Tips To Help You Not Suck At Dark Souls 2

Posted on March 20, 2014 by James Conway

It's been over a week since Dark Souls 2 has come out and I am just now finishing up my first playthrough (A review is coming...soon...I think). I've found the game to be very similar to its predecessor, in terms of difficulty and story, but From Software has made a lot of changes. These changes have made the sequel just as hard as Dark Souls was. 

As of writing I have put 41 hours, 11 minutes, and 24 seconds into my first playthrough and during this time I have learned a lot. Instead of being a greedy asshole and hoarding my knowledge of this wonderful game, here are some tips to help you not suck at Dark Souls 2.

Buy A Bow...And A Shitload Of Arrows

You cannot go wrong with finding/buying a good bow and a lot of arrows. I spent about a quarter of my playthrough without using a bow, since I rarely used one in Dark Souls, but it became clear that acquiring a bow would most certainly help me on this adventure. 

Many situations require you to pull enemies one at a time to defeat them and with a bow this becomes easy as cake. If you are not a spellcaster, a bow is a fantastic substitute to engage enemies from far away. A bow doesn't necessarily make the game any easier, but it makes you think about your surroundings. Many times I find myself scanning large areas before moving, seeing if I can eliminate any threats early or see if there is an ambush later down the road. Having a bow on hand changes the way you look at a new area, which brings us to my next tip...

Be Aware Of Your Surroundings/Use Caution

The number #1 killer in Dark Souls and Dark Souls 2 is complacency. The false feeling of superiority that you get from beating a substandard enemy who you thought was hard, will get you killed. Only one room over you will find yourself walking right into an ambush because you thought your shit don't stink. 

Every time you enter a new room or walk through a fog gate literally anything can happen in this game. Take every precaution when moving forward. If you see a lot of bloodstains (Only available if playing online.) on the ground near a door, then there is probably something behind that door that wants to eat your face. Touch the bloodstains and see how that player died. Also read every message you find on the ground, some will save your life.

Use Summon Signs To Your Advantage

This one goes two ways, but both are used for the same reason. If you're having trouble with a Boss, don't be afraid to use a Human Effigy to summon other players or NPC's to help. I have been noticing that most of the time there are far more people requiring summoning than people actually providing it. It's very frustrating, but as a long time Sun Bro we do the best we can and try to help everybody. You can summon up to two people to assist you, but keep in mind that with each person you summon, the enemies and area Boss become stronger. Human Effigies are also a semi-rare item and being able to farm them extensively doesn't come until later in the game. Try to save a few and buy them up from merchants every chance you get.

The second way to use a Summon Sign to help you out with both acquiring souls and area Bosses that you are having trouble with is to put your Summon Sign down in front of a fog door to a Boss. By doing this you are not only helping out another player, you are getting a free shot at a Boss without any of the consequences. You don't lose souls or humanity if you die and I'm not sure if this is confirmed or not, but the more I helped people it seemed that my Pyromancy spells and weapon durability completely recovered. I've used this tactic many times to figure out the move set of a Boss before fighting them in my world, but of course this method is always dependent on someone touching your symbol.

Don't Hold Onto Your Souls

There is no real reason for anyone in this game to be holding on to 50,000+ souls. Nothing really costs that much in Dark Souls 2, even leveling didn't start to become expensive until I got to around level 120. Weapons, armor, and upgrades for them are relatively inexpensive, which are things you should be spending your souls on, while spells and stones for upgrading can cost anywhere between 1,000-17,500. You're better off finding most of the things you will need for upgrading out in the game world. Titanite shards are cheap so buying those are no big deal.

After every Boss there is usually a Bonfire and if not there is most likely one back the way you came. When you defeat an area Boss it's a good rule of thumb to head back to Majula to visit the Emerald Herald and spend your souls on leveling up and restocking items from the local merchants. The soul items you pick up throughout the game should only be used when trying to upgrade a weapon that you just don't have enough souls for currently or when you need an extra boost to help get to that next level. Don't be wasting those items willy nilly, you will only find so many.

