Dark Souls 3 shields work in a similar manner to their predecessors. For players new to the series, it can be a bit difficult to properly differentiate between the different types of shields in the game, and the addition of the Weapon Art skill (which shields also have) makes things a tad complicated.
Dark Souls 3 shields are not a necessity, but they are a viable option for beginners as well as specific types of builds for more advanced players. They are there for a reason, but it’s up to you to decide what type of shield suits your build best, or whether you want to use at all.
Obviously, the primary reason to use a shield is for added defense. By holding the shield in your left hand, you can raise it to block enemy attacks. Shields not only have physical defense, but also defense against elemental damage like Magic, Fire, Lightning, and more.
A 100% physical defense shield is important if you’re planning to use one for conventional defending. There are plenty of such shields.
The elemental defense on the other hand isn’t that important for the most part, save for a few bosses. You’ll want to use a shield with good elemental defense if you wish to use one against certain bosses in the game, but chances are a regular, light shield won’t suffice in such cases.
The reason for this is because shields take up stamina whenever they block attacks. For most shields, the attacks from bosses (as well as certain normal enemies) are too strong, which leads to your entire stamina becoming drained. This can leave your character in an extremely vulnerable state for a deadly combo from an enemy or boss.
Of course, this is just for normal shields. There’s more than one shield type in the game, and it’s necessary to understand all of them.
Like weapons, Shields can be infused with different Gems at the Blacksmith. However, unless you’re doing it for a very specific purpose, it’s not always a viable option, since the upgrade only improves the defense of a shield very slightly.
It’s certainly useful if you wish your shield to have slightly improved defense against specific elements, but aside from that, wasting precious gems on shields is not recommended.
Dark Souls 3 Shields
The standard shields are the bread and butter of the shield category of items in Dark Souls 3. They are medium-weight, medium height shields that offer good protection. Most of the wooden variants are practically useless, but many of the metallic shields offer 100% physical defense protection.
Standard Shields are the best for beginners and intermediate players, especially those looking to run a classic Quality Build. A 100% physical defense shield is essential in such builds. There are also various elemental-focused shields in the game that do not offer 100% physical defense, though their application may be limited.
Even with 100% physical defense, standard shields cannot withstand super-heavy attacks, such as the ones done by majority of the bosses. A heavy attack will likely result in you losing your entire stamina and your guard breaking, which exposes you to a combo.
The skills associated with these shields wary, but most of them will be parrying. The other skill type with these shields allows you to use your right-hand weapon’s skill without dual-wielding it.
You’ll come across some shields that look small, fragile, and are excessively light. They’ll have pathetic stats, and can’t block anything meaningful to save your life. You’ll wonder, “What the hell is this useless thing for?”
Well, Parry Shields are for more established players. They are called ‘Parry Shields’ for a reason – because they have a faster parrying animation, and make parrying a tad easier with a slightly larger parrying hitbox.
These are shields you’ll often find PvP players use. A skilled player can use these flimsy looking shields to absolute devastation. If you’re new to the franchise, chances are you won’t find much use for these shields in your first playthrough.
Greatshields are massive, heavy shields that are used mostly by tanky characters. These shields offer a huge amount of poise when defending, meaning they can absorb even the heaviest attacks.
Greatshields are indeed great, but they often need a lot of investment in Strength and Vitality. Most of them have very high Strength requirements, ranging from 32 all the way to 50. Many of them also require high Vitality, as holding a Greatshield even with minimal armor will likely go over the 70% equip load threshold (which reduces your rolls to ‘fat rolls’).
For this reason, if you want to play with a Greatshield, you’ll either have to sacrifice you rolling, or simply build a tanky character from the start.
This means pooling majority of your starts in Strength, Vitality, and Vigor, which can take some time and effort. Tanky characters are difficult to play with though because of their slow and sluggish approach, which can make the game tiring and cumbersome.
Almost all the Greatshields in the game offer 100% physical defense. Additionally, a very large part of them also offer fantastic elemental defense. Havel’s Greatshield is arguably the best shield in the game, but it’s also the heaviest single-slot item as well, and will wear your character down very easily.
Most Greatshields use the Shield Bash Skill, which is an aggressive bash with your shield while it’s up. This can catch an opponent by surprise and also break their poise. Some Greatshields allow you to use your right-hand weapon’s Weapon Art as well.