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How To Play Dark Souls II Like A Professional

The Dark Souls series is known for its punishing and unforgiving difficulty. Most gamers don't stand a chance of surviving their trip to Drangleic – unless they're experts who play video games for a living, like me. Lucky for you, I'm not only an extremely skilled gamer, I'm also a generous one. 

I'm always looking for opportunities to aid gamers who are less gifted than I am (i.e., basically everyone). My professional guides have helped players navigate the harsh open worlds of Skyrim, Far Cry 3, and GTA V, and survive their adventures in Tomb Raider and The Last of Us. Dark Souls II presents an even greater challenge than all those games combined, so as I effortlessly breezed through it, I realized my talents could once again be put to good use.

Below you'll find a list of situations you may encounter in Dark Souls II, along with descriptions of how an amateur gamer might approach them. Don't be ashamed if they sound familiar – Dark Souls is a series about learning from your own pathetic failures, after all.

After each amateur entry you'll find a pro description. These outline how I personally handled each situation, so study them hard to be more like me.

Situation: You have decided to start playing Dark Souls II.
How an amateur handles it: Choose a basic character model, then spend a few minutes checking out the different classes. Promptly choose one, knowing that it really only serves as a starting point, and you can mold your character's skills to your liking while playing the game.
How a pro handles it: Spend an hour meticulously customizing your character's appearance. Move each attribute slider all the way to the right, then all the way to the left, before returning it roughly to the middle where it started. Spend another 30 minutes looking up character classes online and mulling over your starting gift options. Finally start the game. Speak to Emerald Herald in Majula, then repeatedly tap the cancel button to end the conversation. Press it one too many times, causing your character to roll backwards off a cliff and die. Respawn as an undead Hollow and realize that, despite all the time you spent customizing your character, you're going to look like a green zombie for 99 percent of the game.

Situation: You wander into Heide's Tower of Flame and encounter your first Old Knight.
How an amateur handles it: Circle around the hulking enemy as it attacks, then strike from behind. Realize in the first few seconds of the fight that you're under-leveled. Leave the area and return when you're stronger and have better gear at your disposal.
How a pro handles it: Charge the massive statue, impotently slicing at it with your starting sword. Slowly whittle the knight's health down to 75 percent while burning through your sole Estus Flask and the few lifegems you've acquired. Get pulverized within an inch of your life, then sprint past the knight and up the stairs, only to run headlong into another one. Roll past the second enemy and continue down the path. Pass several more of the lumbering giants, all of whom start pursuing you. Run into a dead end and get unceremoniously cut down. Realize you've completely screwed yourself. Respawn and make a mad dash to collect your souls, then try to make it back to the bonfire. Get sliced down again. Repeat the process, slowly inching your way back to the start. Finally make it to the bonfire with your measly 800 souls. Progress!

Situation: You've used your Estus Flasks, your health is low, and your one decent weapon is about to break when you come to a giant tower in Forest of the Fallen Giants.
How an amateur handles it: Look up the tower in an online guide and discover that it's Cardinal Tower and there's a bonfire on the other side of the door. Go through and rest, automatically replenishing your health, Estus Flasks, and weapon durability.
How a pro handles it: Refuse to use any online help because it's kind of cheating and also you're too lazy to reach for your phone on the coffee table (more the latter than the former). Decide to trek all the way back to the last bonfire. Rest, respawning the long gauntlet of enemies you just slogged your way through. Travel through the forest again. Die at an ambush point you totally forgot about. Try not to freak out about your dropped souls as you fight your way back to them, then continue on. Make it back to the tower, arriving in slightly better shape than the first time. Open the door and see that the bonfire was right there the whole freaking time. Mutter obscenities to yourself then vow to just look up whatever it is you have a question about next time.

Situation: You've reached your first boss fight.
How an amateur handles it: Spend the souls you've acquired, then enter the fight as an undead hollow. Learn the behavior of the boss while fighting with the impunity that comes from not having any souls to lose. If the boss is proving too difficult after a few tries, burn a human effigy at a bonfire and summon other players to help you out.
How a pro handles it: Get to the boss door then use your soapstone to be summoned into other people's games. Fail miserably to aid the players who summon you because you don't know what you're doing. When you've finally beaten the boss once, decide you can take him on by yourself, even though you still didn't contribute a whole lot to the last fight because you spent most of the time trying to heal. Die immediately, then follow the amateur process.

Coming Up Next: More invaluable tips...

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