For many people, Dark Souls 3 is their first Souls game. It was my introduction to the Dark Souls series, so it’ll always have a special place in my heart. I’ve died too many times to count, but from that, I learned how to overcome everything that the game throws at you.
Because it’s such a common game that players start with, many people need help finding their way in the confusing world of Dark Souls 3. Fortunately, I’ve beaten the game many times, so I have a pretty good handle on how to do everything you need to do.
Whether you’ve played the other games or this is your first introduction to the series, this guide will cover everything you need to know.
Like many games, Dark Souls 3 allows you to create your character and choose your class. The first thing you’ll notice is that every player model is hideous. There’s no way around this, so you must accept that you’ll spend the rest of your playthrough being extremely ugly.
The good news is that your looks don’t affect your character’s stats. Another important thing to know is that your class can change entirely as you play the game.
You may start off as a Knight but realize you prefer magic and spells, so then you can rearrange your attributes to be a Sorcerer. Classes only matter for the first part of the game before you can find better weapons and armor.
I’d recommend starting with the Knight class if you’re an absolute beginner. That class has the best armor to start and a great shield and melee sword. You may love or hate it but know it won’t be long until you can find new gear to test out and upgrade.
Dark Souls 3 allows you to start with one item called a Burial Gift. Each item has a specific use and purpose, though some are much better than others. Here are all the Burial Gifts you can choose from:
- Life Ring
- Divine Blessing
- Hidden Blessing
- Black Firebombs
- Fire Gem
- Sovereignless Soul
- Gold Coin
- Cracked Red Eye Orb
- Young White Branch
If you really can’t decide which one you want, pick the Life Ring and finalize your character. I’ve used the ring in several playthroughs since it gives you an early health boost. Once you’ve chosen, you’re ready to start playing!
The first area you’re put into is the tutorial area, which teaches you the basics of movement and gameplay. Take a while to read these messages and do what they say, as this is basically the only help the game will ever give you. Even then, it doesn’t tell you anything, so I’ll review the basic mechanics for you.
If your character has a shield, make sure you use it. The Knight and the Herald both spawn with a shield that blocks 100% of the physical damage it takes, which will be a huge lifesaver for you.
I personally always opted not to use the shield simply because you won’t learn to dodge attacks as well. Many players in the community hate shields, but I say there’s no shame in using them.
Parries and ripostes
Many shields and weapons can parry an enemy attack. While blocking, press the parry button at the right time, and you’ll catch your enemy off guard and stun them.
If you do this right, you can perform a ripost, an attack on a stunned enemy that does a huge amount of damage. Some enemies, including bosses, can be easily destroyed if you time it right. They aren’t easy to perform, so it’ll take a lot of practice to determine the right time to parry.
For characters without a shield, you need to get good at rolling. Shielded characters must also roll, but your shield can protect you from many attacks. Dodging is another evasive move you can make but is nowhere near as effective as rolling. Rolling in Dark Souls 3 is much easier to control than the previous Souls games.
One of the best things you can learn is to avoid attacks. Some enemies have delayed attacks, and some don’t even indicate when they’re about to strike. The key to beating every enemy in the game is to learn their moves and how to avoid them best.
Death is inevitable in Dark Souls, so you’ll be hurt greatly. You have some bottles called Estus Flasks in your inventory, which are your health potions. You also have another flask called Ashen Estus Flask, which restores your FP.
Once you get to the Firelink Shrine, you can choose whether you want more Estus or Ashen flasks. I usually play melee-only classes, so I turn all of my Ashen Flasks into Estus Flasks.
You can reinforce your Estus Flasks by burning an Undead Bone Shard in the bonfire at the Firelink Shrine. When you do this, it permanently increases the amount of health that the Estus Flasks give you.
There are also materials called Estus Shards worldwide that permanently increase the number of uses your Estus Flask has. Both these and Undead Bone Shards are extremely important to find because healing will be increasingly difficult as your health increases.
Dodging, rolling, attacking, blocking attacks, and sprinting all consume stamina. You must keep a close eye on your stamina bar to ensure it doesn’t run out. I’ve been killed by enemies countless times because I could not dodge or attack. When you start to upgrade, make sure to put a lot of points into your Endurance stat.
