Dark Souls 3: essential beginner's tips
If you've been waiting for Dark Souls 3 to release so you could finally see what the fuss is about, and think you want the sensation of going from nearly breaking your controller one minute, to jumping with joy the other, you've picked a great game to start.
Dark Souls 3 is the most accessible one of these, second only to Bloodborne. The game’s combat is much tighter than it's ever been, with lots of tools to help you approach scenarios your way. It’s also more linear than its predecessors, and you’ll be getting introduced to new toys and story bits at a decent pace, giving you ample time to enjoy everything.
On the flipside, Dark Souls 3 is a Souls game through and through. If it’s your first, chances are it'll take you some time to get used to its core mechanics. And then suddenly, you'll no doubt reach this comfortable spot where everything just "clicks."
It’s a good thing we’re here then, to save your some of the trouble. These tips are designed to make your life easier. Some apply only to Dark Souls 3, while others are series basics.
Whatever the case, there won’t be any spoilers here. So give it a read before starting out your character, you’ll thank us later.
Start out as a Knight
Dark Souls 3 doesn't quite have traditional RPG classes. There are no distinct "tank" or "dps" builds and you're never locked into anything. Instead, the different classes offer variations on a limited set of attributes, each complementing specific play-styles.
Starting off with a Knight is a great way to play the game. It comes equipped with a good sword and a good shield that'll both serve you well even beyond the first ten hours. The Knight also has a lot of points in Strength and Vigor, meaning your swings do good damage from the outset, and you take more hits before going down.
Your Vitality stat, which controls your equip load and indirectly dictates how heavy your character can be, is also among the highest.
In short, it’s a well-rounded class, with perhaps the best starting armour and equipment. It's a great way to start off the adventure, and it delivers the classic Dark Souls sword-and-board style preferred by most.
Level up your Vigor stat before anything else
When you defeat enemies, you gain Souls, the game's only form of currency. You use Souls to buy stuff, upgrade stuff, and level up. The first chance you get, put points into Vigor, to increase your overall HP.
Early on, HP is much more valuable than Strength and other stats. The benefit of sustaining more damage, especially for beginners, is priceless.
Get Vigor to 17 or 18 before worrying about the rest of your build. Later on, you can invest in Strength or Dexterity.
Rolling is more than half the battle
You need to be rolling as much as you can to avoid enemy hits. A lot of the shields you find won't absorb 100 percent of the hit damage, leaving you to take damage even after successfully blocking. And, if you’re dual-wielding or switching weapons at all, you have no shields, no defence.
Enter rolling, your number one defence against attacks when you can’t or don’t want to take them head on.
Rolling uses the same stamina pool used for attacks and blocking. You'll need to always be mindful of your stamina situation.
Increasing the Endurance stat allows for more stamina, but stamina management is the name of the game.
Don’t worry about screwing up your build
We've been there before. You invest too many in this attribute or that stat thinking it will benefit you later, but it doesn't, and now you're thinking these points should have been spent levelling up another stat.
Worry not, about halfway through the game, you’re going to come across a certain NPC that’ll allow you reallocate all your points. You can even do so multiple times.
We won't spoil the where or who here, but you can consult this part of our guide if you want to know more.
Don't go over 70 percent equip load
While we're on the subject of builds, try to maintain an equip load below 70 percent. You can easily check your current load at the equipment screen by simply placing the cursor over your armour or weapons. Even .5 percent makes a difference, so don't ignore it.
The difference here being whether you'll be able to perform quick rolls or fat rolls. That is, when rolling away from enemies, will yours be the slick and fast one or the lumbering and incredibly slow one? The former also has the benefit of what's referred to as "iframes": a few milliseconds of invulnerability during the roll animation.
If you've played any Souls game for more than five minutes, you’ll know why rolling is a key aspect of the gameplay loop. If you’re speccing for a character that carries a big shield, wears heavy armour and generally absorbs more damage rather than avoiding it, by all means don’t worry about this stat.
But, if you prefer to have the option of getting out of hot spots, don't get that stat over 70 percent.
Don’t bother with Covenants
Covenants in Dark Souls 3 are sort of like factions. You align yourself with one, do the things they tell you and gain faction reputation and eventually some loot.
For some of them, it’s a pretty straight forward process. But the majority are a bit more complex, and many are PvP-focused, requiring you to invade players, or be summoned in to defend others against invaders.
You join covenants by equipping the ring corresponding with the one you want. You’ll come across these as loot, from chatting up certain NPCs, or for simply finding recruiters and accepting their pitch.
Just know that you can safely ignore all of them, but that engaging with them could alter your game in irreversible ways, locking you out of certain NPC quests and the like.
If you do join one without knowing what you've gotten yourself into, you could find yourself getting randomly connected to another players' games to defend them, or getting invaded yourself every ten minutes.
If you are not expecting any of that to happen, you’ll be pretty perplexed, and it’ll just make things harder.
Always double check chests and walls that look suspect
Here is the thing: Dark Souls 3 has a lot of mimics. These are monsters that take the appearance of chests, and just as you drop your guard thinking you’re about to get loot, they'll grab you and make short work of you.
Always, at all times, bash a chest once before opening it. If it is a mimic, you’ll get in a few free hits before it stands up and fights you. If it’s not, you lose nothing. You should also never approach chests unless you've cleared the room around you, because you really don’t want an entire mob coming after you on top of these mimics.
For Illusory Walls, all you need to do is bash the ones you think are hiding something, and they’ll be removed, letting you grab whatever is behind them, or opening a shortcut.
If you’re playing online, player messages on the ground will help you identify both of these, but not always, as some could simply be trolling.
Never head into a boss fight carrying many Souls
Souls games 101 is to never head into boss fights carrying a decent chunk of acquired Souls. A great way to see just how many is too many, is to check the status screen. This screen will tell you how many you have and how many needed to level up.
If what you have on you is enough for at least a couple of levels, go back to the Firelink Shrine and spend them.
You don’t want to get into a boss arena, or really a new area, without relieving yourself of this burden. It’ll make your life easier and allow you to focus on enjoying the game, not go through it timidly.
Don’t get attached to your Souls, and don’t dread dying
It’s easy to get frustrated because this enemy took you down in one hit as you were running back to reclaim your Souls. It happens, you get anxious and go too fast but get killed before you reach them, losing them forever.
Although we recommend always spending your Souls, losing them is just part of the game. You can’t stop it from happening, the same way you can’t stop deaths from coming, even if you’re really careful.
The trick is to never give a shit. You’re dead halfway through the area and there are no close Bonfires? No problem, your next run will be easier because you'll have learned fighting patterns of the local enemies.
The point is to learn why you die to avoid repeating the same mistakes. Good players study bosses for a couple of rounds before going on the kill run. Dying is not an issue, don't make it one.
When all else fails and you can’t seem to make any progress, check for White Soap Signs to summon others for help. Or just turn the game off and try again tomorrow, you’ll have a better time then.
Looking for more help? Check out our full 3 guide and walkthrough.