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Join the Covenant: The hidden meta-game of Dark Souls

Tuesday, 18 October 2011 07:26 GMT By Brenna Hillier

Just when you think you’ve got Demon’s Souls sorted out, Dark Souls introduces a new multiplayer mechanic that turns everything upside down.

Dark Souls: Covenants

Dark Souls features nine covenants, some of which are hidden.

Each covenant has different rules of conduct which are still being discovered by the player base. Some rule out certain optional bosses or close off progression paths.

Changing covenants or breaking rules results in the player’s entry in the Book of the Guilty. A hefty fine can clear your name.

See the Dark Souls Wiki for more information on Covenants.

When Demon’s Souls released in 2009 it broke a number of conventions – like not killing off your players before you explain how the game works – and introduced a new kind of quasi-asymmetrical multiplayer unlike anything before it.

Dark Souls, at first glance, offers the same kind of experience. After earning the right to leave messages by finding the game’s first proper merchant, players can leave and rate hint messages around the landscape. As with the first game, these messages vary from life-saving through to deliberately – and hilariously – misleading.

Later, having shown the balls and brains to pass the first proper boss, players can claim an item which allows them to participate in co-operative boss runs, and with a little diligent searching, score a consumable which allows them to take the PvP route by invading innocent bystanders’ worlds.

So far, so Demon’s Souls. The gradual release of online components is a welcome change, given the enormous pool of newbies the game’s hype has brought, but there’s little described so far beyond what could be found in From Software’s first offering. Where are the revolutionary new elements we were promised, a dangling carrot for the focused high-level players of Demon’s Souls?

Oh, they’re there. Once beyond the tutorial environment, if players ignore the obvious path and explore the starting hub carefully they’ll meet an NPC who extends them an offer to join a covenant. Ignorant of what that means but seeing no downside, many new players do.

It’s only when you pass over the opportunity, that you might notice the Way of White’s effects, when a red phantom appears in your world and beats the living crap out of you.

The Way of White, as it is known, may seem to make little difference to the player’s experience; it’s only when you make a second run, and pass over the opportunity, that you might notice its effects, or rather, the lack of them, when a red phantom appears in your world and beats the living crap out of you.

When you’re done screaming, flailing, and asking repeatedly “what the hell just happened?” you may start investigating, and discover that the Way of White is a peaceful covenant focussed on co-op play. Players are far more likely to find their world abutting those of fellow members, eager to lend a helping hand in difficult situations. Without the protection of the covenant, chances are higher you’ll come up against a less benevolent adventurer.

Advanced players – veterans of Demon’s Souls and its incredibly high level PvP scene – hold out for other covenants, and it’s here that things get really interesting.

From Software keeps track, you see, of those who “sin” – and all of the actions which constitute sin have not yet been puzzled out by the community. There’s one covenant entirely devoted to punishing these transgressions. Join up, and you may be summoned as a blue phantom to deal with a player who enjoys the shock and awe of invading as a red phantom.

At higher soul levels, red phantoms are, almost universally, very skilled PvP players who work diligently to discover the most effective equipment, strategies and abilities to take down human controlled characters – a vastly different prospect to surviving the rigours of the game’s carefully crafted dungeons.

A Japanese player is invaded.

To take on the mantle of a blue phantom is to invite yourself to confront these PvP powerhouses. This is where From Software gave itself a pat on the back and a payrise for being an utter clever clogs, because many of the best PvP players want to try themselves against others of their ilk, making this role of guardian naturally attractive.

The interaction of the covenants dedicated to red and blue phantoms creates a power dynamic which favours those who give back with the kind of challenge they relish, and the easiest covenant to find gives those only interested in PvE an option to protect themselves.

By creating these almost guild-like groupings, which cater strongly to the multiple play-throughs and ongoing multiplayer of Demon’s Souls, From has handed the community the power to self-regulate and police in a multiplayer scenario without game masters, voice or text communication. And we’ve only touched on three of the game’s many covenants, the nuances of which are still being explored by the infant player base.

