There are a lot of things that want to kill you as you embark on your journey through Dark Souls 3's beautiful and heartwrenching world. Being the most polished, and newest game to the series, Dark Souls 3 is sure to draw in a few newbies to the game. This guide will help you stay above the bloody mass of death counters and frustration that are sure to arise as you take your first trip into the masochistic wasteland of From Software's most popular video game series.
Timing Is Important
If you’ve ever read any kind of literature, or watched any kind of fantasy-themed show or movie, swordplay has almost always been described as a “dance” or sorts. Combat in the Dark Souls series takes that idea to an entirely new level, throwing players headlong into an unending waltz with death itself.
Just as important in dancing, timing in Dark Souls 3’s combat is one of the most important factors to keep in mind as you take on the varying enemies of the ruined kingdom of Lothric. Each enemy you come across, from big bosses hidden behind White Fog, to the throwaway mobs who respawn each time you make use of a bonfire, will have their own movesets and attack patterns. Some will stab at you with their spears, while others force your shield away with a shield bash. Meanwhile others will completely outline their strong attacks, giving you plenty of time to move out of the way.
If you look in the image below you can see an enemy charging to attack us. We waited until the last possible moment to dodge out of the way in order to be able to hit the enemy a few times before it could recover from its own attack.
Keep all of this in mind as you make your way through the various areas in Dark Souls 3. This time around the enemies are quicker than previous games, and it’s going to be very helpful to your survival if you can quickly pick up on their chosen attacks that way you have plenty of time to roll out of the way, or bring up your shield to parry their attack.
It’s also just as important to learn how to time your attacks based on weapon attack speed to ensure your attacks aren’t blocked by the enemies own attacks.
Blocking, or guarding as it is most often called, can be an extremely useful tool to ensure your survival, but it can also be one of your greatest enemies. It’s extremely tempting to hold your shield up, waiting for the enemy to attack. Don’t do this. Instead you’ll want to wait until you notice the enemy moving to attack. Then, and only then, should you pull your shield upwards and block the attack. This ensures you’ll have plenty of Stamina remaining in case you need to roll away from the attack instead of block it.
Let Your Shield Hand Rest
Moving to our next tip, this one falls in line with the previous tip we covered concerning blocking. You’d be surprised by the amount of people who run around all the time with their shield held up, as if they were constantly under attack by vicious creatures of the dark. Don’t fall prey to the false safety that shield gives off. Holding your shield up all the time slows your Stamina recovery, which means you’ll often find yourself unprepared for your enemy when they strike.
Dodging and rolling away from attacks is just as important as blocking them. In fact, several of the classes you have the option to play as will rely more upon rolling away from attacks than blocking. Both means of defense, rolling and blocking, require Stamina, however rolling oftentimes will require less Stamina use than blocking large attacks. Rolling is also a great way to get behind enemies and perform critically damaging attacks like backstabs.
Backstabbing and Sneaking
When you approach an enemy from behind and attack them from a very close range, you commit what is called a backstab. This is an attack that activates an animation, which when completed, will kick your enemy down onto the ground, not only dealing massive amounts of damage to them, but also giving you a solid opportunity to prepare your offense and defense for the fight to come.
While the backstab can be achieved during normal battles by rolling up behind enemies and striking them in the correct spot, they are most often achieved by sneaking up on unsuspecting foes. To do this simple walk forward slowly by pressing the left control stick forward. If you move slowly enough, and aren’t too loud, you’ll be able to approach any enemies with their backs turn to you and perform this crippling attack.
What to Upgrade – Weapons or Stats?
Everything costs Souls in Dark Souls 3, and it can be pretty intimidating when you try to figure out which stats you should upgrade, and when you should upgrade your weapon or look for a new one. We suggest holding out on upgrading your stats, unless you just happen to need more HP or Equip Load, and instead upgrade your weapons to increase their attack power.
We suggest this because you will garner more attack power from your weapons by upgrading them with the Blacksmith than you will be randomly upgrading stats. This is in part because of the Attribute Bonus system that the weapons rely upon. We won’t bore you with all the in-depth details of this system, however, we have included several images and a brief description of how this system works in Dark Souls 3, below.
