon sign.
  8. If you're the one summoning, look for your friend's summon sign, activate it and enter the password.
  9. Enjoy a period of jolly co-operation.