Okay, so what if I’m terrible at parrying and backstabbing, are there any other ‘unofficial’ tricks that can help me?
You can often lure things out one at a time. If you spy a group of enemies ahead and don’t fancy getting their attention all at once, try shooting one with a bow (easily purchased or found, see below for an early location). This will attract one enemy at once and make group encounters a whole lot easier. The game doesn’t really tell you this, but bows can be aimed. With the bow equipped in a left hand, press LB (or equivalent) one to put it in both hands, then hold LB to bring up an aiming reticule. With this up, you can fire with RB/RT as normal (each button corresponds to a different arrow ‘pouch’ in your inventory, so you can have two types equipped).
It’s possible to cheese the hell out of some things. If you can get to higher ground away from a tough enemy, then it can often be simple enough to cast spells, use throwable stuff like firebombs, or fire a bow at them until they perish. For larger foes, sometimes things like doorways will work too.
You can just run past stuff. When you’re at the point where you know roughly where you’re going to reach a boss fight, or have died just short of a bonfire or something, just running past enemies can sometimes be easier than bothering to fight them all again. You need to have reasonable jinking skills, but that’s about it.
The same principle applies to fetching items in difficult places. Those white orbs on (usually) bodies are items. The larger the orb, the more attractive the item. Even if they’re in a thoroughly dangerous spot, it might be worth going on a suicide run to grab them. Make sure you don’t have too many souls to lose in the attempt, and just go for it.
Learn how to identify future shortcuts. If you find an elevator and get the message “contraption does not work”, that means you’ll be riding down or up from that location at some point and it’ll turn into a useful shortcut. Likewise, if you find a door that says “does not open from this side”, then at some point you will be on the other side creating a quick way to get deeper into the level. Doors that say they’re locked are a little different, and (as you may expect) require keys.
Kicking can be hard to pull off, but useful. Having trouble with spear-poking bastards who hide behind shields all the time? If you can manage to reliably deliver a kick (which, honestly, can be tricky when it defaults to ‘sorta-push-forward-and-light-attack-at-the-same-time’), this will knock their shield aside and leave them open for some pummeling.
If the lock-on seems unreliable, experiment with the in-game settings. Dark Souls 3 has a couple of specific settings for when it tries (or doesn’t try) to automatically lock on to an enemy. Personally, I prefer to switch all of these off and do it all manually. You might need to experiment with a few different combinations until you find something that feels right.
Check the resistances on your armour pieces for specific situations. Damage reductions from armour are reasonably helpful in this game, so if you hit a boss doing a load of magic or frost damage, try to wear things that will counter that. It’ll help a little.
If you find yourself far from safety, low on health, but rich in souls, consider using a Homeward Bone item. These will take you back to the nearest bonfire (or main hub) where you can spend up and recuperate. You’ll find them laying around the place, but they can also be bought from the Shrine Handmaiden in the hub.
You can insta-switch to your Estus Flask. Holding down on the D-pad (or equivalent) will instantly switch your item to the Estus Flask, which is tremendously useful if you have nine items equipped and suddenly need to heal. I believe it actually switches to the first item you have in a slot, and may also work for spells, but I can’t verify that.
Great, now, what kind of helpful items and goodies can I find early on in the game?
I’m glad you asked, because it gives me an excuse to start a new character and run the early areas again.
Titanite Shard: Where the tutorial message teaches you about jumping, do so onto a sarcophagus to collect a shard (an early weapon upgrade material). Jumping is a pain in the arse in Souls games, so you may as well learn how to do it now.
Uchigatana: This is not going to be easy to get right away, but keep in mind that round to the left of the entrance to your main bonfire hub (Firelink Shrine) there is a karate monk-looking guy who carries a katana. If you can beat him in combat (you might want to return after levelling up a bit), he’ll drop it. It’s a solid Dexterity-based weapon.
White Soapstone: The Shrine Handmaiden sells this for 500 souls. It allows you to leave a ‘summon sign’ on the ground for other players to see and call you into their world for co-op. To see other people’s signs, you must be ‘embered’. This happens automatically after you beat a boss, but you can also use an Ember item to make it happen too. Being embered gives you a boost to HP, however it also makes you vulnerable to invasions from other players.
Longbow: Head down the furthest steps away from the first bonfire at the High Wall of Lothric (the first place you go after Firelink). If you see a bridge-like path with dogs on it, you went the right way. Go straight across where the dogs and halberd guy are, up the short flight of steps into a mini-tower. Watch out for one of the undead hollows here because if you don’t kill him quick enough he’ll turn into a goop monster and you don’t want that. The lone item up here is the Longbow (which needs 14 Dex to use, but is a pretty good bow).
