11 ‘Dark Souls 3’ Tips and Tricks to Die Less By

A glowing red knight stands before a gothic castle against a yellow sky Dark Souls 3

Dark Souls 3 artwork | Source: FromSoftware

So, you got curious about Dark Souls and thought you might look into the latest installment? There are some good reasons to play Dark Souls 3, but don’t you know curiosity killed the cat, and if you let your curiosity lead you into this game, you’re going to die plenty — one of several reasons not to play Dark Souls 3. The Dark Souls franchise is known for being incredibly difficult even for seasoned gamers. Imagine a Zelda game that wants to make you crawl into a dark corner and never come out again, and you’ve got this series. Dark Souls 3 doesn’t fail to live up to this reputation. For gamers unfamiliar with the series, there is a steep learning curve and a lot of cursing, controller-flinging, and dying in store. Hopefully, with these tips, you’ll be able to explore the world of Dark Souls 3 with a little more confidence and a little less dying.

1. Go slow and take note

Even in an encounter with the lowliest of enemies, you can die fast. So, if you’re going fast, you’re just going to amp up the speed at which you die. As you approach new areas, you should take a look around, see where enemies might come from. If something looks ominous, watch it for a while and see if some event might happen. If you take it slow, whatever’s going to happen will hopefully happen well in the distance, or at least in front of your camera. If you rush in, you may well end up flanked by a dozen enemies you never saw, or you could find yourself in the middle of a field targeted by a spear-hurling giant who doesn’t like you or anyone else.

2. Don’t be afraid to go fast

This might sound contradictory, but you should feel free to go fast through the world once you know your way around. Don’t go sprinting through unfamiliar territory unless you don’t mind getting wrecked and losing all your souls. If you have no souls, you might feel comfortable sprinting into the unknown in the hopes of learning the level a little bit or chancing upon a bonfire, but it’s really not advisable to make a habit of this. However, once you know your way around, going fast can be almost necessary. For instance, when you’re trying to get from a bonfire to a boss, the last thing you want to do is fight every enemy between the two. That’s a sure fire way to end up with lower health and less of the healing fluid in your Estus Flask when you finally reach the boss. That’s not a good way to win. So, when you know your way from the fire to the boss, make a dash for it and avoid conflict as much as possible.

3. Watch your stamina

One of the fastest ways to see your health bar drain is to let your stamina bar empty out. If you’re taking the advice to dash past enemies, you’ll want to carefully watch your stamina bar to make sure it doesn’t hit zero right when you need to be going fastest. Time your sprints and jogs so that you regain stamina in safer portions of the dash, this way you can go full speed and dive when you go through dangerous sections.

This is also of prime importance in a fight. Everything you do aside from walking around requires stamina. Dodging, blocking, attacking all require stamina. If an enemy has an opening and you attack, attack, attack with everything you’ve got, you better hope that kills it. If not, you’ll have a hard time rolling away when that enemy returns the favor. If you try to block when you’re stamina is low, you’re also in trouble. Your block will likely be broken, leaving you stunned and wide open for an attack.

To help make sure your stamina stays up, regularly pull away from your enemies. This will let your stamina recover, and it will go faster if you stop holding your block. Taking these quick breathers in the fight will also let you regain your own composure, so you can carefully plan when you strike next.

4. Study enemies before attacking

There are a lot of ways to meet an early death in this game, and among the quickest is to attack an enemy without knowing how they’ll respond. The short and simple: Most will get pissed and wreck your life. In order to have a good day, cautiously approach any new enemy like you would any new environment. Look at them, get their attention (ideally one-on-one), be ready to block and dodge, and slowly, methodically tease out their various attacks. You can do this in any order, and may find a few additional tests, but I’ll suggest starting at a distance to see how they attack when you’re at range. Maybe they’ll rush, maybe they have a range attack — it’s better that you find out before you attack them than after you’ve attacked and are trying to refill your health and recover stamina. Next, get in their face. See how they attack when you’re close to them. See how they attack when you jump around to their side or rear. Spend a bit of time doing this to see if they have a few different attack patterns.

Once you have a good idea of how they attack and when they are weak (i.e., when their focus is elsewhere or their pausing after an attack), you can begin poking at them with attacks. Don’t get greedy though. Just get in a quick attack here and there to see if they act differently when you attack. Once you’re comfortable with an enemy, you’ll (usually) have no trouble picking them apart whenever you meet — at least as long as they’re alone.

