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[I completed the game at Soul Level 77, after 37 hours and 10 minutes of play - for reference, I beat Demon's Souls at Level 76, at 22 hours and 30 minutes of play. Dark Souls is a considerably longer, and harder game.]

That’s right, the supposed “too hard for school” action-RPG Dark Souls has officially hit retailers, and I have no doubt that many people will play it for a few hours, and promptly give up.

But that’s a shame. Despite how hard the game may seem, there’s always (repeat: always) a solution to your problem. Dark Souls was masterfully crafted to the point where once you figure it out: you become God, and engage in one of the most rewarding gaming experiences of all time. I’m going to provide some very brief tips for you, in hopes that you’ll have that eureka moment just like myself.

Here is a typical Dark Souls first session:

0:05 – Oh wow! Easy training monsters! Have at you, fiends!
0:15 – FFFFUUUUUUUU I died in a hit?!
0:20 – Ok…no town…where do I buy anything…
0:35 – FFFFUUUUUUUU this game is impossible I quit.

Tame non-story spoilers incoming. I’d recommend saving this article if you get stuck, and need a quick reference:

Basic Tips:

  •  Your starting class doesn’t necessarily matter, unless you want the Thief’s Master Key without having to waste a gift, or you want to start as a Pyromancer to allocate as many stats as possible at an early level. After the first 6-8 hours all classes start to blend, and everyone can use anything they have the stats for. Every gift outside of the master key can be obtained in the game.
  • I’ve heard a lot of things about the master key – about how it’s not good, because it will only confuse you after you unlock secret pathways to very late-game areas. This is partially true, but I still urge you to take it if you trust your instincts. You can get some pretty amazing suicide loot by way of the master key shorcuts (suicide loot, like Demon’s Souls, is obtained when you run, usually naked, through a really hard area in search of drops and items).
  • If you beat the first tutorial boss without running through the door to the left, you’ll earn a special weapon (it takes a TON of strength to use however) – if you take the black firebombs gift, you can take him down pretty easily.
  • The first merchant is right near the start of the Undead Burg – go up two flights of stairs – then look right – see the two lance skeletons? Break those boxes and head through the outside door there. You can most notably buy firebombs and arrows, which will help with the next two boss encounters.
  • If you want to cheap-out the Tauros boss [the first real boss], grab around 10 Firebombs and just chuck them at him at a safe range – he’ll go down easy. You can also get him to jump off the area, or you can climb the ladder and do a falling strike.
  • You will need to grind in Dark Souls. The first grind spot is above the Undead Burg bonfire, right where the dragon appears. Simply go up the ladder you kicked down after the Tauros boss, walk up the stairs, then quickly walk back down – repeat for an easy 300 souls per run.
  • Once you make it to the Red Dragon, grab a bow and ~100 arrows – head to the bridge below him and aim for his tail – keep shooting – after some time, you’ll earn the Drake Sword – one of the best starting weapons in the entire game. Note that it doesn’t scale with your strength/dexterity statistics, so you will want a plan B.
  • Your first order of business is to ring the two bells of awakening. One is in the Undead Parish, in the church past the iron boar mini-boss. The other is in Blighttown – a really hard area that you should tackle second – you can get into Blighttown from the Sewers, or the cave in the Valley of Drakes.
  • If you get cursed, head to the top of the belltower at the Undead Parish – the NPC there will sell a cure for 3,000 souls each (post day one curse patch).
  • Personally, I like to save my humanity pickups for special occasions. What I do is accumulate them, and when I’m at a bonfire with a boss fight I know I can beat, but need more Estus Flasks for, I use two humanity at the fire to kindle it and get that little extra boost.
  • Press “Circle” (PS3) or “B” (360) to slide down ladders (shoutout to GameFAQs for that one).
The easiest way to blow through the first few hours (new character guide):
  • Start a Pyromancer – pick the master key.
  • Use fireball repeatedly on the Asylum boss after completing the tutorial to easily take him down.
  • Start heading for Undead Burg – level up vitality twice to help against the Tauros boss just in case you get hit.
  • Buy 5-6 Firebombs from the merchant to use on Tauros.
  • Run from the first Undead Burg bonfire all the way to the Tauros spirit door – you can make it without getting hit. Clear the two archers on top of the tower.
  • Use the firebombs and your fireball spell (you should have full charges) on the Tauros demon – run away, throw/cast, run away, throw/cast, repeat. Kindle the fire using two humanity if you need 10 flasks to beat the Tauros demon.
  • Run over the Dragon’s bridge, found after the Tauros demon- go down the first flight of stairs you see to the right – kick down the ladder and use the dragon grinding method above to level up to 12 dexterity, buy the 1,000 soul bow from the merchant, and buy around 75 arrows (you can also buy these earlier if you’re worried about losing your souls due to death).
  • Go up the ladder near the bonfire, and go under the dragon – clear the two skeletons out just in case. Aim at the Dragon’s tail – wait for him to stop throwing a tantrum, and repeat – eventually you will get the Drake sword (it will pop into your inventory automatically).
  • Grind strength using the dragon grinding method until you can wield the Drake sword at 16 strength. You should be able to breeze through the next few areas with it. In fact, after upgrading it, I beat the final boss of the game while two handing it.