Deep Battle Axe: A battle axe infused with dark magic. Needs 12 Strength and 8 Dex to use. It’s in a chest through the door that’s underneath the dragon which breathes fire at you. If you time it right, you can make it to the door and open the other door inside that small tower to give yourself easier access next time. Beware, because the chest inside here is actually a Mimic (you can tell by watching it and seeing it breathe, and also probably from all the ‘beware chest’ messages). Don’t open it. Just hit it with your weapon and then prepare for what, at an early level, is a fairly tricky fight. Stick fairly close and be ready to dodge forward and past it’s left-hand side when it either swings at you, does a jumping spin-kick, or tries a grab. Any one of these hitting you will probably be a one-shot kill at the start of the game, so you’ll need to land ten or twelve solid hits without taking any in return. The axe is a pretty good reward, though. You may be able to cheese it by escaping quickly up the ladder and using a bow or firebombs or something on it.
Claymore: Greatsword requiring 16 Strength and 13 Dex. This might require a bit of a suicide run to fetch. It’s the item furthest away from doorway underneath the fire-breathing dragon. Fire damage is likely to keep chipping away at your health as you run to get it, but it’s worth it. There’s also an Ember and a Club in the same area.
Silver Eagle Kite Shield: A shield that can resist 100% of physical attacks. You’ll find this in an area with quite a few goodies. From the second bonfire at The High Wall of Lothric (atop the tower past the first knight you meet, just after the dragon fire tower), go down the spiral stairs until you reach a room with two dagger-using assassin type hollows in it. Go out of the door there and across some rooftops. There will be a petrified dragon and a bunch of hollows worshipping weird tree-people (one of whom will turn into a goop monster if you’re not fast enough). Take a ladder down off the roof and enter the building that looks like a kind of dining area with the spear knight inside. It’ll look like this.
Kill the spear knight guy, head through where he came from, and watch out for the hollow lunging at you from the left (there’s a Broadsword in this room if you want it). Continue forwards, and take a right down some steps to be slightly above an open room with an anvil and a bunch of enemies in it. Head up the stairs to your right (not the ones you just came down) and make you way around the rafters to find a (safe) chest with the Kite Shield in it.
Estus Shard: On the anvil in the room described above. Estus Shards can be given to the blacksmith in the hub, for an extra flask of either HP or FP restoring estus (you can set the ratio yourself at any time here).
Titanite Shard: Also in the same room, hidden behind some barrels under the short steps.
Cell Key: Same room again, down the short set of steps which basically lead nowhere except to this key. You’ll need this to free Greirat, which I’ll detail shortly.
Astora Straight Sword: Yep, still the same room. A little more complex to reach, though. Track back to where you went past the spear knight and the hollow guy lunged at you. To the right here there’s some debris (barrels and stuff) you can roll through. Do so, and make your way around the rafters until you find a spot to drop down to the rafter level below. There should be a chest (again, safe) beneath you with the sword inside.
Chloranthy Ring: Finally, something in a different room. A different area, in fact! The Chloranthy Ring makes your stamina regenerate a lot more quickly, and as such is a rather valuable item. This is found a little bit later so I’ll avoid specifics, but it’s in the Undead Settlement, in a tower that’s rather hard to get to. Figure out a way to get there and check around the base of it for this useful trinket.
Who’s this Greirat character and why should I care?
He’s a thief locked up in Lothric who you can save. He’ll return to the Firelink hub and sell you items.
Assuming you have the cell key (above), head from the second bonfire back down the tower to that room with the pair of assassin geezers in it. Head down again, either by using the ladder or dropping, and deal with the halberd hollow. Go the only way you can, and be aware that a hollow in the next room will toss firebombs at you (not helpful, since there explosive barrels there). Deal with him, and the assassin facing away from you in the next room, then take a right down the steps.
Greirat’s cell will be ahead. Chat with him, and say yes to his request about the ring (you can even wear it, he won’t mind). He’ll disappear and show up at the hub (down the steps from the blacksmith) next time you’re there.
If you still need a ranged option, he sells a light crossbow for 1,000 souls.
Any other NPC vendors I should know about?
Yes, lots. I’m going to be less specific about these because it’s getting further into the game, but basically:
Pyromancy guy: In an area called Undead Settlement. Look for a chap trapped in a cage on the top of a building.
Miracle lady: Also in Undead Settlement. She’s being held in a cage beneath the ground. You’ll need a key from the Shrine Handmaiden.
Sorcery guy: Beyond the half-way fort in an area called Crucifixion Woods. Find a ruined, multi-floor building and look for a way to get high up (the stairway is easy to miss).
So that’s it then, you’re just casting me out into Lothric now?
Almost. There are a couple of other miscellaneous tips that are worth sharing. If you’re casting miracles, you can hold down the casting button until you’re ready for the spell to pop off. Very useful for co-op if you want to attract another player to get inside your magic circle of healing goodness.
Finally, it’s possible to struggle out of grab attacks by mashing the gamepad shoulder buttons (or equivalents). Don’t just sit there and have your face eaten off, try to escape and reduce a little of the damage.
Alright, that really is it. Dark Souls 3 is best enjoyed as a game of discovery, and you should now have plenty of information to get you nicely started. Stay safe, Champion of Ash!