In the seven years since it's come out, Dark Souls has become of the strangest fixtures in gaming. It's a great game, sure. But it's also an endless font of memes. It's the second entry in a sprawling series that's gotten more bizarre over the years. And it's a focal point of the "difficulty in games" discussion. In Oct. 2018, Dark Souls: Remastered finally debuted on Nintendo Switch, making it the perfect companion for a long flight, as long as you're not prone to chucking portable consoles in anger.
If Dark Souls: Remastered is your first foray into the series, there's a good chance that you're going to need all the help you can get. We've compiled a list of handy tips for beginners in order to get you through the game's first level and a little beyond. May the flames guide thee.
The first thing you'll do in Dark Souls is choose a class. You can be a stalwart knight, a dexterous thief, a magical sorcerer or even a weakened warrior, deprived of all equipment and extra stats. Unlike many other RPGs, your starting class doesn't lock you into a certain progression. Instead, it's just a starting assortment of attributes and equipment. Just pick whichever one sounds the most fun and go from there. If your playstyle changes later, that's fine; you can level up your character any way you like. Almost any class is good for a first-timer, except for Deprived — although that can be a useful trial by fire.
There are plenty of fantastic modern games that allow you to dip your toe in for an hour or so, complete a quest, then head to work, or dinner, or bed. Dark Souls is not one of those games. Even for seasoned players, the game requires a fairly intense level of concentration. Just getting into the rhythm of Dark Souls — slow, steady and thoughtful, but ready to react at a second's notice — can take a good 15 or 30 minutes. I'd recommend having at least two hours to sink into any given session, at least until you get a feel for the game.
The starting gift can be a fantastic way to start Dark Souls off on the right foot. The Black Firebomb can set unsuspecting enemies ablaze; the Binoculars can alert you to faraway threats; the Tiny Being's Ring can keep you alive for just a little while longer. But not every gift will help you. The Master Key may sound useful — it can open a number of locked doors in the game — but it can also cause you to inadvertently skip areas, or move into others that might be too powerful for you. (Also, the Pendant is admittedly cool, but it has no in-game effect.)
Combat in Dark Souls is either fast and frantic, or slow and measured, depending on the situation. However you choose to approach it, though, you'll have the best results if you lock onto your enemies. (By default, you can use the R3 button.) Once locked onto an enemy, you'll move around them by default, and every one of your attacks will (theoretically) connect with them. You can even lock onto faraway enemies if you want to use spells, attack with a ranged weapon or simply block projectiles with a shield. Even with large groups of enemies, it's best to focus on one at a time.
Having a shield is a tremendous asset for new and veteran players alike. A quality weapon-and-shield build will take you right from the beginning of the game to the very end. But as useful as shields can be, they're only one part of the defensive game in Dark Souls. Bosses strike quickly and unpredictably. Rely on your shield, and you'll often find yourself out of stamina with no way to counterattack. Keep your shield up, but also watch enemies' patterns and learn how to dodge away from them. Dodging backwards won't always work, so try dodging to the sides, and even forward.
When you enter a new area, be it a long corridor, a darkened room or a big battlefield, take a few seconds to aim the camera side-to-side, above you and below you. Enemies and traps hide everywhere in Dark Souls, and if you venture forward like the hero in an action movie, you're almost guaranteed to run afoul of one. Taking a second to look around is not going to save you from every trick the game can throw your way, but it can save you from at least half of them, and that means a lot fewer respawns at the nearest bonfire.
If you can beat the Asylum Demon, the game's first boss, you are probably already familiar with this tip. By plunging off of a high surface and hitting the attack button, you can do a devastating downward strike, which deals a ton of damage and staggers enemies. The first two bosses practically require you to employ this strategy, but it's useful throughout the whole game. Anytime you can get the drop on a foe, hop down and stick something pointy in its general direction. Just be aware that if a foe moves away, you'll probably take damage from the fall.