While the difficulty of the Dark Souls series has been a bit over-sold by marketing, there’s no doubt that Dark Souls 3 is a challenging game. If it’s your first foray into From Software’s fantasy lands, it may also seem a bit baffling and overwhelming.
Lothric is a daunting place, full of curious objects and loosely explained mechanics. Which is why PC Invasion is here to offer a little bit of help deciphering some of this stuff. Those who’ve played a Souls game before might want to just skip to the “handy early item locations” section on Page 2, but if you’re coming to fresh to this whole world, then read straight on for some stat basics and useful strategies.
The vast majority of this guide assumes you’re an absolute beginner at this series.
Oh god help, what character class should I be?
Good news, there isn’t really a wrong choice here. At the absolute worst you’ll decide after choosing a magic-focused character that actually you’d rather hit things with big swords, but all characters start at such a low level that you can change direction relatively easily. If you feel you’ve really messed up, there’s an NPC later in the game who will allow you to entirely redistribute your points.
That said, it’ll definitely help to have a rough idea of the basic Dark Souls 3 archetypes. We’ll go over what each of the stats mean in more detail shortly, but in general you’re either going to be a Strength, Dexterity, or magic (Intellect for sorcery, Faith for miracles, either/both for Pyromancy) focused fellow.
Strength characters will be hitting things with big swords (or halberds or whatever), possibly wearing heavier armour, and will be able to carry the biggest, heaviest shields. Dexterity types will favour swifter weapons like rapiers or daggers, will generally have lighter armour (for dodging), and, if they use a shield, will be going with medium or smaller ones. Various magic users will still need a melee weapon (generally they’ll wind up with one that receives bonus damage for having high Intellect/Faith, but you can worry about that later), but can also damage enemies from afar with spells, potentially buff and heal themselves, and probably won’t have much to do with heavy armour. Like Dexterity builds, they might carry a smaller shield.
Bear in mind there’s actually quite a bit of crossover and flexibility for builds in Dark Souls 3, so the above are just broad examples. That’s roughly what the starting classes are offering you, though.
Knight and Warrior lean towards Strength. The Mercenary, Thief, and Assassin, are your Dexterity choices. Sorcerer is sorcery, Pyromancer does pyromancy (surprising, I know), Cleric is miracle focused. The Herald is a hybrid class, so if you’re not quite sure yet where you want to go, this isn’t a bad choice as it can become a Strength, Dexterity or miracle-oriented build quite easily. Or stay as a mixture. Finally, Deprived is a special class that starts off (unlike the others) at Level One, with all stats at a flat 10. Not really recommended for a first time through.
Each class starts with different armour and weapons, but, again, you’ll very quickly find new gear and weapons to experiment and play around with in the game, so don’t get too worried or hung up on whether an axe seems better than a broadsword. You’ll end up with both either way.
Okay, I chose a class and I’m super happy with it. What’s this Burial Gift business?
It’s a fabulous free item from the kind people of Dark Souls 3. In the first Dark Souls, this mattered a bit more because one of the items (the Master Key) was incredibly useful for breaking the usual sequence of progression, and the others were varying degrees of misleading, semi-useful, and pointless.
Everything offered as a gift in Dark Souls 3 is of some use, so there aren’t really any wrong choices. Here’s what they all broadly do.
Life Ring: Don’t be too excited by it raising your maximum HP (health). It’s a small boost (not entirely sure how much, but small) that’ll maybe allow you to take one more hit than usual. Not useless, but maybe not as great as it sounds.
Divine Blessing/Hidden Blessing: One off consumables that’ll fully replenish your HP and FP (spellcasting) respectively. The Divine Blessing also cures status effects like poison. Again, kinda useful, but you’ll be getting a lot of similar items that can do these things throughout the game.
Black Firebomb: Throwable object that’ll do a lot of fire damage to a single target. Like a lot of these, it’s a single use.
Fire Gem: Actually pretty useful. This will allow you to add (permanent) fire damage to a weapon once you find the game’s main blacksmith. I’d argue this is probably the ‘best’ gift, but it’s not clear cut.
Sovereignless Soul: An item you consume to gain a few souls. Souls are used for levelling up your character, and as currency. Also not a bad candidate for ‘best’ gift, as it can be used to gain 2,000 souls. Enough for a level or two early on.
Rusted Gold Coin: Boosts item discovery chances (the chance for an enemy you’ve killed to drop something decent) for an indeterminate amount of time. I’ve never really been sure how much these boost item discovery, and you’ll also find plenty in the game itself.
Cracked Red Eye Orb: A single-use chance to invade the world of another player. You’ll appear there as a red phantom and win fabulous prizes if you kill the world’s ‘host’. The uncracked, infinite-use Red Eye Orb can be found within the game relatively quickly, but this might be worthwhile for someone who just wants to get invading as fast as possible. Probably not worth it for a new player.
Young White Branch: Single use item that allows you to camouflage yourself in the world (you’ll turn into an area-appropriate object like a gravestone or whatever). You can still move around in this form. It reduces the range at which enemies will engage you, and might fool a real life player if they’re invading you, or you’re invading them. There’s also at least one instance in the game where you can give it to an NPC for a helpful reward. As with so many of these, you will find more branches in-game.
You said we’d go into more detail with character stats, did you lie to me?
Oh, right. Yes, let’s do that now. Pressing the ‘back’ button on your controller (or equivalent) will bring up some short text descriptions of what the stats mean, but here’s my own take on it.
