Dark Souls Pro Tips

Posted: November 28, 2011 by ryanlecocq in Off-topic

Would it help if I apologized for laughing when you said rats?


If the challenge of Dark Souls has proved too much for you, by this time you have likely put it down or looked for an exploit to overlevel your character.  If so, I’m sorry that you aren’t having the blissful experience the rest of us are currently sharing.  If ‘the rest of us’ applies to you, read on.

Sure, there are complete walkthroughs available, but most players enjoy the mystery of not knowing what to expect.  Here are just a few very key tips that will help push you above the curve.  I’ll start with my personal Dark Souls mantra, feel free to modify for your use.

Keep your shield up, never hesitate, roll.

Always check behind you.

Never run on narrow footing.

Humanity isn’t for hoarding.

Don’t forget to top off, spend your souls and always boost your estus.

Keep your shield up, never hesitate, roll (repeat).

Oh the Humanity

One part that may seem odd is “Humanity isn’t for hoarding.”  In my opinion you should be alive as much as possible and generally run around with between 5-10 in your meter (10 is the max increase in drop rate).  The reason for this is that humanity is an exponentially growing asset.  When you are alive, you find more humanity.  The more humanity you carry, the higher your item drop rate and therefore the more humanity you find.  I have tested this and I find that I always have more humanity when I spend and ‘wear’ my humanity, rather than keeping it in items.  You will find so much humanity running around alive and with humanity in your meter that it will never be a finite resource and you can always use its’ benefits.

BETTER EDIT:  Just farm humanity in the Depths or the Oolacile catacombs if you have AotA expansion.

Master of Unlocking

A tip that’s useful right from the start is to always take the Master Key gift unless you start as a Thief who has it automatically.  The only other gift that isn’t findable later is only used for joining a covenant and not really necessary for a first time player.  If you have the Master Key by whatever means, it will enable you to do two very useful things mentioned later, not to mention opening up many doors in the game early.

EDIT:  The Master Key was added to Domnhall of Zena’s for sale inventory in patch 1.3.  All gifts are now findable in the game.

Day 1, +1.

This next tip is almost an exploit, but due to it’s challenge I’m calling it fair.  If you run down the stairs from the Firelink Shrine and take the elevator down, you will end up in the New Londo Ruins.  If you follow the path of wallowing undead to the rickety wooden bridge across the water, you will see an item on an island off to your right.  This is a firekeeper’s soul that will boost the HP refilled by your Estus flask.  There are ghosts you cannot currently kill, so run through the first area and across the underwater bridge to the item as fast as you can.  You will likely die, but you will keep the item which you can give to the firekeeper at the Shrine to have an Estus flask +1 an hour into the game.  If you are still alive or go back down and you have the Master Key, that leads to our next tip.

I’ve Got a Magic Sword

Immediately on your right after leaving the stairs down from the elevator is another stairway that leads to a locked door.  Opening it with the Master Key will allow you early entry into the Valley of Drakes.  The most useful part of this shortcut is the ability to get Astora’s Straight Sword early.  This sword does magic damage, which almost nothing has defense against until halfway through the game.  You can find it by crossing the stick bridge and running along the cliffside across another bridge until you see an undead dragon.  Yep, that’s it right under his nose.  You don’t have to kill him, just run past and grab the sword, Drake Shield and survive (or die as long as you pick them up before you do).  There you go, you just got a useful weapon long before you could craft a similar one.  Remain in this area for the next tip, if you dare.

The Greatest Adventure

So you think you’re pretty bad, eh?  Bad enough to ring the bells in opposite order?  That’s right, you can take that entrance into Blighttown straight across from the locked gate.  EDIT: As long as you go down all of the ladders until you reach the elevator (one is really hard to spot), it is very easy to get down this way.  Originally I went the way with the poison dart guys.  Don’t go that way.   You can also pick up some very powerful items and large loads of souls very early in your game this way.  The huge drawback to this approach is that Blighttown and the Great Tree(which is optional) are probably the two hardest areas in the game.  Doing them from the very start, with nothing but your starting gear and Astora’s sword is the ultimate test of your hardcore gaming ability.  I did it with my second character, but it was no joke.  I almost gave up several times and just left the character cursed and poisoned at the bottom of the hole forever.  One trick that can make this much easier is if you immediately grab the Undead Asylum East key off the roof of the Firelink Shrine and make your way up to the bird’s nest to return to the Asylum right away.  Up on the second floor, near the door the key unlocks, is the Iron Ring which lets you run at full speed in water and mud(!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!).  With this item, I would say your task goes from impossible to highly unlikely.

