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Tips For Playing Dark Souls 3

The land of Lothric is a deadly place, and Dark Souls 3 doesn’t go out of its way to lend a hand. I’m here to help.

What follows is a combination of tips for people who are new to Dark Souls—i.e. watch out for mimics!!—and things that are specific to Dark Souls 3. I’ll be updating this post as people dig into the game and discover what else is hidden.

Please drop your own tips into the comments!

There aren’t specific “class” designations in Dark Souls 3, outside of what you arbitrarily pick in the beginning. Even if you decide to start out as a warrior, it’s possible to become a sorcerer later. The only difference is that you’ll open the game with slightly different stats and starter equipment. Everything else in Dark Souls 3 is the same for everyone, and it’s even possible to respec via an NPC.

Dark Souls 3 doesn’t have a difficulty levels to choose from; everyone is on the same playing field. That said, some classes have things a little easier than others early on. If you keep dying over and over, think about switching over to the knight or pyromancy classes. With the knight, you’ll start with bulky armor, in addition to a shield. With the pyromancer, you can toss powerful fire magic.

Kotaku’s Chris Person has a handy guide to start racking up souls early on:

Dragons are cool, but they’re also prone to killing you all the time with fire. This particular dragon, found in the High Wall of Lothric, is hiding some loot that’s tough to grab without shooing it away. Fortunately, all it takes is a bow, a few minutes of patience, and a ton of arrows to take the beast down. It’s possible to snipe the dragon from a few places nearby—just make sure to keep your distance. Near death, the dragon will fly away, and the path clears up for you.

For the first time, Dark Souls has two flasks: estus and ashen. One refills your health, the other refills magic. There are also two upgrades: shards and bone dust. The former increases the number of flasks, the latter amps up its abilities. Depending on what kind of character you’re playing as, you may be more interested in refilling magic than health. (Sorcerers, for example, have access to health spells.) In that case, speak with the blacksmith and modify how many of each flask you have on-hand. It’s possible to have four estus flasks and two ashen flasks or two ashen flasks and four estus flasks. It’s up to you.

Look, Dark Souls 3 is a tough game, and you need every advantage you can get. That’s where the bow comes in handy. See a group of enemies up ahead? Shoot one of them with an arrow and they’ll come running after you, while the others (usually) stay behind. Is an enemy charging your way? Snipe them in the head with an arrow and it’s likely to stagger them for a few seconds. Learn to love being cheap and dirty with the bow and arrow; there’s no shame in it.

You’re likely to be in lots of situations where you’ve been overwhelmed by enemies and the situation is looking bleak. That’s when it’s useful to run the hell away and live to fight another day. If you put enough distance between you and an enemy, they’ll get bored and head back to their guard post. This can be used ‘n abused, if you’re patient; it’s possible to hit an enemy, run away, and repeat the process until they’re dead. This is even easier with a bow and arrow!

A hardcore Souls player might say a “true” fan plays the game solo, but screw that! If you want jolly cooperators to ease the burden, go right ahead. The game doesn’t really explain how co-op works, but it’s simple enough. When you beat a boss or use an ember, you’ll be able to see “summon” signs on the ground. These might be NPC characters or other players, depending on the sign. With Bloodborne, From Software finally introduced the ability to matchmake with other friends using a password system, and that’s present in Dark Souls 3, too.

It’s easy to get bogged down in stats, but while armor plays a role, it won’t usually make or break a fight. (That’s less true if you’re going for a “tank” build, though.) You’re going to find lots of equipment while journeying Lothric, and it’ll be tempting to ignore clothing that doesn’t make you stronger. That’s an option, but that means you’re gonna get stuck with some boring armor. Mix it up! Try something weird! Worst case, you go back to the old armor.

If you hold up or down on the d-pad, it’ll scroll to your first item or spell.