Side Note: Don't use Boss souls to try and acquire souls, save them for making powerful weapons later on in the game.


Leave no stone unturned. There are many hidden items and secret areas that can be easily missed. Of course you have to make the decision whether to continue or not down a dark corridor if you are low on healing items, but going the extra ten feet could reveal a new weapon for your arsenal or a better shield than the one you currently have, which brings us to my next tip...

Have A Good Shield

Can't stress this one enough. Having a decent shield can make your Dark Souls 2 experience a lot less stressful and having a shitty shield can make your experience suck. I spent the beginning of my playthrough with a shield that only blocked 95% of physical damage, which may sound good, but receiving 5% damage from Boss attacks while blocking adds up quickly. Finding a good, sturdy shield that blocks 100% physical damage is key. Being able to negate all the damage an enemy is trying to do to you is paramount in this game. Here is a link to the location of the Drangleic Shield, which can be found early in the game, right after The Pursuer Boss fight. It blocks 100% physical and has decent stability. 

Recently I've been using the Tower Shield, which has great damage reduction across the board. It is heavy as hell and cannot parry, but it fits my playstyle of high defense and tanking hits. Even if you like having a character who is light on his/her feet and chooses to roll away from hits rather than block, having a good quality shield is never a bad idea.

Side Note: The Drangleic Sword and Armor can be found with the shield. The Drangleic Sword is a Greatsword and is my favorite weapon in the game so far; I've been using it for the majority of the game. It requires 25 STR and 20 DEX, which you might not have early on, but make an effort to get those stats and use this weapon, it will not disappoint you. The only downsides of this weapon are that it's pretty heavy and to upgrade it you have to use Twinkling Titanite.

Use Bonfire Ascetic To Reset Area Items

Now, this tip I am very proud of. I've found out that other people have learned this trick as well, but I don't think it is well known.

Bonfire Ascetic may seem to be a late game item, to ramp up the difficulty to give you a greater challenge, but it can be used to reset all the items in an area. This is a great way to farm a location for rare items. The problem with this method of farming is that every time you use Bonfire Ascetic you make the nearby enemies stronger, much stronger. I'm not sure if there is a cut off point for the increased difficulty, but enemies have certainly gotten stronger every time I've used it.

The location I've been using Bonfire Ascetic the most is at the first Bonfire in Aldia's Keep, right outside the front door. There are two Petrified Dragon Bones in the area that the Bonfire covers and Petrified Dragon Bones are used to upgrade special weapons made from Boss souls. Every time you use a Bonfire Ascetic the items reset, so you can go right ahead and pillage them again and again and again until you run out of Bonfire Ascetic. Of course I only started to do this after I had already made it well past that area. Petrified Dragon Bones are pretty rare and only a few can be purchased, so upgrading Boss weapons becomes easier by using this method of farming.

Don't Give Up!

Just like Dark Souls, Dark Souls 2 isn't designed to be unfair. Many times it can feel as if there is no hope of getting past a difficult Boss or figuring out where to go next, but persistence is key!

One good feature of Dark Souls 2 is being able to warp from any Bonfire in the game. If you are having trouble with a certain location and just don't think you're ready for the challenge, you can leave and try some place new. When you've leveled up a little or maybe found a better weapon, try traveling back and giving it another shot. 

If a Boss is giving you a hard time, summon some allies to help you with your fight. You pick up a lot of items throughout the game, always check your inventory for consumables that can give you an edge. I know Charcoal Pine Resin helped me beat the Giant Lord Boss towards the end of the game, didn't even knew I had it in my inventory until I checked.

And the last tip I'll leave you with is if you are really having a difficult time progressing and nothing you do seems to work, just go ahead and ask the Dark Souls community for help. Without a doubt the most helpful gaming community around. If they don't have the answers, then no one does.

I hope my tips can be of some assistance to you on your adventure through Drangleic and check back soon for my full review of Dark Souls 2. I know it's late, but I wanted to explore every nook and cranny of this amazing game before writing a review.

#Dark Souls 2

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