The Attribute Bonus system works off of an S to E system with S being the highest grade possible. Most of the weapons you find in Dark Souls 3 will follow this system and have at least one Attribute Bonus rank. In the image below, our starter Battle Axe has an Attribute Bonus rank of D for both Strength and Dexterity, meaning that each time we upgrade our Strength or Dexterity attribute we will be rewarded with more Physical Attack Power on this weapon.
This means that we will want to build our character around a high Strength and Dexterity build if we want to be able to hit our enemies with the most amount of damage while using this weapon. Meanwhile, other weapons might feature Attribute Bonuses for Intelligence or Faith, in which case you’ll want to build your character’s stats up surrounding those attributes.
Unlike most RPGs out there, Dark Souls relies heavily upon you building your character’s stats based around the weapons you are using versus the traditional way of using weapons based on broad stat requirements. If you want to be successful in taking down the various enemies and bosses in Dark Souls 3 it is imperative that you learn this system and follow it when leveling your character up.
How to Upgrade Stamina
Stamina is your greatest ally in Dark Souls 3 because your base Stamina pool is the basis for how often you can block, roll, or sprint while taking on your enemies. This means you’ll want to start pouring Souls into the Stamina stat early on. In Dark Souls 3 your Stamina pool is controlled by the amount of points you have into your Endurance stat. This makes it one of the most important stats you can acquire, and when leveled all the way to level 99 this stat will max your Stamina pool out at 170.
As you can see in the image below, when leveling up your character the positive changes to your stats will be outlined with a blue coloring.
Be Aggressive, but Only Sometimes
Much like Bloodborne, which released on PlayStation 4 in March of 2015, Dark Souls 3 featured a much improved and faster-paced combat system than previous Dark Souls games. This is a good thing for those of you just now getting your feet wet in the Dark Souls universe as it allows you to be much more aggressive than you could be in previous games.
The art of being aggressive is still a hard one to learn, however, as you don’t want to run headfirst into an enemies spear every time you try to attack. This means you’ll want to learn when the best times to be aggressive are. Fighting a boss that is busy transforming into its second phase? Many bosses can be damaged during this transformation period. Rush forward and get in a few quick two-handed attacks to deal some extra damage before you are forced back into the cat and mouse waltz that you’ll become all too familiar with as time goes on.
Learn to Parry and Riposte
Parrying enemy attacks can give you a huge advantage on the battlefield in Dark Souls 3, and it is something you’ll want to keep in mind as you take on the many bosses and enemies you come across throughout Lothric. Unlike guarding, parrying requires much more patience and precise timing. You’ll want to make sure you’re waiting until the enemy attacks before you bring your shield up. There’s no easy way to explain it, other than to watch the enemy’s animations and pay special attention to their attacking patterns. If you manage to successfully parry an attack, you can quickly press the attack button to riposte, or counterattack, the enemy and deal a fair amount of damage to them.
Hoarding Souls is REALLY BAD
Souls are required for almost everything in Dark Souls 3, and while you can get Souls from all the enemies you kill, it can be very tempting to hold on to as many Souls as you can before heading back to Firelink Shrine and using them to upgrade your weapons, buy new wares, or upgrade your skills. Do not fall into the most obvious Dark Souls trap of all, do not hoard your Souls.
Souls are one of the easiest items to obtain, and due to the standard enemy respawn when camping out at Bonfires, they are one of the easiest things to farm. We suggest spending your Souls on new wares, items, weapons, stat upgrades, weapon upgrades, and more whenever you have them. They aren’t going to spend themselves, and the more you have on you, the more you risk losing them. During our time we made the mistake of holding on to 25,000 Souls as we explored a new area. We got impatient and ended up losing those Souls right past a tricky area full of tough enemies. If we had gone ahead and spent them when we earned them, we wouldn’t have had to worry about dying halfway back to where we lost them, and losing them forever as our bloodstain was wiped from the world forever.
Learn more about Lothric and its many secrets by heading back to our complete Dark Souls 3 walkthrough.