Much has been written about the difficulty of the From Software games over the past few years. That can seem quite intimidating to newcomers, but do not despair, us lovely folks at Def Exclusive have a guide to help you through those early stages to make the most of your experience if Dark Souls III is your first venture into the franchise.
Don’t fret about starting class/gift!
The starting classes merely determine what weapons you start with, which you will be quickly replacing anyway (with the exception of the Estoc). The minor stat boosts in various categories are negligible early game and you can easily convert your build through levelling up. It is also possible to respec your character later on in the game if you truly want to min/max with wasted skill points.
The starting gift has situational implications that are not made clear to a new character and in my opinion, it comes to a choice of three items. The Fire Gem can add an early buff to a weapon, giving an advantage to the first two areas, but this is by no means overpowered. The Black Firebombs can make the second form of the very first boss a cakewalk, but other than that, there are only five of them that go quickly. My personal choice is the Young White Branch, which serves one purpose, don’t use it and in an area where a giant is firing dangerous arrows, they now only target enemies, making a tricky area a piece of piss.
Do explore all of the area before progressing!
Pretty much every item in the game serves some purpose. It is best to try and obtain everything, not to mention that the exploration may uncover shortcuts or entirely new easy to miss areas! The most helpful items very rarely lie on the road most travelled. Once you have explored a particular branch off, then it is not required to visit it again meaning your bonfire to boss journey is that much quicker. Just because I love you, here is a brief guide on how to get a very early Estus Shard, an item used to increase the number of healing vials you hold:
Do exhaust all NPC dialogue!
NPCs are found in various spots through the game and have a variety of things to say. Most have a side quest attached to them which you can miss if you don’t hear everything they have to say. It isn’t a pain as they generally don’t go on for ages, usually two or three different instances of selecting ‘talk’ after which point they simply repeat their last line of speech. But tied to the exploration point, these characters often serve a dual use, such as Greirat the Thief, who can be found early on and sells cheaper items than the hag, and will go on hunts for new stuff to sell. Again, here is how to obtain him at the first available opportunity:
Do use all of your souls!
For new players, after a boss fight, grab the bonfire and go back to level up. Don’t risk losing the valuable amount you get from a boss in a vain attempt to make it through unchartered territory. After levelling up your character/ weapon, you are likely to have more and more souls left over as the game goes on. It is highly probable if you continue, that you will lose them permanently, so spend them at the merchant. Stock up on arrows, firebombs, buffing items etc. It never hurts to have an excess of any of these things, as what you carry is restocked when you rest at a bonfire or die.
Do join the covenants!
Covenants can provide great rewards as you deepen your loyalty to them. Also for the first time in this franchise, switching covenants is as simply as equipping their symbol so you can enjoy different aspects of the online elements at your leisure. Without a doubt, the most popular covenant with the Souls’ community is the Mound Makers. This is the only completely missable covenant in the game, in the sense that you cannot go back later on to find it. This is early game and after beating the Curse Rotted Greatwood, it is locked out for that playthrough. Our guide, as ever is here:
Do read messages!
Messages are often helpful. Obviously some people place things just to troll other players, but that is half the fun. They can help you discover secret walls and routes, and if there isn’t a message pointing it out, leave one. And always rate them, it takes a second and is only polite. Also some messages are put there by the developer as a hint to overcoming a puzzle, these can be identified as there is no rating option on them. That way you know the advice is true.
Don’t neglect the bow!
The bow is a valuable tool in the game. It is extremely challenging to play the game with the bow only as many YouTube content providers have shown. As a secondary weapon it is extremely valuable. Sniping can be slow, but ultimately an easy way of clearing troubling foes such as dragons. Arrows are relatively cheap, easy to fully stock up using the ‘excess souls’ discussed earlier. The most valuable use for the bow is for drawing enemies out of a group. Three enemies at once can often be too much to handle, but with one distance shot, one of those enemies will come over to fight on your terms, often in an area of your choosing. It always pays to have some form of ranged backup in this game, particularly in dexterity heavy builds.
Don’t worry about dying!
Death is a lesson in the Souls’ franchise. It is the mechanic the game is built around. In theory, if you die, you should easily make it back to that area, perhaps more efficiently and be able to retrieve lost souls. If you followed my advice earlier, it shouldn’t be too punishing if you don’t. If an area is consistently kicking your arse, try farming to improve your weapon, or levelling up. Failing that, try a different approach, be it ranged or item based, there is always a way to make things easier for yourself. Most importantly is the final point…
Do take a break!
It is very easy to lose yourself for hours in any Souls game. This can be detrimental to your play and sanity. If you are struggling too much, take a break. As hard as it may be to walk away, often the answer to any problem will come to you when you are away from the game, leaving you to attack it with renewed vigour. A tired mind can frequently make a rewarding challenge seem like a stressful chore and suck any fun out of it. Don’t let that happen to you.
As ever, this listicle is not exhaustive and one of the beauties about these games is how helpful the community can be towards each other (as well as being utter bastards). We have a comments section, feel free to utilise it to discuss and share experiences with each other.