Dark Souls: 10 tips for beginning players

Before Dark Souls 3 arrives, it's a good time to jump into the Souls franchise. Here are 10 tips to make your first playthrough a bit easier.

With the announcement of Dark Souls 3 at E3 2015 still fresh in our minds, now is a great time to get into the Souls games in preparation for the last chapter of the Dark Souls trilogy. Known for their brutality and relentless difficulty, Souls games can be very overwhelming as a beginner. That’s where I step in. I'm here to give you 10 tips that will help you die a little less often in Dark Souls. Praise the sun!

I remember my first steps in Dark Souls. After beating the tutorial level and feeling like a king, you get transported to Lordran, which is where the majority of the game will take place. From there you can go anywhere. I decided to walk to the left. Bad idea. There were a bunch of skeletons that proceeded to destroy me repeatedly. Turns out you’re supposed to go to that area in the second half of the game. That’s what Dark Souls is. It doesn’t hold your hand as you venture trough Lordran, it respects your intelligence and expects you to figure it all out by yourself. I myself am in Anor Londo at the moment, which is about halfway through the game. So I’m not an expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I feel like I have learned some important things along the way. Without further ado, let’s get these tips fired up!

1. Your starting class doesn’t matter

Like I said, Dark Souls can be pretty overwhelming right from the start, where you get to choose from a variety of classes. This is where our first tip comes in: it doesn’t really matter what you pick. Sure, it affects the first few hours of the game, but essentially you can level up the stats you’re interested in and adjust your playstyle to that. If you choose to be a pyromancer at the beginning of the game, you might end up as a beast of a tank exclusively wielding two-handed weapons by the time you’ve slain the final boss. This is what makes leveling so important in Dark Souls, as you can create a build that fits you.

2. Pick the master key as your starting gift

This thing is epic. It makes reaching certain areas and unlocking certain shortcuts lot easier. The areas in Dark Souls are perfectly connected with each other. The only area that only has one entry point is Anor Londo (excluding the Undead Asylum and the Painted World of Ariamis). This means traveling through Dark Souls can be tough and may take a lot of your precious time. Unless you have the master key.

3. Level your endurance (stamina)

Please, please, please don’t forget about leveling your stamina. The last thing you want is getting stuck in a combo during a boss fight without any possibility of escaping it because you have no stamina. You see, when you attack, dodge or run, you use stamina. Run out of stamina, and you can forget dodging, attacking and running. And if you can’t attack, dodge or run, the game suddenly becomes a lot harder than it already is. Another tip: if you’re out of stamina, lower your shield. You’ll regain stamina a lot faster that way. Please note: you shouldn’t focus exclusively on Stamina. Leveling up vitality, dexterity, strength and the other stats are just as important. It’s just that endurance is heavily underrated by new players.

4. Perfect your dodges

When you dodge, you are invulnerable for a very brief period. We’re talking milliseconds here. If you learn to time your dodges perfectly, fighting enemies becomes easier. A lot easier.

5. Keep your hands off of NPCs

You shouldn’t mess with NPCs. Trust me, I learned the hard way. When I was traveling to the Firelink Shrine, which is kind of the world’s center, I noticed two dark red eyes next to me. In my reflexes, I immediately pressed the R2 button (please only play this game with a controller) to feed that sucker my halberd. Turns out it was the Female Undead Merchant lurking in the shadows. Let’s just say she won’t sell me any items now. If you’re wondering whether a character is an NPC or an enemy: if you can’t lock onto it, don’t hit it.


6. There’s no honor in Dark Souls

Dark Souls means war. There’s no such thing as ‘cheap’ in the world of Lordran. A boss accidentally falls off a bridge, killing itself? Victory is victory, seriously. An enemy gets stuck in a corner? Tough luck, but just attack it! Trust me, you’ll thank me afterwards. Also, using guides to help you defeat bosses or navigate through tough areas is nothing to be ashamed about.

7. Check your favorite weapon’s stat scaling

Your weapon is your best friend in Dark Souls (apart from your shield), so leveling up the stats that scale best with your favorite weapon is essential to maximizing combat efficiency. Let’s take the Great Scythe as an example. This weapon can be acquired in the second half of the game (or within the first twenty minutes after the tutorial if you’re confident and good at running). This beast of a weapon scales best with Dexterity. The parameter bonuses are defined with grades. The great scythe has an ‘E’ for strength and a ‘B’ for dexterity. If you enjoy this weapon and plan on using loads of titanite to upgrade it, be sure to level your dexterity. Big time.

8. Toss that Drake Sword as soon as you can

Don’t get me wrong, I think you should get the drake sword. It’s an enormous power spike really early in the game. However, you’ll find that the Drake Sword loses its potency really fast. The parameter bonuses are non-existent (no seriously, this weapon doesn’t scale with stats at all) and upgrading it requires dragon scales, which are extremely rare. Plus, each upgrade costs 10,000 souls too. Not even close to being worth it. Instead try and find as much titanite and upgrade any weapon. Even an upgraded short sword will easily out-damage the Drake Sword at one point.

9. Don’t be afraid of big bosses

Instead, run up to them and bury your face in their crotch. Most large bosses have attacks with huge reach, which means the only safe place to be is against their legs. You’ll understand me once you get to the Taurus Demon. And oh, don’t forget to go up the ladder and kill the crossbowmen before you take on the Taurus Demon. They’ll mess you up good if you don’t.

10. Have fun! And patience…

Dark Souls is all about the experience. Don’t be afraid to dive into the amazing lore. It really enhances the game’s story (and makes it a lot more depressing, mind you). Don’t be afraid to die and lose your souls. Embrace it. Patience is the key here, as perseverance pays. And last but not least, don’t forget to praise that sun at least thrice a day.

That brings us to the end of our 10 tips for beginning Dark Souls players. If you have any tips you want to share yourself, or think I'm wrong about something, be sure to leave a comment below. Thanks for reading, and good luck!

Published Jun. 26th 2015
View Comments

New Cache - article_comments_article_24646
More Dark Souls Content

GameSkinny Newsletter

Get Dark Souls news the moment it happens!

You have been successfully subscribed to this newsletter.