You don't have to play Dark Souls 3 for long before your hero meets a painful death. It's inevitable. The key to sticking with the game long enough to make it to the final boss fade to dust is not letting the frustration of all those deaths make you snap your controller in half.
As with other games in the punishing series, often the opening hours are the toughest, when you’ve not yet worked out the game’s rhythm. But fear not, TrustedReviews is here to help.
Here are some tips and tricks that’ll help you crawl through Dark Souls 3’s initial hazing process. Some tips are here for the folks who’ve never played a FromSoftware game before but the rest are to help the many Souls fans lock onto what the new installment is all about.
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Dark Souls 3 guide - How to spend your souls
As in the previous Souls games, there’s just one main currency, souls. You get these by killing enemies, or by using certain items that are more-or-less freeze-dried baddie essence.
Souls are used when you level-up, but they are also used to buy items from merchants and to upgrade your weapons. That means you need to think strategically about which parts of your character you’re going to improve, particularly after taking down a boss.
The price of levelling up does not change depending on the stat you pick, either, only the level you’re currently at (the price increases with each level). This too makes choosing the stat to upgrade tricky. There’s no heading back to improve your flagging Endurance stat cheaply a few hours down the line.
Here's five things you need to know about Dark Souls 3:
How to recover lost souls
This one is nothing new to fans of the series, but if you’re yet to play a Souls game, it’s important to know what happens when you die. You lose any souls you’re carrying, but keep all your items. At times you might even want to spring to grab a bit of treasure, even if you’re certain you won’t make it back.
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When you die, your Souls are left roughly where you perished. You can return upon respawning and pick them up. But if you die again en route, they’re lost for good. So if you’re feeling totally disheartened, not able to make it past a boss, you can grind out experience to a certain extent.
It’s generally more effective to develop your fighting strategy than your stats at these points. Painful as doing so can be.
Use a shield to block projectiles, roll to block melee attacks
There are lots of ways to play Dark Souls 3. As with Dark Souls 2, there are several different character classes that dramatically change how you’ll take on enemies. However, in a basic sense Dark Souls 3 combat is something of a mash-up of the styles of Bloodborne and Dark Souls 2.
You get the shields of Dark Souls 2, with more of the character speed and reaction times of Bloodborne.
There’s no one fool-proof combat strategy for this game, but I’ve had most luck using a shield to avoid ranged attacks and roll-dodging in close-quarters combat. It is, at the very least, a good place to start if you’re a non-magic user.
How to level up in Dark Souls 3
The first place you get to level-up is at Firelink Shrine. If you’re stuck at the first boss and want to beef-up a little to give yourself a better chance, you’re out of luck: it’s after that fight.
If you’ve made it past the first boss, head to the Firelink Shrine and talk to the female character at the centre of this safe zone. She will be your port of call from now on whenever you have enough souls to spend on improving your character stats.
How you progress
Feel free to skip this one if you’re familiar with the Souls games. But let’s have a quick primer on how progression goes in Dark Souls 3.
Bosses are the major milestones in the game. These fights are exponentially harder than the rest of the game, where it’s generally not too hard to survive in the ‘main’ parts of the game world once you know the basic layout of areas.
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This seems obvious. It is what bosses are for in any game, right? However, not since the 90s have bosses proved quite as much of a road block as they are in Dark Souls 3 and its brothers.
In-between these moments you progress by a) levelling-up and b) finding bonfires. Bonfires act as Dark Souls 3’s way points. You are resurrected there when you die, and these are the points you’re able to fast-travel to.
Avoiding rage-quitting when you’re stuck on a boss
If you play Dark Souls 3 there will be moments when a boss makes you want to lodge your gamepad in your TV. There are a few different ways to avoid this being the most costly game of the year.
First, if you know you’re on the right lines in terms of strategy, go for a palette cleanser. Dark Souls 3’s environments are designed to offer lots of little extra hidden areas you will miss the first time around. If you feel like your brain is going to start dribbling out of your ears, take a little break and explore the preceding area a bit more. It probably won’t see you find something that’ll suddenly make the boss easy, but it will reduce your blood pressure.
Getting rid of the stress-panic is a big part of getting on in Dark Souls 3.
Next up, pay close attention to their attacks. Each and every boss in Dark Souls 3 has multiple stages, and you can’t use the same strategies for each one. Instead, break it down and work out how each attack pattern plays out and how you’ll be able to deal with them.
Sounds too much like homework? YouTube is your friend. The Souls titles are some of the most YouTube’d games out there. Assessing a boss’s moves without the stress factor of your health being whacked every 10 seconds makes YouTube play-throughs of Dark Souls 3 dead handy. Plenty will also offer a helpful commentary.
How to beat the first boss in Dark Souls 3
The first boss in Dark Souls 3 is called Iudex Grundyr. It is a fallen king/knight who mutates at around 50 per cent health. A big arm sprouts out of his side like Bloodborne’s Cleric Beast and an oily reptile head spews out of his own. He gets a lot trickier at this point.
In his first form you can afford to get quite far away. He’ll then perform an aerial leap attack that is quite easy to dodge and leaves Grundyr open to attack for a couple of seconds. You can’t play the same trick in the second stage, though. You’ll do much better by staying close in, carefully watching his creepy head and arm mutations to avoid getting thwacked. I also had much better luck strafing around him moving to the left rather than right. Good luck.
How to beat Vordt
The second Dark Souls 3 boss is the Vordt of the Boreal Valley. This is a squat armoured giant that charges at you like a massive, angry rodent.
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His attacks are very tricky to avoid until you start rolling into him as he attacks. It’s not what you’d assume, but it’s how you need to tackle this beast.
One of the most important changes to combat this time around is what game director Miyazaki calls “weapon skills”. These are special powerful attacks that drain down the same bar used in casting spells.
By holding down the left trigger, your character enters a new ‘stance’ that lets you perform these secondary attacks. We initially thought these were linked to your character class, but it seems the weapons alone actually dictate the ‘skills’ attack available to you.
For example, short knives offer a sneak stab attack that would be well-suited to the thief class. But even a rippling-muscles knight could use it.
Intelligence: Increases power of sorcery and pyromancy spells
Faith: Determines power of miracle spells
Luck: Affects loot drops, and effects of bleeding/poison