Dark Souls tips guide
“You Died” is the most common phrase in Dark Souls, because dying is a constant and inevitable part of the game: underestimating common enemies, rolling off of rooftops or getting flambed by a giant monster.
Winning through is all about having the guts and brainpower to learn from these mistakes, and finally triumph at the scene of so many failures. Regardless, as any boy scout knows, being prepared makes a hell of a difference: here we’ll explain some of the basic but crucial steps you can take to make your character last a little longer before You Died.
1. Keep your humanity
In Dark Souls, dying makes your character change from human to hollowed. There’s no difference in the health bars, but hollowed can’t attack certain other undead creatures, can’t summon other warriors to assist, and certain NPCs will treat you differently.
On the other hand humans are slightly better in combat, with higher curse resistance and receive more item drops. So you’ll need to save up the pieces of rare ‘humanity’ you find on corpses, not only will they help turn you back human, but they’ll be crucial for tip number 2.
2. Your first big boss
After the tutorial, Dark Souls leaves you in Firelink Shrine, a hub with many possible exits. After exploring the nearby environs for goodies (there are loads), there are several places to explore – but new players should head up the staircase to the right of the starting bonfire .
This leads to the Undead Burg, the simplest starting area by far. Keep moving through here and you’ll find the Taurus Demon – Dark Souls’ first ‘proper’ boss. Take out the arrowmen on the roof behind you first, then when he arrives run back to the archers’ location – this arena is much more open. Roll instead of blocking, because you can’t block a giganto-aze, and get stuck in – standing off an enemy like this is the surest way to lose.
3. Get a good sword quick
After all that, you deserve a reward. Fancy an incredibly good sword that does mega damage? Course you do. After defeating the Taurus Demon (see number 2), head downstairs in the direction he came from: a giant dragon roasts the bridge down here, but pick your moment and run towards it and down to the right – there’s a hole to jump into. Make sure to kick the ladder in here down to create a shortcut to your earlier bonfire, then go and buy arrows from the Undead Burg merchant: 150-ish wooden arrows will do, you probably won’t need quite so many but they’re dirt cheap.
Using the ladder you’ve kicked down, climb back up to the underside of the bridge, head onto the walkway – and look at that juicy dragon tail hanging over the right side. Shoot that mother’s tail clean off, and you’ll be rewarded with the Drake Sword, which does base damage of 200 and only requires 16 strength to wield. Sadly, it isn’t voiced by Nolan North.
4. Boost your Estus
Estus is one of the key changes to Dark Souls, and a great one: a bottle of health juice that refills at bonfires and keeps you alive. You can upgrade your Estus, and get more doses from individual bonfires by ‘kindling.’ To kindle you need to be human: so defeat a boss, play online or use a humanity point. Then select ‘kindle’ at an individual bonfire, offer another humanity point, and from now on that bonfire gives 5 more doses of Estus every time.
In the Undead Parish, which you’ll find after defeating the game’s first boss, you’ll also find a ‘Soul of the Sun-seeker’ in a nearby church building – use the lift you’ll find in the area to return to the Firelink Shrine and open up a shortcut, then go down the stairs next to the starting bonfire to find a tongueless old woman who’ll give you an Estus +1 flask. Delicious, and nutritious.
5. Parry > Roll > Block
Though blocking is an essential part of Dark Souls’ combat, it should always be the last resort – with the kind of low-quality shields you have at the game’s start, your character will nearly always take a little damage with every hit. Parrying is a key skill to master (try luring one enemy near to a bonfire to practice, for easy Estus refills) but at the start just concentrate on rolling – dodging is crucial against the more powerful enemies, and against many bosses it’s the only possible defensive tactic.
6. Do you need anybody?
By far the hardest boss in the early part of the game is a pair of Gargoyles sitting atop the Undead Parish roof – and sadly, they guard something of mega-importance (no spoilers). It’s best to try them several times as a lone wolf, just to learn the attack patterns, but help is available: there’s a Sun Knight locked up in the church nearby. Free him, then turn yourself human and get ready to fight the Gargoyles: the Sun Knight can now be summoned from just outside the arena, and is a gigantic distraction for them.