Gamer’s Guide To Dark Souls II For Newbies
By a n00b, for n00bs.
Do you know how sometimes people say, “It takes one to know one.”? It’s usually not said in a positive way but sometimes it is; this is one of those times. See, as a newcomer to the Dark Souls formula, there are certain difficulties you will encounter before any of the actual difficulty of the game kicks in, and only someone who is equally inexperienced with things — but has previously overcome this — will be able to properly advise and guide you through the first few hours of the game.
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This guide will serve exactly that purpose. It’s not meant as a strategy guide for the so-called ‘hardcore gamers’ who totally don’t actually use guides, we’re all sure. Instead this guide is for those folks whom, like myself, started this game and had no idea just what on Earth they were doing — yes, we do realise this potentially defeats the point of the first few hours of Dark Souls II, which is, not having your hand held through it, but we’re going to put this out anyway just in case there are some gamers out there who are taking longer than usual to learn the ropes and don’t mind asking for help. You know, like actual human beings.
I’m sure nobody would begrudge these fine individuals. Why would anyone want less players of a game anyway? (Except maybe in the case of server lag.) In future we might move on to other Dark Souls guides, perhaps character builds and boss fight strategies, but for today we’re keeping things strictly entry-level and just for the newbies.
Character creation and picking a class
At the very beginning of the game you will be tasked with selecting a class. It’s not really that important which one you go with because along the course of the game it will be possible to respec and reassign souls, to some extent. However as a beginner you just want a character class that you can easily get into and enjoy, so let’s take a look at a few recommendations.
The balanced class; the bread and butter class you might say. This is the Warrior class, which packs a sword in one hand and a shield in the other for offensive and defensive capabilities and has a healthy allocation of stats for the all-round player. This is the one you likely saw in trailers and this is the one in which you can use parries and attacks, so it’s definitely a great place to start.
What if you’re just really lazy (why did you buy this game?) or, like me, you were in a rush to get an already-late review out? Well you’re in luck because the sorcerer class pretty much breaks the game. Not quite, it’s actually balanced well and you will still encounter quite a bit of challenge but the sorcerer class boasts ranged magic and that, fellow newbies, is an amazing thing in this game. You’ll also want to hold onto this class for later on if you aim to try out pyromancy and various other intelligence-specific specialisations.
Welcome to the explorer class, which is a strange and interesting class new to Dark Souls II that swaps out good armour and weapons for an abundance of starting items. I’m not really sure what to say about this character class other than that it’s a strange one which still has a decent allocation of stats, but you get some cool toys to play with straight off the bat. Perhaps worth a try?
This is likely the one that most hardcore Dark Souls players will go for. The deprived class starts at level one, which means that although much weaker than other classes, it has the highest potential for absolute control in levelling because it means you can assign every single soul exactly how you want to. That is incredibly important to people who like perfect character builds but for the rest of us, this game is challenge enough.
Pick a class, whatever you would like, and let’s go exploring. First, be sure to check out the fog-walled caves at the beginning of the game after speaking to the old ladies in that house. These caves offer the tutorial segment of the game, something I entirely missed the first time I passed this area. Don’t ask me how, maybe it was nerves.
Your safe haven for most of this game
Majula is the main hub for the game and you will start out pretty much walking into it. Explore it. Go ahead. Accustom yourself with every curve and crevasse because you will be visiting here a lot. Enjoy that sun, marvel at the tower, maybe even join a covenant while you’re there. Speak to the citizens and accept their missions. You’ll be coming here often.
One your first trip to Majula, find this woman and speak to her. She is effectively the story-carrier this time around, and will explain to you, in mysterious and confusing Dark Souls fashion, what is expected of you. Importantly, she is also your way of upgrading your Estus Flask, which she gives to you the first time you speak to her, as well as levelling up. You must come to her to level up each time; there simply isn’t another way to do it.
It’s important to note that fast travel is enabled right from the beginning of the game so wherever you are in the game, if you feel as if you’re being overwhelmed and you manage to make your way to a bonfire, it is perfectly fine to fast travel back to Majula and then try going elsewhere. Start afresh, so to speak. You’ll also be needing to come here often for another reason, and that’s, once again, levelling up. Which you’ll be doing often. Any time you have an abundance of souls or have just defeated a boss, fast travel back to Majula and go spend those souls.
Now you’re ready to die
Find this area in Majula, then follow that path and descend into darkness. You will reach a tower along your way which contains the first boss of the game. Go forth and pwn. Good luck.
Some extra tips
- Basic RPG rules do apply here, so please pay attention to which stats you’re levelling up and what they do for your character; for example, ensure that if you’re raising your health, you know which stat to invest souls into, or if you want more stamina, you are aware of the relevant stat once again. Further, you want to equip weapons and armour that compliment your character, meaning no two-handed weapons for a sorceror and no spells for a warrior, and so on. This is basic RPG 101 so please, don’t forget all of this here, it will most definitely be the end of you.
- Remember to read the messages on the floor; sometimes they’re bullshit spam and other times they’re outright lies but if you start to see a whole bunch of bloodstains and a bunch of messages scattered in the same place then you really ought to read those. They will point you to bonfires, point out ambushes and even let you know when there are secret areas to be discovered. Very, very handy.
- When you reach the cardinal tower and light the bonfire there, come back outside the building and go down the scaffolding there, to that open area below. There is an alcove down there which, if you dodge the flaming fireballs, will lead you to a chest that grants a fire damage weapon; extremely handy early on if you’re using a melee class.
- Try to get your hands on a ‘Pharros’ Lockstone’ as soon as you can, because it allows you to open up secret areas along your way through the game. In the Cardinal Tower area there is a little area with ballistas which contains a secret door that grants you a ring that allows your stamina to regenerate faster; find this and wield this immediately.
- When you open chests or doors, it’s best to hit them once first. Some doors can be opened without needing a key this way, and some chests might be hostile; this way you know for sure before interacting with them.
- Early on you would do well to find a bonfire near some enemies, and then just go back and forth between those enemies and the bonfire, killing them and farming souls for a few levels. Once you think you’ve done enough — call it grinding, for that is basically what it is — you may then proceed and you will that you’ll have a much easier time with things.
- By all means conserve souls but if you are suffering through an area then don’t be too afraid to spend them on extra items or levels, it could make all the difference; you can get that super awesome weapon of badassery later.
Hopefully this guide will serve as a solid foundation for your Dark Souls II experience. Remember, it’s pretty much only for those series newcomers who need a helping hand along their way. The rest of you will not benefit from this, but don’t fret too much, we’ll try and get out some more guides for the intermediates; character builds and the like. Look out for those later. And you newbies who do benefit from this, don’t forget about us when you make it to new game plus.