If there is one thing the whole gaming community can agree on, it’s that FromSoftware games are hard. The Dark Souls series, Bloodborne, Sekiro and Demon’s Souls can probably total millions of players who ragequit in frustration and never finished one of these games. Even the most chill dudes end up ragequitting a Souls games at some point, example:
And that’s a shame, because these are some of the very best games every made, the only problem is the difficulty which makes them look inaccessible to a wider audience.
But what if I told you that anyone can finish those games and take great satisfaction from it? All you need is to understand that these games follow their own sets of rules… and so should you when playing them!
With Elden Ring coming up in February 2022, now would be a great time for any gamer to dive into the Dark Souls world and start to learn its codes and tricks.
From all the footage we’ve seen so far, it appears clearly that Dark Souls 3 would be the closest to Elden Ring in terms of gameplay and combat mechanics, even though it also includes new mechanics and old mechanics from other FromSoftware games.
So here are a list of ground rules which will make you a much better Dark Souls player!
1/ Which “Souls” game should I start with?
I have 100% completed all their games, and my recommendation would be to start with either Demon’s Souls Remastered (if you’re lucky enough to own a PS5) or Dark Souls 3. You don’t need to have played Dark Souls and Dark Souls 2, the stories aren’t directly related and honestly, Dark Souls 3 is simply the most recent, better looking and overall better gaming experience. If you do own a PS5 though, Demon’s Souls Remastered is easier, so go with that.
In any case, all the tips I’m about to give you apply to both games perfectly, and most of them apply to all FromSoftware games.
2/ Observe your surroundings before moving forward
Whenever you enter a new area, you should just stand still and look around you. Spot enemies from a distance, look at the ceiling and corners for possible ambushes, look at the floor and the walls for possible traps. Souls games are full of those!
Whenever you see an item or a chest, don’t rush to loot it. Progress slowly and be ready for a possible fight. Also, many enemies are on patrol, so you should always take the time to explore the area a little more and secure the place before you backtrack and loot everything.
3/ Let them strike first – Use spacing to your advantage
This might surprise you, but the best thing you can do in Souls games is let enemies charge you and attack first. This is especially true for melee enemies.
Here is how things will go in most situations if you follow this gameplan:
- Enemy notices you and runs towards you.
- Lock-on this enemy and walk backwards. Keep your shield up.
- When the enemy gets close to you, start circling around it. Your goal is to make them miss and swing in the air.
- If they miss their attack, you should end up behind them and ideally get the chance to backstab them for massive damage.
- If you can’t backstab them, you should at least be able to land a couple of swings safely (depending on your weapon speed).
- Rinse & Repeat
Please note that in many cases, depending on the enemy’s moveset and weapon range, this can be done without even blocking with your shield or dodging.
The best thing about this method is that it doesn’t use any stamina (provided you don’t get hit on your shield of course).
4/ Shields – Learn to use them and love them
You should get your hands on a proper shield and upgrade it as soon as possible. When I say “proper”, I mean a shield with 100% Physical Damage Reduction.
- In Demon’s Souls, you can get one very early in the Nexus for 2000 souls from Blacksmith Boldwin: the Heater Shield (it is also a starting item if you pick Priest or Temple Knight as starting class).
- In Dark Souls 3, you can get the Silver Eagle Kite Shield very early as well from a chest located in the first area called High Wall of Lothric.
And once you get your hand on one of those, you’ll see how incredibly useful it is. Always keep your shield up when entering a new room where you might get ambushed.
Always keep your shield up when facing enemies. Your goal is not to block every attack, because that would end up draining all your stamina and breaking your guard.
No, your goal is to try to avoid getting hit completely by using the method described above AND to have your shield up just in case you get hit.
Your shield also blocks arrows and bolts, shot by enemies or traps.
But that would be too easy if all you had to do was keep your guard up all the time, right? Some enemies have very powerful attacks and will break your guard in a single hit, which brings up to our next tip.
Shields will be even stronger in Elden Ring, because they added a new combat mechanic called “Guard Counter” which allows you to counterattack with a strong blow right after blocking with your shield.
5/ Dodging – The ultimate defense in Souls games
In Souls games, when you hit the dodge button, your character will do a roll. During this roll, your character will be invincible during a few frames, which we call “iFrames” (Invincibility Frames).
So, if you time your rolls correctly, you can pretty much avoid taking any damage. Yes, even when this giant Dragon claws your whole body and your character rolls through it, you won’t take any damage the hit happes during your iFrames.
Dodging should become second nature to any players who wants to survive in the merciless Dark Souls universe. Always be ready to dodge.
You can dodge pretty much anything, including spells.
So here’s the same scenario as before, and here’s when you should dodge:
- Enemy is charging you. You lock-on and start circling around, trying to get behind the enemy.
- Your shield is up, ready to block any quick attack.
