The Dark Souls III Survival Guide

Dark Souls III is out today – and it’s just as deliciously challenging as all you die-hard Souls fans hoped it would be. The kingdom of Lothric is a brutal, unforgiving place, and its many horrors can catch an unprepared player off-guard. You’ll have plenty of tough obstacles to surmount no matter how you go about exploring this harsh world, but here are a few basic survival tips that will help you make the most of the game’s mechanics, and give you a much better fighting chance.

Roll… a lot. As with every Dark Souls game, rolling (that’s the B button) is the most important survival tool at your disposal. Even blocked hits will chip off some of your health (and often a lot of your stamina), and once that’s gone, whatever beefy armor you’ve equipped isn’t going to last you very long. Shrewd use of the rolling mechanic lets you get out of harm’s way, while simultaneously maneuvering yourself into a better tactical position. Make sure you’re paying attention to your equip load stat, too; the higher it is, the less distance your rolls cover (with the dreaded, avoid-at-all-costs “fat roll” – a short roll with a slow “thud” at the end – clocking in at 70% equip load). A higher Vitality stat lets you carry more stuff, but you’re better off just going lean and mean, especially early on.

That said, find a good shield and keep it raised. Shields are useful for mitigating incoming damage. Each shield has a percentile resistance value for the different kinds of damage in the game (physical, magic, fire, lightning, and dark), and it’s particularly useful to equip a shield that has high physical defense. You can (and should) buy the large leather shield (85% physical resist) from the Shrine Handmaiden in the hub area, and you’ll also find the silver eagle kite shield (100% physical resist) in the game’s first major area. Shields are useful for blocking attacks that you can’t roll away from, and for dealing with surprise ambushes (which you’ll run into often).

Mind your Stamina. Stamina is the most important stat in the game – more so than health, more so than focus (i.e. mana), more so than your damage or resistance skills. You need it attack, to block, to roll, and to do pretty much anything that involves you not becoming a human pin cushion. Managing that little green stamina bar should be at the top of your priority list of all times; when you’re fighting a tough enemy and there’s a break in the action, pull your finger off the shield button and let your stamina recharge. Run out, and staying alive gets much, much harder.

Try to stick to a plan as you level up. Fact: Your starting class doesn’t matter too much. “Class” is just a collection of stats that can be raised any way you want during the game. So, pick something that looks like it fits your play style, and roll out (literally, roll). As you gain levels and start picking stats to increase, try to have a plan in mind. Do not haphazardly put points into lots of different stats; Dark Souls III is not a game where you can be proficient at everything, and you need to pick some sort of specialization. If you want to be a melee warrior, then Strength and Dexterity (this one’s especially useful for equipping bows) are your friends. Magic-oriented characters will want to pump Attunement for extra focus and spell slots; sorceries run on Intelligence, while miracles are powered by Faith (and you’d do well to pick one or the other). If you just can’t decide, pump points into Endurance (stamina) and Vigor (health), which you’ll get a ton of mileage out of no matter what you’re building toward.

Find a weapon you like, and invest in it heavily and frequently. You’ll begin finding titanite shards almost immediately, and these can be traded to the blacksmith in your hub area to upgrade your weapons. Don’t hoard these; spend them on upgrades early and often, even if you plan on switching to a different weapon later (believe us, you won’t run out of titanite sources). Weapon upgrades make a much more dramatic difference in your damage output than comparatively incremental stat upgrades, so don’t be shy about visiting the blacksmith. As far as the weapons themselves go, the general rule of thumb is that any weapon – even a basic thrusting blade like a longsword or broadsword – can capably carry you through the entire game if you continue to upgrade it regularly. Don’t worry too much about early-game weapons getting outclassed!

Learn from your mistakes. Dark Souls III is not a game that you can merrily button-mash your way through. It’s crucial for you to observe and react to enemy attack patterns and animations; if you encounter a new enemy, spend some time watching its actions, and try to figure out when it’s at its weakest, then capitalize on that. And don’t go crazy, either – if you run out of stamina, you’re probably going to take some otherwise-avoidable hits. Take your time, and don’t get greedy. We can’t say that last part enough: Don’t get greedy. There’s a reason that seasoned Souls vets are fond of this phrase, and you don’t want to put yourself into a situation where you think “Just a couple more quick hits and this boss is dead!” and quickly it turns into a “YOU DIED” screen because you threw caution to the wind. Always fight methodically, no matter how close you are to victory.

It’s OK to ask for help. Make sure you buy the white sign soapstone from the Shrine Handmaiden as soon as possible – this is an unlimited use item that lets you summon players to your game (only if you’ve used an ember to put yourself in “Lord of Cinder” mode), and allows you to be summoned to theirs. It’s especially useful to summon help for some of the game’s challenging boss fights. No need to go it alone!

That should be enough to get you started – and don’t worry, you’ll learn plenty more hard-knocks lessons as you earn your victories in this engrossing, challenging game. Dark Souls III is out now on Xbox One!