Dark Souls 3 tips and things you should know before starting

Dark Souls 3 is an incredibly difficult game, but it isn't an unfair one, and if you take the time to learn its intricacies you will find an impressive world to explore, one that's filled with all sorts of wondrous locations and challenging fights that will leave eternally yearning for more.

So if this is your first rodeo with the Souls series, or if you're simply looking for a couple of tips to help you along, allow me to present you in a spoiler-free way the 12 most important things one should know when starting Dark Souls 3:


Chose the right starting class

Your starting class in Dark Souls 3 determines the initial stat distribution, and which weapons you begin with, so its important to chose the one that fits your playstyle, or you might just end up with a bunch of wasted stat points. The best choice for beginners would be either the Knight which has the objectively best melee orientated stats, or the Cleric which gives you an extra method of regenerating health, and curing negative effects such as poison, with no further stat investment required. Personally I would recommend the Cleric, even if you don't plan to do a Faith build, simply because you get access to a wide variety of useful spells that manage to remain useful throughout the entire game.

Leveling health early on is a trap

I know this sounds a bit crazy, especially if you're a beginner as you know full well you're going to get hit a lot, but leveling Vigor (aka health) early on in Dark Souls 3 will not save your life. What will safe your life, however, is leveling your primary damage stats, such as Strength or Dexterity, because the difference between killing an enemy in two blows, or three blows is the difference between them having a chance to react, or simply falling over dead.

The second stat you want to focus heavily on, especially early in your playthrough, is Endurance which increases your maximum stamina, thus allowing you to chain multiple attacks on the enemy, dodge more often, and overall be a lot more flexible in fights. Best of all, having an increased stamina pool will help protect your life far more than a simple boost in health, purely due to your ability to dodge/block even after attacking.

Shields are amazing, but dodging is better

Shields are an excellent tool when it comes to protecting your squishy parts from the enemy's pointy bits, but sometimes the enemies are so aggressive, or so powerful, that your shield will turn in to a disadvantage. This is most apparent against some of the bigger bosses as they will drain your entire stamina meter, and sometimes even stagger you if you decide to block even half of their attack combo. In these scenarios you will have to rely on your dodging skills in order to secure an opening during which you can attack the boss. This might sound easy now, but it will take a lot of practice, and blows to the head, before you become proficient at it.

While I can't help you practice, I can tell you that your dodge roll has a certain amount of invincibility frames tied to it, or in other words, a period of time during which you are completely invulnerable to damage. Its not the easiest thing to notice on your own, especially if you're new to the genre, but its a feature that you should use frequently, and to great effect. Instead of dodging away from enemies during their big swing, dodge in to them, use the invincibility frame to "soak" the damage, and then stab them in the shins while they're completely exposed.

Dark Souls 3 iframes allow you to dodge damage

Stabbed through the chest with a spear? Never fear, the iframes are here!

Find a weakness, and exploit it

Some bosses are so ruthlessly aggressive that its almost impossible to find enough time to actually hit them, especially if you use a slow weapon. In this case you will have to create an opportunity for yourself by baiting a specific attack, and then bringing down the hammer! For example, the very first boss in the game tends to do a lot of wild swings in close range, and due to his large upper body its hard to see what exactly he's doing, so you're bound to get hit, over and over again. However, if you run away from him he will almost always use the same two jumping attacks, attacks that you can easily dodge away from, and then punish.

The same applies to healing during combat. You don't want to simply chug your bottle of Sunny D while the boss is staring you down, just waiting for you to lower your guard. Instead, bait him in to a long attack chain, dodge backwards and then take a couple of sips while the boss pointlessly flails around. It might feel terrifying, but its the only way to ensure that you heal without losing more health in the process.

You don't have to kill everyone

Dying on a boss can be infuriating, especially if you have to clear hundreds of his mindless minions before you reach him once more. Well, what if I told you there isn't a single boss in the entirety of Dark Souls 3 that you can't reach within 30 seconds of dying? The way you do this is deceptively simple, just run! As long as you don't fist-bump every enemy you pass they will all waste their precious time trying to attack someone that is no longer there, and in the process allow you to get so far ahead they'll never be able to catch you. The only thing you will need to worry about is your stamina, which needs to never hit rock bottom given that it will then take a lot longer before it starts to recharge.

Upgrade your weapons at Andre's workshop

The importance of upgrading your favorite weapons can not be overstated as they don't just gain more power, they gain increased scaling as well which results in far, far more damage than what it says on the proverbial tin. Besides simply upgrading your gear, you can also infuse it with various gems depending on your preference. Some gems will make your weapons scale better with Strength, others with Luck, and some will remove scaling altogether in favor of a larger base damage. Its going to be up to you and your build to decide which infusion is the right one for your weapon, and don't worry if you end up hating it as replacing an infusion is a relatively simple process, just chose a different one.

