Dark Souls 3 Beginner Guide

Dark Souls 3 Beginner Guide by Alexander Marquez
Welcome to my Dark Souls 3 Beginner Guide! This guide will cover and discuss how you should go about exploring this harsh game and provide some tips and insight to make survival much easier. Since this game is fairly new and there’s a lot to explore, I will update and add on to this guide much more information as I discover it and post it for the benefit of those who read this guide. The Dark Souls 3 gameplay is more or less the same compared to its predecessors so those who are familiar with its previous titles should more or less expect the same type of difficulty except for a new area to explore, faster paced combat, and various new enemies.

Preview
  • Preparing For The Journey
  • The Beginning
  • Gameplay and Combat
  • Online Play
  • Farming and Upgrading
  • Endgame, Pre NG+
  • Survival Tips
  • Expert Tips

The guide will begin by discussing how you should prep yourself before starting the actual game and as it progresses will begin to discuss more and more various bits of information that will help you not only short term, but also lay the groundwork for the later stages of the game in preparation for NG+.

I. Preparing For The Journey

Before you actually begin your arduous journey through the world of Lodeleth, you’re going to want to set yourself up and brainstorm how you’re going to go about playing the actual game. Through the early stages of the game, you’re going to have some leniency in terms of how you play the game since leveling will be easy and stat distribution is more open. But, you’re going to want to stick to a playstyle that suits your preference throughout the game since most of the enemies, particularly bosses, won’t give you much room for error and will kill you easily if you aren’t sure how to play your class/character properly, especially in later stages of the game.

One of the beauties of Dark Souls is that you usually have more freedom in terms of playstyle and can make almost any combination of weapons and magic to suit your needs. You can be a mage swordsman, a heavy hitter cleric, a hex master with dual swords, and so on. (optional, for a more realistic/harder experience ignore this) .

In the end, develop a general idea of how you’re going to play the game and use that as your base for the rest of your journey to further develop your abilities as a player and make the whole process a lot more bearable.

II. The Beginning

The starting classes are as follows:

  • Knight: This is your top of the line “easy” class that begins with high vitality, a full suit of armor, and a powerful shield.
  • Mercenary: This class comes with the highest dexterity. They start off with a basic sword and shield, but are tailored made for dual wielding and other ambidextrous builds .
  • Warrior: Similar to Knights but with an emphasis on Strength rather than Vitality. They’re also equipped with a strong battleaxe and wooden shield. Suited for players who prefer powerful, two-handed weapons and a strong offense.
  • Herald: A jack-of-all-trades class, they have well-rounded stats, come equipped with a spear for calculated battles and have a healing spell as well.
  • Thief: Begins the game with higher luck compared to any other starting class. They have light armor but also wield a dagger (ideal for backstabs) and a bow for ranged battle.
  • Assassin : Have very middle-of-the-road stats, with a minor emphasis on attunement and dexterity. They also begin with a low-power sorcery spell.
  • Sorcerer : A caster class that begins with low stats, but are saved for huge buffs to attunement and intelligence. They also carry two spells to begin with.
  • Pyromancer : Wield destructive fire spells that contain area-of-effect abilities. Begin with high Intelligence and Faith.
  • Cleric: Have high Faith and Attunement stats and begin with two miracle spells. They also carry a mace for combat.
  • Deprived: Basically the hard difficulty, all stats begin at level 10 and your character has no starting armor. You’ll begin with a club and a wooden shield, that’s it.

Like I mentioned in the previous section, the beginning stages of the game are usually a good place to experiment and define what kind of player you’re going to be. Your starting class will more or less determine what kind of gameplay experience you will have from the beginning of the game onward. It will also determine the difficulty of the early stages of the game and your customization options.

You will want to figure out:

  • What kinds of weapons/armor you’re going to primarily use
  • What kind of supporting or offensive magic you will utilize
  • What your secondary class characteristics will be
  • Which clan/covenant you will join
  • If you will support other players or invade others for PvP play
  • Which stats you will focus primarily on
  • What upgrade path you will focus on

Depending on how you normally play these kinds of RPG games, this will take longer for some of you compared to others. At the very least, you’re going to want to figure most of this out before level 25-30 since souls will be harder to obtain, mobs will be more difficult to kill, and the overall difficulty will be harder depending on how far along you are. If you insist on not limiting yourself to one type of playstyle, then you should at least have one go-to set up in case things become too difficult and advancing through the gameplay is taking too long.