Massive Spoilers incoming – only read if you need help completing the game

Advanced Tips: 

  • Need to grind even further than 300 souls per run? How about 7000? First you need to purchase the forest key from the blacksmith below the Undead Parish for 20,000 souls (it’s a good idea to buy this after a boss fight). Then, head to the forest using the entrance next to him; keep going straight until you pass 4 tree monsters, and get to the magically sealed door. Open it, and note the very small pathway near the cliff. Run over to the left and gather the four male enemies (the sorceror, the templar, the clear thief, and the warrior) – corral those enemies back to the entrance, and head to the utmost point of that path near the cliff – all the enemies will run up the ledge, and dive over you to their doom. You may need to bait them a bit, but it works.
  • After you ring the two bells, if you’re lost, keep reading: head over to Sen’s Fortress – it’s the place where the Onion Knight was sitting at, near the Undead Parish blacksmith. Complete the fortress and kill the Iron Golem. That will lead you to Anor Londo – the next area.
  • Once you’re in Anor Londo, head to the middle area, and take the first beam on the bottom floor into the cracked window. Make your way around the building catwalks to the main castle, and enter in from the right side. Once you’re there, you can open up a few shorcuts, grab some amazing loot, then head in for one of the most challenging boss fights in the game.
  • After completing Anor Londo’s main castle, you will obtain the Soul Vessel – this is a story item that will allow you to complete the game by stealing four Lord souls, which unlocks the final boss fight. The location of the four Lords (un-named, to prevent spoilers) are as follows:
  • One is on the side path of Anor Londo – go straight as soon as you head into the area by way of the gargoyles, and head all the way down that path.
  • One is in the Tomb of Giants – past the Catacombs, after Pinwheel.
  • One is in the Old Londo Ruins, after you drain the water (you need the abyss ring from the Wolf Sif to fight this boss).
  • One is past the Demon Ruins, after Queelag in Blighttown – beat the Ceasless Discharge and two more bosses, then fight it.
  • Another special enemy is in the painting, in the Anor Londo building with the white ninjas – to enter the painting you need the peculiar doll – obtain the doll by re-visiting the tutorial area using the crow’s nest in Firelink Shrine.

If you own Dark Souls and have any tips for newcomers, feel free to leave them below.

This post is entirely for people who are having a tough time with Namco Bandai’s latest localization, and want to blow off some steam.

  1. avatar a bro

    helpful, thank you very much :)

  2. avatar bryan

    how can i get arrows if i accidentally killed the first merchant?

  3. avatar Mackav3lli

    Yup you’re out of luck with the arrows as far as i know. I ended up starting a new game ( i had a lv 44 theif ) just to get arrows and the drake sword. Never kill the merchants unless you got all you need from them. The games so much better with arrows especially with a thief.

