Welcome to Drangleic. You’ve probably died already. Maybe you’ve died a lot. If this is your very first visit to the series, or even if you’re a bit of Souls devotee, Dark Souls 2 has made a few changes to the system that it’s probably worth knowing about.
IncGamers is here to make your first couple of hours through FromSoftware’s sequel just that little bit less painful. There’s a lot of fun to be had in Dark Souls 2 by just figuring matters out on your own, but not everybody enjoys doing it that way. You can consider some of this stuff to be minor spoilers, so if you do wish to continue on in total blindness then click away from this page now.
Starting Classes and You
As with the first Dark Souls, try not to stress too much about picking a starting class. If you want a melee-type character, gravitate towards something like the Knight. He starts without a shield this time, but his broadsword is a solid weapon. Cleric is also a strong choice as he has a powerful mace (a weapon that can last you through the whole game if you upgrade it) and a good baseline for developing into a spell-caster.
Adaptability is an important stat in Dark Souls 2 (more on that later,) so it’s worth considering the Explorer on the basis that their level in that area begins quite high. In addition, the Explorer’s hat increases the drop rate of items from fallen enemies by a small amount.
There isn’t really an incorrect answer, and keep in mind that there’s a certain item in the game that will allow you to respec stats if you really mess up. However, the baseline stats for your class will always be the same (so, for example, if the starting Dexterity for your class was 11, you won’t be able to respec it below that later.)
Dark Souls 2 doesn’t have any starting gifts as useful as the first game’s Master Key, and everything here has a purpose to some extent so you won’t be lumbered with something hopeless. I tend to go with the Petrified Something, as it’s the top-tier random trading item for the crow’s nest (found in the tutorial area.) Drop it in there when you find the nest and you’ll stand a good chance of receiving something decent in return. Make sure to use “leave” rather than “discard,” as the latter will just destroy the item.
I said we’d come back to Adaptability, and here we are. This stat dictates the agility of your character, so if you’re noticing that your dodge-roll is kind of bad it may be that your agility is low. The higher you push Adaptability, the more invincibility-frames your dodge will get and the more leeway you’ll have to roll around the place. You don’t have to go all-in on upgrading it right away, but if you’re planning on doing a lot of dodging aim to get it to around 20 sooner rather than later.
A quick word on rolling while we’re here: the ‘fat roll’ (super slow rolling) in Dark Souls 2 only kicks in once you pass 70% encumbrance. Up to that point, the roll will gradually get slower, but it’s much more viable to be dodge-rolling with an equipment burden of 50-60% than it was in the previous game.
Did you notice that path veering off to the left as you approached the Firekeeper’s hut at the start of the game? The one with large footprints in the mud? If you did, you probably know it leads to a Hippo-Ogre creature. It’s unlikely that you’ll want to take this fellow on at the very start of the game (it’s possible, but difficult,) but keep him in mind once you’ve got your starting equipment or maybe upgraded it a little. Bait the attack where he falls down on his back, then go in for (one) quick hit. Then repeat.
Behind where he stands is a Gold Pine Resin item for adding lighting damage to a weapon, but the real prize is dropped when you kill him: a nifty Stone Ring that reduces enemy poise (how likely they are to be staggered by one of your attacks.)
In addition, if you kill all of the enemies in the tutorial area (including the pair of Hippo-Ogres on the beach,) you can return to the Firekeeper hut and claim a special weapon reward from the younger lady in there.
Yakking in Majula
When you reach the town hub of Majula after leaving the tutorial area, do make sure to talk to the Emerald Herald. She’ll be hanging around by the only bonfire in the area and will give you your first Estus Flask (as well as some vague exposition.)
For an easy second flask, find the well in Majula and attack the rock in front of it. It’ll bring up an Estus Flask Shard item that can be given to the Emerald Herald for a second flask.
Majula has a couple of branching paths you can follow at first, but like Firelink Shrine there is a preferred route to follow for new players. The easiest starting area (and the one which will ultimately net you the key for the Blacksmith’s house) is the Forest of Fallen Giants. To reach this place, stand at the bonfire, face away from the monument on the hill and then head towards the path that leads downwards against the cliffside.
The Blacksmith’s key is sold by a merchant lady named Melentia, who dwells next to the second bonfire in the Forest of Fallen Giants area (the one named Cardinal’s Tower.)
However, there is a compelling reason to make a brief detour to a different area before Forest of Fallen Giants.
