Survive Dark Souls III With Our Guide To The Essential Moments
This feature was originally published April 7, 2016.
So you’re thinking about playing Dark Souls III, and maybe you want to hit all the big beats – the secret bosses, hidden areas, and more – but don’t really want to be guided or spoiled through every single aspect of each area. Obvious, enormous spoiler warning because that’s exactly what this guide aims to do. WARNING: Explicit, major spoilers ahead. Get ready for broad strokes, the order to tackle areas, and some essential secrets and spoilers, but painted with a brush that will still leave the ultimate experience in your hands. If that’s what you’re looking for, get ready to dig right in!
After starting the game, you’ll be in a highly straightforward “tutorial” area. Just follow the path straight until you come to a bonfire, making sure to grab the ashen estus flask from the knight at the beginning of the trail. You can also head off to the right and take on an optional enemy, a grown-up Crystal Lizard that will drop a valuable titanite scale for upgrading boss weapons, but you can always come back later to take the enemy on if it’s presenting a problem for your starter build, class, or skill level. At the end of the trail you’ll run into the tutorial boss, who shouldn’t be an issue. If you find yourself having problems as melee, remember to roll.
After defeating the boss you acquire a sword to plunge into the empty fire pit in the next area, the Firelink Shrine. The Firelink Shrine will serve as your hub for Dark Souls III. Here your collection of NPCs will congregate, and you can also sell your spells and items, upgrade your estus flasks, and level your character up. There are also a few special things of note here that you will not want to miss. To the left of the shrine from the front door is an aggressive NPC that will drop a katana and some clothes if you kill him – the easiest way to do it right away is just to trick him off the cliff and reload the area. His drops will be waiting for you at his spawn point.
The other area is a bit trickier and can be located off to the right of the upstairs interior of Firelink Shrine. You can pay 20,000 souls to get up here to access some special items like the Fire Keeper set, access to Snuggly the Crow trade-ins, and an estus-flask shard and a ring that will give you more souls on every kill. You can actually game the system a bit and get the estus-flask shard and ring immediately without paying for the key if you pull off a tricky jump off the tree to the roof here – it’s not that tough to pull off. Getting that shard and ring will give you a nice advantage moving into the rest of the game, so I highly recommend doing a few tree bounces to try and get them before moving into the next zone.
Now you’re ready to head to the High Wall of Lothric. Head to the central bonfire in the Firelink Shrine and teleport to this new area. This zone has plenty of things to find, including a key to release a thief NPC you should collect before leaving, and it also has a great spot to farm souls, titanite, embers, and knight armor later on, if you’re looking for those things. Make your way through the zone, unlocking each shortcut. There will be a locked door to an elevator you can’t get in right now, which leads to a darkwraith and the permanent Red Eye Orb invasion item, so when you eventually score that quest in the Firelink Shrine you know where to go. Eventually you’ll come to a room with a woman – talk to her. She will give you a banner that you’ll need shortly. Now head directly out from her room and go straight to take on the next boss, Vordt of the Boreal Valley. After defeating him, raise your banner and fly to the next area, the Undead Settlement.
The Undead Settlement is the first of many zones that have a ton of secrets that are easy to miss if you’re not looking for them, and it also has an “optional” boss in a giant cursed tree. This tree will give you the item required to turn boss souls into useful items, so you should definitely kill it when you feel you are ready, either now or sometime after the next few areas. Other things to note about this area:
• There’s a giant you can and should make friends with on top of a tower. He will destroy enemies for you and help you get to an essential undead bone dust (increases the power of your estus flasks).
• You will meet an onion knight at the tower. If you jump off the elevator at the right place, you can take on a demon mini-boss with him and collect some emotes. Searching this area to its end will give you a very valuable stamina-recovery ring.
• In the area the giant shoots with his arrows is some essential ash. Take this to the handmaiden at the Firelink Shrine to unlock new items, especially the sewer key, which will open up another area in this zone.
• Using the sewer key, you can rescue a valuable character that can learn and sell miracles as well as meet her protector.
• Right when you get into the zone, take a left instead of going directly into the settlement. There’s a dying pilgrim here you may wish to save. He will offer you unique services at Firelink, like “free” levels, and is the only way to meet another special NPC.
• The pyromancer is located here at an easy-to-miss bonfire area. Jump down from one of the central bridges to an underpass.
Whether or not you tackle the tree boss right now, the next area is located at the bottom of the elevator shaft where the onion knight and the giant reside. This way leads to the Road of Sacrifice and the Forest of Crucifixion.
The Road of Sacrifice is a fairly straightforward path right to the next bonfire, where you’ll run into two new NPCs on their journey, Anri and Horace. Talk to them, then head forward. In this next area, the Forest of Crucifixion, there are a couple of paths you can take. Across the marsh full of giant enemy crabs (attack their weak point for massive damage) you will find a ladder leading down to Farron Keep. Avoid that for now, we’ll come back later. For the moment, focus on these key points:
• The boss of the area is the Crystal Sage. You can use an NPC summon located just outside her room in an area filled with hollow warriors. The one that uses dark magic is “the real one”; the frost mages are illusions (but they still really hurt!)
