Being a sort-of-undead adventurer on a quest to beat up the Lords of Cinder, Dark Souls III’s biggest and baddest bosses, until they accept their fate and kickstart a new world isn’t easy. In fact, it’s downright difficult. A difficult Dark Souls game? What’s the world coming to.
The original Dark Souls made it into our list of the best RPGs on PC.
With Dark Souls III launching imminently, now is the perfect time to devour some tips so your first hours in Lothric won’t be spent mostly staring at the blood-red text informing you of your demise. We’re here to help.
There is no best class in Dark Souls III, but there are ones that will make things a lot easier for you to begin with. For instance, a Thief is going to have a really hard time of things initially, and is not recommended for new players. Thankfully, character progression is extremely flexible and you can reassign points once you meet a certain helpful lady in the Cathedral of the Deep.
Knights and Pyromancers start off in a very good position. Knights get fantastic armour and a solid shield from the get go, neither of which are too heavy, so dodging is just as viable as blocking. Pyromancers have the best chance of taking out the first boss quickly, thanks to their fire magic, and are competent melee warriors as well as spellcasters.
What you really want, however, are options. So, for instance, if you fancy playing as a Knight and developing them into a stalwart tank, you still might want to carry a ranged weapon, like a crossbow. It’s helpful when you want to draw enemies to you, and ranged weapons always allow for some cheesy tactics.
Remember, your class merely defines your starting stats and gear, and as you level up, it’s up to you how you develop your character. Level up your Knight’s attunement and intelligence, for example, and you’ll be able to use sorcery or healing spells, transforming you into a paladin-type character.
Fights in Dark Souls III remain similar to its predecessors, but there’s a hint of Bloodborne in there too. The game encourages you to be more aggressive and spend less time hiding behind your shield, though won’t force you to stop doing that. Dodging, blocking, parrying, backstabbing – it’s much like it was in Dark Souls II, but fights are just a little faster, and you’re likely going to be facing multiple enemies from different sides.
The main change comes via weapon skills, evocative of Bloodborne’s weapon transformations. These new attacks come in many forms, from crazy spinning onslaughts to handy guard breaks. This means more options when it comes to a fight, but also an extra layer of complexity to get to grips with.
A whole new resource exists now, you see. FP, which for the sake of familiarity I’m going to call mana, since it’s blue and integral to casting spells. Mana is important to every class, even if you never plan on casting spells, because the aforementioned special attacks use this resource. It means that, even if you’re a warrior, you might want to invest some points in intelligence, just to increase that bar. And since spells now use mana rather than being limited to a specific number, as long as there’s mana in the tank, you can keep casting.
This is Dark Souls III’s hub, and if you’ve played Demon’s Souls, you’ll probably be reminded of the Nexus. The Firelink Shrine was also the original Dark Souls’ central bonfire. It’s where you spend souls to level up, shop, repair and upgrade weapons and chat away to NPCs. At the start, it’s a quiet place, but as you explore the world, you’ll encounter NPCs that will join you at the Shrine, offering their services to you.
What services you ask? Loads! For instance, rescue the caged Pyromancer found in the Undead Settlement, and he’ll come to the Shrine and sell you new spells, let you unlock more if you’ve found tomes, and upgrade your firey magic. Another NPC, a creepy Thief rescued from the High Wall of Lothric, can be sent off to find loot for you, as well as selling dexterity gear. There’s even a unusual pilgrim that you might encounter right at the beginning of the Undead Settlement that offers you free levels, before dying and being replaced by a Sorcerer.
There’s simply a huge amount to do at the Shrine. Even the seemingly pointless NPCs will, at certain points and once specific conditions have been met, offer you gems and emotes and special items, so whenever you’ve killed a boss, why not have a wee chat with them? By discovering certain objects and fulfilling NPC quests, you’ll also increase their wares, giving you more things to throw souls at. And don’t forget to spend bone shards at the central bonfire, as they’ll upgrade your Estus flasks.
Estus shard locations
Your Estus flask is one of your most important possessions, as taking a gulp from it refills your health meter. But since there’s now mana to worry about as well, you’ll get a second flask, the ashen Estus flask. Take a drink of that one, and you’ll refill your mana bar.
