Dark Souls purists will keep arguing that the game is worth it when played alone, and there are good reasons for this argument, as it allows players to engross themselves in the world. However, Dark Souls takes on another life when played in co-op. It is a whole other experience for better or for worse, Sadly, FromSoft sucks at implementing multiplayer, and it is always a convoluted ordeal to understand.
To co-op in Dark Souls, you must use a password in the Network Setting to play with your friend. If you want to play with randoms, you should be aware of other things we will discuss later.
This includes the gap between the host’s and the cooperator’s soul level, whether the host is hollow or human, the area of the summoning, whether the boss is alive or not, and other small details.
Host vs. Phantom
To do any co-op, you need one player to host and another to join. The joining player is referred to as a phantom, and their character will have a white, ghost-like appearance.
The host won’t receive any penalties, but the phantom will immediately lose half of their Estus flasks (an uneven number of flasks will round down). This is the developer’s way of balancing the game and ensuring it doesn’t turn into ultra-easy mode.
In the original game, a host can summon two phantoms and be invaded by one invader. The Remaster allows you to summon three phantoms and two invaders using an item called a Dried Finger.
To obtain a Dried Finger in the Remastered edition, you can buy it from the Undead Merchant in the Undead Burg. This merchant is located near the first bonfire of the Undead Burg.
The phantoms’ job is to protect the host at all costs, even at the expense of their own life. If the host dies, every phantom will be returned home. Phantoms that die will return to their worlds, but the host will remain in his as long as he survives.
Playing with Friends
If your goal is to play with friends, you’ll have to play the game twice. Anything you do in a host’s world will only be for their game. Nothing you do there will affect your world in any way.
To play through the entire game co-op, you must complete the area and bosses both on your game and your friend’s game. Many people have voiced their opinions on this, saying it ruins the fun of playing the game with friends.
Single-player Dark Souls is the purest form of the game you can get. Playing with friends makes it much easier than normal, but it can still be challenging.
The best way to play with friends while making sure random people can’t join is with Password Matching.
Navigate to the Network Settings in the menu tab to access Password Matching. It’s a pretty self-explanatory setting, but some people have a hard time understanding it.
Both you and your friends need to have the same password set, and then you’ll only be able to see each other’s summon signs. No one else can see yours or join you unless they have the same password.
People that are having issues joining each other should try to set a short and simple password that’s hard to mess up. If they still have issues, it might be a network issue.
Later on, I’m going to explain Soul level and weapon-level restrictions on joining friends. These don’t apply to anyone using password matching, so you and your co-op buddy don’t have to worry about those.
White Sign Soapstone
Any player who wishes to be summoned to another world must first obtain the White Sign Soapstone. It’s easy to get and can be obtained early in the game.
Right after you defeat the Taurus Demon, look for an NPC called Solaire of Astora. He can be found before you cross the bridge to the Undead Parish and is recognizable by the red sun on his clothes.
He should give it to you right away upon speaking to him. You will be forced to kill him to obtain the Soapstone if he doesn’t.
The Soapstone will be in your inventory and can never be consumed. To use it, you must place it on the ground wherever you’d like someone to find it and summon you. The one who places the White Sign Soapstone will be the phantom summoned to a host’s world.
To place the sign on the ground, locate the Soapstone in your items and press “Use.” The sign will be placed right where you’re standing. Any player who wishes to summon you has to go to the location where the sign was placed.
The sign will appear on the ground, and a host has the option to click on it to view the name and player model of the one who placed the sign. It might take a few minutes to appear so wait to allow the server to update.
The host must not have placed down a summoning sign. Summoning signs from other players will not appear in a host’s world if the host also has placed a summoning sign down. This is to prevent a network conflict of the host joining someone else’s game world while the clients are trying to join the host’s game world
Every time you die in Dark Souls, you will shift from being a human to being a Hollow. This is visible by your appearance; you will look like a zombie.
The only way to view a summon sign placed by other players is to be human. To become human, visit any bonfire and press the “Reverse Hollowing” option. There must be at least one Humanity (item) in your inventory, which will be consumed upon reversing the hollowing.
Being a Human has other benefits too, such as increased item discovery. Beware, though, hostile invaders can invade a human, and it isn’t much you can do but try to fight them.
Co-op players can help you take out invaders so having a backup is always a good thing. If an invader invades the host’s world, the phantoms should be the first ones in line to fight while the host does their best to stay alive.
Many locations in Dark Souls will not allow you to place a White Sign Soapstone. For example, you can’t place them inside boss arenas, areas that don’t have a boss or the boss is already defeated for that particular area.
Some locations just don’t allow you to place one for whatever reason. The obvious solution is to find another place to put one, so keep searching.
The entire world is split up into areas where the White Soapstone can and cannot be used. You can only place a summon sign in certain areas once you have completed a certain in-game event.
For example, I’ve found that I can’t summon anyone near-certain bonfires. The sign can be placed just fine if I go into an adjacent room. I don’t know what determines the right areas to place a sign, but this Reddit post gives a great list of popular summon locations.
Summoning a player depends on the status of the main area boss. If the boss has been defeated, you can not summon any co-op players into your world. You can, however be summoned into your friend’s world if they have not defeated the same boss.
Another thing to note is that bosses will have increased HP with each phantom that joins the world. The more players you have, the bigger the boss’s health pool will be. Don’t let that scare you; having more people makes fighting a boss immensely easier.
One player can draw all the boss’s attacks while the other goes in for the fight. The boss only targets one player at a time, making it easy for the attacking player to get some good hits.