- You see the enemy is about to use a power move. It’s easy to tell, as they almost always have a long wind-up animation.
- That’s your cue to move. Hit Dodge at the last second, right before you would normally get hit.
- Even better, you can choose the direction of your rolls. Try to land behind your enemy, leaving their back exposed for a backstab.
6/ Parrying gets you killed – In most cases
One of the coolest combat mechanics in Souls game is Parrying. But it also tends to get you killed more often than not.
Parrying requires very precise timing: you must tap your shield button just at the right moment, when the enemy is about to land a hit on you. If you fail, you’ll take full damage as if you didn’t block.
If you succeed, you will take no damage at all but also break the enemy’s posture, allowing you to get a riposte, which does as much damage as a backstab, except you do it from the front!
Parrying is extremly stylish and satisfying, but the problem lies with the difficulty in the timing. Not only must you learn each enemies movesets to be able to consistantly parry their attacks and not take unnecessary damage, but even when you know the movesets, the timing is still difficult to pull off, even if you’ve got great reflexes.
So my advice is to only use Parry seldomly, only on enemies with telegraphed attacks you can consistently Parry without taking a big risk.
99% of the time, it is safer to just use spacing, circling your enemies and dodge. Or keep your shield up, situationally.
7/ Level up and don’t lose your souls
This might sound like an obvious advice, but in all Souls games, you can level up your character’s stats. Everytime you kill enemies, you gain a number of souls, which you can then convert into levels to increase your stats.
The problem is that you lose all the souls you’re currently carrying when you die. You can retrieve your souls if you manage to get back to your corpse without dying again. If you do die again on the way to retrieving your souls, you’ll lose them permanently, and that’s always a sad moment.
So my advice is simple: whenever you’re starting to have a large amount of souls, say about 5000 in the lower levels (1-20), 10000 in the mid levels (21-40) and 20000+ in the higher levels, you should go back to base and spend your souls, instead of risking to lose them.
There are also soul items you can consume at any moment to gain extra souls. You should save those for when you’re about to level up, pop-up just enough soul items to reach the next level, save the rest for later.
Also, don’t hesitate to farm an area once you’re comfortable in it and notice that you can safely earn a decent amount of souls in a short period of time. Remember that when resting at a bonfire, all enemies respawn but you keep your souls and you refill all your HP / Mana and flasks.
8/ Which stats should I Prioritize?
The best answer would be “It depends on your character build” or which weapon you’re going for, as each weapon has different stats prerequisites. But there are a few guidelines that apply to all builds:
- Level up your vitality – Try to hit 40 Vitality as soon as possible, this will give you a beefy health bar which will make you much less susceptible to surprise deaths.
- Level up your endurance – Hit 20 Endurance asap just to have a comfortable Endurance bar to work with. You need endurance to Blocks, Dodge, Run… and also to Attack. If you run of Endurance, you’ll expose yourself and risk a silly death.
- Level up your damage stats – The less hits you need to defeat an enemy, the faster it dies, the less risk you take. This is obvious, but it must be said.
- Don’t bother investing points in Luck for example, you should prioritize Survivavility first and then damage output. That’s the way to go in souls games.
Also know that all stats have diminishing returns once you hit certain thresholds, so you should research that before you invest too many points in one stat.
9/ What’s different in Elden Ring?
We’ll see if things change once we see the final release, but this is what we’ve seen so far during the Network test:
Magic seems to be really strong in Elden Ring, so this is definitely something to consider investing in to have an easier time at the start of the game. Some spells do a whole lot of damage and allow you to do it from a safe distance.
Block and riposte seem really strong. If you’re not a fan of magic or other range tactics, and you like to get in the thick of the action, rejoice: Elden Ring has a new Block and Counterattack Mechanic which not only is safe – as long as you’ve got a proper shield and enough stamina – but also opens up the option to counterattack with a really strong blow.
Last but not least, Elden Ring is the first “Souls” game with a wide open world, populated with tons of mini dungeons and mini bosses. This means you explore a lot and become stronger before you move on to the “Main story” and face the first main Boss. So in short: gear up and level up as much as you can before hitting the next area.
You should definitely play Dark Souls 3 to get accustomed to souls game and prepare for Elden Ring. If you’re a lucky PS5 Owner, definitely pick Demon’s Souls Remastered, which is probably the best game available on PS5 at the moment I’m writing these lines. Plus it’s easier than other Dark Souls.
If you’ve already played those games and want a little more challenge: you should without a doubt play Sekiro. This game is truly amazing. It is very challenging, but also so rewarding every time you defeat a tough encounter. Plus, it will allow you to become familiar with other games mechanics which will be present in Elden Ring, so that’s one more training check for you!
At the end of the day, if you really struggle with one of those games, take a break, go watch a good walkthrough video on YouTube and you’ll see how much knowledge and practice make a difference in Souls games.