5. Know how your attacks work

This has a few meanings. For one, you want to know exactly what’s going to happen when you press a button. The Dark Souls games don’t hold your hand through much, and you’re going to be learning how to fight mostly on your own. The game will teach you that your weapon has several different attacks, but you’ll find that there are also different attacks depending on whether you press a direction as you hit the attack button, you are moving when you attack, you are sprinting when you attack, you are blocking when you attack, or you are behind an enemy when you attack. If you want to use a weapon, toy around with it in a safe space for a while, seeing what different ways you can attack with it. When you feel comfortable, test it out on some weaker, slower enemies. Some things you can only discover against an enemy, like whether an attack will knock back an enemy, or how a backstab works.

Another aspect of this is how your attacks relate to your stamina. You’ll benefit from knowing how many slashes, thrusts, or what have you that you can throw before your stamina bar hits zero. If you can stab at an enemy six times before you’re exhausted, you’ll know not to stab six times when you’re actually facing an enemy, otherwise you’ll be vulnerable.

6. Stock your inventory, spare your equipment

As mentioned, the Dark Souls games do not do much to teach you their mechanics. Dark Souls 3 is no exception. First off, you can carry a ton of stuff in your inventory, and it won’t affect you one bit, which is fantastic. But don’t confuse your inventory with your equipment. Your equipment consists of the items you are wearing or have ready at hand. If you want to be able to quickly switch between two swords, an ax, a shield, a crossbow, and another shield, you will be equipping all of these. When you equip things, they add to your character’s weight. Things in your inventory don’t weigh you down (Looking at you, Skyrim).

You can see how much items weigh in the menus, and you can also see what your total weight is. That’s all good and dandy, but then there’s the unsurprisingly unexplained weight ratio stat. You may have to do a bit of research to figure out the systems in play, but to put it simply, the higher your weight ratio, the worse off your character will be in a few regards. If you’re quite heavy, you will have a less acrobatic dodge roll, you’ll be slower, and your stamina will recover more slowly. If your ratio is low, you will have a better dodge, you’ll be faster, and you’ll regain your stamina more quickly. Of course, if you’re planning to be a heavily armored, hammer-wielding juggernaut, don’t let the weight ratio scare you away from wearing the armor that suits you. You just really want to make sure you don’t go over 100%, as this will bog you down like a full backpack in Skyrim, and you’ll find yourself even easier prey for enemies than you already were.

7. Improve and vary your weapons

You get souls and you level up your character. Duh. But you should not neglect to ‘level up’ your weapons with reinforcements and infusions. Reinforcing a weapon with titanite shards or whatever else might be required should simply make your weapon better and better and better. Under no circumstances should you neglect to reinforce. Infusions are a bit more complicated. Often they will lower certain aspects of your weapon while increasing other aspects. For instance, a flame infusion will lower your weapon’s base physical damage, but add fire damage, and will likely change how its damage scales with some of your attributes. If you have a character with high dexterity, you might look for an infusion that will give your weapon better scaling with dexterity (expressed with a letter grade from E at the low end to A and S at the high end). Be careful with infusions though, as you can easily ruin your favorite weapon by picking an infusion that doesn’t benefit you, and then you’ll have to pay to reverse the process.

Improving your weapons is one aspect to ensuring you have the tools you need to dispatch your foes. The other aspect is picking the tool that suits the task. You might love your fire-infused thrusting sword so much that you decided to stock up on three of them. And while that might be all well and good against fleshy enemies, you’re going to find yourself in a pinch if you go up against a flame enemy like the one in the video above. A beast like that is already going to shrug off most of your attacks, and if you’re counting on half of your damage to come from fire, you’re going to be sorely disappointed when most or all of it is simply absorbed. To that end, you may do well to carry a few different types of weapons with varying infusions. Feel free to carry a few thrusting swords if that’s your favorite, but give them different infusions. Also think about having weapons with different physical damage types. You might not like hammers, but if you’re fighting a bunch of enemies strong against thrusting attacks, that hammer could soon be your best friend — of course you’ll want to revisit tip No. 5 before you get yourself killed with that new weapon.

8. Spend souls often

You’re going to die a lot in Dark Souls 3, in case you had already realized that, but as long as you can make it back to where you died, you can retrieve all the souls you had collected. These things function as both currency and experience points, so their value should be obvious. Fail to make it back to your last resting place, and those souls are gone. And since each soul is hard-won in this game, you want to minimize your risk. To do that, it’s a good idea to spend your souls as soon as you have enough to get what you want, whether that’s a level-up or a spell or item you have your eye on.

