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Timely tips for Dark Souls beginners

Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition Screenshot - 1164856

Since Dark Souls will be FREE on Xbox 360 for Gold members as of Sunday, I figured it was time to revisit this amazing game and provide some tips to those looking to venture into Lordran for the first time. I’ll be frank, I love Dark Souls. I love when people play it for the first time. I love it when anyone plays it period. So if Xbox wants to give it out for free, more power to them. This isn’t about me though; it’s about tips for you. So, let’s get right to it. These tips are ordered in application, not from worst to best.

Starting Class:

The pros will always tell you to start Pyromancer. Why? Well, because it starts as Soul Level 1. While that may sound like a bad thing, it allows you to customize your character more by putting your points where you want them. In Dark Souls, your starting class is ONLY a starting package. You can be a Knight that throws spells or be a sorcerer in the heaviest armor if you choose.

The Pyromancer also starts with the fireball which is a good and safe spell for early game – adds range when you may need it. Over all, I’d have to agree that Pyromancer is the best starting class. For second best, I’d vote Warrior because they start with the Long sword, a heater shield, and the hard leather set (which is my favorite armor set in the game). The long sword is also one of my 5 favorite weapons.

Starting Gift:

If you don’t pick Thief (don’t pick Thief), take the Master Key. It’s that simple. Nothing else even compares. This key opens shortcuts throughout the game. Just trust me on this one. Then again, there is always the Pendant… (that is a troll – it literally does nothing).

Bonfire

Choosing a Weapon:

Oh boy, this is one of those things action-RPG players often have a hard time wrapping their heads around. I’ll put it simply, there are no “best weapons.” What makes a weapon good is that you like its attack animations and it fits your param bonuses (I’ll get to that). Like I said earlier, I like the long sword – which you literally get at the start of the game if you pick Warrior. That starter weapon has been end game for me before. It has solid attack animations, and that’s it. As you find weapons, swing them around and see if you like it. If so, use it, upgrade it, win.

Param Bonuses:

This is one of those complicated things never really explained in the game. When you look at a weapon, there are different symbols under Param with letters under them. These letters explain how much of a bonus to damage you are getting from a stat such as strength, dexterity, faith, or intellect. So strength doesn’t always mean more damage, it’s just a param type. If a weapon uses dex as a param with no strength param, only dex will benefit your damage. The letter attached will determine the power of the bonus in order of S, A, B, C, etc. The club you can buy at the very start of the game is an A in strength. For a strength build, the club is REALLY good early on.

Armor:

Basically everything I said about weapons applies to armor. Instead of param bonuses, find which roll style you’re willing to deal with. There is a fast roll, mid roll, and fat roll. I NEED fast roll, which means I tend to wear lighter armor and value dodging and mobility over durability. No way is right, it’s all up to you. Increasing your endurance ups both stamina and equipment load – probably the most important stat in my opinion. Find what you like or find a balance. Again, there is no “best” armor.

Stab

Shield / Two-Handing:

This is a slightly more advanced technique, but REALLY important in my opinion. As a starting player, you’re most likely going to want to use a shield nearly always – that’s perfectly fine. But when opportunities arise or if you need a certain swing animation, don’t be afraid to two-hand your weapon. Certain enemies and even bosses need that extra damage. In many situations (especially bosses) a shield will be useless. So, why use it at all? Two-hand your weapon and go to town on them. To switch takes just a moment and is one button; get use to swapping on a dime.

Range Attacks:

Nothing says that a strong character shouldn’t have a range attack. Learn the most basic magic attack or pick up a crossbow. You’re not using it for damage, but to perform certain pulls or to kill monsters that are out of range. You’re going to die in Dark Souls, so sometimes you have to create unfair situations for your foes. All's fair and love in Dark Souls. You better believe that hollow soldier will firebomb you off a cliff if he gets the opportunity. You’ll thank me for this tip around Sen’s Fortress.

Death / Learning:

Death is part of Dark Souls. It’s a learning process, treat it as one and not as you failing. In Dark Souls, you learn more through dying than anything you can achieve living. Enemy placement, traps, and boss attacks aren’t something you’re just going to understand the first time through. From Software put them there to kill you – they are good at what they do. Learn from deaths instead of rage quitting, and try to figure out a way of doing it better next time. While the game is hard, it’s honestly fair.

Archer

Patience:

The process of dying leads perfectly into my next tip, patience. After 29577205 (exact number) deaths on the same boss / monster, you ARE going to get frustrated. This means you’ll start playing dumber and less cautiously. If I die somewhere I completely didn’t expect, I’ll often run through the entire level without killing anything in attempt to retrieve my souls. If I die at this point, I lose everything. Not worth it. Keep a cool head and play safe – not dumb. Not sure what a foe does? Play safe and learn their attacks and move set. It’s not ALL about blind suicide, be smart about it.

Summon:

My last tip is to summon. I mean, after all, how else are you ever going to experience the prowess of Solaire? Do you even praise? Summoning can only be done while not hollow. So, use a humanity, return to your human state at a bonfire, and look for white or yellow summon signs around boss fog gates. These are helpful NPCs or players that want to aid you – let them. I get the pride factor in beating every boss on your own, I COMPLETELY understand that. If pride gets in the way of never playing the game again though, just summon. It WILL be much easier but still isn’t a guaranteed win. The bosses do get more HP. Keep in mind though, while human, other players and NPCs can invade you.

Lastly… I have a complete walkthrough of the game from start to finish, all bosses, and DLC on YouTube if you’re looking for a bit more help. I strongly recommend it! Best of luck, I hope you love Dark Souls as much as I do! 

Ac
Andrew Clouther Human, historian, teacher, writer, reviewer, gamer, League of Pralay, Persona fanboy, and GameZone paragon - no super powers as of yet. Message me on the Twitters: @AndrewC_GZ
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