You must learn to correctly time your rolls because sporadically rolling all over the floor will get you killed faster than anything else, never mind that it looks stupid. Running out of stamina too often means you’re rolling too much, or you need to upgrade your Endurance stat.
Many smaller enemies in the game can be backstabbed to deal large damage. While backstabbing an enemy, you’re invulnerable to other enemy attacks. You then push the stabbed enemy onto the ground, leaving them defenseless for a few seconds.
You can perform a backstab by quickly tapping your main attack button while you’re facing the backside of the enemy. Once you learn how to do this well, you can defeat many of the enemies in the game easily. All it takes is getting behind your enemy and dodging all the attacks they throw at you.
It’s highly probable that you died at some point in the tutorial, and if so, you were returned to the bonfire (if you rested at it). Bonfires are extremely important to find because you can teleport to any other bonfires you’ve rested at before.
Besides being a checkpoint, it completely refills your Estus Flask, heals you removes debuffs and respawns every enemy you’ve killed. The only enemies that don’t respawn are bosses and mini-bosses, but every other one respawns.
Respawning enemies will cause most of your deaths in Dark Souls 3. To be honest, I hated the fact that they respawned, but after a while, it grew on me. You have to get used to it because the enemies only get harder from here.
Immediately after beating the tutorial boss, you can head to the area where the Firelink Shrine is located. This place serves as your hub world for the rest of the game, so you should take some time to explore and learn about the area.
Activate the bonfire in the middle of the room to turn it into a fast travel point. Then, take a look around and talk to all the NPCs. You’ll notice the Fire Keeper, the main NPC you’ll talk to.
Head down the hallway, and you’ll see an old woman named the Shrine Handmaid; she allows you to buy and sell items. At the end of the hallway, you’ll find Blacksmith Andre, who you’ll need to help you upgrade your weapons and armor.
Don’t attempt to kill any NPC you find! Certain ones won’t return after death so that you may miss important opportunities for an alternate ending and questlines.
A locked tower outside the Shrine can be accessed via the Tower Key sold by the Shrine Handmaid. It does cost 20,000 souls, though, so you’ll want to save up for a while to get it.
Collecting and using souls
You’ll have a few souls after the tutorial and might be wondering what to do with them. Souls can be obtained by killing enemies and consuming souls you find. They act as both the currency of the game and the item you need to upgrade.
Once you have a bunch, talk to the Fire Keeper to see if you have enough for an upgrade. There are many attribute points to put into, so choose wisely. When you run out of souls, you should always check your inventory to see if you picked up any souls in your travels. If you do, consume them and see if you have enough.
As you progress through the game, you’ll need more and more souls to level up. You’ll quickly find that certain areas don’t give you enough souls to level up, so you’ll have to move on and go further into the world. You also get quite a bit of soul from beating bosses, which will end up funding most of your upgrades.
Once you start upgrading, there are many stats that you need to pay attention to. Here’s a brief overview of what each of the stats are.
- Vigor – increases your Health Points
- Attunement – increases Focus Points (FP) and number of Attunement slots
- Endurance – increases your stamina
- Vitality – increases your equip load
- Strength – increases the damage of strength weapons
- Dexterity – increases the damage of dexterity weapons
- Intelligence – increases the damage of intelligence weapons and other magic weapons
- Faith – increases the damage of faith weapons and other magic weapons
- Luck – increases item discovery
These might look extremely confusing at first, but they are quite simple once you understand their uses for them. Put many of your points into Vigor and Endurance since those will help you stay alive much longer.
Next, you need to determine what type of weapon you’re using. Are you using strength-based halberd or dexterity-based blades? Is your character sorcerer or purely melee build? You don’t need to upgrade every stat to succeed. I don’t touch Intelligence, Faith, and Luck unless I go for a build that needs them.
Many weapons require certain stat points in Strength and Dexterity, so you have to check each weapon to view the requirements. You can still use many of these weapons with insufficient stats, but there will be a huge handicap to their speed and damage.