III. Gameplay and Combat

Once you figure out how to go about playing the game and you’re far enough along, you should refine your combat abilities and find ways to improve your character by other means.

For starters you should have an understanding of the various stats, what they mean and how they affect your gameplay. You also need to take into account the Auxiliary Stats/Effects such as Bleed, Poison, and Curse as well as damage types such as Fire, Lightning, Magic, Dark, and Normal.

Stats

Auxiliary Effects

These effects are usually characterized by showing a Resist Meter when taking damage from the source of the effect. The rate at which the meter builds is dependent on your Resist stat value, but once the meter is full the effect will last 3 minutes regardless of stats.

Effect Description
Poison Generally deals low damage per second over a period of three minutes and lasts until it is either cured, expired or death occurs. (Toxic is a much stronger version)
Bleed When the meter is full, deals instant damage instead of damage per second, typically 30% of health. Can be inflicted against certain bosses.
Frost When the meter is full, reduces stamina recovery significantly for the duration of the effect.
Curse Player will be turned to stone once the meter fills. This is equivalent to dying, you will lose all souls and return to the last bonfire at which you rested.
Additional Information

As you progress through Lodeleth, you will encounter various kinds of enemies as well as environments. You might not know ahead of time, but sometimes it is beneficial to anticipate specific types of areas and prepare yourself beforehand. What this means is you should have a second set of armor or clothing with particular Auxiliary Stats to counter whatever Effect an enemy/boss has themselves as well as the environment such as toxic pools or poison gas. This is also important when trying to obtain a specific item or chest since the chests with better items are in difficult, hard to reach places with various types of traps and hazards. It’s also good to keep an eye out for specific weapons and armor sets that sometimes have pre-set auxiliary effects. This can save you time, souls, and resources on upgrading items as well as make certain areas easier to travel through.

Another important aspect to gameplay is stat scaling. Certain weapons are much more effective than others due to the stat scaling grade they have ranging from E (lowest) to S (highest). To determine how much more effective a weapon is, take a look at the attack rating. For example, if you have a character that has a high Strength stat then using a weapon with a high Strength scaling grade will produce a bigger attack rating than any other weapon. Certain weapons also have multiple stat scaling grades for hybrid builds. Take note that high attack ratings don’t always mean they’re the best and that scaling isn’t exactly the same for weapons with similar grades. Also, faster weapons with lower attack ratings can still produce much more damage than slower weapons with higher ratings.

Letter Scaling Range
S 140%–200%
A 100%–139%
B 75%– 99%
C 50%– 74%
D 25%– 49%
E 1%– 24%

Once you have the effects and other gameplay mechanics figured out, you should improve your actual combat abilities. This is when you should figure out and know your class’s strengths as well as weaknesses so you can play them into actual combat against mobs or other players. You should also figure out your selected weapon’s skills and animations to try to get as familiarized as possible with it. When it comes to actual combat, you should figure out an enemy’s movements, notice weaknesses and exploit them. Sounds simple enough but putting into practice is harder than it seems, especially if you’re going against quick, powerful enemies or worse. Because of this unanticipated aspect to combat you should take a cautious approach when confronting new enemies or bosses and learn their movements before doing some damage of your own, this minimizes deaths and makes things more bearable.

For example, a common build is one where a player has a massive two-handed sword/axe and has many stats points allocated into Strength. Obviously when they hit an opponent they do a massive amount of damage to health and stamina, but being a two-handed weapon class makes them a lot slower and predictable. If you are a player with this build you should make your hits count and only attack when countering. If you are fighting against this type of player/enemy, you should bait them into attacking and do your damage while they are still in the motion of attack or recovering. This is just one of many different types of combat scenarios and you should be prepared for almost all of them in regards to your particular playstyle as your progress.

In the end, treat every attack coming at you like a lethal one (chances are it probably is) and adapt against an enemy.