Dark Souls 2 will merrily reduce your health on each death, until you’re at 50% of your total. That can get quite annoying, but luckily there’s a simple way to reduce this effect: The Ring of Binding.
You’ll find it in Heide’s Tower of Flame which is the other easily accessible starting branch out of Majula. Head into the main town area from the bonfire (towards the big pit) and find the tunnel that leads to a sewer-like area. Pull the level on the wall above the wooden contraption to open the way through to Heide’s. There’s a bonfire down some stairs to the right just next to the first enemy in there.
Heide’s is populated by large Old Knights, who are relatively slow but pack a decent punch. If you’re coming here early on, you might just want to dodge your way past them rather than taking them all on. Your aim is to reach the Cathedral of Blue, which requires taking a left turn at the room with two sword/shield Knights and the one with the huge sword. Keeping going up the stairs until you reach the platform-type area just outside the Cathedral.
You’ll have to kill the Old Knight here in order to make a switch pop up that lowers the drawbridge to the Cathedral. Do this quickly (using any additional throwable items if necessary,) before any of the other Knights catch up to your position. Then, run up the drawbridge and open the metallic chest. Inside, you’ll find the Ring of Binding which prevents your health from ever deteriorating below 75%.
If you need to get your health back up in the meantime, eating (not burning, that does something else) a Human Effigy will return your character to a fully human state. Don’t chomp through them too quickly though, it’s always good to have a couple on hand in order to turn human and see co-op summon signs outside boss doors.
Estus Flash Shard Part Three
If you find yourself back at the Cardinal’s Tower bonfire in Forest of Fallen Giants, take the upward staircase to find yourself at a locked door. It’s locked, but that doesn’t mean it’ll stand up to a good beating with your weapon. Smash it down to open up a room that contains another Estus Flash Shard. Give it to the Emerald Herald and you’ll now have three flasks to keep you going.
Shield of Silver
Getting hold of a shield that provides 100% physical damage protection is not all that easy in Dark Souls 2. Most of the shields that do so require a decent strength investment and tend to be Greatshields (so are also quite heavy.)
Early on, your best bet is probably the Silver Eagle Kite Shield sold by the merchant Maughlin in Majula. It’s only 90% damage reduction, but it’s pretty cheap (1,500 souls) and requires just 10 Strength to wield. Unless you’re planning on going a Strength melee route, this shield could end up as your best friend.
Wooden chests can sometimes be trapped with either a poison gas cloud or automated crossbow. Be prepared to dodge out of the way.
You should also be careful when swinging weapons around near the wooden chests. A couple of hits will smash the box and turn the item inside into ‘Rubbish.’ One hit will draw out a mimic though, so that can still be a good idea.
If you fancy picking up an early Lightning Sword or Fire Longsword, both options are open to you.
The former demands that you kill the Heide Knight sitting beneath the tree in Forest of Fallen Giants. You’ll meet him fairly early in that stage, he’s a the chap who wears white, can be targetted, but won’t talk or really respond to you at all. Attacking him will get him after you, and he can be a tough opponent so make sure you’ve cleared out the entire area around him before attempting this. It can help to buy some Throwing Knives from Melentia (or to lob Hexing Urns) and keep your distance. Once defeated, this fellow will drop the Heide Knight Sword imbued with lightning. Bear in mind that it needs 11 Strength and 10 Dexterity to use.
If you want a Fire Longsword (10 Strength / 9 Dex for that one,) then head out from Cardinal’s Tower bonfire the way you entered it and use the tree trunks to make your way down to the valley-like area full of a few Hollow soldiers. Dispatch them and look for a cave with fire effects on the ground. These fires won’t hurt you, but the flaming balls being launched by a creature at the other end of the cave will. Time your run correctly to reach a door on the left-hand side of the cave tunnel and you should have enough seconds to spare. Inside, you’ll find a chest with the Fire Longsword inside.
Have Miracles Will Travel
A final piece of advice that can help open up some new areas in the game. Once you meet the Miracle Lady Licia in Heide’s Tower of Flame, she will move beside the curious contraption inside the tunnel you first used to reach that area. For 2,000 souls she’ll activate the device and open up a brand new area of the game to explore and die in. It can be easy to miss this.
Hopefully these tips and pointers will provide a smooth start to your tackling of Dark Souls 2. After all, we don’t want you to go hollow, do we?