If you were to ask the Dark Souls community which set of armor you should slap onto your chosen undead, chances are the vast majority of responses are going to end up being some variant of "it doesn't matter." And that's half right. What set of armor will end up working to your advantage is largely going to revolve around your build and play style. A lot of players can get by just fine with no armor at all.
If you're playing purely to maximize the benefit, then it's likely that your best armor set up isn't going to consist of a singular matched set of armor at all, but rather a mixture of different pieces from different sets. But that's usually ugly, and this is Dark Souls, after all - fashion matters. So to help get you pointed in the right direction without compromising your style points, here are five of the best matching sets of armor in the game, alongside five that are practically useless.
10 BEST: Elite Knight's Set
The Elite Knight's set definitely isn't the best armor in the game, but a lot of factors contribute to it being more desirable than many other options. It's easily accessible, offers considerable poise, and has one of the better weight to defense ratios in the game.
It isn't exactly light in the weight department, but it is easily surmountable for those that want to maintain their mobility without sinking too much investment into it. Its well rounded statistics, modest requirements and relatively early appearance in the game make it a remarkably solid go-to for newcomers.
9 WORST: Hollow Warrior Set
Given that this set drops off of the easiest and most frequently encountered enemies in the game, expectations should be pretty low to begin with. And as one might guess, its defensive statistics are perfectly abysmal. As far as looks go, it's perfectly fine if you want something ugly, or you're shooting to cosplay as a Hollow for some reason.
The only noteworthy aspect of the Hollow Warrior set is the fact that it's one of the lightest sets of armor to offer any poise, however little that may be. But given that poise tends to be a "go big or go home" sort of investment, this does practically nothing to offset how statistically terrible it is.
8 BEST: Paladin Set
The Paladin set is one of the heavier "medium" armor sets in the game, but it offers a lot to make up for its somewhat unwieldy amount of heft. It boasts high defensive statistics, and a little more poise than the comparable Elite Knight's set. Most importantly, it has excellent curse resistance, which can save quite a bit of headache when facing enemies capable of inflicting it.
The player will need to defeat the red phantom of Paladin Leeroy in order to get their hands on it, which can be a little tricky as this encounter is triggered in the Tomb of Giants, after having placed the Lord Vessel. This means obtaining it early is usually not going to be in the cards, but it's well worth the wait and the effort.
7 WORST: Painting Guardian Set
If you've ever wanted to wear what is essentially a sheet of paper and call it armor, then the Painting Guardian set is going to be right up your alley. It has some of the lowest physical defense ratings in the game, and offers absolutely nothing in terms of poise.
It isn't as if its totally useless, though. It boasts decent fire and magic defenses, as well as incredible defense against poison. However, these benefits are rarely ever going to outweigh the obvious cons, unless your character has absolutely no weight to spare for armor.
6 BEST: Black Iron Set
The Black Iron set is the most well rounded of the big boy armor sets, offering a wide variety of extra benefits in addition to a surprisingly accessible weight value. It features solid poise, good physical defenses, the highest fire resistance of any armor set in the game, and a smidgen of curse resistance for good measure.
It is also one of only two heavy armor sets that can be upgraded through reinforcement. Once upgraded fully, it offers some of the highest physical defenses in the game, exceeded only by the upgraded Giant's set. It can be located just outside the painting that provides transportation to the Painted World of Ariamis, within Anor Londo.
5 WORST: Gold-Hemmed Set
The Gold-Hemmed set used to be quite popular as an armor set for twinked characters, being pretty easily accessible and providing some decent physical defenses considering its weight class. It also possesses some impressive defense versus fire and poison.
Unfortunately for low-level twinks everywhere, the set received a pretty significant nerf during one of the game's earlier patches, rendering it pretty lackluster when compared to other viable options. Its fire and poison resistances still leave it useful on a situational basis, but only just so.
4 BEST: Havel's Armor
It's big, it's ridiculous, and it was once the bane of the Dark Souls PVP scene. Boasting some incredible defensive statistics and the highest poise rating in the game, encountering an invader decked out in full Havel's armor is sure to elicit a well-deserved groan.
As one might guess, the main drawback of Havel's armor is the fact that it is heavy. In fact, heavy is a total understatement, and it'll take no shortage effort to overcome it. The set is located behind an illusory wall in Anor Londo, assuming you get past the infamous Silver Knight archers that keep the area locked down.
3 WORST: Black Set
The Black Set doesn't look half bad, so long as you fancy looking like that old creep, Oswald. However, its physical defenses are thoroughly below par, and it's not going to help you out with any poise. It does offer a full spread of resistances, but none of them are particularly impressive enough to justify its other drawbacks.
If you're still not particularly deterred from snagging your own copy of this set, it can be found within the painted world of Ariamis. It weighs very little, if nothing else, and probably beats going stark naked when braving the world of Dark Souls. Even so, you won't notice much of a difference between the two options.
2 BEST: Giant Set
Once upon a time, preceding a certain patch, the top spot would've gone to Havel's set, in keeping with a once-popular build. However, the Giant's Set now is now the most desirable (and likely overused) set in the game, offering superior defensive capability at the cost of some poise.
Though its poise rating isn't quite as monstrous as Havel's, the Giant Set still offers a sturdy amount of it alongside its better defensive statistics once upgraded. It can be obtained from the Giant Blacksmith for 26,000 souls, and though this list refers specifically to complete armor sets, swapping the helmet out for a particularly fatherly mask (and a few other choice accessories) might just cause one to become unstoppable.
1 WORST: Hollow Thief's Set
The Hollow Thief's set, like a lot of the Hollowed sets of armor, is the very definition of junk. It has remarkably poor defensive stats, offers some minimal resistances, and it looks as if its been freshly dug out from the very bottom of a dumpster. It almost was, when you think about it.
It's lightweight, at least. But there are plenty of light options that offer more benefits than it does. If for some reason you'd still like to obtain it, all you need to do is set about picking off the surprisingly annoying Hollow Thieves in the Lower Undead Burg.