IV. Online Play
Cooperative Play

You can summon other players or NPCs to help you on your journey by interacting with a summoning sign on the floor. You can also place your own summoning sign on the ground to help out other players. You can have, at most, two other players helping you at once.

The summoned player(s) will only be with you until you defeat the area boss, the time limit (usually 40 minutes) is reached, or the summoning/host player dies. Once a session is completed successfully and the area boss is killed, the host will recieve 75% or less souls of what the boss normally drops, depending on how many players are summoned, and summoned players will recieve 25%. Summoned players will also recieve corresponding tokens or items depending on how they are summoned.

DS3 uses Soul Level + Upgrade Level to determine multiplayer ranges. If a player has a weapon at +10, they can be matched with players who have +7 or more. If a player has no upgrades, they can be paired with players with up to +2.The level range for co-op play can be determined by using this formula;

The Phantom’s Level, + / – (10 + 10% of the Phantom’s Level).

Example:

If a level 50 player uses the white sign soapstone, they can be matched with players between the levels of 35 – 65, because the math works out as follows:

10% of 50 = 5
10 + 5 = 15
50 +/- 15 = 35 – 65

*Password Matching is a setting you can set up that removes soul level and weapon upgrade level matchmaking by adjusting the phantoms attack power.

*You can only summon other players while in Lord of Cinder mode (under the effect of an Ember)

*Some bosses will only allow you to summon a specific amount of phantoms

Invasions

Invasions are the opposite of co-op play and are initiated by using Cracked Red-Eye Orbs or a regular Red-Eye Orb. Players can also use the Red Sign Soapstone to leave a summon sign for duels, including host worlds where the boss is already killed.

The goal of an Invasion is to kill the host player to earn souls and tokens corresponding to your convenant. If the invader dies, the host enters a boss room, or any return items are used, the invader will return to their own world.

Due to the various convenants, up to 6 players can appear in the same session, each taking on the roles of cooperator and/or hostile invader. The different Covenants and soapstone signs change the ratio of companions to invader.

For example, if the person being invaded is part of the Way of Blue convenant, another member from the Blue Sentinels can be automatically summoned to support them in addition to being able to summon another, regular phantom to combat 1 invader. In addition to all of this, another invader from a seperate convenant such as Mound Makers or Rosaria’s Fingers can invade and if all of this is happening in a territorial area such as Anor Londo, an Aldrich Faithful will be summoned to defend the area. This is one of multiple scenarios where 6 players can be involved in one world.

*Using the Dried Finger resets the invasion timer and allows a host player to summon a 3rd phantom as well opening themselves up to a second invading phantom.

*Cracked Red-Eye Orbs drop from

Convenants

For the Host Min/Host Max, apply the usual formula and modify the numbers with the numbers on the table. The modifiers are dependent on the “type” of summoning/invasion.

Example:

If a level 50 player uses the white sign soapstone and is in Warriors of Sunlight, they can be matched with players between the levels of 15 – 85, because the math works out as follows:

10% of 50 = 5
10 + 5 = 15
50 +/- 15 = 35 – 65

35 – Host Min = 35 – 20 = 15
65 + Host Max = 65 + 20 = 85

New Range = 15 – 85

*Keep in mind weapon-based matching.

CALCULATOR LINK[darksouls3.wiki.fextralife.com]

Other online features include:

  • Bloodstains: You can stand above and interact with bloodstains on the ground to see another player’s death for the final few seconds before death. This is good for finding traps or other dangers in seemingly harmless areas.
  • Illusions: Light illusions of other players who are currently online. Can help you determine how active an area is.
  • Messages: Orange messages on the ground giving warnings or hints to help guide other players. Can be placed and rated by any player.
V. Farming and Crafting

A tedious but rewarding aspect to Dark Souls gameplay is its upgrading system.

Almost any weapon or equipment you obtain can receive two kinds of upgrades, Reinforcements or Infusions. Reinforcements are basic upgrades that usually go from +1-+10 on regular weapons and +1-+5 on special/unique weapons. Infusions apply an elemental/scaling enhancement to a weapon changing its properties significantly to appeal to the element being applied while reducing every other elemental property/scaling.

