This may sound weird but I want to thank the people who helped me defeat bosses in co-op, most particularly on my first playthrough, although they would never see this. My skills aren't as good as someone half my age and twice my talent, but having played for ages now (every day since release) but I find my skills are getting better. Maybe it's a mix of skill improvement and confidence. I tend to put myself in the place of my character and use every survival tactic available to me. That is to say I find the game to be very immersive, contrary to the opinion of some who say this isn't the kind of game to be "immersed" in.
Where my confidence falters is with bosses. I can handle the mobs in the outer world, and in fact have killed some bosses solo, but when I pass through some of those fog doors, my focus goes to hell. I can often maintain my composure until the boss is almost dead, then something pings in my brain and I make some stupid mistake. I guess I'm not alone there though and it's often a matter of timing or a slip in concentration, or more likely the most aggravating death happens from stupidly falling off a ledge. I don't mind trying again of course, it's part of the experience, but sometimes it's the tedious trek back to some of the the bosses that is more annoying then anything.
Now, since I have summoned players to help out, I have also returned the favour over and over again helping others do the same. I've recently started a Dex based character and this time I'm going to join the Sunbros and become a golden phantom. "Praise the Sun." My other characters, (melee strength and a sorcerer) are near the end game and I don't know yet if I will take them to NG+. I might be making it harder on myself than I will ultimately enjoy. We'll see when the time comes.
It's fun and rewarding and those Smooth and Silky Stones have the potential to net something nice from Dyna and Tilo. But, please guys, no more Demon Great Hammers....I can't use them on any of my characters, but they do bring a nice price from the great Gavlan so that's a plus. I also have a collection of Tokens of Fidelity.
I summoned a Shade for the first Pursuer fight with my new character and the guy shot me with the ballista, so that was one try down. And we nearly had him beaten too. I had to laugh though and I don't know what the phantom thought after he killed me.
Something people who look down on others for using summoned help may not realize is that it can also make the boss fight longer and more unpredictable, gives the boss more health, especially if two phantoms are summoned, and I believe less damage is done per hit. Three players hitting on a boss can really mess with their AI though and confuses them as they aren't programmed to be able to handle attacks coming from multiple sources. Something like that would be near impossible to program though I imagine, which is probably a good thing depending on your point of view.
This brings me to the fact of summoning help in the first place. Some do it because they may feel they need the help, (ie me) others because it's fun to co-op (also me) and for the person being summoned there are rewards as well as feeling good about helping, (me again.) I watch a few Let's Plays and it pisses me off no end how some over zealous (to put it mildly) viewers dictate how others should play the game. This happens with most games of course, but the Souls fan base is particularly and ridiculously extreme. Who bloody cares if a player wants to use a summons, be it another player, or an NPC, who by the way, except for a couple are mostly useless. It's supposed to be fun not an exercise in masochism for the masses, unless the player really wants to go solo and has the skill. However, a couple of LP'ers I watch tried summoning and were reviled for it in the comments.
As far as NPC summons go, Lucatiel keeps falling off the walkways and drowning in No Man's wharf, every single time I've tried to use her there, so her quest is over before it starts. I clear the place of every living thing, except for Gavlan and Carhillion, before summoning her and she still drowns getting to the ship.... Her summon sign needs to be on the ship, but then she'd probably drown in the hold on the way to the boss. Either that or she gets stuck coming through the fog gate and never arrives to help anyway.
The best NPC phantoms I've discovered so far are Jester Thomas for Mytha the Baneful Queen and he can solo her if you let him. The other was Pilgrim Bellclaire, a mage who also holds her own against the Ruin Sentinels, a fight I always dread, at least until I have a shield that blocks 100% and plenty of stamina. My mage character had less trouble though as I could keep my distance.