• You can find an estus-flask shard on one of the paths in the ruins that the Crystal Sage is located in, as well as a special NPC.
• A nasty knight guards a piece of coal (an upgrade for the blacksmith) at the end of the trail if you take a straight line forward from the bonfire. You can bypass the knight if he’s too strong for you by sneaking around and jumping off a ledge behind him to grab the coal.
After defeating the Sage, you’ll gain access to the next huge area, the Cathedral of the Deep. There’s a lot linked to a central bonfire here, and a ton of easy to miss stuff. Here are the big beats:
• There’s a place where you can access the beams above the cathedral. If you fall down in the right spot, you can meet a special covenant leader that can do various important things, like reset your stats or change your appearance.
• There are a bunch of ways to gain access to the boss area, but the most obvious is just running around the lower level where the giants are (roll a lot) and heading up the stairs next to the second giant. They may be hard to see, but they are there. Unlock a massive shortcut here by opening up the main doors to the cathedral.
• The boss of the area is deacons of the deep, a “horde” boss. Kill the deacon that glows red in phase one to damage the mob, and in phase two focus on keeping them from their prayers which can do terrifying curse buildup (instant death if it sticks) and keep the Archdeacon under duress.
• After completing the deacons encounter, your pathway on this route is over. You need the drop from the deacons to continue later, so it’s nice to get it out of the way first. Head to Farron Keep.
Farron Keep is Dark Souls III’s poison-filled area – no Souls game is complete without one. Accessing the keep is easier than it looks.
• There’s poison everywhere. If you have a decent health pool, just run through the area poisoned while you’re collecting. It’s really slow and manageable damage.
• You will need to snuff out the flames on three different “hills” jutting out of the swamp. It may seem tough to find these at first, but they are actually quite linearly laid out. Look for the stone steps on hills.
• There’s a hidden-ish area near the entrance to the unlocked area – look for a huge ladder on the side of the wall. This will take you to a covenant leader and an optional boss, the Stray Demon from Dark Souls 1. It’s a great bridge battle, and you can turn in his Soul for Havel’s Ring. You know what I say: always go full Havel.
• An NPC is available for the boss encounter just outside the big double doors, but he’s not very useful due to the two-stage nature of the encounter.
After taking on the Abyss Watchers, you will have access to the catacombs. It’s a quick jaunt through, but there are some extremely important things to note:
• One of the largest secret areas in the game is accessible in this area. When you get to the area with the rickety bridge, cut down the ropes on the side, break the bridge, and use it as a ladder. There will be a mini-boss demon guarding the Smoldering Lake, a gigantic zone featuring some nice goodies like estus-flask upgrades and The Old Demon King boss. This area is quite tough for the level you’re probably at right now, so I would recommend coming back a bit later in the game or when you get bored.
• The boss of this area has glittering bracelets. Hit them.
• Past the catacombs you’ll come to my favorite zone in the Dark Souls series, at least visually, the Boreal Valley itself. It’s a beautiful, snowy place. It’s also quite lethal, so mind your steps. This is one of the few places in the game you will have the option to take two major routes, so either commit to one or explore both as you level up.
• Eventually as you explore you’ll come to the river/lake area. From here, things branch off. You can take the interior tunnel full of the horrific beings to the Valley boss and the next area if you’re looking to take on Aldritch first, or take the “Distant Manor” waypoint located at the very end of the river/lake area to move into the dungeon and the Profane Capital to take on Yhorm. You’ll need to face them both eventually, but if you get stuck in one direction or on one boss, feel free to head along the other route.
• The Aldritch route will take you to the boss of the boreal valley. A Star Wars-esque lightsaber duel awaits. If you get stuck on this one, consider heading on the other route for a bit to gain some levels.
After defeating the pontiff, you will ascend to another zone that may blow your mind – Anor Londo. Yes, Anor Londo (Dark Souls). Things haven’t fared well for the city of the gods, and Aldritch has been renovating with his slimy self, including taking over the body of Gwyndolin and using it to wreak havoc.
• Aldritch has an arrow attack that will absolutely destroy you if you sit still. Keep running and rolling during this attack.
• There will be a room with a king statue right before you take the lift to Anor Londo. Hit it to unlock a secret area.
• After raising the lift to Anor Londo, head back down the stairs and look out into the great blue beyond on the lower platform. Try throwing a pebble out there into the sky. You never know what you might discover!
• This is a tiny area, but the shortcut is essential and pretty much exactly how we did things for Ornstein and Smough runs back in Dark Souls. Pull the lever on the inside to unlock the huge double doors for easy runs back to Aldritch. After killing Aldritch, make sure to head up the elevators to find another familiar location.
Now you’re ready to head to the Profane Capital to take on Yhorm. You should note that there is a sequence break to these two lords of cinder available, if you want to head down the “hardest” route now, or even before Aldritch.
