One of the most reliable ways to deal significant damage to enemies of any type, rank, or equipment is with a well-placed backstab critical. In addition, you are immune to all damage during the backstab animation, making it the perfect time to dab your forehead dry during a nail-biting boss fight or tense PVP skirmish.
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Backstabbing does less damage than a successful parry or riposte (pound for pound, depending on whether you are one- or two-handing your main weapon), but the risk of failure or injury is much lower, and you can use your offhand to two-hand or to wield a potentially stronger, non-parrying tool.
Backstabbing in PVE
It should come as no surprise that in a player versus NPC setting, backstabbing is much simpler to pull off offline. Almost all enemies that can be critted have a predictable moveset that you can study in advance and then use to your advantage.
In addition, there are no external factors like poor network code, latency, or input lag. It is important to remember that not all enemies in the game are susceptible to backstabbing, and that finding out which enemies are will require some trial and error or outside research.
There are, however, commonalities between different types of enemies that can be used to determine if you should approach them with the intention of a backstab. To a greater or lesser extent, depending on the creature, larger, more bestial foes will be immune to this kind of critical, while smaller, more humanoid foes will almost always be vulnerable.
Get Behind Your Target
To execute a backstab successfully, one must position oneself behind the victim. Depending on your opponent, you can take a variety of approaches. As has already been stated, PVE foes are invariably predictable, and the optimal time to strike can usually be determined through observation.
A monster’s immobility and vulnerability after a heavy attack gives you a window of opportunity to sidestep or roll behind it.
It’s possible that you won’t have time to perform the critical before your opponent fully recovers if you were quite a distance away when he fell into this state, but you should have plenty of time to get behind his back and stay there until you can execute the move.
Circle Your Enemy
Getting around your opponents is a surefire way to surprise them from behind. In particular, this holds true for crittable monsters that are larger, slower in speed. If you want to make sure you’re making progress with your sidestepping, you’ll have to get closer than you’re comfortable with, which puts you at risk.
The need to study and understand one’s opponent becomes all the more pressing in light of this. Aggression will likely be met with retaliation from the enemy if they have a large horizontal attack arch. The circling tactic is particularly effective against enemies whose attack arches are narrow or vertical (like an executioner-type enemy who raises his ax and swings it straight downwards).
Backstabbing in PVP
We’re saving this problem for last because, as with all aspects of player versus player duels, there are a number of factors that make backstabbing in PVP a less predictable exercise. Most people who wander the player-versus-player world are very familiar with the games’ mechanics, especially when it comes to the viability of backstabs, so they will be very careful to avoid mistakes that could leave them vulnerable.
Additionally, all Dark Souls players are different in their playstyle, equipment, character build, and more, so if you’re going for any kind of critical attack, (whether it’s a parry or backstab) it helps to have an idea of their moveset of their weapons and how they are approaching you.
Have a Good Connection
Connection quality can be a deciding factor in how to deal with an opponent in some situations. It’s best to forego attempts at criticals (especially parries) and try to take them out with quicker, less risky means if your invader or duel is jittering across the battlefield or cycling through animations without rhyme or reason.
If there is a link and Even though everyone is on an equal playing field, there are still a few telegraphs to look for and most players still have them. For most players, the most common application of backstabbing is as a form of punishment for carelessness and excessive whiffing. If your opponent keeps spamming you with powerful blows, you should probably backstab them. It’s very satisfying to roll out of the way of these attacks and then go in for the stabbing.
Furthermore, there is no universal strategy for securing backstabs in all your PVP battles because every online opponent you face will have a different play style. However, there are some things you should avoid doing that could give you an advantage.
What Not to Do
To begin, circling or sidestepping an opponent is usually ineffective compared to PVE. There are many reasons for this, the most important of which is that you and your opponent will almost always be facing each other, both of which make sneaking up behind them extremely time-consuming or even impossible.
Second, you should not construct your entire PVP plan around deceitful tactics. While this strategy may be successful against less skilled opponents, skilled players will see through your desperation and punish you for it.
Finally, try to be patient. Waiting is always a factor in PVE, and when facing another player, it can increase the time it takes to get off a backstab. Inexperienced players often rush into battles without thinking things through, which can have disastrous consequences.
It’s important to keep in mind that while critical strikes like backstabs, parries, and so on make up a significant portion of combat in this game, they are by no means the only type of dueling that will get you far.