One enemy might not be that tough, but two or three? Things can get out of control quickly in Souls, which is why you should avoid the temptation to attract the attention of too many creatures. If you can focus on one enemy at a time—again, the bow and arrow helps with this—it makes combat more manageable. In a pinch, items like firebombs can be useful to collectively stun enemies.

Items and souls are scarce for a while, but you’ll have way too much shit by the end of the game. My inventory is full of items that I should have used, as I kept telling myself “oh, maybe I’ll need it later.” Apparently, later means “never.” Make use of those magical coatings for your weapons that let you attack a little harder. Equip an ember to get a little more health. Go wild!

That’s the “equip load” stat, and you can upgrade it. It’s easy to get overencumbered in Dark Souls 3, and it’s most noticeable when you roll. The more overencumbered, the slower your rolls. Given how crucial rolling is to dodging attacks, this can be a huge problem. If you’re playing as a tank who is meant to take endless hits from the enemy, maybe you don’t care, but for most players, you’ll want to find a balance between armor and efficient rolling.

It’s possible to make it through most of Dark Souls 3 and not know what to do with the boss souls dropped by the game’s most powerful creatures. You can consume them and quickly level up, but you might be tempted to turn them into unique sets of armor, items, and weapons. The NPC who takes care of this for you is hiding in plain sight: they’re sitting on a throne in Firelink Shrine.

Try using emotes on the Fire Keeper in Firelink Shrine and see what happens.

Let’s say you’ve decided to focus on dumping upgrade points into strength. When you come across a new weapon, make sure to see what stat it gains an “attribute bonus” from. If you’re choosing between two nearly identical swords, for example, but one of them gets a E attribute bonus for strength and the other gets a C, you might want to consider the C; it means you’ll get bonus points for being a strength-based character. Different weapons have different bonuses!

They seem like very nice creatures, but they also drop the rarest items, like the twinkling titanite upgrade material. After you’ve killed one, though, it’s gone for good. However, if you’re not able to take them down before they disappear into the ether, simply warp to another part of the game and come back.

There’s great treasure hiding in the chests of Lothric, but they’re also homes for one of the game’s nastiest enemies: mimics. Players will often drop a helpful note about mimics, but they’re just as likely to be tricking you, too. It’s possible to attack a non-mimic chest several times without destroying it, and if it happens to be a mimic, you’ll get a few attacks off before it can do anything. It’s definitely worth killing every mimic, though: they’re holding powerful items.

They will fight you, try to kill you, and leave your game. That sucks. (That said, if you want their unique equipment, that’s the only option in front of you.)

Even if you don’t lock-on to every single enemy while you’re fighting them, it’s useful to figure out who (and what) is hoping to kill you in Dark Souls 3. The lock-on will never target anything else friendly to you, such as an NPC, and if you’ve entered a room that seems suspiciously quiet, the lock-on can give you a heads up on what might be hiding in the shadows. (Or, often, above!)

While it’s true that some people are tricksters, more often than not, the messages are helpful for figuring out where a bonfire is hiding or if an ambush is ahead. Players are able to rate messages in the world, and the ones with a ton of recommendations tend to be the most useful. Also, be a good Souls citizen and leave messages for others! It’ll make you feel good inside.

There are “illusionary walls” hidden in Dark Souls 3, and there’s no way to find them except to swing your sword around and see if a wall disappears. Sometimes, the game will hint at the location of an illusionary wall by teasing a nearby location that seems out of reach, an indication that you might want to start poking around. It’s also a good reason to read messages left by other players! If you find one sitting in front of a wall, it just might be an illusion.

It won’t matter in the opening hours, but soon, you’ll gain access to elemental gems—fire, lightning, poison, etc. Though your gut might tell you to stick with infusions that continue upgrading your physical attack stats, consider making your sword into a fire sword. If an enemy is weak to fire, you’ll do a ridiculous amount of damage! By the end of the game, I was walking around with a couple weapons with various elemental advantages. Plus, if you’re not happy with an upgrade, there’s an item that’ll let you strip a weapon bare and start over.

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