Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls, Bloodborne – yes, From Software’s games are hard. But they aren’t impossible. Here’s a couple of hints how you can make your first playthrough more forgiving. Don’t expect a detailed „go here, do this” guide, however, since the experience is so personal that you simply have to find your own playstyle. Believe me, it’s worth it.
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1. Don’t worry too much about your build, but avoid magic
Magic in Soulsborne titles isn’t exactly like in your standard RPG. These games are designed in a different way: as a magic user you are extremely underpowered… until you learn how to get extremely overpowered.
It isn’t a good idea to invest in magic on your first playthrough, though, when you don’t know what you’re doing, where you’re going and how to deal with enemies. Just create a ‘universal soldier’ and learn the basics of movement and combat.
2. Be careful around NPCs
Be REALLY careful. If you kill them, they usually won’t come back (or they will – for a steep price), and if the game is saved, you won’t be able to revert to a previous save. However, some NPCs are actually worth killing since they hide some items that provide more insight into the story… But if you’re a first-timer, just leave them be. And get your finger off the attack button when you’re near them.
3. Experiment with weapons. It won’t cost you a thing
The beauty of the respawining enemies system is in the fact that you can experiment without consequences. If you find a new weapon, don’t just replace your old one and try to push forward. Instead, go back to easier areas and try it out on weaker opponents, and proceed only when you feel you GOT GUD with it.
Even if you die while at it – you can farm for souls. You’ll never be out of weaklings. The only difference is Dark Souls 2, where the enemies actually stop respawning after being killed around 15 times, but even then you can join the Company of Champions to bring them back (and tougher).
4. Level up stamina, health and equip load to make the game easier
Play in a way that allows you to make more mistakes and still stay among the living (well, kind of). What this means is: the more health you have, the more hits you can take. The more points you invest in stamina, the more effectively you can avoid enemy attacks.
Also, it’s worth to increase your equip load so you can wear heavier types of armor without losing mobility. If your equipment weights less than 25% of your total weight limit, you move and dodge the fastest, but staying between 25-50% should be just fine.
The amount of damage you make isn’t that important. It’s better to chip off the enemy’s health bar bit by bit and be able to take a beating, than to hit harder while risking being downed in an instant.
5. Don’t go alone
If a boss or an area seems particularly hard, summon other players. However, there is a possibility that on some platforms, in some games at least, multiplayer is as good as dead.
Thankfully, From Software had the decency to program summonable NPCs (such as Solaire in Dark Souls or Henriette in Bloodborne). Their summon signs appear in tougher areas and before bosses. NPCs’ performance is pretty much a lottery – sometimes they die instantly, sometimes they can endure an entire boss battle – but it’s always easier when your enemy is busy with another target.
6. Leave the DLC areas for later
If you bought a complete edition of Dark Souls or Bloodborne, with all the DLCs… Don’t even try to beat these new areas until you’re almost at the endgame.
The main game’s difficulty may seem high, but it’s nothing compared with the add-ons. They’re doable – sometimes they’re even designed better than the base game (like in Dark Souls 2) – but you’d be better off leaving them for later. Even for your second playthrough.
7. When in doubt – ask the community
Soulsborne community is amazing. It’s the exact opposite of toxic: the people are friendly and helpful, they welcome new players and they’ve even created their own summon navigation system that makes it easier to connect players who need help in certain areas. Find them on Reddit and get immersed in the game even more.
8. Sometimes it’s not a bad idea to start over
Today I call myself a fan of the Soulsborne games, but to be frank – at first, I was anything but. Dark Souls was intriguing but tiresome, and being constantly punished by a game wasn’t my idea of a good time. So I stopped playing and came back after a short break, starting anew.
Then it all clicked. I knew the early areas pretty well by then. I knew what the game was and how I was supposed to play it. Suddenly, it became a very pleasant experience. Eventually I got to parts that gave me an insanely hard time again, but this time I wasn’t feeling completely lost. It became a matter of GITTING GUD instead of constantly thinking I wasn’t playing the game right.
Take my example. If you want to fall in love with the Soulsborne series, just give it a chance. And if you get frustrated, quit for a while and give it another chance. When you GIT GUD, the Soulsbornes will become the best games you’ve ever played. They are that good indeed.
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