Stat soft caps
Each state has a point where upgrading it further has a greatly diminished effect. This is referred to as a “soft cap.” You can keep putting points into these stats, but it will barely benefit you.
Vigor has a soft cap of 50, while the other stats have soft caps of 40. Luck is a little unique with its cap, but it’s useless, so you shouldn’t worry about it. I give the credit for figuring out these soft caps to Reddit user u/Zevixxx, who put together a more in-depth explanation of soft caps in this thread.
You don’t have to worry about this until you’re leveled up much more, though. By then, you’ll have a much better understanding of stat points so I wouldn’t stress about soft caps initially.
You probably noticed the large thrones surrounding the bonfire at the Firelink Shrine. These thrones belong to the Lords of Cinder, most of which are the game’s main bosses. One of the thrones is occupied by an NPC named Ludleth of Courland, the only friendly Lord of Cinder in the game.
The main objective of the game is to kill all of the Lords of Cinder and to put them back on their thrones. You’ll receive one piece of each Lord of Cinder after you kill them, which you can then use to place on their respective thrones.
NPCs and questlines
As I said earlier, you mustn’t kill NPCs. Some of them do respawn, but many won’t come back, which can sometimes affect how the game’s ending turns out.
Some of these NPCs are merchants, but others are simply just random ones you can talk to. Sometimes NPCs will have questlines that you can follow to change the game’s outcome.
You must follow each step of a questline without errors, or else you can miss the opportunity to see what happens. Some questlines result in getting new items, while others can give you new allies in boss fights.
Invasions and PvP
Invading is a confusing mechanic that many players have a hard time understanding. If the right conditions are met, your world can be invaded by NPCs at certain points in the game and also by real players.
You can only be invaded while you are Embered. Being Embered is indicated by your character glowing and having an increased amount of health, and happens every time you defeat a boss. Another way to become Embered is to consume an Ember you find in the world.
While Embered, you are referred to as a Host of Embers and is the only way to be a part of invasions and play coop. The large health boost from the Embers can also be a huge help for difficult boss fights but does bring the risk of invasion.
Many people hate the invasion mechanic, but fortunately, there are a few ways to combat that. The first and easiest way is not to play online mode. The only downside is that you cannot see bloodstains and player messages, so you’re more on your own while exploring.
The second way to avoid invasion is to kill yourself after being Embered. I prefer to jump off a cliff close to the bonfire so that I can easily collect my souls when I respawn.
Bosses and their souls
The Dark Souls series has some of the most epic bosses in video game history, and the Dark Souls 3 contains many of my favorite ones. When you kill them, these huge enemies give you a tremendous sense of accomplishment, as they are often so difficult to defeat.
A fog wall always indicates bosses. Once you traverse the fog, only one victor will emerge. Leaving the boss arena is impossible once you’ve entered, so make sure you’re prepared for the fight.
When you beat a boss, you’ll receive a huge amount of souls and the boss’s own soul. You can then consume this soul for even more souls or turn it into a weapon. After you’ve defeated a certain boss (I won’t spoil which one), you’ll get an item called the Transposing Kiln. You give this kiln to Ludleth (the guy on the throne at the Firelink Shrine), and he allows you to craft unique boss weapons using the soul.
There are some cool boss weapons, but many aren’t worth getting. You can always refer to any of the Dark Souls wikis for more knowledge about specific weapons, but I don’t recommend looking up any spoilers for the game.
Never give up!
The keys to beating any Dark Souls game are never to give up and learn from your mistakes. You’re not bad at the game; you just haven’t learned how most of the enemies work. Players online will tell you to “git gud” all the time, but the real secret is to keep at it. If you try something too often and it’s not working, you probably want to rethink your approach.
You may rage and want to punch a hole in your TV, and that’s understandable. Just know that finishing Dark Souls 3 was one of the most rewarding gaming experiences I’ve ever had, and even while writing this I miss playing it.
Keep making your way through the world, and never give up, no matter how many times “You Died” comes across your screen. When you finish, you’ll be extremely glad you had the privilege to play this excellent game!