Both of these methods are your primary forms of defense in the game, so it’s vital to get to grips with either one or the other, or - ideally - both. Naturally, neither is the perfect solution and both have pro’s and con’s so let’s take a closer look at both in a bit more detail.
Note: Whilst you can technically block with a weapon; it’s pretty pointless as they offer very little in the way of physical damage reduction stats. So if you want to block, make sure you get yourself a shield!
Blocking allows you to absorb the damage from an attack (the actual amount depends on the damage reduction stat of the shield/item you’re using to block with). The higher this stats is; the less damage you’ll take from an attack that hits your shield.
There are several different shield types on offer and certain types block more damage than others. There’s also the factor of different damage types (fire, bleed, poison, magic etc) to factor in when blocking as a 100% physical damage-blocking shield might not offer much protection against fire or poison attacks (for example).
Another factor to consider if you want to use a shield is that even if you don’t take any physical damage from a landed attack; you’ll still suffer some stamina damage. And this can be more dangerous than you think.
If you attempt to shield-block an attack with insufficient stamina left, you’ll enter the 'guard broken' pose. This leaves you completely open to a critical attack that, whilst not always exploited by computer enemies, almost always is by human opponents. And this then usually results in a guaranteed death thanks to the extra damage boost the critical attack offers an assailant.
The main point to rolling is to completely avoid all damage by getting out of an enemy’s attack range (and then ideally into an open attack spot). Compared to a simple shield block however, this isn’t as guaranteed to prevent you from being hit (unless your rolling skills - or adaptability stats - are up to par).
You see, lots of enemies have weapons/attacks that can either reach behind them or far in front of them; so rolling away from an attack or behind an enemy won’t always take you out of harm’s way. At lot of enemies have a relative 'safe zone,' where a sword swing (for example) may actually pass right over your head completely if you roll under it.
One trick to rolling out of danger is to roll to the side where the attack is coming from. So for example, if a boss is swinging a weapon from left to right; you roll to the left, under their swinging arm, and then you’ll be ready to retaliate.
If you attempt to roll under that boss’ right arm, you’re much more likely to get hit by the weapon as it reaches the end of its movement path.
Just like absorbing a blow with your shield, using a roll takes up stamina from your current total, but unlike blocking, you can’t be guard broke if you run out of stamina. And in fact, you can perform another full roll as long as you have just a single point of stamina.
Rolling and Equip Burden
There’s one major factor that decides how far and fast you roll and that’s your equip burden total . You can find this total in the bottom-right corner of the main inventory screen and the less equipment you’re carrying the faster and further you roll.
Unlike in Dark Souls 1, there are fewer obvious caps to where there’s a jump in distance/speed. But reaching 70.1% will dramatically reduce your roll distance and speed (and at 125% you can’t even roll, jump or run!)
Any value from 70% or less in total will offer a gradually increasing improvement with your roll speed and distance.
You can extend the usefulness of your rolls even further by pumping additional levels into the Adaptability (ADP) stat. In effect you’re granted additional invincibility frames (known as 'I-frames' in the DS2 community); allowing you to effectively roll through attacks that should have otherwise hurt you.
You don’t get loads of I-frames as your adaptability stat increases (we understand it that it only extends by single digits); but with 28+ in ADP you’ll notice a genuine difference in how often you actually roll through an attack that you know should have hit you.
Whilst blocking is a definitely a key defense and should be tried (with certain shields such as the Drangleic Shield and a couple of Greatshields being notable favourites of ours); learning how to roll effectively works across every single class you can build (unless you’re going after a full-on heavy armour, shield and sword 'tank' character).
We’re also not saying that shields are useless because that’s blatantly not the case (there’s loads of shields that offer really handy stat buffs). We’re just suggesting that from a more encompassing defensive position, rolling offers more advantages overall compared to blocking outright (and note we’re talking about blocking and not parrying/ripostes).
With a light equip load, increased ADP stat and good timing, you’ll find yourself getting out of most encounters with minimal damage loss. It’ll take practice (but then, anything worthwhile does); but being able to get into an attacking position (or away from danger) in a quick manner is invaluable.
Oh, and it also means you’ll not have to face the indignity of being guard broken in PvP matches and insta-killed. Not much fun that.