A Demon’s Souls guide for newbies

Why this exists:

If you listen to the show you are aware that I recently took another crack at Demon’s Souls after giving up around the 15 hour mark when the game initially came out.  A huge reason that I am enjoying it more is that I am successfully making my way through the game now, as opposed to smashing my head into the wall like I did my first time around.  When I rebought it I did a bit of homework before throwing it in, spending a few hours on the couch next to the wife with my iPad scouring the internet for a good newb guide.  I didn’t really find any…  I did find a few forum posts, and some info on the wiki, but I basically had to sort all of that data into something useful to me.  At this point in Demon’s Souls life cycle it is the realm of the truly hardcore and obsessed.  You are much more likely to find info on the world tendency in the valley of defilement than you are what class to pick as a newbie.  So I figured i would try to fill that void.

I will say though that this post wouldn’t exist without the wiki, the thread at neogaf and countless other things I found via google a few weeks back that I can’t exactly remember right now.  I am not trying to take credit for any of this info, I am merely trying to take what I learned from the internet and from playing and put it together in one spot.  I may update this from time to time, so the version info will be here:

1.0  —  Post date 2.2.11   Initial Guide Posted


Step One:  Character creation and Tutorial

The most important bit of knowledge about character creation is that the starting class you pick really only affects how you start (and how you finish, if you are going for a min/max build, but that’s not our worry).  Each class has differences in stats, starting weapons and in some cases spells…  but you aren’t locked in or out of anything by choosing a class.  If you pick a barbarian and then as you level put all your points into Intelligence, Magic and Faith…  you will end up a mage.  So, to repeat, you aren’t locked into or out of anything by picking a class, it just defines what your starting stats, gear and spells are.

I highly recommend you start as a Royal and will be going through this guide making the assumption that you did.  The reason for this is simple…  the Royal is fairly balanced (though a bit weak) but starts with a devastating ranged spell called “Soul Arrow” which will help out new players in a HUGE way.  The other perk is that they start with a ring that regenerates mana, something that is a bit more subtle but makes a world of difference early on.

In general though as a newbie Royal you will be fighting with your sword and shield which is the main crux of the combat in the game and it will teach you early on the skills you need to succeed.

Gender selection does have an affect also when it comes to armor.  Each piece of armor you find is gender specific.  Is one better than the other?  I have no idea.  I would guess that both are pretty equal at least to the point where it’s not a game breaking decision to pick male over female or vice versa.

After that it will ask you if you want to take the Journey to the Nexus.  Hit yes, even if you’ve played in the past, this is the tutorial and it will get you familiar with  your buttons…  and if you’ve played before it’s a good area to knock the rust off without penalty.  If this is your first time in the tutorial you’re going to die at the end, you didn’t do anything wrong, don’t worry.


The dark decent into the oppressive world we call 1-1 (and the newb rules of combat)

After being introduced to the hub world (something I’ll get into later in the guide) you will be dropped into your first area which is referred to as 1-1 (think Super Mario Bros).  There are 5 worlds with 4 sections, so to make things easier the internet tends to refer to them as 1-1, 1-2 ,  2-3, 4-4, etc etc etc etc.  This is another concept i’ll flesh out a bit later.

The important part is that this is where the game proper starts.  From here on you will be playing by a rule set that is harsh but fair.   As you kill guys you will gain souls (which are used to level up *AND* as money to buy items).  When you die, you drop your souls.   So you can spend 2 hours plodding through 1-1 and then get whacked in the face by a knight with red eyes and all the souls you collected will be on a spot in the ground and when you respawn all the way back at the start of the level every single enemy you killed has respawned.  If you make it back to that spot you get your souls back, if you die on the way back they disappear forever.