Dark Souls 3 heavy infusion increases strength scaling

A heavy gem decreases your damage, but grants you increased Strength scaling. Perfect for mace users!

Use Undead Bone Ash to upgrade your Estus Flask

Undead Bone Ash is a rare item found throughout the world that increases the efficiency of your Estus Flask, and its also an item that Dark Souls 3 never, ever mentions to you. The way you use it is by going to the main bonfire in Firelink Shrine, and then selecting the option to burn the undead ash which will permanently upgrade your Estus Flask! Its just as simple as it sounds, but its very easy to overlook, especially if you forget you've even picked up the ash. I won't spoil where exactly you can find it, because exploration is half the fun in a Souls game, but I will say that there is one located somewhere in the Undead Settlement. Happy hunting!

Don't forget your keys

Dark Souls 3 has a ton of doors that are either locked from one side, or require a special key to open, so its very easy to forget their existence, and go through the entire game without finding some of the more interesting secret areas. In other words, every time you buy a key from the handmaiden, or get one as a drop, make sure to read its description to figure out where its supposed to go, because that is your ticket to some amazing loot! The 20,000 souls key the Handmaiden sells is a prime example of this as it gives you access to a veritable bounty of items found atop the Firelink Shrine, so as soon as you get enough souls to buy it, I would recommend you do so.

Don't pour everything in to one stat

Don't invest all of your souls in to a single stat point as its efficiency goes own once you reach a certain threshold. While the community still hasn't done research on every single stat point, I can tell you that Strength and Dexterity have a soft cap at 40, after which every point will be less effective than those that came before it. In other words, while its a great idea to have a focused build, don't overdo it or you might just end up "wasting" stat points.

On a similar note, using your weapon in two hands effectively doubles your Strength, so if you're like me and prefer using giant two-handed swords, you will only need 20-25 Strength, as that means you have an effective 40-50 Strength, which is right at the Strength cap before the effectiveness starts falling off rapidly.

Dark Souls 3 has some nasty attacks

There are some places where giant two-handed swords are most unwelcome

Its OK to run away

While it might not feel very heroic to run away from a difficult engagement, its often a good idea to either reposition yourself, or simply hide around a corner in order to chug Estus in safety. This is especially important during some of the ambushes Dark Souls 3 prepares for you, battles where you quickly get surrounded from all sides by enemies. Instead of dying like a noble hero, its much preferable to run away and fight the enemies one by one, ideally in a tight space where their numbers won't bring an advantage.

Use your embers, call for help if stuck

Embers are a new addition to the Souls series, and they are absolutely invaluable if you're having issues with a boss. Not only does an Ember effectively double your health, it also allows you to summon other players via signs on the floor in order to help you out with a tough fight, or even enemy players that may have invaded you. Bear in mind, however, that the number of Embers available to you is limited, so you don't want to waste them for no reason, but if you ever get stuck, don't hesitate to pop one, they're not that rare. Oh, and did I mention that Embers give you a sweet flaming cloak effect, as if you needed even more reasons to use them!

Accept death, and never give up!

We've all been there at one point in Dark Souls 3: You're fighting a tough boss and nothing you do seems to work, so you slowly get increasingly more frustrated which transitions in to overly aggressive plays, which then get punished even harder, thus continuing the cycle until you feel like quitting. While this might sound a bit patronizing, its important to recognize that you're stuck in this downward spiral of despair, and simply snap out of it!

This can mean either exploring some other zone for a while, fighting the boss in co-op, simply turning off the game for a few hours, or anything else that might help you get your edge back. Just make sure to not give up, because overcoming these seemingly impossible challenges is the beauty of Dark Souls 3, as there is simply no better feeling in the entire world than pushing through hell itself in order to see yourself stand victorious upon the shattered remnants of your enemies.

 Dark Souls 3 black knight

And there you have it, all 12 things I believe newcomers to Dark Souls 3 should keep in mind, for the sake of their gameplay performance, as well as sanity. The most important thing to note, however, is that becoming good at anything, and this includes Dark Souls 3, is not an easy task. You will fail, you will die, you will die a lot, but once you finally get over the difficulty hump, and the gameplay mechanics become second nature, you will witness something truly amazing, something that was worth every single humiliating death at the hands of a pants-less vagrant, so make sure to persevere!

On an unrelated note, I welcome you to check out either my detailed review of Dark Souls 3, or an analysis of the PC port and its performance

\[T]/ And finally, make sure to praise the Sun! \[T]/