You’ve probably heard lots of things about Dark Souls. Most likely, you’ve heard that Souls games are incredibly challenging, and sometimes downright confusing. And maybe that’s made you shy away from the franchise. But we’re here to tell you that you can do it! Yes, you! These games are definitely challenging, yes, but they’re also incredibly rewarding – you just need to understand what you’re getting yourself into. Now that Dark Souls III has finally arrived, we’re here to help you prepare for a unique and fascinating journey. And, spoiler alert: It’s not really as rough as it sounds.
You will die. You will die a lot.
Just get that in your head right off the bat. The Souls franchise is all about delivering a serious challenge, and that means a lot of trial and error (and for “error” read: “dying”). So you need to be prepared for that. But you also need to keep in mind that in this game, dying doesn’t equal failure; you’ll learn something new each time you set out, and maybe even pick up some crucial new gear in the process. The important thing is to approach each encounter as a learning experience: Whether you survive or not, you’ll be making progress. You’ll die better next time… and eventually, you’ll stop dying in that place and start dying in a new place!
But dying isn’t really that bad.
Here’s the thing about death in Dark Souls: It’s a setback, not a game-ender. For one thing, you keep all your gear, including anything you picked up since visiting your most recent bonfire (which serve as checkpoints and fast-travel hubs). And unlike in previous games, Dark Souls III doesn’t punish you for repeated deaths with a steadily dwindling health bar. So the only thing you really lose are any Souls you’ve collected – Souls being the main currency in the game. But even that’s not so bad; if you can make it back to where you died, you’ll find your lost Souls waiting patiently for your return! That said, understand that hoarding Souls isn’t a great idea, because if you die again before picking up those dropped Souls, they’re gone forever (and, in case we need to remind you, you’re going to die a lot). So you’ll want to make sure you’re spending your Souls whenever possible.
Every fight matters.
Now, if you’d like to not die so much, you need to realize that just about any enemy in the game deserves your full attention. There is no enemy in Dark Souls III that you can just blast your way through (at least, not until you’re a very high level and fighting very low-level enemies). So be prepared to focus on each new enemy, study its attack patterns, and learn its strengths and weaknesses. This is an absolute necessity for success, so understand that you’ll need to take it slow and smart every time you encounter a new baddie – every time.
You will be confused.
One of the most delightful things about the Souls series is that it forces you to figure stuff out on your own – dramatically more stuff than in most other games. That means that you’re going to spend some time having absolutely no idea a) what is going on, and/or b) where to go next. Don’t be hard on yourself; this is by design! There’s always an answer, and there’s nothing quite like that “light bulb” feeling you get when you’ve finally sussed it out. This game will give you many opportunities to experience that feeling; it’s not a puzzle game, but it offers many of the same mental rewards. That said, if the idea still scares you, know that the game bakes in some features to help give you a nudge. They’re just handled a little differently than most games.
But there’s always help available.
The multiplayer aspect of the Souls series is fascinating and unique. For one thing, you can leave messages for other players scrawled right on the environment, and of course read messages others have left. These can offer hints, directions, or sometimes just simple encouragement (but don’t believe everything you read; some players delight in causing misery by directing others to certain death). You’ll often also be able to see ghostly replays of other players’ deaths, which can help you avoid some hazards. Certain items can also let you enlist other players directly to help you out – or offer your own services to others. And if all else fails? The Internet is your friend. Yes, Souls games are so challenging and complex that they encourage players to share their tips with the world. Don’t be ashamed to take advantage of videos or strategy guides if you find yourself hitting a brick wall. And once you’ve gotten your legs under you, don’t be afraid to share your experience with others.
There’s nothing quite like a Souls game, and if you’ve never experienced one, now is the perfect time. Dark Souls III is available now on Xbox One.