The Rock Says

The final hugely useful tip I can offer is to kill Havel the Rock as early as possible.  He’s the guy at the bottom of the round watch-tower with the huge club.  It takes a couple of attempts to learn his attacks and it can often take a bit to wear down his high HP, but his ring is one of the best items in the game.  It boosts your max equip load by a lot.  This will enable you to equip much heavier armor while moving at the same speed when necessary.  With this ring you should be able to go around and tackle all the Titanite Demons and Black Knights that may have inconvenienced you before.

“It’s like the Syphon Filter taser!”

I almost forgot something.  Do not leave Sen’s Fortress until you’ve found the Lightning Spear and the Covetous Gold Serpent Ring.  These two dudes are your best friends.  The ring boosts your item and humanity finding by 200% and the spear kills almost everything period.  You’ll notice in almost any video walkthrough of a first run through Dark Souls, the player will use this spear from then on.  The fact is that no matter how you were playing before, this is a very sound strategy.  You’ll see archers and spellcasters running around with this guy as a backup on the regular.  Lightning is the most devastating of the game’s weapon effects and very, very few things in this game have much defense against it.  It’s a little tough to find, but be thorough.  Don’t forget the ring too and if you’re a caster, you may want to be sure to rescue a mage with a very large hat.  All in Sen’s Fortress, so don’t rush through in the madness of rolling rocks and swinging blades.

  1. Michael Vu says:

    Just a few things that should be clarified in the article:
    1) In the “Oh the Humanity” section, drop rate only increases up until 10 humanity. After that, having any more humanity won’t increase drop rate. Also, you shouldn’t always have as much humanity as possible. In a challenging area, you are likely to die and lose all that hard-earned humanity.
    2) In the “Master of Unlocking” section, all starting gifts can be obtained in-game.
    3) In the “A Jedi’s Lightsaber” section, don’t suggest the lightning spear as the ultimate weapon. It’s terrible in the hands of an unexperienced player fighting Sen’s Fortress’ area boss, the Iron Golem, and even worse for Amor Londo’s area boss, Ornstein and Smough.

    • ryanlecocq says:

      I was actually going to just remove the article, since I published it back when the DS community was in it’s infancy and many things have been clarified and explained since then. If I find the time though, I think an improved tip guide with all I’ve learned in playing it for a year straight would be tits.

      1) All of that is correct. Your drop rate caps, so with the Covetous Gold Serpent Ring and 10 humanity, you have maximized potential. I still believe in keeping near that amount though as the added incentive forces me to play better to recover.
      2) I was unaware the Master Key could be found. I know you can find all of the keys to open the doors, but last time I checked, the Master Key had still not been discovered in game. Making it still worth taking.
      3) I definitely am not saying it’s the ultimate weapon. IMO the Covenant weapons are best, unless you have a really tweaked Katana with a high bleed rate. What I said is that very few things in the game have defense against lightning. The ones you mentioned plus the Winged Demons (Anor Londo), Lightning Drakes (Valley of Drakes) and the Undead Dragons are a few more. That aside, the Lightning Spear (Specifically the one found in Sen’s Fortress) is one of the best items for a first playthrough as the other 95% of enemies will drop like flies. Also like I said originally, great backup for a mage since it’s so light. Also note that I specifically say for a first playthrough.

      In later playthroughs, everyone will have weapons with second tier effects. Compared to these, the weapons that can be found as drops are a joke. Even the most upgraded Queelag’s Furysword will barely dent a Soul Level 400 player. Bleed is the most universally useful weapon effect, as it is not stat based. It does a percentage/rate damage which remains devastating to everyone with low bleed resistance at any level.

    • ryanlecocq says:

      Also, I just made several edits to the article. In the 2nd Annual Cult Gaming Awards article (Dark Souls got GOTY) I mention the multiplayer as the second major feature (after the difficulty) that makes it a cult game. Love it or hate it is right. It makes me sad when I show the game to someone and the first time they get invaded (usually after the Taurus Demon, so when you feel like a badass), it’s by someone using exploits who ruins it for them. Definitely not for everyone. My response to that was to become a badass and destroy those people with gear I acquired on this character rather than step-traded down from an alt. One of the best things about Dark Souls is that skill always owns. A skilled player can easily just kick or shield bash a twinked character off a ledge and kill them if they have no skill.

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