Dark Souls honors the age-old tradition of difficult video games. The newest release, Dark Souls: Remastered, holds true to itself with familiar enemies and environments. Don’t let the improved frame rates, graphic textures, and summoning abilities fool you – this game still enjoys thrashing unsuspecting players into oblivion.
If you’re new to the game, welcome!
Whether an old fan coming back for a second taste or a first timer looking to prepare themselves for the challenge, we’ve got a few lessons from Soulsborne veterans that will help smooth your experience.
Prepare to Die
This isn’t just a catchphrase, it’s a tenet inseparable from the game’s core.
On the surface level, Dark Souls’ design is meant to kill in a number of different ways; sneaky corners conceal hidden enemies, boss attacks are often timed to catch those who dodge too soon or too late, and deadly cliffs are generously spread throughout your precarious path. However, in a strange way, these pitfalls are also fair: masterful players have historically completed no-hit, no-death runs, which means that skill and knowledge can overcome any trial within the game.
On a spiritual level, Dark Souls is meant to give you a REAL sense of pride and accomplishment. Dying once, twice, or even 50 times isn’t a sign of failure to a Soulsborne player, it’s a spice that makes victory 100 times more satisfying. Our first attempt to defeat the bosses Ornstein and Smough on a solo playthrough ended after 20 deaths, but was probably the greatest single gaming moment of all time.
Basically, if you’re prepared to die and get back to the fight, you’ll eventually overcome any difficulties. Even Blighttown, we promise.
Speaking of which…
A Quick Note on Blighttown
We suggest running. There aren’t many good items here, and it’s not great for farming souls. Sprint down to the poison swamp, hug the right wall until you find the drain bonfire, and use that as your Forward Operating Base (FOB) to fight Chaos Witch Quelaag.
If you really want to fight your way through, we commend you. Battling through Blighttown’s hellish quagmire automatically awards you with Dark Souls Veteran status.
Choose your Playstyle
Dark Souls doesn’t provide enough levels to become excellent at every classification: you need to choose what to be, then invest in that. Here are a few general categories, along with their pros and cons.
- The Two-handed Boss. This is our favorite. Rather than using a shield, the two-handed boss should wield a damage-heavy weapon like the Zweihander (which is available early on) and keep weight down in every other way.
Pros: You deal massive damage, roll quickly, and feel awesome.
Cons: Player vs. player (PvP) is hard because Ultra Greatswords can be parried (knocked away by a shield, during an attack, to create an opening for deadly counterattacks). Also, you’ll take slightly more damage, but armor in Dark Souls doesn’t do much anyway.
- The Tank and the Knight, two sides of the same coin. Both use a shield in one hand and a weapon in the other, but tanks wear more armor and heavier shields to increase poise at the cost of speed.
Pros: Shields are a great way to keep safe while learning the mechanics of the game.
Cons: One-handing weapons reduces damage considerably!
- The Sorcerer. Grab a catalyst and fire soul weapons! This has been called the game’s “Easy Mode” because sorcerers can stand far away from enemies.
Pros: Safety and cool-looking spells.
Cons: A much slower playthrough, weakness to quick enemies, difficult PvP, and low damage against enemies with magical defense. Don’t be scared, sorcerers are really great.
- The Pyromancer. Like the sorcerer, pyromancers cast magic from a distance. However, the pyromancer’s tool – a pyromancy flame – can be used by almost anyone and weighs nothing. Many users fall in love with this build because the game makes starting out with a few fireballs quite easy, and leads to greater attacks.
Pros: Damage, fun, and FIRE.
Cons: Numerous levels must be allocated that could be used for endurance, health, and other aspects.
- The Thief. Here, everything about speed matters! Keep weight low, carry a fast-moving weapon, and hold the buckler shield. Dodging easily is a pro, but the biggest benefit comes from the ability to avoid parries, parry others, and punish slower attacks. The con is high damage taken.
- The Creative. Many players find interesting combinations with surprising results. Want to use a whip or a claw weapon? Cast dark spells exclusively? Go for it, and let us know how it works for you!
- The no-no’s. There are two things you should probably stay away from: Clerics and archers. Throwing lightning as a Cleric may sound awesome, but the slow casting and low damage make the build terrible. Archers also do very little damage with arrows and need to constantly buy arrows, since they do not regenerate at bonfires like miracles or sorceries. We’re not saying you can’t try these builds, we just strongly advise against it.
Remember, whatever you choose, have fun with it! Any type of character can be used well in the right hands and the game rewards those who are clever and persistent.
What locked doors did you see? Where did you find that one pathway? Since Dark Souls has no mini-map, navigation can become difficult. This becomes even more of an issue as the game progresses and new areas open up, forcing the player to backtrack multiple times. Even after fast traveling becomes available, locations still are difficult to find. A journal might be the key to remembering if you’re avoiding walkthroughs.
Having too much trouble with a boss? That’s what the summoning system was created for! It allows you to bring other Dark Souls players – called “Phantoms” – into your world to help. There are a few things to know:
Summon signs will appear as glowing white runes on the ground. Pressing the interact button over one will allow you to summon the player into your world, after about 20 seconds.
A number of restrictions affect summoning sign visibility:
- Internet connection. If you’re not playing online, you can’t connect to other players. Also, consoles may require you to have a special account: Xbox Gold or Playstation Live, for example. Joining the online community is well worth the cost, in our opinion.
- Humanity. Only a character that is human can summon phantoms, a hollow cannot. Humans become hollow by dying: the icon at the top left of your screen will become dark, and your character will suddenly look like a zombie. To solve this issue, gain humanity by killing enemies or using the “humanity” item. Then, rest at a bonfire and select “Restore Humanity”. Boom.
- Character considerations. Your weapon, the item you’re invading with, and your covenant can affect what players are available. This was designed to ensure early players aren’t being invaded by godlike, high-level masters. The system can complicated, but you can get around summon restrictions by password-matching in the settings menu.
- Password. If you’re not seeing summon signs, you may still have a password restriction set. Removing this will allow you to see the summon signs of random players once again.
Finally, remember that you can place your own summon sign by getting the White Sign Soapstone from Solaire of Astora, and NPC found on a balcony just after defeating the Taurus demon in Undead Burg.
Good luck and welcome to Dark Souls!