Keeping as few souls on your person as possible is the best way to protect yourself. That way if you do lose souls, you won’t lose too many. And remember, if you almost have enough souls to buy what you want, see if you have any soul items in your inventory (you usually find these on corpses). Using a soul item gives you more souls instantly. Just don’t use these soul items when you don’t need to. They are safe in your inventory, but if you turn them into spendable souls while you’re out adventuring, then you can lose them just the same as any other souls. Another smart way to get a few more souls in a pinch is to head somewhere relatively safe and carefully kill enemies near the bonfire, return to the bonfire for some health and to let those same easy enemies respawn.

9. Lose to bosses (and any enemy) intelligently

Let’s face it, this game is hard. Ordinary enemies can be hard. Bosses are harder. If you’re reading this, you’re probably not a Dark Souls pro yet. If you’re not a Dark Souls pro, bosses are going to wreck you time and again. Plan on dying a lot. The key word there is to plan. If you know you’re going to die, you’re going to do things different, and that will benefit future you.

For one, if you know you’re going to die, try to stick close to where you entered the area. Why? So you can get your precious souls back before you have to enter the deadly area and engage enemies again. If you die right beneath the starting location of a boss, you’re going to have a hard time safely retrieving those souls when you go in to face it again. The same applies to any part of the game world.

The major advantage of planning on dying is that you’re going to be fighting the enemy/boss as a means of research, rather than in a desperate attempt to maybe get lucky and kill this unfamiliar enemy who is superior to you in every way. Planning on dying against bosses (and any new enemy) will help ensure you follow tip No. 4 so that the next time you square off against the opponent you’ll have some idea of what it’s going to do and how you should respond. You’ll also hopefully have been able to follow tip No. 2 on your return trip to the enemy so that you arrive in boss-fighting condition with an Estus Flask full of that sweet, orange, healing nectar.

Bonus tip: If you safely study a boss long enough to feel confident you know its attack patterns, try to get its health lower so you can learn it’s additional attacks. Bosses will change partway through battles. Once you get the boss to switch style, start studying again.

10. Explore a lot and remember your route

I’ll say it again: This game doesn’t hold your hand. It might hold your whole body, but be sure that’s only because it’s about to chomp you in half or smush you into dust. That lack of hand-holding also applies to the world. The game rarely points out where to go. It might give clues, like making a noise or having a light to get your attention when there’s somewhere you can go. But most of the time you’re going to have to hoof it and see what you can find, and all the while you’re going to have to remember where you’ve gone and how you got there, because there won’t be a map for you to recheck your knowledge.

When you’re exploring, make sure you’re poking your nose around a lot. You’ll be surprised time and time again by how much is hiding. In front of you might be an obvious route or a seeming dead end, and right around the corner, where most games would simply have nothing, is a ladder that leads to a whole new area. Maybe there’s a slanted tree that you can run part way up and a low ledge nearby, and maybe that’s an invitation to try jumping from the tree to the low ledge. Maybe you’re on a ledge already and there’s somewhere below you that you think you can land — odds are you can. Don’t take a ton of risks when you’re flush with souls, but if you’ve followed tip No. 8, you should be safe trying out daring routes. Some quick things to note here: if you see enemies or souls somewhere, expect to be able to get there somehow; if you find one route out of an area, don’t neglect to look for more ways out of the area; if you find a door that doesn’t open from one side, expect it to become a shortcut later on (these will save you a lot of stress); and stick your nose everywhere — behind every prop and around every corner there’s the possibility of a new route, hidden item, or murderous enemy of course.

11. Never assume something is safe

If you haven’t gathered by now, this game is full of danger. You should always be on the alert and expect an attack from above, below, behind, the sides, or head on. Just because you don’t see any enemies up ahead doesn’t mean the game won’t find a way to kill you. If you recall the clip in tip No. 1, a giant spear can come flying out of thin air. You can die alone in an empty field if you haven’t been cautious. Enemies like to hide all over the place, sometimes around corners (so keep tip No. 10 in mind in conjunction with this one), sometimes on ceilings and walls, and sometimes over the edge of a ledge. Just because you don’t see any enemies or danger, doesn’t mean it’s not right there waiting for the right moment.

Some particularly dangerous tricks the game will play come when it leads you to believe something is safe through earlier encounters but it actually turns out deadly. For example, treasure chests seem like a great find until they turn out to be something much worse. In other places, the game has cages full of corpses that are usually just static set pieces, convincing you there’s no danger, but then every now and then one of those will come alive and not only try to murder you, but ruin any sense of comfort you felt around those caged corpses. A helpful hint on dealing with this kind of hidden danger is to press the lock-on button. If you can successfully lock-on to a seemingly safe object, get ready to kill it, run away, or die.

In general, just prepare to die — I won’t be the last person to give you that advice. You can find it written all around the world of Dark Souls 3.

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Additional contribution from Chris Reed

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