To my dismay I met these freaks of nature again in Drangleic Castle in a small area where there are statues with spears who come to life and can quickly "ruin" your day if they are all woken at once by mistake, which is easy to do. They are just about my most hated enemy because they are impossible to backstab and their spears go through shields, seemingly even if I dodge and roll like a boss. One on one isn't too bad but it's an area with several doors and behind all except one is a Ruin Sentinel. You're out of luck when all the doors are open because you'll be fighting them all any time you pass through there....and they respawn. I just run past them now, I don't care about the loot.
Anyway, back to what I was saying about Co-op which along with being able to invade another player's world is build into the game and is explained in the Lore by Saulden. If people have the skills and patience to solo bosses, even after many tries, or on the first try, I say good luck and congratulations to them. It's the fanbois who seem to feel it's mandatory to handicap yourself so they can feel superior for beating a boss solo and then berating others for not being able to do it, or not having the patience that really irritate me. It's a game, not a life or death simulator in real time.
I had a funny invasion the other day with my strength character who had just killed the Demon of Song with the NPC summoned phantom. I had teleported to the Forest of the Giants to check something and was invaded by a red phantom fully encased in Havel's gear and carrying the Dragon Tooth. Now, as far as Covenants go I joined the Blues at the start of the game and never really thought about it after that so a Blue Sentinel arrived to help me out. I don't know what level the invader was but he or she didn't stand a chance being slow and fat rolling.
I wield a fully upgraded lightning infused Murakumo and wear very little armour, so I'm very mobile. The invader threw Lightning Spears at me which I just sidestepped, not even dodging, and with two or three hits from my sword they were defeated. I think The Blue Sentinel might have gotten a hit in, but he or she took awhile to find us as the invader actually ran away from me after I took half their health down and as invaders can't heal, it was all over soon after. I got 133,364 souls from that which had me worried as I've read of instances where people get huge numbers of souls from hackers and because of Soul memory, their game can be ruined from a Co-op point of view. I also read that players of a very high level who do a lot of PvP can have enormous amounts of souls on them because it eventually costs 100,000's to level, and successfully repelling an invader nets a percentage of what it cost them to level. Anyway, I used the souls to level a few times and to upgrade weapons.
I've had a couple of invasions with my latest character, who had basically just killed the Old Dragon Slayer at the time, that seemed sketchy to me. One was a guy who lagstabbed me repeatedly from across a large room, but maybe that was a connection thing. That was the first time that's happened though as I've been invaded before with no weirdness going on. The other was similar, also with a lot of lag, but I'm sure it was a cheat because he stunned me so I couldn't even retaliate, from across the river in the Forest, and he kept rubber banding all over the place while he was doing it.
Not much to do do about it though unless something is done developer side but grin and bear it, and so far it's only been those two that were problems. A fair fight is good fun even if I die, but cheats are just failures with low self esteem, so I just carry on regardless. It's not worth getting worked up about. Unfortunately, from what I've been reading the cheats and hackers are coming out of the woodwork as in previous Souls games, so we can expect more of it I imagine.
My most advanced character has just reached the Undead Crypt entrance so I haven't seen what comes after that, but I've enjoyed most areas, except maybe Black Gulch and The Shrine of Amana. The first is a poison pit, even worse than Harvest Valley which I quite enjoy strangely enough, and the second is a pain in the neck, at least the first time through with the mages and their homing Soul Arrows, although I believe they were nerfed a bit in a patch.
Then there's the deep water you have to wade through slowing you down while things attack you with abandon, aka the lizard like stealth assassins hiding in it. Then there are the bottomless drops in the water that are very hard to see until "YOU DIED" appears on screen. I'd advise using a torch to explore the outer areas so you can see the depth of the water, preferably when everything is dead because there are some treasures and other things to be found. It's a very pretty area though.
The Gutter is like a vision of hell the first time as well, but isn't so bad on later visits. If you have Arachnophobia, then you're in for a treat in a certain area as well. I'm looking forward to seeing the dragons though, even though I foresee many deaths.
Onward I go for now though, ever the intrepid adventurer(s).....I have three poor souls with very different experiences as they traverse this dangerous world. And having a blast doing it.