Demon’s Souls beginner’s guide

Demon’s Souls, the game that made FromSoftware a household name and spawned spiritual sequels in Dark Souls, Bloodborne, and Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, has been reborn on PlayStation 5. Like other Souls games, it is challenging, often esoteric, and will almost certainly have you doing a Google search for a guide at some point.

If you’re starting Demon’s Souls for the first time, here are a few tips to help you get started, and some general advice.

Picking your class (or accessing Demon’s Souls’ easy mode)

It doesn’t matter what class you choose, because most start you off at a low level, and you can tailor your character to your particular play style by leveling up. If you can’t decide, try playing as the Knight (good for combat), Priest/Temple Knight (good for self-healing) or Royalty (good for casting ranged magic). The Royalty class is often referred to as Demon’s Souls “easy mode,” because it starts you off with a strong ranged spell (Soul Arrow) and a ring that slowly regenerates your magic points.

Just be careful which stats you invest your souls in — there is no respec option in Demon’s Souls. (OK, there is kind of one, but it’s incredibly complicated and you should operate under the assumption that you can’t redistribute your experience.)

Where to start and where to go next

First of all, if this is your first play through of Demon’s Souls, don’t be surprised if the first big boss you encounter, the Vanguard Demon, one-hit kills you. That’s by design. But once you awaken in the Nexus and meet your fellow comrades trapped in there with you, you’ll want to head to the leftmost archstone, Boletarian Palace (aka 1-1). Once you defeat the big slimy demon there, Phalanx, you’ll get access to the rest of the archstones.

Your first stop: Boletarian Palace
Image: Bluepoint Games/Sony Interactive Entertainment via Polygon

There’s no perfect progression path through of all five archstones — no, you cannot access the sixth broken one — but I generally recommend playing through the first level of each archstone, defeating the first major Demon there, then moving to the next one to the right. Then you should play through the second level in each archstone in the same order. You may want to save the challenging Valley of Defilement, the rightmost archstone, for last. It is a nightmare, and you’ll want to go there with all the poison- and plague-resistant items you can find on your journey.

Body form and Soul form

After (most likely) dying at the hands of Vanguard, you will lose your “body form” and awaken in “soul form.” You’ll do so with half the health points you have in body form, which obviously makes things difficult.

You can return to body form by using a Stone of Ephemeral Eyes, a consumable item, or by beating a Major Demon (aka a boss). While body form has its advantages, namely in the form of your normal HP levels and the ability to summon other friendly players to aid you in boss fights, it also leaves you susceptible to being invaded by other players. And repeatedly dying in body form has an effect on the world, a complicated mechanic called World Tendency that you shouldn’t worry too much about in the beginning.

To make being in soul form a little easier, there’s an item called the Cling Ring. It will give you a max HP boost, but at the cost of eating up one of your ring slots. You’ll find the Cling Ring early on in Boletarian Palace, in between the two portcullises at the bottom of a stairwell, just to the left of the very large main gate you see when you load into the Gates of Boletaria.

Once you find the tower shortcut, you’ll find the Cling Ring on this corpse.
Image: Bluepoint Games/Sony Interactive Entertainment via Polygon

Combat tips

Experiment with different types of weapons to see what suits your play style, and what works best on certain enemies.

For example, the miners in Stonefang Tunnel are weak to piercing weapons like rapiers, and Phalanx is weak to fire (hence why you get so many firebombs in the game’s first level). I recommend carrying a shield at almost all times, in order to defend yourself and parry blows. Get a bow as soon as you can, but skip the crossbow. If you’re playing as Royalty, you’ll start with a catalyst (a magic wand, basically), but if you didn’t and want to cast magic spells like fireballs, you’ll need to buy or find one. For miracles, which includes healing and curing spells, you’ll need a talisman.

(Seriously, get a bow. It’s great for picking off enemies from afar and killing dragons.)

Backstabbing is a powerful attack, and since the AI in Demon’s Souls isn’t too bright, it can be easy to get behind an enemy and shank it from the back. I try to line up my weapon hand, not my character, behind a foe to perform a backstab, but the positioning can be tricky to nail. Parrying is similarly powerful, but also risky. Experiment with parrying early on, and you’ll develop a sense for it.

Equip burden and Item burden

You will have to worry about your equip burden — the total weight of the armor and weapons you’re wearing — if you want to stay mobile and agile. Dodge-rolling out of the way of attacks is crucial to your success in Demon’s Souls, and if you’re bogged down with heavy armor, weapons, and shields, you’re going to roll sluggishly.

Fortunately, there’s a pretty clear indicator that shows when you’ve gone above 50% of your equip weight, which is where those chunky, sluggish rolls start. Level up your Endurance stat at the Maiden in Black if you want to equip heavier armor and weapons but still remain agile.

Take heed of your Equip Burden in the upper right
Image: Bluepoint Games/Sony Interactive Entertainment via Polygon

Don’t worry too much about your item burden (aka encumbrance). Unlike the original Demon’s Souls, the PlayStation 5 game lets you send items in your inventory to storage from anywhere, a helpful quality-of-life change.

Tread carefully

In addition to a world full of demons, some jerks have left traps all over Boletaria. Watch out for hidden switches, enemies hiding behind walls, and bottomless pits. If you’re visiting an area for the first time, observe bloodstains to see how other players died, and take heed from messages scrawled on the ground. Keep in mind you’ll need to play online to get helpful hints from other players.

World Tendency and Character Tendency

Demon’s Souls’ World Tendency and Character Tendency systems are opaque and fascinating. They’ll affect certain things in the game, like whether you have access to particular areas or whether a specific non-player character will appear.

The most important thing to know is that if you repeatedly die in one archstone while you’re in body form, the World Tendency will shift more toward black. Killing a Major Demon will shift it toward white. As the world shifts more toward black, things generally go worse for you: You’ll have less HP in soul form, enemies will have more HP, and tough Black Phantom versions of certain enemies will appear.

The World Tendency of all five archstones, showing mostly white
Image: Bluepoint Games/Sony Interactive Entertainment via Polygon

Character Tendency has positive or negative effects on your character, and changes toward white if you kill Black Phantoms or toward black if you invade other players’ games or if you kill NPCs or vendors. You probably shouldn’t kill any friendly NPCs or vendors on your first play through. You’ll likely regret it.

The bigger they are, the smarter you have to be

While many combat encounters with Major Demons are white-knuckle, hand-to-hand brawls, you’ll occasionally encounter giant bosses that seem impossible to take down based on your current equipment. Demon’s Souls has a number of “puzzle bosses,” where you’ll need to find an object in the world to defeat a Major Demon. If you find yourself bashing your head against a boss, there’s probably a clever trick to beating it.

Farming souls

If you find yourself starved for souls, either because you’re in need of healing items or want to level up, there’s an easy farming spot in the fourth archstone, the Shrine of Storms at the Ritual Path. After defeating the Adjudicator, you’ll encounter a grim reaper-like monster. You can safely kill it by firing arrows from higher ground and having a reaping of your own: Souls, baby! There’s also a friendly vendor nearby, Graverobber Blige, who sells bows and arrows.

This is the spot
Image: Bluepoint Games/Sony Interactive Entertainment via Polygon

If you manage to find the Ring of Avarice, you’ll increase the number of souls that drop from enemies, making soul farming more bountiful. The Ring of Avarice can be purchased from the noblewoman in the Tower of Latria prison, or found in Upper Latria, after dropping the giant heart.

Save your Major Demon souls

You can use the Major Demon soul you earn when defeating a boss for a nice soul payday. But you should really save them. They can be used later in the game to learn unique spells and miracles, or forge unique weapons.

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