Is this your first Souls game? Are you unsure how to handle its fabled difficulty? Are you stuck fighting Iudex Gundyr? Here’s some tips from a series veteran.
Other DS3 Guides:
- General Gameplay Tips
- Classes & Gifts
- How to Beat Iudex Gundyr
- Levelling up & Choosing the Best Weapon
- Ember, Co-op & Invasions
- Closing Words
Dark Souls has become more or less synonymous with “brutal difficulty” today, and people compare anything they can’t beat with the series. However, a lot of people haven’t played any of the games in the series, and their legendary impossibility is an exaggeration – Dark Souls difficulty is very fair, and even though the games are hard, it is very rarely the game’s fault when something goes awry. The games are all about risk versus reward, and paying attention to your surroundings often reward you with hidden items, sniping spots that trivializes encounters, and spotting ambushes before the enemies get a chance to swarm you. Don’t expect to steamroll through DS3; a vital part of the experience is learning about enemy patterns, about the grounds you fight on, and about your own wits and weapons.
When you finally beat the final boss of DS3, you will have transformed into a much stronger player than when you started out. Your dedication and determination will have tempered you, made you more careful, more adaptive, more precise. Coming to this realization is… kinda hard to describe, actually, but the gist of the whole thing is that you’ll be forced to grow as a gamer and as a person while playing a Souls game, and any achievement you accomplish will give you a true sense of satisfaction; like you actually achieved something rather than just experienced a clump of content.
This probably sounds discouraging, but long story short: every time you die, you will get better at the game, even if you don’t realize it. Just don’t give up and you’ll eventually get through the entire game.
Don’t be afraid to look up wikis and such – both lore and instructions in DS3 are obscure, and if you don’t enjoy detective work, there’s no reason to get stuck just because you don’t know where to go next.
DS3 is the most linear game in the series, but there’s lots of nooks and crannies with hidden goodies in every level. Be on your lookout for hidden passages, sometimes just rotating the camera a bit reveals overlooked corridors and ladders just ’round the corner.
General Gameplay Tips
There’s a lot of stuff to be aware of, hopefully this list is to some help.
- Dying makes you drop all your souls (currency used to buy items and level up) at the last piece of safe ground you were at. Interact with this bloodstain to reclaim them. However, dying a second time will destroy your old bloodstain and make you lose those souls permanently. To mimize the risk of this, try to spend your souls in Firelink Shrine whenever possible (especially before going to unknown territory) and if you run into trouble, run back to safe territory so they get easier to retrieve.
- Other than dropping your currently held souls, there’s no lasting penalty for dying. Keep trying until you make it!
- Avoid running into groups of enemies, getting surrounded is never a good thing. Attack groups from the outside or try splitting them up.
- Keep an eye on your stamina bar. If it hits the bottom, your attacks will get slower and weaker until it’s fully recovered, and some actions will be impossible to do (like dashing).
- When stunlocking an enemy with an attack combo, try to save up a sliver of stamina so you can dodgeroll out of their reach before they get a counterattack on you.
- You’re invincible for around one third of a second when doing a dodgeroll. Use this invincibility to roll through attacks when possible and you can end up in a better spot to counterattack.
- You don’t need to dodgeroll to dodge attacks, sometimes just walking out of their range in time is enough, especially for projectiles.
- Be mindful of your equip load – having more than 70% cripples your dodgerolls and stamina recovery, and going over 100% will make you almost unable to move. It’s ALWAYS better to dodge an attack and take no damage than to get hit and take damage, even if it’s reduced, so prioritize your speed over your armor rating.
- Shields are generally better than armor for mitigating damage (especially metal shields with 100% physical block) but blocking drains your stamina proportional to the power of the attack. If your stamina runs out this way, you get guardbroken and unable to act for several seconds. Some enemies can capitalize on this for massive damage, so be aware of the risks. Also note that when guarding, your stamina recovery speed is quartered, so let your guard down when it’s safe to let your stamina recover.
- Practice fighting both with and without lock-on, locking on makes it easier to walk into a corner or off a ledge without noticing, in particular with groups of enemies.
- The majority of enemies can be outrun. If you just want to get back to your bloodstain and get your souls back, or just can’t fight the enemies in an area, just run past them… it’s surprisingly effective as long as you know where you’re going.
- Whenever you find a door that says “Doesn’t open from this side.”, you’ve found a shortcut you can unlock later. Make a mental note of that and try to find the other side of this door, they’re generally nice timesavers for getting back to a boss or hard sub-area.
- There’s lots of ambushes. When you see an item out in the open, always assume it’s a trap. Walking around with your shield up can help blocking surprise throwing knives and arrows from enemies you didn’t see.
