As I’ve written recently, I’ve always been interested by the idea of the Dark Souls experience, but none of the games in the main series or even ‘Soulslike’ games outside of it managed to ever dig their hooks into me. There’s one exception in Star Wars: Jedi: Fallen Order, and that’s mostly because it was a Star Wars game and it’s also not a true ‘Soulslike’ but more of a blend of multiple different subgenres of game.
Every time I play a ‘Souls’ game, I basically rage quit in the first half hour or so. With the PlayStation 5 just released and with as pretty as the Demon’s Souls remake looks on the PS5 (yes, I can be that superficial) I decided to give the game that started it all a college try. I’m now level 50 and dozens of hours into the game, so while most (if not all of this) is old hat for you ‘Souls’ vets out there, let me share some tips for fellow newbies dipping their toes into this series for the first time.
Starting Class Doesn’t Matter*
Your starting class choice doesn’t really matter in Demon’s Souls. It’s more of a pre-allocation of attributes and a set of gear. That’s not to say your choice can’t be incredibly consequential, especially in the beginning, but it’s important to note that if you decide to roll a Knight or Soldier and decide you actually want to play a mage of some sort, there’s nothing stopping you. You’ll just need to find the appropriate items in the world instead of starting with them and adjust your attributes accordingly. That said, some starting classes are just straight up better than others in the beginning and this is especially true for the Royalty class which starts with a bunch of great items and the ability to cast magic right away.
Magic is Overpowered
Speaking of magic, it’s overpowered in Demon’s Souls. No, seriously. If you want to faceroll the game, go all in on magic. I’m not trying to discourage those of you who typically prefer to sling spells in games, but I will warn you upfront that the game will be a lot easier if that matters to you.
Armor is Kind of Meh
The mitigation difference between a light class of armor and the heaviest armor in the game isn’t huge. There are use cases for all sorts of armor, such as the new Burrower’s Armor and its high fire resistance being great in particular situations, but feel free to wear what looks good to you for the most part. There’s one caveat, though…
Equipment Burden is Everything
While the mitigation factor of your armor isn’t super important, its impact on your Equipment Burden is everything. When looking at your Equipment page, your Equipment Burden is expressed as the % in the upper right area of the screen. Ideally, you want to keep this under 50% of your maximum for a number of different reasons. Equipped weapons also affect this figure, but ammo and rings do not.
Keeping your EB under 50% will allow you to roll much faster in combat, instead of doing what’s called a 'fat roll' which is a lot slower and will often get you killed. It also allows you to run and sprint at full speed, which is nice. The rolling is far more important, however.
There’s a ring called Ring of Great Strength that you can find early in the game that can help you keep your EB in line if necessary.
Endurance and Vitality Are Key
Intuitively, you’d think that spending your points in an RPG like this, it would make sense to do something like put some points into stats like Endurance (for stamina) and Vitality (for HP), but to mostly focus on whatever your main damage stat is, and to some extent that’s true, but not necessarily for your first run through the game. In Demon’s Souls, Vitality, and especially Endurance, will have the most impact on your first playthrough with your character.
Vitality is useful for obvious reasons, the more HP you have the better. It also increases your ability to carry items, but this is less useful in the remake since you can send items to your storage in the Nexus while out in the world.
Endurance, on the other hand, is your defense, mobility and damage all rolled into one! Spending points in Endurance increases your Stamina, which is used for physical attacking, rolling, blocking, and sprinting. I believe the cap for Stamina is achieved at 40 Endurance, so that’s a good target to work towards. The benefits here are obvious. Endurance also increases your maximum Equipment Burden, making it easier to stay within that 50% range.
You will want to spend points in other attributes in order to be able to equip and use items properly or even learn more magic (Magic) or miracles (Faith), but I would still suggest focusing on pumping Vitality and Endurance in your first playthrough once you’ve met the requirements for the items or spells you want to use.
You can reduce the emphasis here if you're going for a strictly spell slinging build, but like I said, you'll be trivializing the game at that point, anyways.
Why not focus on your main damage stat before NG+? I’ll explain in the next tip.
Pump Your Damage With Weapon Upgrades
Weapons in Demon’s Souls typically scale with different attributes to contribute to their damage. Some weapons scale very well with Strength, others, like Bows and Daggers, with Dexterity, and so on. You can view the attribute scaling and how strong the scaling is by examining the item in your inventory. This will show you which attributes it scales with and the grade the game has assigned to the item in those attributes. Some items may scale with multiple attributes, but scale more with one or the other (ex. A weapon might scale in both Strength and Dexterity, but have E grade scaling in Strength and C in Dexterity).
If you’ve settled on a particular build and know what you want to do, you may be tempted to neglect things like Endurance or Vitality and go into say, Strength, for a build focused on using big swords, but the fact of the matter is you’d have to focus on these stats significantly to get enough out of item scaling that it’s not really worth bothering with until later, possibly not until New Game Plus.
Upgrading your weapons, on the other hand, will make a much bigger difference in your damage output. Upgrading swords with Hardstone or bows with Sharpstone will give you an immediate and massive increase in your base damage. Upgrades also increase how much items scale with certain attributes and can even change their scaling entirely. Want to be a wizard who can cleave enemies in half with a Broad Sword as well as a warrior can? No problem. Upgrade your weapon with enough basic ranks and then collect some Darkmoonstone to upgrade it further, eliminating its Strength and Dexterity scaling and changing it to Magic. Now, your Broad Sword gains damage from the Magic stat you were already pumping as a mage, adds magic damage on hit, and even mana regeneration over time.
If you want to be even more efficient, though, you can forego damage attribute scaling and work on the “Dragon” upgrade path which nukes damage scaling via attributes entirely (trading for a higher base damage) and changes your weapon to deal fire damage, scaling with upgrade rank. It’s possible to find a Dragon Long Sword+1 early-ish on in the game, but even if you want to upgrade a different weapon type, you can get started with Dragon upgrades early. Hardstone and Sharpstone upgrades are “basic” upgrades that can take a weapon from +1 to +10, but you’ll need to bring most weapons to +6 for the option to upgrade with materials such as the aforementioned Darkmoonstone to even open up. Dragon, on the other hand, opens up as early as Weapon +3, and Dragonstone is also plentiful in the game.
You’ll occasionally run into some fire resistant enemies, but Dragon weapons are your best bang for your buck, in my opinion.
There’s tons more to talk about when it comes to Demon’s Souls, but these are some good things to keep in mind when starting out in the game.
Got your own tips? Share 'em with us in the comments below!