These are the specific upgrade/infusions paths you can take by providing the proper gem. Take note of what gem does which upgrade so you can keep an eye out for them and be able to do the upgrade you want when the time comes.

Certain upgrades require certain Coals to be able to unlock them, here is the list:

Coal Upgrades Available Location
Farron Coal Allows Heavy, Sharp & Poison Infusions
Sage’s Coal Allows Crystal, Blessed & Deep Infusions
Profaned Coal Allows Dark, Blood & Hollow Infusions
Giant’s Coal Allows Lightning, Simple & Chaos Infusions

Here are some notes concerning the upgrade paths:

  • Infusions can be applied to reinforced weapons.
  • Normal upgrades use specific types of Titanite per upgrade. +1 to +3 requires Titanite Shard; +4 to +6 requires Large Titanite Shard; +7 to +9 requires Titanite Chunk; +10 requires Titanite Slab.
  • Boss and Special weapons require 1 Titanite Slab to do upgrade +4 to +5 and can not be infused.
  • Infusing a shield will increase its damage reduction for that specific element while lowering all other defenses.
  • Armor is NOT upgradeable.
  • To figure out which weapon (between regular, unique, and boss weapons) will ultimately have the highest damage when fully upgraded, multiply their current base damage by 2 (regular), 1.5 (unique), and 2.5 (boss) respectively.
  • Raw upgrades work best on weapons with minimal to no scaling since it will only increase base damage.
  • Infusions can be removed by using a Shriving Stone
  • Auxiliary Effects you put on weapons build up against enemies depending on the number of successive hits you land, not the level of damage per hit. Because of this, Auxiliary Effects are best on quicker weapons such as daggers or katanas.
Additional Information

As you kill different kinds of enemies, it’s good to take note of the resources they drop because there’s a good chance only that specific type of enemy drops that particular item. This comes in handy when farming for shards and other consumables since souls are better spent on upgrades and leveling. Since there are specific gems for specific upgrades, you should stockpile as many different kinds as possible in case you need a certain upgrade at some point in the game. Also, the rarer the item is the more difficult it is to gather so don’t disregard it and keep it handy even if you don’t need it right away.

Every session of Dark Souls you run has a limited amount of valuable resources that won’t respawn until you start a new session or New Game+. Because of this, as you explore Lodeleth and progress through its tough environment you should keep an eye on your surroundings and gather as many resources and items as you can (not useless clutter from fallen enemies that you already have). You should also take note of very important items such as Slabs and think twice before using them since there are usually only 1-3 available per session.

VI. Endgame, Pre NG+

You’re about to the complete your first playthrough and are about to pass that final fog gate into your final boss fight. Before you do that though, you should take a moment to stop and think about what you’ve done during your current playthrough and see if there’s any unfinished business.

Here is what will carry over during your next playthrough in New Game+ (NG+):

  • Soul Level
  • Souls currently being carried (Fading Soul, Soul of a Hero, Soul of a Proud Knight, etc.)
  • All your weapons and armor, including ‘Item Box’ items
  • Most items and equipment
  • All pyromancies, sorceries, hexes, and miracles
  • The number of Estus Flask charges and their upgrade level
  • Covenant and covenant level
  • Sins

Anything relating to gameplay advancement such key items will not be carried over and will have to be re-obtained.

Because of how NG+ works, you’re going to want to do some important things before actually progressing to NG+:

  • Buy out any items you want from merchants
  • Trade any leftover Boss Souls for Boss Soul Weapons
  • Farm for Titanite and any other items you might need
  • Upgrade all your primary weapons to their max level
  • Find and use any leftover Estus Flask Shards and related items
  • Complete and kill any optional bosses you may have missed
  • Save powerful souls such as Soul of a Great Hero for quick souls in NG+ in case you need them

Now you’re probably wondering why you should do so much before your next playthrough since you have most of the game and its enemies memorized. The reason is because NG+ is specifically designed to make your next playthrough a lot harder and unpredictable to maintain its level of difficulty.