Classes & Gifts
There’s a whole lot of classes and gifts to choose from, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Classes are the most important, however neither are particularly important due to the game’s focus on customizability; you can be any combination of the starting classes with a bit of stat and gear investment further down the line.
One of the easiest classes to play as due to solid equipment and balanced stats. Has no strengths, but also no weaknesses. Starts with the best shield and weapon of the starting classes.
Starts off with a paired weapon that allows you to use dual wielding right away, focused on Dexterity. Not a good class if you’re new to the series, but a good starting point if you’re interested in the new dual wielding system.
Starts off with high Strength, focused on big heavy weapons. Has the highest starting HP and Stamina of all classes, making it another solid class for beginners, and has the lowest amount of points in the magic stats (attunement, intelligence, faith) which means it’s the best choice if you plan on being pure melee… no points are wasted in stats you won’t use.
Starts off with a spear, a decent shield, and the worst healing magic in the game. Not terribly good at anything, and if you’re going for a paladin type character, starting as a Knight or Cleric and then respeccing towards whatever you lack will give you an easier time.
Starts with a bow and a dagger, although you can’t get any replacement arrows until you’re past Iudex Gundyr. Backstabs with a dagger deal very high damage, but you’d likely want a sword or katana early on for direct confrontations. Advanced class.
Starts with a rapier and an utility sorcery that negates fall damage and makes your footsteps inaudible, allowing you to take some shortcuts and just sneak past enemies. An advanced class, but has a lot of use early on, especially if you’re going for a spellsword build.
A magic-centric class that starts with two Soul Arrow spells. Deals heavy damage to Iudex Gundyr and a lot of other targets, but remember to keep an eye on your MP bar when using magic.
Starts with fire magic and an axe, making them a good spellsword character although they’re a bit weak early on. Pyromancy magic requires investment in both intelligence and faith, but the investment pays off as many annoying enemies are cripplingly weak to fire – and you will be able to use both sorceries and miracles as well if you have points in both intelligence and faith.
Starts with a mace, a healing miracle, and a shockwave miracle. Clerics are surprisingly versatile even in single-player, the shockwave spell can guardbreak enemies or even knock them off ledges into death pits and having access to a healing spell can cut down on your Estus usage. Shines really well in co-op since most healing and buff spells are AoE and also affects your allies, though. The mace is a really good weapon against armored enemies and skeletons, and a close second to the Knight’s starting Longsword as the best starting weapon.
Starts off with no armor and really shoddy equipment, mainly intended as a challenge class. However, their starting Club is surprisingly powerful when two-handed and very fast, and you can even stun Iudex Gundyr with enough hits, letting you wail on him with impunity.
- Life Ring: Gives a +5% max HP boost when equipped. It’s not a lot early on since your HP is so low, and later on you are likely to find rings with more useful effects, so it’s not as good as it seems.
- Divine Blessing: a single-use full recovery item. Takes too long to use in combat, and outside of combat there’s other ways to heal, making this too awesome to use AND too impractical to use.
- Hidden Blessing: the MP version of the Divine Blessing. Situationally a lifesaver, but not early on.
- Black Firebomb: 5 bombs that make the first boss battle easier. They’re consumable, so they’re not really something to rely on, and they’re gone once you use them.
- Fire Gem: have the blacksmith in Firelink Shine use this, and you can infuse a weapon with the power of fire. This is a big power boost early on and the weapon is permanently fire-elemental afterwards, making this the best gift for most cases.
- Soverignless Soul: gives you a soul item that can be consumed for 2000 souls. This is likely 1-2 levelups at the start of the game, and can be useful to quickly reach the requirements for advanced equipment.
- Gold Coin: consume to get a drop rate boost for a limited time. Useful if you plan to do some farming for rare drops early on, but that requires you to know what you’re looking for.
- Cracked Red Eye Orb: Used to invade other players. You shouldn’t pick this if it’s your first time playing the game since everyone you can invade are likely to be better than you.
- Young White Branch: makes an NPC later in the game non-hostile to you without you having to find them and talk to them first, letting you enter some otherwise dangerous areas much more safely than normally. You won’t see the effects of this until around 3-6 hours into the game, so it won’t help a lot early on.
How to Beat Iudex Gundyr
A lot of players runs into trouble with the boss of the tutorial area: you’ve got no way to level up or upgrade your gear yet, you can’t summon help; you’re simply FORCED to beat him with skill alone with no buffer to even the odds. There’s not a lot I can do to help you get that skill, but there’s a bunch of small tricks to keep in mind that’ll make things easier:
- Maintain a lock-on at all times so you can tell what he’s doing. If he jumps and lands behind you, turn the camera manually until he gets into view and then you’ll be able to re-establish the lockon.