• Remember that lady that gave us the flag way back at the High Wall of Lothric? You will trigger something after killing Yhorm and Aldritch, but if you want to get right to the next area and its juicy rewards and bosses, you can kill the old woman to unlock the Dancer of the Boreal battle immediately, which will grant you access to the next huge area. Or, you can continue on the “standard” route which we’ll tackle next.
• Head through the dungeon from the “distant manor” waypoint in the Boreal Valley. The Dungeon is really nasty to navigate, and it reminds me of a more sadistic Tower of Latria (Demon’s Souls). There are thankfully quite a few shortcuts to dull the pain as you get lifedrained and seared down by masked nightmares. Take note of an out-of-place brief interlude outside with some dragon statues as you travel through the dungeon. We’ll come back here later for a big, big secret. When you make it through, you’ll find yourself at the Profane Capital, which has basically two routes – one right to the boss, and the other to some nice optional items through a toxic swamp. You will also find a special NPC here using keys that will join you at your shrine, which is essential if you’re into dark sorceries.
• From the Profane Capital bonfire (located at the top of the tall, tall tower) you can take the ladder out the window right next to the bonfire to head to the boss, Yhorm. Yhorm is a massive, massive giant, who takes next to no damage from just about everything. You guessed it, this is a gimmick fight. Search around his room for a weapon. This weapon, when “charged” using its weapon skill, will make short work of Yhorm in just a few hits.
Now it’s time to head back to the old woman and travel to the final Lord of Cinder, but it’s a long haul, and we should hit an optional area here before proceeding into the heart of Lothric Castle. When you get up the ladder from where you fight the Dancer of the Boreal valley, take a left to head to a small optional area. It’s dangerous swamp territory, and at the end you will face a strange dragonish creature that feels a bit familiar.
• There’s some important stuff here, including a secret zone and boss, and a gesture critical to finding the biggest secret zone in the game. After you’ve bested the boss, head to the area behind him, where you will find a special gesture. We’ll get to that in a bit, but remember it. Hit the wall behind the chest to reveal the “dark” version of the tutorial zone and the Firelink Shrine. Here you will face off with an alternate version of the tutorial boss that’s a good deal more challenging, and access a different version of the Firelink Shrine that contains an infinite Homeward Bone and a big secret, the item critical to unlocking the “dark” ending of the game, the Eyes of the Fire Keeper. Find it behind the wall where your miracle vendor would be in the light version of the shrine.
• The castle features more of what you love – incredibly dangerous knights and fire-breathing dragons. To get the best of the dragons, you need to avoid the deadly flames by dipping under the bridge initially to work your way around the level and eventually kill them.
• The boss of this area is pretty unforgiving; it’s basically Ornstein with a shield. If you need to level up, tackle some of the optional content. You can also find Solaire’s covenant hub in the room right before the boss chamber. After besting the wily suit of armor, you will find yourself in one of the last areas of the critical path playthrough, the Grand Archives.
The Grand Archives has a lot of books. The zone features hands in the books that can curse you if you’re not careful, but there’s a way around that. This area features many shortcuts, including one to one of the most difficult bosses in the game, a double-trouble encounter with Prince Lothric.
• You can avoid the deadly curse hands by dunking your head in one of the many wax tubs that are located around the archives. The hands can’t hurt you while you’re sporting a wax dome.
• There’s a final shortcut to the right, immediately before the boss chamber. Don’t miss this one, because it will let you skip the grueling uphill battle against all the enemies and knights on the grand stairway.
• The boss is all about timing. Wait for the teleport, and exploit the quick window you’ll have to roll and act. Phase 2 is actual nightmare mode. Make sure to kill the fragile character first, because he is actually able to resurrect the beatdown bro.
With the final Cinder Lord down, it’s almost time for the final boss. But wait, there’s one huge hidden area left, and it includes two bosses and lots of other fun goodies! Let’s check it out first.
• Remember the gesture we got from behind the Seath the Scaleless-wannabe dragon when we first got to Lothric Castle? The Dragon one? Cool. Head back to the dungeon and that weird out-of-place outside area with the dragon statues. Sit yourself between them and use the gesture. Whoa! We’re teleported to a massive new area.
• The first boss of this area is a giant wyvern. You can try to take it down normally, but you probably won’t have much luck. Instead, the fight is actually a big gimmick event. Run all the way to the end of the encounter, past enemies and dodging wyvern flame, to perform a “jump down” attack on the wyvern’s neck. It will one-shot the boss, and you’ll have access to the next area.
• In the second area you’ll be mostly assembling pieces that let you become a dragon. There’s also a really big bell. Hit it, and you’ll open up a boss encounter with the Nameless King. It’s one of my favorite fights in the Souls series, taking place on the clouds themselves. It’s also probably the hardest encounter in Dark Souls III. Hit the bird in the face, and good luck!
With all that done, it might be time to go and take on the final boss. It’s easy enough to do, just make sure you have all the Lord souls on their proper thrones and go talk to the Fire Keeper. This will lead you to the Kiln of the First Flame, where you will take on the Soul of Cinder under an amazing sky. The Soul of Cinder has some surprises, but if you’ve tackled the optional content he’s a good deal easier than the Nameless King. Have fun!