Well, it's not uncommon to start several times, but you also gain a lot if you just muddle through because as you progress you realize where the hard limits to progress are in the game and those earlier investments in gear that seemed so monumental are a much smaller issue. Regardless, this is more "stuff to have in mind" than anything I am saying is better or worse; If nothing else, relying on the heater shield means you have a slightly larger parry window which probably means you are getting much better at that valuable skill. So here's what I like about the Dragon Crest shield: There are two big limiting factors early on to shield progress. One is access to the large ember, which you are on the verge of getting but you can see is quite a ways off from the beginning. Two, and more importantly, is the relative scarcity of large titanite shards. Since they are crucial for upgrading armor especially let alone your weapons, the fact that you don't hit a farmeable location for them until the PITA slimes in the Depths or the Slightly Less PITA leeches (at least they are more generous) in Blight Town, I really value a shortcut to reasonable stability that is along an entirely different resource track that I generally don't really need until later in the game.Either way, at +3/4 that early in the game, the Dragon Crest is a nice, light shield that not coincidentally neutralizes the many fire-based opponents you face in the early going. The key there is that I know exactly how to get 8 twinkling titanite relatively early: I get two from the crystal lizard that's in the Taurus demon's tower, and another two from the one in Darkroot basin immediately after I get to the blacksmith. These will both be available until you get them, and you can simply let them run away, position yourself, and quit/reload to get another crack at them. The other four come from killing a couple of the tree guys on the way to the basin with enough soft humanity on me (or at least 2-3 to make it worthwhile, since that's the biggest increment in drop quality) to get one of each of the bleed, poison, and toxin herbs. These I take back with me to the undead asylum to trade with Snuggly, which I usually do early so I can get the rusted iron ring and more importantly the Crest Shield and get that up to +3, as having a high magic resist shield means I am on my way to do an early run at [magic dispensing enemies not germane to discussion at hand]. But I digress. Twinkling titanite was originally designed to be capped per playthrough, or at least very rare depending on how the drops from the only monsters that drop it were going to be. But now that the giant blacksmith sells them, you can feel comfortable using it to get an early edge; if you're really industrious around Blight Town, you can go to the Great Hollow and kill the ten lizards there for a guaranteed 20 twinkling and diverse other rewards (I've gotten up to 3 titanite slabs, for instance). tl;dr- the effort you've put into the heater shield means it's pretty damned competitive. I like my way because it lets me pump up armor and my weapons of choice instead of a shield until I get to the mid-game shields that I really like, and both crest shields remain really competitive throughout NG+s just because they are so light and so capable in their respective spheres.