One of the most rewarding aspects of the Souls online structure is being able to ask for, and offer, help on a tricky boss or stage. Dark Souls 2’s PC release makes this easier than its ever been, simply because summoning is more reliable than it ever was in the first game. Games for Windows Live has been sent packing, which means rousing some phantoms and shades for a spot of cooperative fun will now work with regularity.
If my cooperative experiences of the past weekend have been any indication, the only time summoning won’t succeed is when another player has nabbed the sign a second or so ahead of you. Summoning traffic is quite busy in Dark Souls 2 at present, so don’t be discouraged if a couple of signs disappear before you find a working one.
In order to summon other players for help, you must be human in order to see their summon signs. That usually requires you to eat a Human Effigy item, though cooperative play provides a method of turning human which I’ll go into later. When human, you should be able to see summon signs on the floor. These tend to be either around bonfires (from people who fancy co-oping through the level with you) or just outside boss doors (from those who just want to help you out with the boss.)
It’s possible to summon up to two phantoms to aid you, and there’s little downside in maxing out. Boss health will increase with more phantoms, but the benefits an additional player can bring to a boss fight far outweigh this boost. If you’re stuck on any of Dark Souls 2‘s bosses, summoning a couple of phantoms will give you the best possible chance of defeating them.
There you go, summoning summarised. If you want to be summoned and get the warm, fuzzy feeling of helping somebody in jolly cooperation, then you’re going to need a White Soapstone. There are two you can get hold of quite early in the game, but they’re both possible to miss.
The Large White Soapstone is given to you by Mild-Mannered Peter Serafinowicz (Pate) who, at the beginning of the game, hangs out at the location shown above. It’s just past the room full of ballista in Forest of Fallen Giants. Pate waffles on about some treasure and will open the gate next to him for you to go through. Do so, and attempt to follow the path around until you reach the ramparts back above Pate and can drop down to chat with him some more.
There are nine or ten enemies on the route (plus a couple of items like Aromatic Ooze,) so it’s possible you’ll die in there. Not a problem. If you die beyond the gate, just go back to Pate and talk to him anyway. After a couple of lines of dialogue he’ll give you the Large White Soapstone.
If you flew into a crazed rage and killed Pate already for some reason, then try returning to the area later to see if there’s a gravestone there. You should be able to resurrect him at a certain soul cost, and can still get the Large White Soapstone.
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Congratulations, you can now enjoy further benefits of Dark Souls 2‘s cooperative play.
To get yourself summoned, use the Large White Soapstone and slap down your sign near a boss door (or wherever you fancy really,) and wait. Most of the time you shouldn’t have to dawdle about for too long, although it can sometimes take a couple of minutes.
If you successfully help vanquish a boss in Phantom form (which means neither you, nor the host dying,) you’ll get a substantial amount of souls as a reward, be restored to Human form in your world (this occasionally glitches, but tends to work) and receive a ‘Token of Fidelity’ as well. This latter object can be used to heal the host while in summoned Phantom form, and is needed to gain entry to the Blue Sentinels Covenant in the Heide’s Cathedral area.
All pretty useful stuff, but there’s another way of engaging in co-op play: the Small White Soapstone.
You find this item up the stairs from the Cardinal Tower bonfire in Forest of Fallen Giants. There’s a locked door there which can be opened with a key you get from defeating the Last Giant boss, but can also just be bashed down with a few attacks. In this area you’ll find a chest containing an Estus Flask Shard and the Small White Soapstone.
As the name suggests, the Small White Soapstone puts down a smaller summon sign. You’ll be summoned as a ‘Shade’ for a timed period (either five minutes or the point at which you’ve ‘earned’ a certain number of souls.) Like with the Large White Soapstone, this can be boss fights or just ordinary sections of a level.
Fulfill your duty and you’ll once again be restored to Human form in your world, have your spells replenished and earn a Smooth and Silky Stone as a reward. These are pretty handy, as you can drop them into the crow’s nest in the Things Betwixt tutorial area in return for fabulous prizes. Sometimes you’ll get (actual) rubbish, but other rewards include various types of titanite and some unique weapons.
If you ever find yourself desperately needing to become Human in Dark Souls 2, but don’t want to use up a Human Effigy item, the Small White Soapstone is a quick, fairly reliable method of doing so. Plus, you get to feel good about helping someone out for a bit.
These cooperative methods are all very well, but they’re not grossly incandescent enough. If you want to be able to drop down the shining, golden summon sign and appear as an Heir of the Sun (AKA SunBro) Phantom, you need to first join a special Covenant.
You’ll find it in Harvest Valley, which is the area beyond Huntsman’s Copse. Don’t worry if those names aren’t familiar yet, just keep them in mind for when you’re there. They’re both relatively early areas in the game.
Once you’ve located the second bonfire in Harvest Valley, you’re pretty close to the ruins of a Shrine to the Sun. Head to the spot in the screenshot below and follow the path along to find it.
At the Shrine, you can pledge allegiance to the Covenant and start dropping down your glorious shining sign. It’s not necessary to wear the ring given to you by the Covenant (unless you want to); while in the Heirs of the Sun group, using the Large White Soapstone at any time will drop down a golden sign. Fulfilling your duty in this Covenant will earn you Sunlight Medals that can be offered at the altar in return for unique items at the 10, 20 and 30 medal marks.
Whenever summoned (or if summoning,) be sure to throw out your most creative Gesture in greeting to your lovely new friends. It’s also polite to have a brief Gesture party after every boss that’s defeated.
To add a little extra communicative flair, you can buy some talking carvings from the merchant Magerold in the Iron Keep area. These cost 2,000 souls apiece, but allow you to toss out a magic stone that’ll say either “Hello,” “Very Good,” “Thank You” or “I’m Sorry” upon hitting the group. Running around spamming “Very Good” after a successful boss battle can delight the right audience.
I wholeheartedly recommended given some cooperative play in Dark Souls 2 a try, as it’s one of the most rewarding aspects of the game. If you’re unsure of your skills, don’t worry too much. As the host in a boss battle, just try to stay alive. If you’re a Shade or Phantom, do your bit to chip away at boss health and try to help out the host if they’re in trouble (or it’s curtains for all of you.) Death is inevitable in the game, so people shouldn’t begrudge you too much for the odd screw up. Learn from it, and try to do better next time. You won’t regret it.
If you’re still struggling with the early hours of Dark Souls 2, our starter guide may be able to help.