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Dark Souls Top 10 Starting Tips and Survival Guide

Updated on March 24, 2012

One of the great things Dark Souls is renowned for is its difficulty. Some of its challenges derive from the powerful foes, treacherous landscape, and lack of direction. All of these are uncontrolled factors, but what you can control is how you slice your way through these challenges.

What you can do in the beginning:

  1. Talk to every NPC (Non-Playable Character).

In some games NPC’s are simply around in abundance or having little interesting to say that the game hasn’t already been told to you. In Dark Souls they are your only source of story and help. Just remember not everyone is honest in the world filled with undead.

2. Get a feel for the dodge, block, counter, and riposte game play.

Practice these on lesser enemies when you have the health to spare and/or are near a bonfire. Getting your skills and timing homed in will make the lesser enemies much easier and give you a fighting chance against bosses on first encounters. Dark Souls requires excellent timing to perform ripostes and risky dodges underneath swords and bosses legs. The timing will come naturally with the amount of time you spend doing each in the game.

3. Use your souls, don’t hoard them.

No reason to make the game more difficult than it already is, use your souls to level up or buy items as much as you need. If you hoard souls you will likely eventually loose them and there is nothing in the game you need to save them for. A couple pieces of equipment or upgrades are expensive, but by the time you get the chance to get them you will be able to just kill the next boss for the souls or farm that area for them quickly.

4. Be aware of your surroundings.

Running away in Dark Souls is not craven but smart. Sometimes you need to pull back behind a wall/doorway to avoid being cleaved in two. Other times you have to trek along steep pathways with close ledges. When you are dodging, fighting, and sprinting around the map it’s always a good idea to know where your feet are.

5. Dodge often and backwards if possible.

Doing this will put you out of range of whatever is attacking you and give you extra time to decide how best to tackle your foe. Once you are comfortable with dodging you can use it to get around or under foes quickly to get in some great damage against their side and back.

6. Pick up every item and try most of them out.

Most gamers have a tendency to decide on their class and stick to it; using only heavy armor and two handed weapons or just leather and daggers. Each weapon handles a little different, even when the weapons are in the same class. Damage is not always the most important factor, speed and attack types are also very important. I urge you to try most of what you pick up as you might find yourself unexpectedly liking it and the game makes it very easy to change what you’re using or use many different things.

7. Be prepared for white fog gates.

Traversing the fog usually means a boss or a new area, either way you want to be prepared. Usually you have come pretty far from a bonfire when you reach one. I recommend running back to the last bonfire to refill your flasks and spend your spare souls before going through the fog. Now that you know where you’re going (you remember, right?) you can sprint there dodging enemy attacks and taking minimal damage as enemies almost never follow you through the fog. You can also look for a door to open or hidden shortcut back to the bonfire so you won’t have to fight all the enemies to get back to the fog again.

8. Do suicide runs in every area when you first arrive or first die if you’re human.

When your reach a new bonfire spend your souls, take off your gear (you can keep it on if you prefer a little protection over a little mobility), and start sprinting around the unexplored areas, dodging out of range and under enemy blows. Doing these runs will not only help you see what challenges you have coming up ahead, but will allow you to grab all the loot laying around without having to fight for it! Caution: You will become undead if you are human when you die and drop your souls and humanity, so make sure you’ve used them or are confidant that you can fight your way back to pick them up without dying.

9. Always look for shortcuts and secret areas.

There are some obvious short cuts like doors that can only be opened on one side, but there are many more that are drops hidden behind barrels or areas that require a clever jump to reach. If you can have faster access to a bonfire or find extra gear it will help tremendously. I still found a couple new areas in my second and even third play through!

10. Try attacking lesser enemies as fast as you can.

Many lesser undead will be stunned when you attack them so if you can land the first strike it is a huge advantage. If you are fighting one enemy you can finish them quickly. In the more likely case that you are engaging many, a first strike and then dodge will put you with one stunned enemy and others that just missed their attacks. You can also quickly strike one enemy and then the next and alternate between them which will keep them from attacking. The more enemies you’re engaged with the more difficult this will be. This strategy is essential against enemies with projectiles as you will usually still take damage through your shield if you choose to block.

A final note for Dark Souls: Don’t get discouraged when you die. Whether you were saving up some souls or humanity or just almost made it to the next bonfire. This game might be a little frustrating at times (especially the ones where you find yourself unlucky twice in a row...), but it makes it that much more satisfying when you finally slay that boss or kindle that next bonfire! Be resilient and enjoy Dark Souls!

Thanks for reading!


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