The Plunging Attack is a gameplay mechanic appearing in all three installments of the Dark Souls series. It consists in the player's ability to inflict heavy damage on an enemy by dropping from a higher level and landing on them whilst hitting them with their weapon.
In all three games, the mechanic is basically the same:
- Find a higher spot from where the target is.
- Align the player-character toward the enemy and drop down, making sure to land right next to it.
- Press the attack button ( / ) just as one is about to land.
If the hit is successful, the player will land on the enemy and deal a devastating blow that, in most cases, will kill it, or at least inflict a high amount of damage to bulkier foes.
Most likely, the first opportunity the player will have to have a taste of the plunging attack's power is when fighting the Asylum Demon near the beginning of the game. The player enters the boss arena from a high spot and is expected to initiate the battle with a plunging attack while the demon awaits below. If successful, the boss will sustain a considerable amount of damage and the odds will be balanced a little on the player's favor. Hesitating in starting the battle this way for too long will have the demon making the first move by jumping and bringing the player down to ground level and depriving them the opportunity of gaining the upper hand.
A known - and intended - strategy for dealing with the Taurus Demon in the Undead Burg consists in defeating it via plunging attacks. This is evident by the ladder conveniently put there, which gives access to the top of the tower from where the player just came out. Once at the top, they should not dwindle for too long or the creature will eventually jump up there too. If the player was lucky enough to obtain the Black Knight Sword and invested their souls to properly wield it, the demon will die in a single plunging attack.
Plunging attacks in Dark Souls II require a certain level of precision. The player is required to aim their character correctly toward the enemy and make sure they land right next to it, pressing the attack button as they come close to their target on the way down.
In this game, there are not many instances where plunging attacks can be performed, and due to the level of precision they take, only skilled players are advised to use them in the heat of battle. Certain duel arenas, however, provide structures where this type of attacks can be used against human-controlled opponents in online matches.
Plunging attacks have been greatly improved in this game, basically only requiring the player to lock-on to an enemy below, drop down, and press the attack button at any time during the fall, no longer requiring to press it with precision as one gets close to the target. The lock-on system will ensure the player is correctly aligned and positioned toward the enemy while in midair, and the attack will perform as soon as they come in contact with it.
There are plenty of opportunities for using plunging attacks throughout the course of the game, especially if there are large enemies around, like Elder Ghrus or Giant Man Serpents. In these cases, there will usually be structures nearby where the player may lure and perform a plunging attack on them. Message signs can often be found in these areas, where the developers hint the player on performing one of these attacks.
One of the game's bosses, the Ancient Wyvern, is intended to be defeated precisely by these means, where the player is expected to run through a long gauntlet of enemies and perform a plunging attack at the end to defeat the boss in a single hit.
In addition, some larger enemies, like Great Crabs, Elder Ghrus, and Sulyvahn's Beasts, can be disabled momentarily if the player manages to land on their heads without attacking. If successful, the enemy will get staggered and automatically become open for a riposte.