To be specific, this is what happens:

  • Enemies do much more damage
  • Enemies have more health
  • Enemies give a greater number of souls.
  • There will be more enemies in most of the areas
  • Certain bosses will have additional mechanics but yield greater souls/rewards
  • New items and weapon/armor sets will be available

NG+ tends to have the biggest difficulty increase but concurring NG++ playthroughs still have higher levels of difficulty in the form of tougher, durable enemies. Now that you know what to expect and what to do, do what you feel is necessary before continuing and be prepared for the worst.

VII. Survival Tips

This section will provide various tips and advice regarding the gameplay to make things more bearable. Player input is welcome and credit will be given where credit is due.

  • The White Sign Soapstone required for co-op play can be purchased from a merchant in Firelink Shrine. It’s a cheap 500 souls and vital for the gameplay so buy it early.
  • Pausing is not possible in Dark Souls, your only form of pausing is by resting at bonfires. (ByFacarwi,” You can also simply exit the game through the menu and when you re-enter you will resume where you where fyi, great for when you get phone calls and don’t want a pesky invader ruining your progress while away.”)
  • Resting at a bonfire respawns all the enemies at that location. If you cleared an area and don’t want more enemies don’t rest at a bonfire. If your farming for specific items rest at the nearest bonfire.
  • You should hit or roll on walls at times to expose hidden passages/rooms.
  • To maintain stamina, drop your shield guard when not in immediate danger to boost stamina recovery.
  • It’s generally good idea to hit a treasure chest before opening it due to Mimics, they tend to deal A LOT of damage and can ruin your progress.
  • Be sure to balance your Flasks at a blacksmith.
  • Don’t leave a Ring of Sacrifice on during co-op, the ring will still break even though you can’t lose souls as a phantom anyways.
  • If you notice a large group of enemies and there are barrel or crates nearby, use a Firebomb or Pyromancy to blow them up and damage/kill them.
  • Embers are similar to Humanity from previous Souls games. They greatly boost HP, fully heal you when used, and last for as long as you stay alive. Save them for particularly tough areas and try to keep one on hand at all times.
  • You can kill infected enemies before they transform. You won’t get as many souls but it can help you get past certain areas.
  • Be wary of Red-Eyed enemies, they tend to be stronger than average mobs but yield greater rewards.
  • Use auto-target to detect hard to see enemies or seemingly harmless ones.
  • Speaking to certain NPCs multiple times provides different dialogue and can at times give you useful information or items.
  • Don’t always take messages on the ground seriously, use common sense and use the rating as a guideline to see if a message is legit or not.
  • If you need to farm souls or want to experience an area beforehand, place a summoning sign near a boss fight or in a beginning area to help another player clear the area.
  • If you have multiple players helping you, this reduces the quantity of souls you receive when you clear the area boss. (Original Souls/ # of People)
  • Lighting a bonfire now makes it a new spawn point. If you’re running away from a group of mobs or other dangers and see a bonfire close by, try to run towards it and light it as soon as possible. Even if you get killed, you will spawn at the bonfire and quickly recover lost souls.
  • If you die and need to recover a substantial amount of souls, do whatever it takes to stay alive by being extra cautious or by wearing a Ring of Sacrifice. Also, it’s worth summoning another player to help make recovery a lot easier. Lastly, don’t waste Souls in your inventory if you’re already recovering souls, this is in case you die beforehand and don’t recover your current souls.
  • Be careful when fighting multiple enemies. Keep an eye on your stamina and make sure you’re aware of where you are so you don’t corner yourself or fall off the map.
  • If you unknowingly venture into a higher-than-usual difficulty area, don’t be stubborn and press on. Find another, easier route or level yourself up a bit before advancing.
  • Don’t kill or harm NPCs unless you are ready to accept the consequences that accompany it. Merchants or Blacksmiths that are killed do not respawn until your next playthrough. Also, be sure that whatever the NPC drops is worth obtaining.
  • Estus Flasks are the most reliable form of healing provided in this game. If you need to heal yourself, use Magic or Estus Flasks and avoid using consumables until you are playing as a phantom or invading.
  • After a certain while and progression, various Merchants update their stock with newer, better items. It’s worthwhile to check back with them every now and then.
  • If you are invaded and don’t want to risk a fight, summon white phantoms to fight for you or if you are close to a boss fight or fog gate, try to rush and go through it.
  • Rosaria, Mother of Rebirth will allow you to reset your stats and appearance by joining her convenant. You can only do these five times per session and you’ll have to pay for each reset with Pale Tongues. The first reset costs five Pale Tongues.