- Get close to him. It’s much nicer to be hit by a hilt than a blade, and his halberd is much easier to avoid when you’re out of the range of its operative end. It’s very hard to stay out of his range, even as a spellcaster.
- Circle counter-clockwise around him; since he’s holding his halberd in his right hand, this makes you able to simply walk out of a lot of his attacks’ range.
- You’re briefly invincible when dodgerolling and backstepping, time this right to get through his attacks without taking damage. It’s often a good idea to roll INTO attacks, using your invincibility to get through them and safely end up on the other side.
- If you panic, spamming dodgerolls can help you get through a surprising amount of attacks safely.
- If your shield has 100% physical blocking, you can use it to block his attacks. Just be warned that this will likely drain most of your stamina, so you can’t win this fight using only blocking. Only use it in emergencies when you don’t have time or stamina to dodgeroll.
- Magic and fire damage are really effective, especially in his second phase.
- You’re vulnerable when you drink from the Estus Flask, so try to find openings for heals as well instead of spamming them as soon as your HP gets low.
- All Gundyr’s attacks have distinct warmup animations. Try to memorize which chargeup leads into which attack to dodge them more efficiently.
- When attacking him, always save up a little bit of stamina so you can dodgeroll away if he tries to counter.
- The second form is intimidating, but he actually deals less damage per hit and is slower now. Try to keep your cool.
- In his second form, his most dangerous attack is his jump attack that now will ALWAYS land where you are standing. Be prepared to dodgeroll out of this.
- If you just can’t do it, try starting a new file as a different character class and see if that helps… it only takes a few minutes to reach the arena, and you can save face presets to use the same character looks/name for each class you try. Class differences has a huge impact this early on.
Levelling up & Choosing the Best Weapon
When levelling up, you allot 1 stat point to any stat of your choice. The only difference between different classes is what their stats are; thus you can become any sort of character depending on how you distribute stats.
- Vigor influences your Max HP. Always a good investment.
- Endurance influences your Stamina. Also always a good investment, even though it doesn’t appear so; your stamina recovers so quickly, after all. However, having a high stamina lets you attack more times in a row, which can let you kill some enemies in one combo, and it lets you guard against stronger attacks without getting guardbroken.
- Attunement influences your max MP, and the number of spell attunement slots to equip spells in. Mostly useful for mages, although everyone benefits from MP since a lot of Weapon Artes uses a bit of MP.
- Vitality influences your equip load, e.g. how much weapons and armor you can equip before you get overencumbered. It also influences your innate defenses.
- Strength influences scaling bonuses from heavy weapons. Like all other scaling stats, investments are not that noticeable early on, when weapons have low upgrade levels and your stats are low. Many weapons have requirements for Strength or Dexterity; you can still equip them with insufficient stats, but you get a noticeably penalty to attack speed and power.
- Dexterity influences scaling bonuses from fast weapons. Twohanding a weapon gives you a +50% Strength boost, but there’s no way to boost your dexterity, so putting more stat points into Dexterity early on lets you use advanced weapons earlier if you’re OK with having to twohand them.
- Faith influences the power of lightning magic and healing miracles, as well as pyromancies.
- Intelligence influences the power of sorceries and crystal weapons, as well as pyromancies.
- Luck influences your drop rates and scaling of Hollow weapons. Generally not worth investing in.
I would personally recommend going for 20 STR and 20 DEX if you’re unsure how to level up; this allows you to use the majority of weapons in the game (with the exception of greathammers, ultra greatsword, paired katanas and other advanced categories). Don’t forget to level up HP and stamina, either.
What is the best weapon in the game? Sadly, that’s a question you’ll need to answer yourself, because many good weapons have radically different playstyles and being comfortable with your weapon’s moveset is way more important than its stats; after all, if you can’t use it effectively, the stats won’t matter.
Weapons found early in the game can stay relevant through the entire game; weapons found later are generally more extreme in one way or another (such as being very heavy or very slow in exchange for high attack power) and are harder to use in exchange for more power, while weapons found early lack strengths but also weaknesses.
- Greatswords and Ultra Greatswords Locations.
- Katanas and Thrusting Swords Locations.
- Hammers, Axes and Greataxes Locations.
- Bows, Greatbows, and Crossbows Locations.
Some General Tips for Weapons and Upgrades
- Quick weapons like Broadswords generally are more powerful in the long run, even if they have lower stats than a big heavy hammer or such – you can hit enemies more times in a row, and you can capitalize on very brief opportunities to strike back.