That covenants and their effects are only now being fully explored and explained on the game’s many guides, wiki and FAQ pages is absolutely true to From’s declared intention with both games – to foster a community which shares information and works together to demolish the deliberately unfair challenges placed before it.

The Souls series presents a new kind of game, and it’s crafting new kinds of players. Where are these players going to take their new skills and aesthetics? What kind of games will we see in the wake of From Software’s unforgiving design?

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15 Comments

  1. Kabby

    The guardian aspect and the whole invading thing is an amazingly weird experience. If only the actual PvP wasn’t 100% reliant on gear and abusing badly balanced aspects of the game.

    #1 3 years ago
  2. Ireland Michael

    I hope this game does well. Maybe the industry will suddenly wake up and realise that they’ve been wrong all this time, that people do still want a challenge in their games, like we used to get.

    #2 3 years ago
  3. YoungZer0

    @2: Dunno ’bout you, but i still like to have the option.

    #3 3 years ago
  4. Gekidami

    Another Dark Souls piece?

    #4 3 years ago
  5. Ireland Michael

    @3 Oh, don’t get me wrong. I think there’s plenty of room for both.

    I think the best games are the one that provide modes for those not interested in the difficulty, but still have those higher difficulty levels and additional content for those, like me, who relish learning the mechanics of the games and conquering the challenges.

    I just wish more games would appreciate that fact.

    #5 3 years ago
  6. YoungZer0

    @5: That i can agree on. With most games i just want to chill. Seriously impressed how far i made it into Dark Souls without even being a little bit frustrated.

    #6 3 years ago
  7. dtyk

    The MP is really sadistic. I remember in blight town, was in the poison swamp struggling to get to the bon fire in sight, and some ass wipe invades me. I was mid way kicking his ass when I get jumped on by all the swamp monsters… oh god… good times.

    #7 3 years ago
  8. monkeygourmet

    I don’t think I’ve been human long enough too get invaded! Every time I use humanity I seem to die about 3 seconds after! :( is there a good place to farm humanity, Ive heard rats can drop it but that’s never happened to me.

    #8 3 years ago
  9. BraveArse

    @8 get down to the depths, I went from a measly 1 humanity to about 15 down there. I now use it as a farm ground when I’m running low.

    #9 3 years ago
  10. Zeydlitz

    I highly recommend to play this game in offline mode (turn off console network). And just ignore this stupid pretencious multiplayer.

    #10 3 years ago
  11. Clupula

    @10 – why even play the game then, if you’re not going to play it properly?

    #11 3 years ago
  12. orakaa

    @11 : the multiplayer is not the ONLY part of the game. It is just a layer.
    I remember playing Demon’s Souls offline in “soul form” most of the time, to avoid being invaded. Then, once I started to grasp the gameplay, the levels and so on, I went to multiplayer.

    @10 : In Dark Souls, if you join the “Covenant of the White”, basically, you won’t get invaded. It is a “guild” focused on co-op mainly.
    If you don’t recklessly kill NPCs, apparently, you won’t see any invading player.

    I think From Software really nailed the Multiplayer part of the game this time, enabling a good balancing for those who want to only do co-op and read messages, those who are interested in recklessly killing other players (with some sort of “community police”, chasing the killers themselves). And, if like me you want to get the platinum trophy for it, you’re likely to experiment all of these

    #12 3 years ago
  13. Clupula

    @12 – I am aware the multiplayer is not the only part of the game. I enjoyed Demon’s Souls quite a lot. And there were times where I stayed in soul form to avoid being invaded. That’s part of the game, just as returning to life carries with it the risk of invasion.

    To just turn off the online for your console, as #10 suggested, takes away a great deal of that and isn’t playing it right. It’s akin to using a cheat code, IMO.

