For many people, Dark Souls 3 is the first Souls game they’ve played. 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 into the series, this guide will cover everything you need to know.
Like many games, Dark Souls 3 allows you to create your own character and choose your class. The first thing you’ll notice is that every player model is absolutely hideous. There’s no way around this, so you just have to accept the fact that you’ll spend the rest of your playthrough being extremely ugly.
The good news is that your looks don’t affect the stats of your character. Another important thing to know is that the class you pick 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’re able to find better weapons and armor.
If you’re an absolute beginner, then I’d recommend starting out with the Knight class. That class has the best armor to start, as well as a great shield and melee sword. You may love it, or you may hate it, but just know that it won’t be long until you can find new gear to test out and upgrade.
Speaking of weapons, we wrote a guide about the best weapons in Dark Souls 3. I highly recommend checking it out if this is your first time playing.
As far as the classes go, there’s a lot of them. I’ll give you a quick breakdown of all the classes and their purposes.
- Knight – awesome class for beginners and those who like melee combat.
- Mercenary – a great class that has a pair of extremely fast blades. I used these blades to beat the entire game once, but just know that he doesn’t have any shields by default.
- Warrior – this class has the highest strength in the game, so use it if you want the best attack power in the game. You also get an ax that acts as a very good starting weapon.
- Herald – starts with a healing spell and a great beginner shield. Good fit for beginners wanting to use melee while still learning about spells.
- Thief – one of the worst beginner classes possible. You start with a short-range dagger meant for backstabbing (an attack I’ll tell you about later), and a bow with some arrows.
- Assassin – pretty cool class that allows you to sneak around and stealth attack enemies. You also get a spell that negates fall damage.
- Sorcerer – this class is for people who primarily want to use sorcery spells, combines with some minor melee combat. Only use this if you know how to spells work.
- Pyromancer – starts off primarily using a small ax, but transitions to using pyromancy (fire) spell later on. It requires some knowledge of spells and magic, so I don’t recommend this for a beginner.
- Cleric – not a good class for beginners. It requires a lot of experience and knowledge about the game to use properly, as it requires knowledge of miracles. The main reason to use a Cleric is that you can heal yourself using miracles.
- Deprived – unless you’re a seasoned speedrunner or you love to torture yourself, don’t start with this class. By default, it’s a completely barebones class, meant only for the most hardcore players.
If you’re still unsure of what class to use, look at this article to help you figure out which one is right for you.
Take these classes into consideration, and choose one when you’re ready. Don’t finalize it yet though, as there’s one more thing to consider about your starting class.
Dark Souls 3 gives you the option 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’s a breakdown of all the Burial Gifts and what they do.
- Life Ring – my favorite Burial Gift to start with. It gives the player some extra HP, which greatly increases your chances of not dying early game.
- Divine Blessing – a consumable that restores health and removes debuffs. Since it’s a one time use, I don’t recommend it.
- Hidden Blessing – another consumable that restores FP (Focus Points, which is basically mana). I don’t recommend it because of its one-time use.
- Black Firebombs – five firebombs that can be used to damage and lure out enemies. They are quickly depleted, so get something else more useful.
- Fire Gem – a gem used to upgrade fire weapons. While this is a one-time use item, it’s worth getting if you think you’ll ever use fire weapons.
- Sovereignless Soul – a one-time use consumable that’ll give you 2,000 souls. It can be very helpful to boost you a few early game levels.
- Gold Coin – seven coins that increase item discovery. This means that you increase your chance of having better items dropped from enemies. It’s a very good choice as a Burial Gift.
- Cracked Red Eye Orb – used to invade another online player’s world. This is a good gift if you think you’ll enjoy the PvP aspect of the game..
- Young White Branch – used to let the player blend in with their surroundings. I don’t suggest consuming it though, as having this item makes peace with a giant who throws massive spears at you. You can obtain it later, but having this saves you a step.
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 go over the rest of 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 physical damage it takes, which will be a huge lifesaver for you.
I personally always opted to not use the shield, simply because you won’t learn to dodge attacks as well. Many players in the community hate on shields, but I say there’s no shame in using them.