- If you infuse a weapon with your starting Fire Gem, it will lose scaling completely in exchange for a power boost and elemental damage. This means you’re free to spend your levelups on stamina or HP with no loss of power, which is very helpful early on.
- Upgrading a weapon has a better impact on its power than levelling up your stats, especially early on. Make sure to upgrade weapons you like to keep them relevant.
- Broken weapons can be repaired, so don’t worry too much about durability. Durability is also fully restored when you rest at a bonfire, except for broken weapons.
- Always try out a weapon before you start upgrading it and see if you like it, upgrade materials are pretty rare early on and you don’t want to waste them on a weapon you end up not using.
- There are three types of weapons: normal ones are upgraded with ordinary titanite, Unique ones are upgraded with Twinkling Titanite, and weapons made from boss souls are upgraded with Titanite Scales. Unique and Boss weapons have a lower upgrade cap (+5 instead of +10) but gets a higher boost per upgrade level.
Some Tips About Good Weapons
- Deep Battle Axe: found in a mimic in the High Wall of Lothric, inside the tower guarded by a dragon. The mimic is challenging to get past, but this dark-infused axe has great power this early on.
- Uchigatana: dropped by the katana guy outside Firelink Shrine. Requires an ample 18 DEX to use, but is superior to a western sword in most ways, at least this early on. The katana guy is a formidable foe, but he has no way to counter projectiles – as a Pyromancer or Sorcerer, this is a cakewalk to obtain.
- Lothric Knight Sword: a nice longsword dropped by the knights that’s all over the High Wall. If you don’t feel like farming for it, a normal Longsword or Broadsword is a really good substitute.
- Irithyll Straight Sword: dropped by a miniboss in the Undead Settlement. A longsword that inflicts Frostbite, which debuffs enemies’ defense and stamina recovery, making this an excellent weapon for fighitng armored or shielded enemies.
- Vordt’s Great Hammer: Made from the first “real” boss’ soul. Surprisingly few players pick this since you could turn his soul into a good ring instead, but it’s a mace with a frostbite effect – the strongest frostbite buildup in the game, in fact. It’s much faster than you’d expect, and with the frostbite and blunt damage combo, this is even better than the Irithyll Straight Sword at countering armored enemies and an excellent weapon for strength-based builds.
Ember, Co-op & Invasions
There’s a mechanic in DS3 called Embering. When in an embered state, you get a 30% HP boost and can see summon signs for NPCs and other players, letting you summon them as allies (or as enemies, when you summon them from a purple Mad Phantom sign or from a red Dark Phantom sign). This state is entered when you consume an Ember, and you get the effect for free when a boss is slain. Ember is lost when you die. As a phantom, you also lack the embering HP boost, but you get the ember effect back when you return to your world, even if you die when summoned.
However, while in Embered state, other players can invade you, acting as strong enemies in your world and generally getting in your way. (There’s also NPC invaders in multiple places).
To avoid player invasions, play the game in offline mode (this will also, obviously, make it impossible to summon other players as allies). Unless you’re playing a full co-op run with someone, it’s generally better to explore areas in non-embered state and only use an Ember and summoning allies before you take on a boss, to reduce the risk of invasions.
Embers are relatively precious and rare, so use them wisely. The earliest enemy you can farm infinitely for Embers are the Lothric Knights in the High Wall of Lothric, the stretch between Vordt’s boss room and the church is a decent farming spot.
To summon someone, you need to be Embered. However, you don’t need to be Embered to BE summoned, you just need the White Soapstone to lay down summon signs. This is sold by the Shrine Handmaiden, the shopkeeper in Firelink Shrine. Not all areas are co-opable, so if the stone is grayed out you’re in one of those. Most areas are, however, with Firelink Shrine being the main exception.
As a phantom, you lose nothing on death, so it’s a completely risk-free way of exploring new areas and farming for souls (both players are awarded the full soul drops of slain enemies; phantoms are awarded less than the normal souls drops for bosses, however.). If you help the host player beat a boss, you get a free Ember as well. Don’t be afraid of co-op, it’s more fun than you’d think… I was a skeptic as well when I was new to the game.
Dark Souls 3 is by no means an easy game, but if someone like me can go from starting it with no prior experience to beating it in just 80 hours…
If you’re prepared to struggle and spend just as much time “levelling up yourself” by learning boss patterns and dodge timings as you spend levelling up your character, you will make it through DS3 eventually. Just don’t give up, never stop learning, never stop believing in yourself.
That’s how you get good.
Written by Yal