We like to impart the most important lessons we learned as we finished the game. If you keep these golden nuggets of advice in your head at all times you’ll find your time much less frustrating (and dare we say it, perhaps even somewhat… enjoyable? )
1. Dont Get Greedy
Yes, we’ve just told you this on the last page; but it’s so utterly pivotal that we felt the need to drum it into you again. We’ll explain with a simple equation: Greedy = Dead
Even if an enemy or, especially, a boss is down to their very last sliver of health, continue evading their attacks as if their health was still full. We’ve lost track how many times we died at the start by thinking we could get that last hit in, or attack one time too many so our stamina was exhausted, leaving ourselves completely open to a very painful counter-attack (which, to no-one’s surprise, resulted in our death).
2. Dont Join the Covenant of Champions
Unless you actually want to. You see, countless players have already ran up that hill in Majula, saw the altar and joined it not knowing exactly what they were letting themselves in for (ourselves incuded). In a nutshell; reduces the damage you deal to enemies by 20% and prevents you from summoning any outside help (or from being invaded for that matter).
There’s some cool rewards for hitting each level in this uber-tough covenant. But unless you’ve got nerves of steel, find the game too easy as-is (or you are simply a masochist), then we strongly recommend you leave this covenant well alone (at least for your first time through the game).
3. It is all about Wind-up and Cool-down Periods
With every enemy attack having a distinct 'tell' to their moves, they also have a 'wind-up' period (how long it takes for them to actually launch their attack) and then a 'cool-down' period as well (how long they take before they’re able to move again).
The wind-up gives you the opportunity to react to their upcoming move. Whether that’s to block, move away or roll behind them; the wind-up period is your window to get ready.
Once their attack has been completed they will then usually stay static for a period of time (each attack on each enemy has a different cool-down time). It’s during this cool-down period that you’re safest to land your attacks as the enemy will be unable to retaliate.
However, most cool-down windows don’t last for more than a couple of seconds (at best); so don’t get greedy and only go for the hits you know you can land safely (leaving enough stamina for a roll or evasive move should you need it in a hurry).
4. Keep Your Equip Load Under 70%
Unless you’re specifically building a 'tank' character (deliberately heavy armor, shields and weapons), keep a close eye on your total equip load. Simply adding an item to your 'carried' inventory (so your three item slots for each hand for example), adds that item’s weight to your current total.
You can sit at exactly 70% and still get the faster roll; but hit 70.1% or above and it’s slows-ville for you. For weights under 70% you’ll get increasingly improved rolling speed; combined with an even further roll (or jump should you need to).
You can reduce your total current equip load by either levelling up your Vitality stat, using certain rings, wearing lighter clothing (or clothing that also reduces equip load as a bonus) or by simply carrying less.
5. Offer Your Help for Massive Soul Boosts
One of the greatest things about using the White Soapstone (after you find it - check our guide for its exact location) or a relevant covenant, is that even if you die whilst helping someone else; you still get to keep all souls earned there (and all enemies killed whilst you’re there will net you some souls, regardless of who is killing them)!
This means if you’ve mastered a particular area or found a certain boss easy (that perhaps others are finding super hard), then dropping your soapstone sign down at the start of that level/outside that boss room, will allow you to help another player out and get a nice juicy boost to your soul count. Simply repeat this as often as you like until you’ve levelled up enough/upgraded everything you want.
6. Bonfire Ascetics
These orange pumpkin-like items can either be your greatest friend or your worst enemy. They basically put an area into New Game + (NG+) mode and here’s the kicker: That change is permanent on that save file.
You burn the item at the bonfire for the area that you want to make harder. Why would you do that? Well, certain items only spawn in NG+ (or higher) and the bosses, items and enemies all respawn for that area too.
This means you can earn a next-playthrough item much sooner than usual. Now, for those of you new to the Souls series, New Game + not only makes the enemies harder to kill (as you deal 50% less damage than before) and enemies also have 150% more health to boot!
The key to this though is that the effects really are permanent. So if you burn an Ascetic at a bonfire on NG (level 1 difficulty), it’ll now be set to level two difficulty (NG+). If you proceed to finish the game and go back to the same bonfire it’ll now be set to difficulty level three (NG++). Next time it’ll be NG+++ and so-on.
You can check the difficulty of that level’s area by checking the number on the bottom-right corner of each area’s picture (on the bonfire warp screen).
Warning! Some merchants won’t sell you their higher difficulty-exclusive items if you try and shortcut it by burning an Ascetic in their area. You’ll actually have to finish the game fully multiple times properly to unlock their wares.
7. Keep an Eye on Your Equipment Durability
Weapons, armor and rings can all break with constant use (or travelling through corrosive acid in later levels). Once an item is broken, not only does it need to be fixed by the blacksmith in Majula (assuming you’ve unlocked the door to his house); but it’ll also become pretty much useless.
There’s a red horizontal bar below your left and right hand item slots and this will start to empty as you use your weapon/item in combat. Hitting an enemy will use less durability up than, say, constantly smashing your weapon against a stone wall (which will use up quite a bit).
Resting at a bonfire or using Repair Powder (found in chests or off certain NPC’s) will allow you to replenish this durability bar and equipping certain rings will allow you to reduce the amount of damage your equipment takes (making it all last longer).
8. Dont Kill the NPCs!
Whilst any of them do hold something of some value on them for you to collect if you off them; killing the various merchants or other important computer-controlled characters is generally a pretty bad idea.
For one; they’ll usually give you the item their holding after either spending enough souls with them (or completing another task for them). Or two: they offer much better items for sale as your game progresses.
Now, you can still interact with some merchants you’ve killed by interacting with their gravestone, but it’s an expensive process. Plus, once they’re dead they don’t reappear until you hit New Game + (or use a Bonfire Aesthetic to force an area into NG+ sooner).
Warning! You’ll also get invaded to hell and back by Blue Sentinels once you reach NG+ and you can only reduce your 'sin' level by allowing yourself to be killed by them. Otherwise they’ll keep invading on a very frequent basis!
9. Dont Use the Boss Souls as Regular Souls
Unless you don’t care about trading them in with certain NPC characters later on for exclusive boss weapons that is. They’ll offer from 5,000 souls or more so only use them if you’re not bothered about the weapons made from their souls (or you’re planning on doing a speedrun).
Whilst most boss weapons tend not to be quite as powerful as some of the regular weapons (once they’ve been upgraded to +10); some of them - such as the Dragonrider’s Bow +5 - can prove to be extremely handy. Plus, some of them simply look really cool to hold and use.
10. The Ring of Life/Soul Protection - Theyre Awesome.
We’ve saved the best tip for last. Hidden in No-Man’s Wharf and in Shaded Woods (see the respective main guide pages for a detailed description on its location in each area); there’s a ring known as the Ring of Life Protection. When worn, this prevents you from losing any souls upon death; but then it’ll break.
Now, unlike in Dark Souls 1, when it breaks here you can take it to the blacksmith in Majula and ask him to repair it for a measly 3,000 souls. This means you no longer need to worry about any 'suicide runs' to where you were killed in an attempt to recollect the souls you’ve lost.
Many seasoned players don’t like this aspect; but if you’ve got tens of thousands of souls early on that you really don’t want to lose then it’s perfect. And it only costs a measly 3,000 souls to get working again. A pittance compared to the benefits offered don’t you think?
Then there’s the improved version; known as the ’ Ring of Soul Protection ’ (that offers the above benefits and also provides full immunity from petrification). You can buy this for 8,000 souls from a body-less NPC in the Shaded Woods.