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Dark Souls II Survival Guide For Absolute Noobz

Let's try not to die (too often).

If you plan to venture through the lands of Dark Souls II, you’d best be prepared with the reflexes of a tiger and the survival skills of a Cub Scout troop leader. The adventure won’t be easy, but it can be made bearable with a few tips and tricks from the grandmaster himself (which is me, if you didn’t know). Throughout this gratuitously grandiose guide, I’ll be giving a few tips based on the environment and exploration, combat, items and item management, and online portions of the game, so grab a nice blanket and get comfortable, because this is going to be one hell of a ride!

The first and utmost important rule to remember is to never become over-confident in terms of your playing and abilities. More often than not, this is going to kill you quicker than anything else in the game, and the last thing you want is to be embarrassed by being cocky and dying in front of all your potential friends during a co-op game. Hell, being cocky and dying in a single-player experience can be embarrassing at times (not that I’d know though…). Playing defensively is going to be your best option in any and all scenarios, so make sure that you take things slowly and keep your shield up at all times when you’re exploring a new area. You never know what’s going to be lurking around the corner waiting to ambush you. With that said, let us talk about environments and survival techniques.

To start with, touch every bonfire you come across. Even if you’re backtracking to a different location, there is no sense in suffering from premature death-ulation and losing everything you’ve earned. Bonfires are your single most important best friend in this game since they’ll be acting as a checkpoint. Also; don’t be walking around with your head up your ass. You’ll find that more often than not, you’re only setting yourself up for an easily avoidable pit-of-death. By keeping a sharp focus on what’s around you, you’ll be able to avoid stupid deaths. For instance; as I was walking across a bridge during the beta, I was watching the sky for any impending dragons. I suffered a severe case of death and embarrassment as I walked directly into a hole and plummeted to my death.

No matter what happens though, you’re going to die at some point, which brings up my next piece of advice; carefully examine the environment and learn enemy placements. This is a rather easy thing that will soon be embedded into your psyche, but learning and knowing where to go and where enemies will be are crucial to survival. If you’re closely examining what’s around you and can perceive an imminent ambush, start luring the enemies out one by one instead of trying to muscle them all at once. And if the enemies are too much for you to handle, then perhaps you’re heading in the wrong direction entirely and you should start investigating other possible routes.

But if the enemies feel just right in terms of difficulty, then perhaps you’re heading in the right direction, which bring us to our next bit of advice; combat. Much like learning the environment around you, you should also take the time to learn the numerous attack patterns that are going to be coming at you. Figuring out whether an enemy is going to swing once or attack with a barrage of blows is not only going to save your stamina and health, but also your life. Strategy plays a huge factor in combat, and knowing when to block, dodge, and when to land your strikes will ensure your progression throughout the lands of Dark Souls II.

If you somehow forgot to keep an eye out on your environment and find yourself trapped in an ambush, then fret not, for I do have some combat advice for you. First of all, take out the weaker enemies first and save any heavy hitters for last. While this may seem odd, realize that enemies who do more damage tend to move a bit slower, while weaker enemies move quicker. If you’re able to clear out the weaker foes, you’ll give yourself more breathing room to out-maneuver stronger enemies and topple them over for some precious souls. If you find yourself getting low on health, make sure you place enough room between yourself and the enemies at hand to heal. Even if you attempt to run away, they’re going to chase you down and make you their bitch, so make sure there’s plenty of room before healing!

The utmost important aspect in combat is stamina management. If you’re too low on stamina, you risk having your guard broken. With lower stamina, you’re also at risk for being unable to get away easily as well as efficiently attacking your enemies. If your stamina is low though, you can actually replenish it easily by simply stepping back a bit and letting your shield down for a few precious seconds. With your shield down, you’ll see a noticeable increase in stamina regeneration, but remember to bring your shield back up if you see your opponent preparing an attack. If you’re beginning to feel confident in your abilities, feel free to start practicing the new parry/riposte techniques. Not only is riposting stamina-efficient, it also deals some hefty damage and is able to give you a few prized seconds to take a momentary breath or sigh of relief.

While this sounds like a piece of cake; remember that stamina and other stats aren’t the only things that matter. Equipment selection is crucial, especially whenever you have a particular build in mind. Once you have a proper build in mind, allocate your stats accordingly and make sure you select the appropriate equipment to suit your needs. If you want to be a quick and nimble dexterity build, you shouldn’t be equipping the heaviest armor you can find. And speaking of weight, make sure you don’t overburden yourself to the point of constantly fat-rolling around like an obese whale playing dodgeball. Constantly equipping and trying out new weapons and armor are another key factor to your success. Just because a sword is weaker doesn’t mean it won’t fit your play style. You may find that a weaker weapon feels better in accordance to your style, therefore maximizing its efficiency.

When it comes to the online world of Dark Souls, I can pretty much guarantee that you’ll never see anything like this in terms of presentation. Make sure you take heed of the Blood Stains around you and learn from others’ mistakes. Not only will their deaths (laughable ones, occasionally) help you see any potential dangers, it can also alert you of any impending traps that may be lying in wait for you. Also pay attention to the words left behind by other players, for they often offer useful advice that will aid you along your way. But use your head and look around before you jump off a cliff since some players may be simply trolling and waiting for foolish players to nip the bait.