Initially, you’ll only have a few charges, and if you visit the blacksmith, he’ll let you allocate them. So if you prize mana over health, you can put all of your charges in the ashen flask. You’ll definitely want at least some charges in the regular Estus flask, though. Thankfully, Estus shards are scattered all over the world, and it won’t take long at all before you’re able to take swig after swig.
To get you started, grab your first Estus shard in the High Wall of Lothric. It’s in the building you climb down after leaving the tower, on an anvil in the room where you’ll also find the jail cell key. In the next area, the Undead Settlement, you’ll find another below a burning tree surrounded by worshipers, which you’ll reach by following the main path. Get rid of the enemies standing near explosive barrels before you take on the enemy standing in front of it.
As well as increasing the charge capacity, you can upgrade your flasks to give you more health or mana with each drink. You’ll need undead bone shards for that, which are much harder to come by than Estus shards, and you can burn them in the bonfire to increase the flasks’ potency. Find your first in the Undead Settlement, just past the Dilapidated Bridge bonfire, on a corpse in the area where the Giant is throwing spears at you and enemies.
Embers are Dark Souls III’s version of humanity and human effigies. After consuming an Ember, your health will increase by 1.3 times, but more importantly, you’ll be able to summon other players to help you when you’re in a tricky spot.
By using the power of the Lords of Cinder, you’ll be able to bring other players into your world by interacting with soul signs, but if you die, they’ll be flung back into their own realm, so do try to stay alive.
Embers can be found all over the place, hidden in nooks and crannies or found on corpses. Your first can be found early on, in the Cemetery of Ash, to the right and the left of the entrance to the Firelink Shrine. There are lots in the High Wall of Lothric, as well. Search the corpses of dead Knights, which sometimes contain multiple Embers.
Lothric and the surrounding region is lousy with bosses – they’re everywhere, and they want to kill you. They probably will, too. But if you’d like to die less, then read on for some tips on how to deal with the first bosses up to and including the first Lord of Cinder, the Abyss Watchers.
It’s worth remembering that each boss battle is split up into two phases, the second of which normally – but not always – begins after the boss has lost 50 percent of their health. This is the catalyst for an often dramatic transformation, where the boss will use new attacks, use new weapons and in some instances even change physically.
Don’t know how to pronounce his name? Don’t worry. It won’t help you win the fight, anyway. You’ll meet Iudex before you even hit the Firelink Shrine, within the first ten minutes of the game. He wields an imposing halberd and though he’s slow, with clearly telegraphed attacks, they have a significant range.
During his first phase, you’re going to want to dodge. A lot. Even if you plan on tanking your way through the game, you simply won’t have a big enough stamina bar to block his attacks consistently. After you’ve dodged, go in for a few attacks, and don’t stray too far from him or he’ll leap at you. He occasionally tries to grab, as well, which does a lot of damage, so try to stay behind him.
Once Iudex is down to half health, he’ll transform into a hideous mass of black gooey corruption, gnashing teeth and ferocious claws. His attacks are mostly the same, though not as clearly telegraphed. He’s also faster and has more range. Keep doing what you were doing before, but if you’re a Pyromancer, then good news: he’s weak against fire. Lob those fireballs!
Vordt of the Boreal Valley
The second boss is a doddle. Vordt is sort of like a cross between a giant frosty knight and an angry dog. And he’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer. Sure, he’s vicious, and his frost debuff can slow your stamina regeneration down, but all you need to do is stay underneath him. Get under that belly and keep attacking.
Eventually he’ll get sick of you pummelling his gut and start charging at you – and you don’t want to be on the receiving end of that – but you can dodge out of the way and get back underneath him. Vordt’s one of the simplest bosses, so enjoy feeling like a badass. It probably won’t last.
Welcome to Dark Souls III’s first optional boss. His lair is a dead end, so you don’t need to kill him to progress, but why would you want to miss out on a great fight and a lovely boss soul that you can transform into a fancy new item? Speaking of which, you’ll only be able to transform boss souls if you pick up an item that’s guarded by this big old tree.
First order of business: kill his minions. The Greatwood starts off sleeping, and you should be able to kill most of the fellas worshiping him before he wakes up. When he finally joins the fight, his wide attacks and stomps will harm them as well, so if you don’t get them all, don’t worry. In this first phase, you’ll easily be able to damage him in… well let’s say his belly, but honestly it looks like you’re pounding his balls. He’ll swipe at you with his legs, so when he shifts his weight get ready to dodge.