Ensure the host stays further away from the boss attacks because a host’s death will send every phantom back to their world. The host and the phantom can attack for double the damage, but there’s a greater risk of the host dying this way.
After defeating the boss, all the players will receive some souls. The phantom will be returned to his world, and the host can no longer summon any more players.
Things get a little more complicated when it comes to playing with random players in co-op. Playing with anyone through Password Matching removes the game’s summoning restrictions, but random summon signs have a few caveats.
A special formula can be used to determine what level you’ll be paired up with (x = host’s soul level). x +/- (10 + 10% or 0.1).
This is to stop players with the best weapons and gear from coming into your world and one-shotting every enemy and boss. It also stops players from gifting you overpowered gear which will make the game a piece of cake early on.
Because it’s measured by soul level, a player on their first run can join an NG++ player. Summoning works regardless of what number of times they’ve beaten the game on that character, just as long as the gap between the host and phantom’s level isn’t substantial.
If you use Password Matching, you can negate this entire mechanic. The developers were thoughtful enough to allow us to co-op with friends of any level!
The weapon level mechanic was introduced in the Remastered version of the game. Once again, this can be bypassed using Password Matching but affects random co-op matchmaking. I haven’t been able to find any numbers that easily explain how weapon level matching works, but here’s a Wiki link to explain it further.
Three covenants in the game provide different co-op abilities.
- Way of White
- Princess Guard
- Warrior of Sunlight
The Way of White covenant makes players likely to be matched with others of the same covenant. It also makes players less likely to join members of a hostile covenant. Joining this doesn’t provide any special multiplayer items like the others.
The Princess Guard will give you a greater chance of joining others of the same covenant. Members of this covenant will be given access to special multiplayer miracles: Bountiful Sunlight and Soothing Sunlight.
The Warriors of Sunlight covenant gives players a golden summon sign and makes their phantom gold in co-op, as opposed to the white it normally is. They also get a multiplayer miracle called the Sunlight Spear.
Anytime a player defeats a boss with the help of another Warrior of Sunlight, they will receive a sunlight medal. The medal can be used to increase your rank in the covenant.
Negatives Aspects of Co-op
Many players argue that Dark Souls is a journey that should be experienced alone, at least once. While this is partially true, Dark Souls co-op is another example of the many different options it gives players.
A few things that co-op will negatively affect gameplay (some people may see them as positives):
The first thing is that the game becomes extremely easier. Having a second person in your world can do more for you than having an amazing weapon could. Phantoms can lure out enemies or draw the bosses attacks while the host can whittle down his health.
The bosses’ health is also increased based on the number of players. However, this doesn’t make a difference as many phantoms can wreck bosses faster than one person could.
Playing through an area in co-op will make you lose a lot of the thrill of exploration and tension in Dark Souls. Having another person there makes everything seem less stressful and scary, a major part of the Dark Souls atmosphere.
Without that tension, it essentially becomes just like every other game. Granted, it still is a difficult game even with co-op, but it’s nowhere near the same as playing it alone.
Another thing is that when an invader comes, the chances of defeating him are much higher than 1v1. Co-op also boosts the chances of invaders coming into your world.
Since Dark Souls’ multiplayer is a convoluted “mess”, you will surely be running into some form of issue every now and then. Some of the most common issues that we and the community face are discussed below.
Can’t Place a White Sign Soapstone
I see this one on Reddit and other forums all the time. This has also happened to me until I finally found a way around it.
When I tried to summon my brother for some co-op, the Use button on the White Sign Soapstone was crossed out and gray. I found that my particular area wasn’t suitable for summoning.
Remember how I talked about summoning locations above? Well, there’s a good way to find out where you can and can’t place a summon sign.
Place the White Sign Soapstone in your quick item slot where its functionality will be visible. Simply run around in the area you wish to place it. If the game will allow it, it’ll light up in your item slot.
Can’t See a Friend’s Summon Sign
Yet another glitch my brother and I have encountered. Sometimes, the sign just isn’t showing up. This can happen for several reasons.
One of you has the wrong password set up. If one or both of you have different passwords, you simply can’t summon each other. Check to make sure that both your passwords match. They must be exact matches. Next, check your online status. Offline players can’t use any online features.
Both of your Matchmaking regions must be the same too. Summon Sign Visibility is a setting that reduces the number of signs in a given area. Many people are confused about exactly how it works, but keep the setting at Unrestricted for the best results.
Be patient. The summon sign might take several minutes to appear, so wait at least 5 minutes for it to appear.
Missing White Sign Soapstone
You may be searching for your Soapstone to no avail, probably because you don’t have it. Many players didn’t receive it from Solaire after talking to him. If this is the case then you can only get it now after you kill him and loot his body. If you do this and still don’t have one, then there is no other option and your game might have glitched.
Remastered vs. Original
The Remastered edition of Dark Souls changed a few aspects of co-op that slightly changed how the game works.
Many people wonder, “Can Dark Souls and Dark Souls Remastered players play with each other?” No, you can’t, unfortunately. They are completely separate game versions with a separate set of matchmaking rules.
The soul-level matchmaking formula was changed, along with the addition of the weapon-level matchmaking feature.
Co-op in Dark Souls is a confusing yet fun part of the Souls series. There is always the potential to run into bugs, but the few issues listed here can be easily fixed. I recommend playing the game at least once solo for the full experience. After that, you can enjoy playing this amazing game with your friends