The Ringed City itself is guarded by Ringed knights and Harald Legion, and honestly? They're only the start of your problems.
This Dark Souls 3: The Ringed City walkthrough takes us on a long, long trek from the walls of The Ringed City down to the flooded ground level.
How long this takes is up to you. If you want to, you can skip over a lot of dead end treasure hunts, run past the most annoying baddies, and have it done by morning tea. Top tier players will also skip through this in no time. Otherwise, make sure you're well hydrated; we're in this for a while.
Before we start, let’s talk a bit about the main grunt enemy type in this area, which I’ve been calling the wretch. These guys are okay when you avoid their ambush and paddle them before they can attack, but you ought to know how they fight in open combat. They have a leap attack, which does heavy damage, so roll back ASAP to avoid it. Watch out for their combo; sometimes their slow vertical strike is just a slice, and other times it’s the start of several quick attacks, which will hit you if you’ve dived in expecting an opening.
They also have a nasty shove move they’ll use to put you off-balance. Additionally, some of them have a lightning attack, stabbing downwards with it like a knife or shooting rapid projectiles at you, and you don’t want any of that at all.
Alright, let's go.
Ringed Inner Wall - Lapp and Ringed Knights
At the bonfire, notice the locked gate. Take the path opposite this and head down the corridor to go outside and speak to Lapp again. He’ll give you some Siegbrau. There’s an ember on a nearby corpse.
Return to the bonfire room and take the one doorway we haven't checked yet. A wretch ambushes you from the left. An overgrown wretch falls down from above as you pass through the arch to the next corridor. These poor fellows are even further gone than their friends, sprouting crystals, and just being near them exposes you to curse – so keep your distance and take it slow.
Head down the stairs. Yes, the wretch halfway down is playing dead. Ping him with an arrow for safety’s sake, as it’s hard to give him a paddle without ending up in his attack zone. Put an arrow in the overgrown wretch waiting just outside the doorway, too; sometimes another wretch comes from above just outside, and sometimes not, and it’s better to be safe. Grab the hollow gem on the body further down the path.
Now things get a bit rough: here comes a ringed knight. The bloodstains and messages warn of under-estimating him, but not to worry, my darling cheeseburgers; he may be tough, but he’s not bright. Advance very cautiously till you see him begin walking towards you, then leg it back almost inside; if he doesn’t see you, wait a bit, then go back and snipe him where he stands across the small courtyard. Run away, rinse, repeat. Headshots, of course, to speed things up; to make this easier, he resets to a standing position, but usually not until after you approach the corner and peer around again. A weird foible of the AI here. If you have Spook or another means of silencing yourself, and optionally hidden body, you might care to try backstabs.
Be sure to check the corpse – these enemies drop embers, titanite chunks and pieces of the Ringed Knight set – and then circle the building in the area the ringed knight was patrolling. An overgrown wretch is waiting, guarding a titanite chunk.
There are two wretches with lightning attacks waiting to ambush you as you head down the stairs leading away from the ringed knight’s flower garden. Even the odds by shooting the one hanging on the wall to lure it out, and drop attack or snipe the other rather than going down the stairs into its ambush.
Continue on along the path down the stairs and a humpbacked man comes scurrying out at you. From a distance it casts some sort of spell that rises up at your feet, even if you’re out of sight and some distance away; this does heavy damage, very quickly, so never hold still. These enemies have a bit more health than wretches, and if you don’t take them down fast they cast a spell that heals them, shields them from melee attacks while in effect, and damages anyone near them. You can interrupt their ranged spell with attacks, and their healing if you hit several times as they're starting to cast, but that's dangerous.
Moving into the next building you’ll encounter two humpbacked men - one on patrol and one praying on the right as you enter. I ran away and came back after casting hidden body to sneak up and deal with them one by one. Be careful not to fall into the hole in the centre of the room as you fight. But wait, there’s more – a third humpback man patrols up the stairs into this room fairly regularly.
With the three weirdoes down, head cautiously down the stairs – not too fast! There’s another ringed knight down here. This would be any easy if dull cheese from the stairs, but there’s yet another humpbacked man hidden in a level between the top and bottom of the stairs; it can see you on the stairs and use its magic on you, and it's very hard to take down from the stairs due to the angle and its stupid healing. Go back up to the top floor and find a view of it through the hole, and snipe it there. Then you can cheese the ringed knight in safety; it’s extra easy with hidden body, which I suddenly remembered I own during this DLC and will now never unequip. Then you can grab a shriving stone from the middle of the room.
Optional: go back up to the top floor and equip cat’s ring or Spook just to be safe, then drop carefully onto the chandelier. Stand right at the edge, just onto one of the circular bits along the rim, and roll to reach the middle balcony. Here you’ll find some twinkling titanite.
Three Harald Legion on the stairs
As you pass out of this room and back into the fresh air, three Harald Legion patrol up from the left. The door at the top of the stairs to the right is locked, so you can’t hide there, and there are lightning-tossing wretches around, so it’s best to duck back into the previous room so you can watch the patrol pattern for a while.
These Harald Legion are a pain; they’re easy to avoid with sprinting or stealth but if you’re treasure hunting or not sure where you're going, it's way too easy to run splat into them while trying to fight or escape other enemies on side paths. It's best to clear them out as you go - at least once. The good news is they're easy to cheese, but only after we clear a few other threats first.