    #13 3 years ago
  14. monkeygourmet

    @9

    Just found the depths and managed to kill the gaping dragon! Going to go back and try and farm some humanity from the rats, thanks for the advice! :)

    #14 3 years ago
  15. Rambling Johnny

    The game also play a few more trick on you. Equip a certain sword and you don’t need to use a crack red eye to invade other peoples. You keep that sword equipped and it will happen automatically. Surprised the hell out of me when that happen for the first time!

    A rather large community formed around PvEing some boss like the gaping dragon. Because you have to reverse hollowing to summon PvP players are invading a lot in this zone and around most boss. That can make the trip from the bonfire to the boss really entertaining. Dark Souls got more layers than most reviewers gave it credit for. “It hard!” Really does not begin to describe this game.

    #15 3 years ago

Comments are now closed on this article.

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    Battlefield Hardline Premium perks have apparently leaked a bit early, according to a post on Reddit. Over on the Hardline subreddit is an image which was take at a GameStop location, noting two week early access to content additional Battlepacks and more. Here’s the rundown: Four expansions Two weeks early access 12 additional Battlepacks Exclusive […]

  • Final Fantasy: Record Keeper arrives in the US this spring

    Final Fantasy: Record Keeper will be released in the US on iOS and Android this spring, DeNA and Square Enix today. The mobile titles allows players to “relive favorite moments” across all Final Fantasy installments and build a team of classic characters from across the entire franchise. If you sign up for email updates, you […]

  • Battlefield Hardline now available for pre-order, pre-download on Xbox One

    Battlefield Hardline is now available for pre-order and pre-download on Xbox One. You can pre-order it now from the Xbox Store and once you have paid for it, you can start your pre-download. Battlefield Hardline releases on March 17, and will be made available to pre-downloaders come 12.01am EDT. Check pricing and availability for your […]

  • Dying Light interactive video allows you switch between day and night

    A new video for Dying Light has been released, which allows you to hit the Z key to change between day and night. Titles Life and Death in the Quarantine Zone, the interactive story video showcases how the game changes between day and night. Daytime and nighttime are shown side-by-side but the z key allows […]

  • Havoc DLC for Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare out on PS3, PS4; PC delayed

    The Havoc DLC for Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is now available for PlayStation 3 and PS4. Havoc contains the four multiplayer maps Core, Drift, Sideshow, and Urban along with the AE4 directed energy assault rifle, its custom variant, and the Exo Zombies cooperative mode. You can purchase the DLC separately or pick up the […]

  • Here’s a teaser for Resident Evil Revelations 2: Episode 2

    A teaser video for the second episode of Resident Evil Revelations 2 is available, so if you’ve yet to play the first episode, you may want to skip this. Resident Evil Revelations 2′s first episode is out now. Thanks, GamesHQMedia.

  • North American eShop update is full of Donkey Kong games

    Nintendo has updated the North American end of the eShop with Titan Attacks, Donkey Kong Land, Donkey Kong Country and more. eShop on 3DS Ironfall Invasion Titan Attacks! Donkey Kong Land – Virtual Console Donkey Kong Land 2 – Virtual Console Donkey Kong Land 3 – Virtual Console Luv Me Buddies Wonderland Around the World […]

  • Venture into the Valley of the Yetis next week in Far Cry 4

    The next batch of Far Cry 4 DLC, Valley of the Yetis, releases in March and Ajay Ghale will be tasked with surviving violent cultists and the mythical Yeti. Apparently the cult is looking for a secret hidden in the valley, and Ajay has discovered their motives. The DLC features co-op with a friend taking […]

  • The Butcher’s AK/CAR Mod Pack out for Payday 2, has dino masks

    The 19th DLC pack for Payday 2 title The Butcher’s AK/CAR Mod Pack is available on Steam from today. The pack will run you $4.99/€4.99 and features: 11 new weapon modifications for the AK rifles in the game 11 new weapon modifications for the CAR rifles in the game Four new masks together with their […]