Once you’ve destroyed the egg sack in his nether region, he’ll butt-stomp the ground and you’ll fall down into a massive cavern, along with him. In the cavern, it will be easier to hit the rest of his egg sacks, located on his back, front, hands and leg. He’ll also spawn a grotesque arm from his belly that swipes, smacks and grabs, but you can damage him by attacking it as well. Watch out for the poisonous seeds he’ll shake free from his branches. When he falls over, it’s a good time to go to town on his sacks.
And if things are getting to hot in the kitchen, circle around him and stick to his back. Not only is there a sack there, but most of his attacks won’t reach you.
It’s magic time! Crystal Sage has one melee attack, but the rest is all ranged magic. Thankfully, the arena is peppered with pillars that you can cower behind, blocking all but one of his attacks. When he summons a bunch of purple rain, channelling his inner Prince, get out of the way. Either head to another pillar if you’re attacking him from range, or charge him. Keep pummeling him until he teleports.
It’ll take a few seconds for him to reappear, so it’s a good time to heal up if you need to. The moment you see him, either get back behind a pillar or close in for some melee attacks. He’ll try to teleport again, until he’s at half health when he’ll also summon some illusory chums. You can tell which ones the illusions are because their attacks are blue. They also go down in one hit, and they usually appear close to each other, so you’ll be able to kill a couple in one strike. It’s much harder to find a pillar to hide behind at this point, so just kill his friends and then get back to fighting him. His attacks remain the same.
The Crystal Sage’s health goes down quite quickly, but if you can do any lightning damage, then it will be even quicker. It’s not essential, though.
Deacons of the Deep
After killing the Sage a new path opens up to the Cathedral of the Deep. You can head straight to Farron’s Keep to take out the first Lord of Cinder if you want, or you can head to the Cathedral and take out the Deacons. You’ll need to eventually, as you’ll get an item that allows you to enter the Boreal Valley later on.
The Deacons are peculiar, as they are actually a legion of easy-to-kill fanatics. But there’s a lot of them. And new ones appear all the time. Keep an eye out for the Deacon that’s glowing red, as damaging him is the only way to hurt the boss. When you kill him, the energy will pass to another Deacon. In the first phase, they’ll use slow melee attacks and the occasional fireball. Thin the heard a bit to make it easier to get to the red Deacon.
Once you’ve killed a few of them, the second phase begins. Now you’ll be able to attack the boss without the energy transferring to another Deacon. Watch out, though, because there will be more fireballs and a new type of enemy that summons black energy that can pass through obstacles. These guys will also attempt to summon a fog that will curse you, killing you instantly no matter how much health you have. Attacking them breaks the spell, so focus on them and the boss. He can’t block and doesn’t move much, so he’ll go down quickly.
Congratulations, you’re about to fight your first Lord of Cinder, and it’s a tricky but interesting scrap. When the battle begins, there’s one Abyss Watcher, and he’ll charge at you, attacking in a forward-facing arc. Dodge and start attacking his back. After this, wait for him to use a combo and then strike. You should be able to knock off a third of his health before a second Abyss Watcher appears and joins the battle.
When the second one arrives, you can try to fight both, or draw one away (the main Watcher often hangs back) but if you’re patient, the Watchers will do a lot of your work for you. See, a third Watcher will appear, but he’ll attack the other two. He’ll keep getting back up again no matter how many times the others kill him. While they’re distracted, you can get a few hits in or a nasty backstab. If you manage to draw the second Watcher away, you can take him out while the third one does potentially serious damage to the boss.
Once the main Watcher is dead, the second phase begins. Now you’re just facing one Watcher, but he’s got a flaming sword, greater range and plenty of devastating attacks. If you’ve got fire resistant gear like Fallen Knight armour or a shield that blocks physical and fire damage, then you’ll have a much easier time. This isn’t a fight you’ll want to take your time with. Dodge his fire attacks – he also leaves a fire trail and ignites the ground, so keep on your toes – and whenever you see an opening, go crazy. If you’ve got a lot of stamina, great! Don’t give him room to breath, and he’ll go down quickly.
With the first Lord of Cinder down, pat yourself on the back and enjoy the sense of accomplishment while it lasts, because you’ve really only just gotten started.
And that’s your lot! If you’re not sure if the game’s worth all this effort, why not check out our Dark Souls III PC review. Spoilers: it’s definitely worth the effort.