First, wait for a bit. One of the Harald Legion will drop off the side of the stairs at the top, taking him out of the equation for a minute. These leaves two, only one of which [patrols past your doorway. While it's heading back downstairs, peer out the door to your left and snipe the wretch on the bridge before it spots you and throws lightning. If it falls off the bridge run away and wait for it to return to its original position. Next, take out the wretch in the alcove just to the right of your doorway, just to be safe.
Head on across the stairs and approach the bridge, to either snipe or duel the wretch on the other side. You can then grab the mossfruit from the far side.
Cross back to the far side of the stairs, stay by the bridge, and look down, a little further down the stairs and across the gap to spot another overgrown wretch and a humpbacked man. You can snipe them now or ignore them, but be aware of them if you intend to drop attack and melee the patrolling Harald Legion.
With these threats down or at least acknowledged, it’s pretty safe to go ham on the three Harald Legion – drop attacks, sniping, whatever. The only other thing you need to consider is that there’s a wretch and an overgrown wretch in the little alley by the stairs with the one lonely Harald Legion.
Filinore, Seeker of the Spurned and more Ringed Knights
When all three Harald Legion are dead (or just in a gap during the patrol) you can go to the top of the stairs and speak several times to the woman behind the door. She’ll offer you a quest; accept for Filinore’s Sacred Chime.
Optional: go back to the bridge and explore the path leading away from it to spot a ringed knight across a circular area filled with lavender; he’s very easy to cheese. Try headshotting him and running away, then sneaking back with Spook to backstab him as he returns to his spot, to speed things up.
Optional: Explore the path leading out of the lavender area to encounter an NPC dark spirit called Seeker of the Spurned. He uses a crossbow and is immune to most cheeseburger tricks. If you beat him you get the Wolf Ring +3 and, from an item glow beyond him, the Black Witch set.
Head a little further down the stairs from the bridge and look left and across to spot a wretch you can snipe – but watch out for his lightning response. Another wretch ambushes you from the nearby alcove, in which you’ll find some mossfruit. Don’t go further down the stairs yet.
Optional: look on the other side of the stairs to find a lit passage; glance up to spot an overgrown wretch waiting in ambush before entering. Through the tunnel, two more overgrown wretches and one wretch await you on the ground. Around the corner, an overgrown wretch is overhead, and another overgrown wretch can be seen a little further beyond it. Outside, a ringed knight is on patrol, and there are at least two wretches hanging around above this area, waiting to ambush you - as well as one above who may throw lightning on the off-chance it sees you. Defeat or sneak past these threats for the Ringed Knight spear, and you can cross the bridge to speak to your old pal the locust NPC on the other side.
Whether it’s via the treasure hunting above or going straight down the stairs, when you get close to the swamp at the bottom of the stairs three Harald Legion arise. Yes, more of them. Deal with them however you please; at this stage I’d done so much cheesing I was running low on cheap arrows and ended up using hidden body to sneak up on the still ones and cast pestilent mercury on them, figuring the time it took my sword's Simple enchantment to refill my FP was worth less than the souls it costs for my expensive boss arrows. There’s a Soul of a Crestfallen Knight at the bottom of the stairs.
Optional: turn left as you hit the swamp and grab the titanite chunk on your right as you advance. Watch out for the hunchback man ahead – it has a new trick of spinning towards you very rapidly. Another two bunchback men are at the end of the path, guarding a Soul of a Crestfallen Knight. Search the walls in this area and you can find a ladder. Talk to your friend again at the top, then look around to spot a ringed knight. He’ll patrol after aggro, so cheese him using the stairs leading to your friend to break his line of sight after a shot right at the far end of his pattern. Unfortunately he has a friend; with one down, another ringed knight patrols up from further around the first one’s original position. He has a longer patrol zone so you need to be careful. You can also just stealth past him. Around the other side of the tower guarded by the two ringed knights you’ll find a wretch. Carry on across the balcony to find Lapp taking his ease in the round room at the end. Talk to him and grab the Covetous Gold Serpent Ring +3.
Optional: after climbing the ladder in the treasure hunt described above, walk away from the ringed knight and drop down to land on a rocky ledge. Climb all the way to the top to battle NPC dark spirit Silver Knight Ledo. There titanite chunks up here and as commenter Ethan Holz pointed out, Ledo drops Ledo's Great Hammer. He's really dim and can be tricked with hidden body and stealth, so you can cheese him with arrows. You'll need cat's ring or Spook to get down from here without taking damage, but again thanks to our commenter friend, you'll get Havel's Ring +3 on the way. Do not fire on the grey giant from the tower; it will make your life extremely difficult.
From the bottom of the stairs, facing out into the swamp towards the distant grey giant, turn right and hug the wall closely to find a narrow path leading to the White Preacher Head.
Go back out and grab the dark gem in the water – don’t mind the little locusts - they’re harmless unless you get close.
The bonfire is super close but there’s a new baddie between us and it – a locust. To find it, move around the area hugging the right wall again to find the enemy blocking a path lit by a torch. He has melee sorcery attacks, including a diving single stab and a series of stabs as he moves forward and a very long detection range. Also if you leave him alive long enough he talks in a creepy human voice, blerghhh. Feel free to draw him off and run around him if you can’t handle this right now; you’re probably carrying about 100,000 souls, after all.
In either case, go through the hole he had been blocking and grab the prism stones, then enter the doorway to light the Ringed City Streets bonfire. I’m honestly not sure I’ve ever been happier to see one.