No matter your playing style; there’s still some basics you should lock down and keep in mind at all times. When the fancy tricks, like the Guard Breaks and the Parries, aren’t working, it’s time to get back to basics.
Pressing in the right stick (or your key of choice on the PC version) will trigger a lock-on if there’s an enemy within range. This allows you to keep a track of that enemy as they move around (as long as you don’t move too far away from them). Whilst this is usually a very good thing; there’s a variety of things you need to remember when using it.
1). If you’re fighting near the edge of a cliff/arena then it’s very easy to drop off to your death (as the camera stays focused on the enemy and not your surroundings).
2). A lot of enemy/boss attacks travel too fast for your lock-on to handle properly. Therefore it’s better on some battles to unlock and manually rotate the camera as you roll/attack.
3). The darker an area is, the closer an enemy has to be to allow a lock-on to happen. This is especially important to remember on a very particular boss battle (which happens in a dark room with a very fast attacking boss).
4). Once you’ve successfully locked on to an enemy, the allowed locked-on distance between you and the target extends by quite a bit; giving you more time to fire off ranged spells/arrows before it breaks automatically.
So you’ve got an enemy in your sights and it’s going down right? Well unlike your average action game, you won’t last long if you go in swinging your mighty sword/shield/staff around with reckless abandon. Let’s consider some key elements that’ll make you a better fighter:
1). Every method of attack (barring a consumable item) uses up stamina. And this is very limited; so it cannot afford to be wasted. You need to be super conscious of your current stamina level (the green bar that sits directly under your red health bar).
If this runs out for any reason then you cannot normally attack again until it fills back up (unless you roll mid-refill) and you incur an additional one second wait after that as a penalty!
2). You’re not limited to just regular blows either. You can in fact deal different types of damage (such as fire, magic, poison, bleed and more); so that’s an additional layer of complexity to keep in mind.
For example, using a weapon with added Fire damage against a fire breathing dragon will do less damage than, say, a dark magic-infused weapon. There’s also temporary and permanent ways to infuse your weapons with such additional damage types; so we’ll cover them in full detail via their own section further on in the guide.
3). Long range consumable weapons (such as Knives, Holy Water etc) can prove to be very effective (the Holy Water can deal 200+HP damage to even near end-game enemies). They cost zero stamina to use and they’re relatively cheap to buy (regular knives are a measly 100 souls a pop).
4). You should learn how to 'bait' your opponent into launching a predictable attack by walking up to them and then either backing away quickly or rolling to their side/behind them. This works very well if you’ve got a 100% physical damage shield held up (just in case you misjudge their attack range).
Pretty much every single enemy can be 'baited' into performing a move when you’re right in front of them and combine that with their attack’s 'tell', you should find they’re leaving themselves open for attack more often than not.
5). Another technique for making your life easier is luring far-away enemies come to you. The easiest way to do this is with a bow and some arrows. As long as the enemy isn’t too far away; you can impale them with an arrow and watch as they now make their way to you.
If you can make it so they only have to run in a fairly straight line to you then you can keep getting a few easy additional arrow shots in to chip away at their health until they’re close enough to battle properly.
6). Finally, if you can lure an enemy to a part of the level where you can fall down on them from above then all the better. This will give you the chance to perform a plunging attack from above (which does more damage than a single regular or heavy attack). Just be ready to continue the attack or bail out if there’s an incoming attack heading your way.
7). If you press Triangle/Y/Assigned PC Key when holding one weapon you’ll hold it in two-hands now. Fighting like this will limit your defensive options (if you’re used to using a shield); but you’ll deal a very handy +50% worth of total damage to your foe. Great against those enemies with long cool down periods.
8). Use your environment to your advantage. There are several traps/bottomless pits designed to catch you out and kill you on the spot. But a cunning player can lure enemies to these areas too and then bait the enemy into attacking, carrying them into the trap and nailing you a super easy kill!
In the Souls series, a solid defense is more helpful than a heavy-hitting offence. Even the most basic of enemies can tear you to shreds in seconds if you don’t know how to defend or evade their attacks properly. We’ll cover shields versus rolling in much greater depth on the next page; but let’s take a closer look at defending overall:
1). No matter how you plan on defending yourself from attack; you’re going to use up some stamina. So absorbing an attack with a shield uses of a varying amount of stamina, whilst rolling out of danger will using a fixed amount of stamina. So knowing how much stamina you’ve got left at all times is super important.
2). Factor in the 'reach' an enemy’s attack has. You can simply back-step away from an enemy with a small sword, but when it comes to enemies with a HUGE hammer? Well, a simple dodge backwards isn’t going to do your health bar any favours.
3). If you’re feeling particularly cheeky/cheesy then feel free to lure any of the really large enemies towards any narrow doorways in the local vicinity (there’s usually one somewhere nearby). Odds are they won’t fit through and you still get to attack from the other side.
You need to be careful though as some of their attacks can still make it through the wall and hit you. But on average, your odds of survival are much higher than trying to take on the tougher foes head on.
4). If you’re taking a beating and need to heal, then it’s worth knowing that if you crush more than one life gem in quick succession; the speed at which it heals you will dramatically increase. This 'speed stacking' also works on Estus Flasks too!
5). Use your immediate surroundings as cover if you’re fighting any long-range enemies (such as archers or wizards with spells such as Soul Arrows). Just be careful of not being too close to the edge of the scenery that’s offering you the cover. The attack might still pass through the edge of your cover and smack you right in the face.