  4. avatar Tobaccoo

    Sooo, I beat the painting boss BEFORE I got the vessel…is this going to mess up getting the better ending?

  5. avatar Tobaccoo

    Ok, I guess I will figure out what you mean when I get that far haha. Still going to beat the other 3. I didn’t even know you could talk that boss, I just went in for the kill.

    Thanks though!

  6. avatar tyler

    I’ve read that after joining the princess guard covenant that you could use the lord vessel to “teleport” from bonfire to bonfire. Do you know if this is true? If, not what covenant would you suggest?

    • You don’t need the Princess Guard covenant to use the teleportation part of the Lord Vessel :D – honestly the Grave Lord’s Covenant is pretty awesome, because you immediately get a pretty solid sword.

  7. avatar mike n chris

    At beginning of firelink,shire go down behind the bonfire into new londo ruins and go to tthe right side which will,lead you into an elevator that will take you to valley of drakes.. open the door with master key and across the bridge go to left side and lies a sleeping mossy dragon get the magic sword and the dragon crest shield the sword is powerful. You only need 10 str 10 dex and 14 faith.. its 1 hit kill vs easy undeads the sword is a divine weapon it will kill the skeletons and they cannot respawn by healers in catacombs hhave fun..

  8. Careful when doing the soul farming technique. There is a chick there with one of the best bows in the game and if she cliff dies it can’t be acquired until next play through. What I did was pull the first 4 guys there and cliff killed them. Then I ran towards her and pulled the knight next to here and ensured she stayed back while I cliff killed the knight. I then legitimately killed her for the Black Bow of Pharis.

  9. avatar xeqtr

    im a warrrior shoud i yous my souls on str dex vita endur and res?

  10. avatar Just to add to your quick guide

    Easy way to build and level a good starting character in order:
    (NOTE: you must be very familiar with the beginning section of this game)

    1. At character selection screen, pick Master Key as a gift.
    2. Once you arrive at firelink shrine, look for stairs leading down next to the bonfire. You will continue heading down until you hit the Valley of Drakes and two wooden bridges on the left. Grab the nameless soul on THE DRAGON’S LEFT HAND FIRST, then be VERY QUICK to grab the two items on THE DRAGON’S right hand. This is to obtain Astora’s Straight Sword and the Dragon Crest Shield. (Great for Faith build)
    3. Buy a shortbow and at least 30 large arrows from Undead Burg merchant.
    4. Cut off Hellkite’s Tail to obtain Drake Sword.
    5. Repeat the easy 300 souls until you get 20,000 souls. (Also, if you are able to beat the Black Knight on the Tower to do the Hellkite Glitch, you can save some time by obtaining 10000 souls and then kill Hellkite to get another 10000 souls faster.)
    6. Buy the Crest of Artorias from the Blacksmith near the Titanite Demon.
    7. Once you’re next to the door that requires the crest, attack the illusionary wall to reveal the bonfire, then open the door and farm away!

    Again, if you are not familiar with this game and you lose your souls after killing Hellkite, it’s going to be a very long day. =*(

  11. avatar Bob

    Here’s a great vid of the beginnings of dark soul

    I love this game, I hope they come up with a next one even harder because as a Demon Soul player it was a bit harder but knew what to expect.

  12. avatar Silviaman

    Hi, umm i just wanted to know if i kill the first sourcerer and the first pyromancer trainer will i get anything good or will i regret it because there important later in the game?

    • avatar ian

      You’ll probably get some humanity and a bunch of souls for killing them. I’m getting my third lord soul right now and they haven’t been important so far, but it’s probably not worth it. But after I got the lord vessel I killed the firekeeper in anor londo and took her soul to reinforce my estus. the bonfire goes out and you can’t rest there, but you can still warp to it. It’s kind of in the middle of nowhere, and after you beat that boss it’s really not that big of a deal to not have