Before you run away screaming, this may sound harsh, and it is, it also creates a level of tension not found in other games.   The penalty for death is very, very real.  The good news is that if you play smart you won’t die.  The game itself is not all that difficult once you get the hang of the combat.  And the game has a fairly unique online system built-in where people can leave helpful messages like “strong enemy ahead”  or “jump down here.”  By and large you can trust these messages, but there are a few griefers out there that will place misleading messages.  So before you take a leap off the side of a castle wall at least swing the camera around and try to see if there is land below to land on.   You will also find blood stains which when touched will show you the last few seconds of someone other poor fool’s last seconds alive…  these serve as pretty good warnings of what you will find ahead.

Actually, let’s tackle that combat.   The first rule of Demon’s Souls is simple: NEVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER PUT YOUR SHIELD DOWN.  Grab a piece of duct tape and tape L1 down if you have to.  The game in general is not cheap, but there are ambushes setup along the way, and you don’t want to get caught with your pants (well, shield) down.  Everywhere you go just keep that mofo raised and you will be much, much less likely to find your souls spilled all over the floor.

The second rule of combat is button mashing will only get you killed.  The game works around a stamina system, each swing you take and each block you make will drain your stamina meter a bit.  It will replenish itself fairly quickly, but if you block an attack and then retaliate by jamming on the attack button like a crack monkey playing God of War 3 you will quickly drain your stamina, you won’t be able to attack or block, and your face will get bashed in by a demon with a claymore.

Combat is all about looking for openings and exploiting them and NOT BEING GREEDY.  You will have to fight all of the bad habits that most of the games this generation have taught you.  The checkpoint *isn’t* close by.  Dying is bad!  Button mashing is the short bus to death.  Rushing or playing reckless won’t make you a hero, it will kill you.   In general it’s best to go into each fight looking to block first and attack second and make sure you make use of R3 which will put a camera lock on your target.  A lot of the time an enemy will swing at you, you will block it, and they will recoil —  It is then that you make your counter attack.  Again, don’t get greedy, take 2, maybe 3 swings.  Anything beyond that and you’re out of stamina, the enemy is recovered and you’re fucked.  So you block, they recoil, you get a couple strikes in and immediately raise your shield again and repeat the process.  It sounds boring but it’s not, as you get further (and start fighting more enemies at once) it becomes very strategic and you will really need to think about when your opening is and how much to unleash during it without putting yourself in jeopardy.

Also, don’t forget that you have Soul Arrow.  Hit right on the dpad to switch your main hand weapon to your little Harry Potter wand and then hit attack (after locking on with R3) and you will shoot a magic missile-ish attack that does pretty massive damage.  Your mana pool isn’t huge, so it’s best not to use this spell for every encounter, but if it looks like you have a tough fight ahead of you lead with Soul Arrow and then hit R on the dpad quickly to get your sword back in your hand and start the fight at an advantage.   In general you want to fight these guys where you feel comfortable and not where they stand, so if you are in a nice little clearing and the enemy ahead of you is in a cramped area use Soul Arrow to aggro them and pull them to you.

With these skills you are good to go get your 1-1 on.  I’m not going to write up a full guide on everywhere to go in the level or how to handle each encounter as I think part of the fun is exploring it all on your own, but if you have any questions feel free to ask in the comments, i’ll try to answer as quickly and thoroughly as possible.   But in general just go out, shield raised, and explore.  Kill guys.  Pick up some loot.  Kill more guys.  Get confused when the level design gets less linear.  When you reach some badass demon’s give them a liberal helping of Soul Arrow.   And eventually you will get to the boss of 1-1.

The only thing you need to know about the boss of 1-1 is that his weakness is fire. Along the way you picked up some turpentine.  Use that on your mainhand weapon.  Once your sword is on fire you can slice through the boss and all his little spawn pretty easily.  Not super easy!  You still need to block and pick your attacks, but with the weapon on fire his HP will drop quickly.  You may need to reapply midway through the fight, go hide behind a pillar and do that.  Once you beat him go touch the switch thing in the middle of the room and you will be ported back to the hub world.


