This has been sitting on my hard drive for weeks now, figured I might as well post it and get with the live feedback editing. There's still a few placeholders for some images and videos I'd like to eventually insert. Dark Souls: The First Few Hours Attention conservation notice: this guide is meant for players who are brand new to Dark Souls. Much of the the guidance on offer will be supplanted and caveated to hell and back as you gain more experience. However, for purposes of clarity and brevity, I'm keeping it simple. So understand that when I make absolute statements like "You must…" these statements are only absolute insofar as you're learning the game, as you develop as a Dark Souls player you'll learn about the many exceptions these absolute statements have. The Goal Dark Souls is a phenomenally rewarding game. It's also got an enormous potential to frustrate new players. There's no manual to speak of (at least not that I know of), the in-game tutorial is brief and lacking and the same goes for the in-game help. Likewise, in terms of "where should I go now," the game is similarly opaque. This guide will provide an introduction to the various game systems that you'll spend the entire game exploring, as well as some early direction. This guide is not a walkthrough, in terms of providing specifics on where to go and how to kill stuff I'm only going to provide guidance insofar as it pertains to getting a better handle on the game's systems. Assumptions For the purposes of this guide, I'm going to assume that you've completed the (woefully inadequate) tutorial level - the Undead Asylum - and that you're currently hanging out at the fire at Firelink Shrine. If you haven't that's fine! You can probably still get something out of this guide. But the Undead Asylum will at least introduce you to some of the super-basic concepts, as well as get you your starting gear. I am also going to assume you're playing on the PC with an XBox 360 controller. If you're not then you'll have to figure out how to interpret the inputs I give you. I'll refer to the various buttons. For clarity sake: L1 is the left bumper, L2 is the left trigger, and L3 is clicking down on the left thumbstick. Same goes for the right hand inputs, R1, R2, and R3. Finally, I am going to make no assumptions about your starting class or gift. This means that I won't be mentioning a few neat early-game tricks you can pull to get some solid gear. Master-Key specific advice will come later. Credit where credit is due The information in this guide comes largely from the Dark Souls community over at Broken Forum, specifically within the My Souls So Dark sub forum. I've played a grand total of thirty hours of Dark Souls, and I've probably spent almost as much time asking questions of that community. They very patiently offered me detailed answers, which form the bulk of this guide. There are too many names to mention specifically, but understand that for the most part my role here is only as an editor, there the ones who provided the material. A Note on Class Classes in Dark Souls are not like classes in D&D or many other RPGs. They represent only a set of starting statistics and equipment. They'll influence how you experience the very early part of Dark Souls, but after gaining several levels you'll find that one class is pretty much as good as another. It's often suggested that brand new players start with the Pyromancer because Pyromancy is a pretty awesome thing to have access to early in the game (see the appendix on magic if you want to know more) and the starting armor set is pretty good; but it's not at all necessary. Likewise, it's very common to see veterans advising new players to start with the Master Key, because it provides access to some pretty keen loot early on (again, see the appropriate appendix if you're curious). Consider taking that advice, but know that your starting class and your starting gift are not very impactful choices. Start with whatever you like! Prepare to Die This is the most important piece of advice for playing Dark Souls: you're going to die, you're going to die often, and it's OK. In many RPGs, death represents a fail state: all progress is lost and you hope that you haven't forgotten to save recently and inevitably you haven't and now you've got like forty-five minutes of slogging through bullshit to get back to the tough fight that killed you and it sucks so you just turn off the game and go sulk. That's not how death works in Dark Souls. Death is not a fail state, rather, it's an important gameplay mechanic, and in many cases dying is entirely intentional. For example: what we're going to do now. Assuming you're in the Firelink Shrine, we're going to begin your Dark Souls experience with a suicide run. Suicide runs exploit the death mechanic in Dark Souls. When you die, all of your souls and "soft" humanity (an important and somewhat complex thing we'll return to later) remain in a glowing pile on top of your bloodstain wherever you died. If you want them back, your only choice is to fight back through whatever is between the last bonfire and your bloodstain and reclaim them. Note that if you die during this retrieval, your old bloodstain (and souls) are permanently lost and you'll have a new one to collect. On the other hand, any items you've picked up or upgrades you've made will stick with you. Which means that death in the pursuit of items or upgrades is A-OK! In fact there are some areas where you can avoid some very powerful monsters just long enough to get yourself some very powerful early-game gear (see the Master Key section for details). So here's what we're going to do. First - assuming you have some souls - rest at the fire and upgrade some of your stats. Suicide runs usually involve losing your souls, and if you've come through the Asylum you might have a couple thousand. Losing them isn't that big a deal (you will get millions more), but it can't hurt to upgrade stuff. If you're not sure what to upgrade, right now Endurance is always a good choice (I'll explain why later), and so is Vitality. Anyway, after resting, strip off your armor. Where we're going it's not going to help you, and being naked will make you potentially quite a bit faster. To strip off your armor, just go into the equipment screen, highlight each piece of equipment, and hit the X button. Strictly speaking you don't have to strip off all of it, just enough to get you below 25% of your Equip. Load, but since I haven't talked to you about Equip. Load yet and I'm probably already boring you with a wall of text, we'll just say go ahead and strip it all off. Now, from the campfire in Firelink Shrine head toward the watery area (walk around a little bit and you'll find it). Off to the left of this reflecting pool you'll find an exit that leads out toward a graveyard. This graveyard is full of skeletons who will kick the ever-loving crap out of you. However, these skeletons are currently laying around as piles of bones and will take a few moments to form up before they start whacking you. This suicide run will exploit that delay, allowing you to get past them and score some cool gear. Speaking of cool gear: the gear itself (along with all manner of other loot) is found as glowing white things lying around. Whenever you see a glowing white ball, that's an item you can pick up. Walk near it, make sure your shield is down, and hit the A button to pick it up. You actually have to hit A twice; the first time you hit it picks up the item and displays a description on the screen, the second dismisses that description. This is a fiddly bit of UI but it's important, especially if you want to pick up multiple items and have a bunch of enemies breathing down your neck! So the idea is going to be simple: we're going to sprint through the graveyard (holding down the B button will make you sprint), running past all enemies, in an attempt to get as much of those glowing white things as we can. If anything catches up with you and tries to attack, roll away by tapping the B button while pushing the control stick away from them. If you're very lucky you can get everything. If not don't worry, when you die (and you will) you'll be back at the bonfire at Firelink Shrine. You can just go back into the graveyard and get the stuff you missed, or (if you're satisfied) you can move on. From the graveyard, you can get the following: - Winged Spear (a nice weapon, if spears are your thing) - A Zweihander (another nice weapon; this time a giant sword) - A Caduceus Round Shield (Perhaps a nice shield upgrade, depending on your starting class) - Some Binoculars (Not as handy as you might think, but later on you can use it to line up long-range shots with various ranged weapons) There's some other handy stuff stashed in and around Firelink Shrine, go ahead and do some exploring if you're up for it. But don't worry if you don't get everything; none of it is absolutely necessary. Re-equip your armor, and we'll move on, and congratulations on your first suicide run! Before we move on toward the Undead Burg, it's time to learn some basics about Dark Souls statistics.