  • Battle Chasers slated for PC, consoles; comic picks up where 2001 storyline left off

    Darksiders creator Joe Madureira and Vigil co-founder Ryan Stefanelli have confirmed a Battle Chasers game and a new comic are in the works at their new studio Airship Syndicate. Speaking to Polygon, Madureira and Stefanelli wouldn’t provide details on the the game, but did divulge it will be an adventure RPG with player-controlled Battle Chasers […]

  • Shovel Knight, Hotline Miami 2 discounted for Sony’s annual Spring Fever Sale

    Sony is hosting its annual Spring Fever Sale which runs for eight weeks and features a new title each week. The sale starts next week on March 3 with the launch of Helldivers. Here’s just a few items included in the sale: HELLDIVERS (PS4/PS3/PS Vita) March 3 Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number (PS4/PS3/PS Vita) March […]

  • The gold Super Mario amiibo is a Walmart exclusive

    The Super Mario Gold amiibo which surfaced via a CPSIA certificate earlier this month will be a Walmart-exclusive, Nintendo has announced. The gold-colored Mario amiibo will be released the same day as the Mario Party 10 game for Wii U and will run you $12,96 at 3,000 participating Walmart stores in the US. Along with […]

  • Here’s an overview trailer for Final Fantasy Type-0 HD

    As new gameplay overview trailer for Final Fantasy Type-0 HD, culled from the Active Time Report, stream has been sent over by Square Enix. The video provides a look at the history and environments of the Kingdom of Orience; the 14 memebers of Class Zero; the battle system with customizable magic spells; and the ability […]

  • Final Fantasy 15 video gives you a look at the game’s wildlife

    A new video shown by Final Fantasy 15 director Hajime Tabata during the latest Active Time Report, contains a look at the game’s wildlife and ecology. You can watch the full stream two hour stream through here, or a smaller clip courtesy of GamesHQMedia below.

  • Lionhead ventures into the free-to-play space with Fable Legends

    Fable Legends will be free-to-play when it launches on PC and Xbox One. According to Lionhead, the one versus four cross-platform title borrows from MOBA games such as Dota 2 and League of Legends as it will contain free, rotating heroes which will be added to a roster for a two week period. Once the […]

  • Win! 5 pairs of tickets to the Call of Duty European Championships

    We have five pairs of tickets to giveaway for the Call of Duty European Championships, taking place in London this weekend. The event takes place this Saturday February 28 and Sunday March 1 at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. Winners can watch teams will go head to head for a $10,000 prize pot […]

  • Republique Remastered has released on Mac and PC

    Republique Remastered, which was announced earlier this month, is now available for Mac and PC. The game is 20% off through Steam, GOG and the Humble Store for $19.99 until March 4. Thereafter, it will run you $24.99. The Remastered edition contains all five episodes of the game, with 1-3 available now and the remaining […]

  • LA Cops coming to Xbox One in March

    Isometric shooter LA Cops is coming to Xbox One on March 13. Already on Steam Early Access, the game looks like it’s been heavily inspired by Hotline Miami. Walk into a room, open fire, leave bloody puddles in your wake. It’s being published by Team 17. Check out the video below for some 70s cop […]

  • We have $500 of Steam Wallet funds to giveaway!

    We’re giving away 10 Steam Wallet prizes worth $50 each to VG247 readers, courtesy of Bundle Stars. All you need to do to be in with a chance of winning $50 Steam credit is to enter your details below. Join the Bundle Stars Steam group for entry in the sweepstake, and gain extra entries for […]

  • Lapsed Final Fantasy 14 players tempted back with 10 day freebie

    Square is offering lapsed FF 14: A Realm Reborn players a chance to come back to the game for 10 days worth of free adventuring. Provided you’ve already bought and registered an account you’ll be able to play free of charge from Feb 27 to March 9. Square wants you to sample the new content […]