The Nexus, Leveling, Upgrading and other such RPG conventions

Once you beat the boss of 1-1 you will be brought back to the Nexus which acts as your hub the rest of the way.  When you get back the hot chick with the sewn up eyes will send you on a quick quest to go upstairs and talk to the creepy kid statue.  After you do that come back downstairs, it’s time to get your RPG on.

The first move you should make is talk to the NPCs.  There are several scattered around the ground floor, some sell weapons and upgrade, some sell spells or miracles (basically holy spells) and there is a dude that acts as your chest.   Use him often.  You have a weight limit on how much you can carry, and you can’t sell weapons/armor…  so everything you get that you aren’t going to equip, give it to that dude to hold on to.   One cool aspect of that guy is that you can give him all the stones you find (which are used to upgrade weapons/gear) and even if you find a NPC out in the middle of some level somewhere the stones from that inventory can be used.  I’m not sure why this is, but it makes life easier not having to carry them around.

Your first purchase should be the Heater Shield from the weaponsmith.  This shield has 100% physical mitigation which basically means as long as your stamina isn’t drained and your shield is up, you won’t be taking any damage (unless someone is shooting magic at you –which does happen later in the game — but it’s not something you need to worry about all that much yet).

After buying the Heater Shield I recommend going and talking to the hot chick with the sewn up eyes and she will ask you if you want to trade in souls to raise your soul level.  This is the basic leveling convention in the game —  instead of getting XP out in the world and leveling when you hit a threshold, you have to save up your souls and trade them in to this chick to level.  I would start by giving yourself a bit of a boost to Endurance and Vitality to raise your stamina and HP.  From there you can sculpt your experience how you want to play.  I’ve gone pretty even, I like having spells and a decent sword, so im spread out.  It took me a bit of soul farming to pull this off, but I enjoyed the farming as the combat is great, so it was worth it.

The maiden in black is who you talk to when you want to level up.

You probably can’t afford any new spells or anything yet.  You also may need a few levels in strength to equip any cool stuff you found.  It will all happen soon, scooter.


What’s next?

From here the world ahead of you is pretty wide open.   Like i said earlier the world is split up into 5 areas that has 4 areas each.  You will know world 1 because you came out of it and it has a dude sitting in front of it.   If you go clockwise from there (up the stairs and back down the other side) you will find 2-1, up at the apex is 3-1, on the decent back down is 4-1 and near the bottom is 5-1.   You also have 1-2 open to you since you beat 1-1.   Where you go next is up to you.  Most people seem to recommend tackling 3-1 next, but I actually find 3-1 to be kinda tough.  I think 2-1 is the best spot, but try them all out.

Once you are comfortable with the combat, level 4-1 is amazing for farming souls to get a bunch of level ups early.  The skeletons there hit hard, but if you keep your shield up and attack smartly you can kill them fairly easily and get a ton of souls.  I farmed that for quite a while and got my level up to 20 or so. Again, don’t get greedy, kill a few dudes and then leave and level up.  If you get too deep and die and can’t get back, all your work was for nothing.

I found getting my magic levels high enough and buying the heal miracle to be a pretty big game changer for me.  The heal spell takes a bit to cast, so the healing herbs are still best in the heat of combat, but being able to just cast a spell to heal between battles keeps the game moving and saves those precious herbs for the fights that matter.   I also recommend the fireball spell if you go the magic route as, at least early on, there are a bunch of enemies with a fire-weakness.

Having a kickass sword and shield is always a good time, so don’t neglect strength.  And also don’t forget to use the stones you pick up to upgrade your weapons in the Nexus.  You can craft some pretty awesome stuff once you get into all of that.   But once you get that deep into it you’ll want to consult the wiki.

And that’s it.  You now know how to play Demon’s Souls.  Don’t be afraid to experiment with your character, or even make runs through the levels knowing you are going to die (and lose your souls) just to explore.  Also, the wiki is your friend, and when in doubt on how to kill a boss, youtube has the answers.

Good luck, have fun and feel free to ask any questions in the comments section




One thought on “A Demon’s Souls guide for newbies

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