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Someone asked me if I’d have given Dark Souls Game of the Year if I’d gotten into it three years ago. This is a pointless question. No, because I didn’t get into it three years ago, because the barrier to entry was completely unreasonable. And all the people singing its praises made me resist it all the harder, due to the unwritten rule that all good things are ruined by their fans. Dark Souls is difficult, and so there’s an increased air of smugness in the veteran players, who reply to heartfelt requests for advice with dismissive phrases like “Git gud”, forgetting that there but for the grace of God went they.

Not I! I will never forget that I was once one of those who played for three hours and stopped because they weren’t having fun, and I will not mock you for it, because it’s the game’s fault for ramping up too fast. I stand by the Final Fantasy rule that a game getting good twenty hours in is not worth holding out for, but Dark Souls is actually good at the start, if you know a few things that the game is very, very bad at explaining. So, for those of you who might now want to be giving the game a crack before number 2 comes out, I’ve compiled the most important points into an essential Beginner’s Guide. Knowing all of this would certainly have helped me.

Point one: Completely new? Play Warrior or Knight.
Don’t worry your pretty little head about spells for now, just be a class that can dish out damage, and take it as well. A shield is vitally important, but when looking at the stats of a shield, remember that Stability is the important one, that will mean the difference between tanking a hit or getting sprawled and stunlocked. It might seem unlikely, but even attacks from enemies the size of Bournemouth can be shielded, so get into the habit of holding the ‘shield up’ button wherever you go. Later on in the game you might want to learn a Fireball or Soul Arrow, just to have something to use against long-range enemies, but early on you’ll face no projectiles that a good shield can’t withstand.

Dodging is also extremely important, because you can’t shield forever if your stamina is being chipped away, so don’t always go straight for the armor with the highest physical defense: your dodge roll becomes more of a pathetic flop when your equipment load is more than half of the maximum. This is one of many important things the game never mentions.

ANOTHER IMPORTANT THING: Click the right analog stick to target enemies as soon as they’re in range. Don’t be one of those pillocks madly slashing the air two feet to their left.

Point two: Level the fuck up.
Don’t hoard souls (aka: XP) because they’re easily lost when you die. Buy useful items from merchants where possible, ‘cos you don’t lose inventory from death. If you’re at a bonfire and have enough souls to level up, do so immediately. Don’t level up Resistance. It’s pants. Besides that, don’t worry too much about where you put the stats, most of them will help. Whether you put Strength or Dexterity up depends on what weapon you’re using: check the info to see which stats boost it best.

This’ll get you through the early game, but after a while, levelling up is slightly less important than upgrading your weapons. Do so at blacksmiths whenever you have the Titanite, and buy more Titanite from the blacksmiths when you have the souls to spare. Only weapons at +5 and +10 can be modified into special weapons, and a well-maintained special weapon will probably carry you to the end. I recommend Halberds for a first-timer, ‘cos the extra reach will let you laugh in what passes for the face of most melee enemies. And don’t forget your shield and armor would also like some of that sweet Titanite lovin’.

Point three: Humanity and You
You can either be Hollowed or Human. You start off Hollowed, and can restore yourself to Human by using a Humanity item and then selecting ‘Unhollow’ at a bonfire. Each time you die you’re Hollowed again, and Humanity is limited, so you might be forgiven for wondering what the point of going Human is if you’re just going to keep dying. Well, the fact is, you can probably go through the vast majority of the game Hollow. Being Human is only really good for hard boss fights, as it boosts your stats and resistances a bit, and it allows you to summon NPCs and other players to help you out. Also, you can only be invaded by hostile players if you’re Human. And you are never going to beat them, because they have all finished the game and have turned to PVP to amuse themselves bullying newbs. What was that we were saying about fanbases ruining everything?

Dark Souls Cover Art

Point four: Big boys get bruised bums.
Your first instinct when faced with the big bastards will be to run away, or at least back off and be cautious. Lose that instinct. Run right up and bury your face in their loin cloths, because if they’re doing one of their bullshit attacks that basically hits anything in front of them and within their peripheral vision, a swift dodge-roll under or around their legs will often leave you safely behind and in prime anus-stabbing position. This will become clear at the Taurus Demon. Oh, actually:

Point five: At the Taurus Demon, there’s a ladder on the right of the door you came out of.
It’s hard to spot. Climb up and kill those sodding archers before you do anything else. And when the boss is out, you can climb up the same ladder and plunge attack him right in his stupid face. Lure him back across the bridge before you make a break for the ladder again, though, ‘cos he’ll just bat you off it if he’s too close.

Point six: Just summon Solaire for the gargoyle roof fight, for Christ’s sake.
Meet him right after the Taurus Demon, on the near end of the bridge the big dragon is guarding, and keep talking to him ’til you get the item that lets you summon. Beating the gargoyle fight on the roof of the church is, for me, the point of no return. Get past that, and you are into Dark Souls. It is now good. But it’s a really unreasonably hard fight for this early, so there’s no shame in needing a helping hand. You might think you’re cheating. You might think beating the armoured piggy by running to outside the area he’s defending so he keeps turning around and letting you pikestaff his butthole is also cheating. You might think looking for the easy way out is the wrong attitude to take. You might think you’re cheesing it. This brings me to point seven:

Point seven: You are NOT cheesing it.
There is no such thing. Whatever works, works. That’s how you survive long enough to “git gud,” and anyone who says otherwise can stick it right up their Ring of Favour and Protection.

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