  • Advanced Warfare: Sledgehammer looking at “opportunities” to recreate classic Call of Duty maps

    Sledgehammer Games has told VG247 it’s looking at opportunities to recreate classic Call of Duty maps in Advanced Warfare. According to co-founder Michael Condrey, players of the latest Havoc DLC are asking how Exo abilities and verticality can be added to classic franchise maps. “We’re taking a look at some opportunities to really highlight the […]

  • GTA Online reader playlist week 7: and the winner is…

    Stuff was shot. But only one player emerged victorious. GTA Online player e031271 won last night’s VG247 reader playlist, beating myself, Matt and regulars solidorwot and Revolting. Congratulations, Mr e031271. A deserved victory. We play a GTA Online playlist in an open session every Wednesday on PS4, because it’s both funny and fun. Anyone’s welcome […]

  • Leaked screens reveal The Reef as Destiny’s new “social space”

    A handful of leaked Destiny screens seem to confirm that The Reef location will be the new social space in Destiny. The new addition is likely to be revealed as part of the upcoming House of Wolves expansion. Reddit user Megamanexe4 dropped the screens on the site earlier this morning, along with grabs that reveal […]

  • Darksiders creator teases Battle Chasers game

    Joe Madureira, creator of Darksiders, has released art that strongly suggests a Battle Chasers game is in the works. Battle Chasers was a comic book from the late 1990s that suffered notorious production problems between issues and was never finished. Madureira formed Airship Syndicate after the collapse of THQ, where he co-created Darksiders. His latest […]

  • Infamous video nasty Axe recreated in GTA 5

    The trailer for notorious horror movie Axe has been recreated in GTA 5. The shot for shot remake is the work of gigerbrick who has previously recreated exploitation flicks like Machete and Hostel using Lego. The original Axe movie was banned in 1984 in the UK but passed with cuts in the late 1990s. Movie […]

  • Payday 2 for PS4 and Xbox One includes “a year’s worth of paid DLC” for free

    Payday 2: Crimewave Edition will include a year’s worth of paid DLC from the PC version of the game for free. The new-gen version of the game will be available June 2015, and includes almost all of the paid and free DLC released so far for Overkill’s popular first-person shooter. That DLC includes The Big […]

  • Yes, Mortal Kombat X will require Xbox Live Gold or PS Plus

    Mortal Kombat X won’t bypass Microsoft and Sony’s premium online play requirements. Reports that Mortal Kombat X wouldn’t require PS Plus or Xbox Live Gold started circling earlier this week thanks to a communications error. Answering fan questions on Twitter, producer Shaun Himmerick accidentally gave the impression that premium console subs would not be required […]

  • This is what Destiny players most want next

    Destiny patch 1.1.1 has resolved or at least addressed a number of complaints voiced by the community, but there are plenty more. des Destiny community manage David “Deej” Dague has put out a call for Guardians to share their concerns – or rather, what they think the community is most concerned about. “Set aside your […]

  • Google AI can play games now, so we’re probably all going to die

    Google has brought us one step closer to our inevitable slaughter or enslavement by machine overlords. Google has developed an AI that can learn to play video games and devise brand new strategies. Let me just rephrase that: Google has created an AI that can teach itself new skills, including how to play video games. […]

  • First footage of Renowned Explorers: International Society surfaces

    Renowned Explorers: International Society is a turn-based strategy game from the team behind Reus, and it looks great. Renowned Explorers was announced almost a full year ago, but has been pretty quiet since then. Developer Abbey games has now announced that the game has hit alpha, and will be open to select testers soon. You […]

  • Cities: Skylines developer commits to mod support

    Cities: Skylines will fully support the modding community. Hailing from famously mod-friendly publisher Paradox, Cities: Skylines is a no-brainer for mod support – especially as a lack of mod support is one of the things SimCity was so heavily criticised for when it firts launched. In the developer diary below, Paradox’s Jakob Munthe is joined […]