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Dark Souls 3: what in the heck is going on with poise and physical defense?

Dark Souls 3 presents an interesting puzzle bug, or epic troll?


Dark Souls 3: what in the heck is going on with poise and physical defense?

Dark Souls 3 is significantly more straightforward than its precursors. Upgrades are reversible and less wasteful, bonfires are positioned to cut down on repetitive journeys, and most items and equipment are clearly explained - a far cry from the old days.

And yet, ever since the core fans got their hands on the Japanese build - heck, back when they were playing pre-release betas and event demos - a few things have remained deeply mysterious. Of these, poise and physical defense are among the most puzzling.

To fill you in: in Dark Souls and Dark Souls 2, poise is a stat affecting stagger limits. The higher a character's poise, the more difficult it is to stagger them. This is extremely important to the PvP meta of both games, as staggering is key to quick kills before a defender can heal up.

Physical defense, on the other hand, affected how much damage you'd take from attacks (after reductions from your shield's absorption). It was determined by armour properties as well as increasing with every level up, regardless of which stat you'd chosen.

But in Dark Souls 3? Both of these stats appear to do nothing at all for player characters. No matter how high your poise is, you can be staggered just the same - while enemies enjoy the benefits. Your physical defense stat makes no difference to how much damage you receive from enemies - although your individual strike, slash and thrust resist stats do matter.

(Well, actually, that last one may not be quite true; according to one Japanese gamer's tests, as passed along by Redditor UnAVA, there's at least one mob which deals pure physical damage as opposed to strike, slash or thrust - and other community members believe PvP handles physical defense differently. But in general PvE, your physical defense does practically jack for your survivability.)

This isn't really news to fervent Dark Souls 3 fans, as it has been openly discussed everywhere they gather since well before the RPG's official launch. Hardly anybody is calling for further testing to prove the matter. Now we just want to know whether it's intentional or not.

Both of these stats definitely exist in the game's code - they're just not active. Data miners and testers from the community are mystified. Are we looking at bugs here, or is this something From Software did deliberately to shake up the meta (and troll ardent poise fans), and yet failed to erase from the game before launch? Can we expect a fix?

None of this matters that much, especially if you're a more casual fan or only interested in PvE, but, well - it's weird, isn't it? This far from launch, I was sure the communtiy would have solved the mystery, or received an answer in the form of a patch.

As far as we know, there's been no comment from Bandai Namco or From Software on the matter, but Bandai Namco community manager J. Kartke has started an investigation in response to a tweeted request. Let's see what comes back.

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