Be wary though, for there is more to the online universe of Dark Souls than just Blood Stains and long laid messages, there are also those who like to kill you on their own. So now let us discuss invasions and how to deal with them properly. If you happen to be invaded, keep an eye out on your surroundings and avoid areas with enemies until the invader has been dealt with. Invaders will typically try to lead you off into an area in which the odds favor them.

A lot of invaders will attempt to fight you honorably by bowing before the fight, but listen closely; there is no honor in Dark Souls. As soon as your newfound enemy begins to bow, run up and backstab them as quickly as possible. While this may sound like ‘dirty’ fighting, you need to consider this: would you shake the hand of a man with a gun pointed at your head before he robs you? Would you hug a home invader and wish him good luck as he walks off with your 80 inch HD TV? No! So why should you ever let someone come into your world, and steal all of your hard earned souls? You need to fight dirty and never feel bad about it. If all else fails and the invasions are proving to be too much, simply disconnect from the servers and play offline!

Finally, if you hit a progression wall, don’t be afraid to summon a helpful hand or two. There’s nothing worse than becoming overly frustrated and giving up, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with seeking assistance as you advance through the game. Just do yourself a favor, and don’t die an embarrassing death in front of your newly found co-op buddies. If you summon me for help and you die, I’m seriously going to laugh at you, seriously.





03/13/2014 at 12:29 PM

Great read Chris, and/or... er... Justin.

Even though I played a bit of Demon Souls and Dark Souls I am lousy at these games. I only use two moves those being hit and run away. I'm usually hitting the attack button so furiously that I don't notice that I'm about to be hit until I've already been hit.

Chris Yarger Community Manager

03/13/2014 at 12:35 PM

I wrote it, and Justin supplied the wonderful pics!

But yes, it takes a while to master. Sometimes though, you just need to learn when to stand your ground and when to run away.


03/13/2014 at 12:36 PM

I  was about to ask if it was Justin or your wife that did the illustrations. Nice work from Justin, I think they're great.


03/13/2014 at 12:43 PM

Yeah I love Justin's artwork. It goes perfectly with the article.


03/13/2014 at 12:42 PM

I made it past the first boss in Demon's Souls, started a new area, got invaded, tried to run away, got killed, quit. LOL My son has played and finished both games though

I still have both games although the first game is digital from PSN because someone bought my collector's edition.

I think about trying again sometimes but I haven't so far.

Chris Yarger Community Manager

03/13/2014 at 12:56 PM

Everyone handles the game differently, that's for sure. Some can make easy work of a Souls game, others struggle. It's kind of cool though


03/13/2014 at 01:03 PM

I'll probably wind up buying the new game anyway. I love the atmosphere the games have. Maybe I'll talk my son into buying this one and save me the money. LOL


03/13/2014 at 12:44 PM

I remember seeing you fall through that bridge in the beta video, lol.

I'll have the game soon in the next day or so I hope. I've been wondering what the starting classes are like and which one I'm going to choose once I start. I don't know how accurate or up to date the wiki is but when I checked on the classes there I saw some weird new ones, and I didn't see any that start with a shield. Do any start with shields, or do you start finding shields fairly soon in the adventure?

When I did DS1 I tried out a few different classes before moving past the tutorial area, I might do the same for DS2. I want a lightweight character with a bow, 100% PHY shield, and a melee weapon. The longsword was my main weapon in DS1, but I've been hearing from the Giant Bomb guys that there's a lot of armored enemies in DS2 and using a mace is really good at dealing with them? I don't know what melee weapon I'll end up falling back on in this game so I'll have to keep my options open I guess.

Chris Yarger Community Manager

03/13/2014 at 12:50 PM

I'm not TOO far into Dark Souls II yet myself, so I can't really give an opinion on the armored enemies.

I did however start three different characters so I could test the different builds. So far, the Warrior seems the best suited for what I'm trying to do on my initial playthough (And he comes with a shield!). The mage felt very over-powered in the beginning, whereas the Hunter seemed to be incredible underwhelming.

I can't wait for you to grab the game though Michael, I'm interested to hear your opinions on it!


03/13/2014 at 01:02 PM

I LOVE the art work haha! So cute!

I really enjoyed the if they bow you go stab them. Made me giggle. Good job XD

Chris Yarger Community Manager

03/13/2014 at 01:11 PM

Thanks Ashley!
All images were courtesy of Justin!

And for invaders, give them no chances


03/13/2014 at 02:20 PM

I feel as though the knight in the illustrations is missing a shovel...  

Justin Matkowski Staff Alumnus

03/13/2014 at 02:41 PM

Thanks to everyone for the love/kind words on the illustrations - had an absolute blast doing them and glad that you guys and gals like them! Big thanks to Yargz for putting together this guide to help beginners as we get our asses kicked all up and down Dragleic!

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