When gamers think of the terms “ranged weapon” and “action RPG” together, the first kind of armament that comes to mind is usually the bow. These bent pieces of wood with strings attached have been every ranger, or similar class’, primary choice to take into battle through the lands of Drangleic in Dark Souls 2.
There are 8 true bows in the game; some are awesome and unique while others should not be used beyond the first part of one’s hollowing adventure. For their damage potential, as well as usability, there is a clear rank of power that has been decided for all bows in Dark Souls 2.
8 Short Bow
This is without a doubt 1 of the 2 most basic bows (the other being the Long Bow) in the game and is meant to only really be used until one finds a better ranged weapon, ideally another bow with higher base stats and scaling. However, there is nothing fundamentally wrong with the Short Bow, and it can be a great weapon, even after a only few upgrades.
To compare it to the others in this weapon class fairly, one will get the idea of the power of this simple bow from seeing its +10 Regular upgrade stats. When maxed out at the blacksmith, the Short Bow attains 130 physical attack along with D-tier scaling in Strength and A-tier in Dexterity for some decent Dex-build damage. Its firing speed is also pretty quick, allowing it to be used at closer ranges than other bows, however, being close to one’s foe is not the best idea for a ranger in most cases.
7 Bell Keeper Bow
Hardly any different than the Short Bow, the Bell Keeper Bow is only more useful for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it can be wielded with lower stats, allowing those doing a Soul Level 1 playthrough to use it while maintaining the gimmick of their desired challenge run.
Secondly, it has better scaling than the Short bow, as at the +10 Regular upgrade, the Bell Keeper Bow receives 130 physical attack, C-tier scaling in Strength and A-tier with Dexterity, making it notably better, albeit just barely.
6 Long Bow
As the name implies, this bow is useful at longer ranges than many, allowing players to snipe foes a bit easier, which makes for safer progression through the game. Being able to attract a single target at a time is also useful for taking enemies down one-on-one instead of dealing with multiple threats simultaneously.
The Long Bow, like all those mentioned so far, can be upgraded in a number of ways. The Regular path is usually the most versatile, however, an elemental infusion would not be a bad choice as it gives bows split damage and scaling with the specified element. For the sake of equal comparison, the Long Bow’s physical attack reaches 150 at the +10 Regular upgrade and also receives D-tier scaling with Strength and A-tier in Dexterity; stronger than many of the more basic bows, though not impressive either.
5 Composite Bow
This bow not only deals more damage than most others per shot but also fires quicker than many of its brethren. This makes the Composite Bow ideal for those who intend to get relatively close to their foes. However, it must then compete for usage with crossbows, as this is usually their range and they have the advantage in that the player only needs a single hand to use them.
With that said, the Composite Bow is a great ally in battle for rangers as it acquires 165 physical attack at the max upgrade level of +10 along with C-tier scaling in both Strength and Dexterity, making it ideal for a quality build.
4 Sea Bow
With some of the coolest lore and a nice design, the Sea Bow is an interesting ranged weapon. According to its item description, it was used to hunt literal sea monsters, opening a whole dimension of questions by fans of the obscure story and universe in the Dark Souls trilogy.
It is mentioned that this bow was fabricated with the capability to fire arrows farther than others in order to help its wielder take down oceanic beasts with greater ease. True to the lore, the Sea Bow has the most lock-on range out of any regular bow in the game, making it excellent for sniping, despite middling damage. At the +10 Regular upgrade, it attains 145 physical attack and C-tier scaling with both Strength and Dexterity, making it another decent ranged option for quality builds.
3 Hunter’s Blackbow
This bow comes second to the Sea Bow when range is involved, however, it can still out-range any other bow, making it a solid choice for sniping. Rare for a bow with long-distance capabilities, the Hunter’s Blackbow can also fire quite quickly, letting it be useful in mid-range and close encounters as well.
Undeniably a weapon for a Dexterity build, this dark bow obtains 155 physical damage in addition to E-tier scaling in Strength along with a colossal S-tier scaling in Dexterity. As such, players rocking a Dexterity-oriented weapon, like a swift katana or a mighty spear, would make great use of the Hunter’s Blackbow.
2 Dragonrider Bow
This devastating boss weapon packs the most punch out of any bow in the game, though consumes more stamina per shot and involves a slower firing speed as the cost for this power. Acquired by trading the Dragonrider Soul with Straid of Olaphis, the Dragonrider Bow can be obtained fairly early on, making it an excellent choice if one has the 20 Strength and 18 Dexterity to wield it.
As this mighty bow possesses innate magic attack, players should take it down the Magic infusion’s upgrade path for optimal damage output. When maxed out at +5 for the Magic infusion, the Dragonrider Bow obtains 172 physical and 144 magic attack alongside B-tier scaling in Strength, E-tier in Dexterity, and C-tier in magic damage; for pure power, there is no better choice than this.
1 Bow Of Want
Since this bow is obtained by trading the Soul of Nashandra, the essence of the game’s final boss, the only way to truly appreciate the Bow of Want is in New Game+. However, thanks to its innate lightning damage, as well as a special attack, it can pierce and shock foes effectively enough to be a great partner on one’s more challenging playthroughs.
If held with both hands (as bows must usually be fired), players can use the strong attack to launch a powerful lightning shot that inflicts severe poise damage as well as decent lighting damage. Due to its regular attacks doing split damage between physical and lightning, the Lightning upgrade path is ideal to take. At the +5 Lightning infusion upgrade, the Bow of Want achieves 60 physical and 234 lightning attack for a shocking amount of power that goes nicely with the D-tier scaling in Strength, B-tier with Dexterity, and C-tier with lightning damage.