Parries and ripostes
Many shields and weapons have the ability to 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’ll be able to perform a ripost, which is 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 though, so it’ll take a lot of practice to determine when the right time to parry is.
For characters without a shield, you need to get good at rolling. Shielded characters need to roll too, but your shield can protect you from many attacks. Dodging is also 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 to do is properly roll away from 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 best avoid them.
Death is an inevitability in Dark Souls, so you’re going to be hurt a lot. In your inventory you have some bottles called Estus Flasks, 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 completely so I turn all of my Ashen Flasks into Estus Flasks.
You’re able to 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 around the world 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 more difficult as your health increases.
Dodging, rolling, attacking, blocking attacks, and sprinting all consume stamina. You need to keep a close eye on your stamina bar to make sure it doesn’t run out. I’ve been killed by enemies countless times because I was unable to dodge or attack. When you start to upgrade, make sure to put a lot of points into your Endurance stat.
It’s very important that you learn to correctly time your rolls because sporadically rolling all over the floor will get you killed faster than anything else, nevermind the fact that it looks stupid. If you find yourself running out of stamina too often, it either 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 a large amount of damage. While you’re 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’ll be able to easily defeat many of the enemies in the game. All it takes is being able to get behind your enemy and to dodge 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’ll be able to teleport to any other bonfires you’ve rested at before.
Besides being a checkpoint, it also 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 be the cause of 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’ll be able to 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 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, who is the main NPC you’ll talk to. Head down the hallway and you’ll see an old woman named the Shrine Handmaid, and 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 you may lose out on important opportunities for alternate ending and questlines (more on this later).
There’s a locked tower on the outside of the Shrine that 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 you 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, as well as being 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 your points 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 just 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 souls from beating bosses which will end up funding most of your upgrades.
If you want to learn more about souls, we have a great article here that goes into a lot of detail about them.
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 really quite simple once you understand the uses for them. Put a lot of your points into Vigor and Endurance, since those will help you stay alive for much longer.
Next, you need to determine what type of weapon you’re using. Are you using a 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. In fact, I don’t even touch Intelligence, Faith, and Luck unless I’m going for a build that needs them.
Many weapons require you to have a certain number of stat points into Strength and Dexterity, so you have to check each individual weapon to view the requirements. You can still use a lot of these weapons with insufficient stats, but there will be a huge handicap to its speed and damage.
Stat soft caps
Each stat has a point where upgrading it further has a greatly diminished effect. This is referred to as a “soft cap.” You can still keep putting points into these stats, but it will barely have any benefit to 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 kind of useless so you shouldn’t worry about it. I give the credit of 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 really don’t have to worry about this more until you’re leveled up a lot more though. By then you’ll have a much better understanding of stat points, so I wouldn’t stress about soft caps at the beginning.
You probably noticed all of the large thrones surrounding the bonfire at the Firelink Shrine. These thrones belong to the Lords of Cinder, most of which are the main bosses of the game. One of the thrones is occupied by an NPC named Ludleth of Courland, who is 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
Like I said earlier, it’s extremely important that you don’t kill NPCs. Some of them do respawn, but many of them won’t come back, which can sometimes affect how the ending of the game 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 outcome of the game. It’s very important that you follow each step of a questline without any errors, or else you can miss your 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. Your world can be invaded by NPCs at certain points in the game, and also by real players if the right conditions are met.
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 also can be a huge help for difficult boss fights but does bring the risk of being invaded.
Many people hate the invasion mechanic, but fortunately, there are a few ways to combat that. The first and easiest way is to not play in online mode. The only downside of this is that you’re unable to see bloodstains and player messages, so you’re more on your own while exploring.
The second way to not be invaded is to simply kill yourself after being Embered. My preference is to jump off a cliff close to the bonfire so that I can easily collect my souls when I respawn.
For more information about how to not be invaded, check out this comprehensive guide on Dark Souls 3 invasions.
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. These huge enemies give you a tremendous sense of accomplishment when you kill them, as they are often so difficult to defeat.
Bosses are always indicated by a fog wall. Once you traverse the fog, only one victor will emerge. It’s impossible to leave the boss arena 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, as well as the bosses 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 really cool boss weapons, but many of them 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 to never 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 many times 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!