Vigor: The health stat. Raise it, and you’ll get higher maximum health. The return starts to drop off at the point where you have around 1,000 total (I think this is when Vigor is 30 or so). Also claims to give Frost resistance. Don’t obsess too much about the various resistances offered by individual stats though; anything you’re a bit weak against can be mitigated by wearing armour or rings with poison/fire/whatever protection.
Attunement: The Focus Point (FP) stat. More FP means more spells cast (or weapon arts performed) before you need to replenish with an FP Estus flask. Boosting this will also give you more ‘slots’ to put spells or miracles or pyromancies in, which you’ll want to do if you’re magic focused.
Endurance: Gives you more stamina. Stamina is consumed every time you take an action (swinging a sword, casting a spell, whatever). Having more of it is pretty much always good, because it means getting in more hits in combat (or can take more hits behind a shield) before you have to wait for the gauge to replenish. Helps with lightning and bleeding resistances too, apparently.
Vitality: Raises your maximum Equipment Load, which is a fancy way of saying you can wear and use heavier stuff. In Dark Souls 3, if you go over 70% of your total equip load, you will roll very slowly (colloquially known as ‘fatrolling’). Only worry about this stat if you’re wanting to carry some really heavy things and wear massive armour. It also boosts basic physical resistances, but so do a bunch of other stats. As someone who played the whole game wearing and carrying medium-weight things, I don’t think I boosted it much beyond 12. Also, yes, Vitality would make more sense as the name for the health stat.
Strength: Your hittin’ stuff stat. Weapons in Dark Souls 3 all have minimum stat requirements. To use the larger ones, you’ll need at least 20-odd in Strength (and sometimes upwards of 30). Two-handing a weapon requires less Strength than one-handing, so you can get away with being under the requirements if you do that. If a weapon scales with Strength (in your inventory, the letters D-to-S under an attribute will denote scaling), then using it with a high Strength stat will give you extra damage. This tapers off after hitting 40. Helps you resist fire damage a bit too.
Dexterity: Pretty much the same as Strength, except for Dexterity-based weapons instead. Also starts to taper off when (if) you hit 40. Dexterity also increases the speed at which you cast spells, and reduces fall damage a bit. Although if you fall from a great height you’ll die no matter what.
Intelligence: Like weapons, sorcery spells have minimum stat requirements. The best ones will require a decent investment in Intelligence. Also like weapons, sorceries scale with Intelligence. As of version 1.01, they seem to benefit most when you go really high with this stat (like, 50 and beyond), which will very likely change or be rebalanced a bit before launch. Intelligence also boosts your magic resistance. Some magical weapons will scale really well with Intelligence.
Faith: A lot like Intelligence, except for miracles instead of sorcery. The damage done by miracles seems to be impacted by proximity to the target. So be close when you’re casting offensive ones. If you’re going down the Pyromancy route, this scales from Intelligence and Faith, but the benefits will taper off when both are around 25/30. Faith boosts your character’s resistance to the dark (as in dark magic, not just darkness).
Luck: Probably the least urgent stat. It’ll boost your chances of getting item drops from enemies (kind of like the Rusted Coin item described above), but not in a way that’s so significant that you’ll want to drop points into this instead of, say, health. Also ups resistance to bleed, poison and curses.
That was a lot to absorb, do you have any tactical advice that doesn’t involve stats and scaling and stuff?
I know, sorry. And yes, quite a bit.
First, after making your character look like a pretty waifu and/or horrendous monster, play through the tutorial area and pay close attention to the orange message marker things on the ground. They’ll tell you how to do things like dodge-roll, two-hand your weapon (for more damage, but you can’t use a shield at the same time), parry, and backstab.
It doesn’t explain those last two amazingly well though, so I’ll help a bit there. Parrying can be extremely powerful if you get really good at it. Certain shields can do it (they’ll say in the inventory description), as can a few weapons when held in the left hand. It’s basically a shield/dagger sweep that knocks an enemy’s attack aside and leaves them open for a very damaging riposte.
The timing on a parry is difficult to describe and is often quite a small window, but effectively you’re trying to swing your shield out so that it connects with the incoming enemy attack. You’ll know if you did it right because you’ll hear a special sound effect and the enemy will go into a kind of ‘woah, shit man, I’m all stunned and open and stuff’ pose. When they’re like this, pressing your light attack (RB on a basic 360 pad) will perform a special, highly damaging attack. However, you have to get a ‘feel’ for this. Rushing a quick RB will probably just do a normal swing. You have to move close, in front of the stunned enemy and then press RB. Again, you’ll be very aware if you’ve got it right.
It’s not possible to parry absolutely every attack (such as a massive giant stamping on you). Try practicing on the tutorial area enemies, they have quite telegraphed swings. You can get through the game without knowing how to parry, but it can also be a tremendously useful skill.
Backstabbing can be very useful too. Like the riposte, you kind of have to get the feel for this. It involves being behind the enemy and (again) pressing the light attack/RB button. Just as with parrying, rushing it or doing it in the wrong spot will result in a regular attack. You’ve got to figure out the zone and the timing. Humanoid foes can generally be backstabbed. Bosses and massive things generally can’t.
Should I try to kill that crystal beast in the tutorial along the path where it says ‘turn back’?
Sure, if you’re able to. It’ll drop a Titanite Scale which is an item used to upgrade weapons made from the souls of bosses (ooh, fancy). If you want to come back to it later, you can do that too. It’ll still be there.
On Page 2, tactics and strategies the tutorials won’t tell you. Plus, some useful early item locations.