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!
Check out our Dark Souls III review here!
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.