Now on to some Expert Tips.

VIII. Expert Tips

This section will give you more advanced, complex tips to try out to make Dark Souls 3 a cake walk.

  • Be a constant participant of covenant activities. Using the corresponding tokens to upgrade your level with the covenant unlocks covenant exclusive items for sale that are much more powerful than conventional ones.
  • PvE builds are not always ideal when combating other players. Once you feel ready for it, create a separate PvP build for invasions.
  • If you’re being invaded and want an easier fight, find a hazardous location such as a narrow bridge and try to sneak up on them and push them off. (can backfire pretty bad against experienced invaders)
  • Take note of items you can burn at Bonfires to adjust certain elements of an area such as difficulty, invasion rate, and Estus Flask strength.
  • Equipment load determines how quickly your stamina drains and how quick you are when dodging and running. If you want your player to move at a specific speed, adjust your equipment load accordingly. (usually ~40%, ~70%,~100%)
  • Poise determines how easily you stagger when hit with heavier weapons. It sounds neglectful but poise is important when facing large enemies/Bosses or players with massive weapons. If you rely heavily on shields or don’t like to roll, consider boosting your poise or get a shield with high stability.
  • It’s good to keep a bow or throwable items on hand to aggro a single enemy out of a group. This can save you the headache of fighting multiple enemies and increases your chances of survival. Keep in mind certain packs of enemies can still be aggro’d when one member of the pack is aggro’d.
  • Certain weapons use certain attack animations that are ideal for specific scenarios. For example, Battle Axes use a sweeping basic attack that is perfect for hitting multiple enemies while Spears use a stabbing motion for 1 v 1 scenarios. Keep this in mind when using a weapon for specific enemies and scenarios.
  • Take advantage of the various Battle Stance’s. Certain enemies are easier to kill in certain stances so if you haven’t made much of an effort to get comfortable with them, do so as soon as possible.
  • Parrying is a very beneficial move to master since you can block almost all kinds of incoming damage and you can do a counter afterwards called a Ripose. Keep in mind parrying requires precise timing and is easier to do in close quarters.
  • Riposes are combat moves that deal a massive amount of damage and puts you and your victim in an animation lock that significantly reduces all incoming damage. One type can be done right after a Parry and tends to deal the most damage. Another type can be done after staggering/knocking down an enemy and is weaker than the other types, but easier to pull off. The last type is a Guard Break Ripose that can be performed after using Guard Break on an enemy; it’s similar to the parry Ripose.
  • Backstabs are similiar to Riposes but are easier to pull off. As soon as you sneak up behind and enemy or manage to get behind them, try to do a Backstab to quickly finish them off and make combat a little easier. (can be done against most mobs; can be tough to do against laggy enemies)

I will update this section with more Game Specific advice as I progress through the gameplay myself.

Final Notes
Change Log # Date Description
v1.8 04/14/2016 Created Online Play section; Removed Co-op section from Gameplay section.
v1.7 04/14/2016 Improved stats table; Added coal locations.
v1.6 04/13/2016 Additional tips on various sections.
v1.5 04/12/2016 More Revisions, grammar/spelling fixes.
v1.4 04/11/2016 Revised/Updated some information.
v1 04/11/2016 Initial Release.

I’ve been playing Souls games since the original Demon Souls on Playstation 3 and have played them all beyond NG+. I’m by no means a Dark Souls God and mainly play for fun. The contents of this guide are not 100% set in stone and are not the absolute method to playing the game, it’s just advice and tips from my multiple years of gameplay experience and whether or not you choose to use them is up to you.

If you have some tips or advice you’d like to discuss that are tried and effective and not posted on the guide, I will gladly add it while giving credit to the contributor. After all, this is meant to be a resource for the players by the players.

Comments are always appreciated as long as they are reasonable and acceptable, and baseless criticisms and trolling are best left to the discussions section of the community hub, not my guide.

-Alexander Marquez

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