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- Dark Souls III
Dark Souls 3 is here, and it’s ready to test your skill and determination. It’s punishing, but there are things you can do to make the journey more reasonable.
How you build your character will have a huge impact on how well you perform in Dark Souls 3. After playing the game using several builds and completing it with the build in this guide, I am convinced that a Knight build is the way to go for reliable progression through the game’s toughest areas. Let’s go over this battle-tested build, how it works, and why it’s so effective.
The Knight Build
Begin by choosing the Knight as your starting class. This will start you out with a good balance of melee-oriented stats. Magic-focused classes are at a big disadvantage for the majority of the game due to poor Intelligence and Faith scaling, while the other melee starting classes begin with less-than-preferable equipment. The Knight doesn’t suffer from these potentially frustrating shortcomings.
The Knight’s starting stats allow for a safe room for error, providing a high health pool and damage mitigation that will prevent you from getting one-hit KO’d by large foes and special attacks. Your low volume of Intelligence, Faith, and Luck will make sure that you don’t have any points wasted in magic-oriented play and item discovery unless you personally decide to.
The Knight is also extremely versatile in terms of how it handles situations. Its shield will allow you to absorb hard blows from enemies as you read their patterns, and eat up arrows thrown your way. Despite the large shield and heavy armor, you can also roll effectively. The Knight’s weight is medium-heavy, allowing for a roll that is more than necessary for boss battles. Just be sure to swap your Long Sword to two-handed when you won’t be blocking to ensure that you’d delivering the most damage output possible.
Choosing the Knight will provide you with a Long Sword, which is a weapon that has preferable attack animations, and can be upgraded to deal high damage. It also transitions well between being held in one-hand or two-hands. This weapon is outclassed in the long run, but will serve you well during the early portions of the game until you get your hands on some superior weaponry. In other words, don’t bother upgrading it.
ALSO READ: 10 Fun Build Ideas For DS3’s Coolest Weapons
The Knight also comes with a Knight Shield, which has 100% damage mitigation on block and is modest in weight. This shield is one of the best in the entire game, and other starting classes have to wait until more than six hours into the experience to get their hands on anything remotely competitive.
Lastly, you are provided Knight Armor, which is one of the best armor sets in the game with a solid balance of physical defense, magic mitigation, and medium weight requirements. This set will last you for at least 15 hours and has no direct competition in the weight range.
You will want to spend your stats on the following:
- 1. Prioritize Vigor and Strength. Vigor will provide you a large health pool to survive bad situations. Meanwhile, Strength will be your primary damage attribute that boosts your damage output.
- 2. Place points in Endurance to increase Stamina as you need it. If you find yourself Stamina starved when blocking, rolling, and combo-ing, Endurance is going to help alleviate the stress by expanding your pool of Stamina. At a minimum you want to aim for around 18 to 20 points in Endurance early in your adventure.
- 3. Place points in Vitality to be able to carry heavier weight armors and weapons. The most powerful weapons and armors in the game require you to carry lots of weight, which will hinder your rolling effectiveness if you hit 70% encumbrance. Increase Vitality to remedy this.
- 4. [OPTIONAL] Place points in Dexterity if you prefer Dexterity or Quality-based weapons. Although Strength is a good choice as your primary damage stat, everyone has their own weapon tastes. You will want to focus your damage-oriented points in Dexterity if you have interest in carrying Dexterity-based weapons, or find a balance between the two if you want to go with a Quality build. Alternatively, you an use a gem to infuse a weapon with different stat bonuses, although its stat requirements to wield will not change.
- 5. [OPTIONAL] Place points in Faith to support your melee with clerical powers. Magic isn’t particularly effective unless you place many points into a stat, but Faith can be a nice secondary stat if you like using holy powers.
How you spend your stats depends heavily on which weapons you want to use. You may prefer Strength weapons, like the Butcher’s Knife, or even Quality based weapons that incorporate both Strength and Dexterity into their base bonuses, like the Sellsword Twinblades. Since most weapons can be infused with customized stat bonuses, in many cases all that matters is adding enough of a tertiary stat to be able to use a weapon, and then pumping stats into the primary bonus stat.
Assuming you’re going for a Strength build, you may want to aim for the following stats. Note that Strength and Dexterity are highlighted in red to denote that it’s your choice as to how many points you place in these two stats depending on what weapon and bonuses you’re aiming for.
- Level: 30
- Vigor: 18
- Attunement: 10
- Endurance: 17
- Vitality: 15
- Strength: 22
- Dexterity: 12
- Intelligence: 9
- Faith: 9
- Luck: 7
If following a Strength build, continue to aim for the following stats by soul level 50.
- Level: 50
- Vigor: 26
- Attunement: 10
- Endurance: 20
- Vitality: 16
- Strength: 30
- Dexterity: 12
- Intelligence: 9
- Faith: 9
- Luck: 7
Once you hit around 35 to 40 Vigor, you may want to consider placing points into Vitality to be able to carry heavier weapons or armor. Having a large pool of health is only fully effective if your Estus Flask is capable of healing you up to full quickly without multiple uses. So, how you balance Vigor, Vitality, and Endurance from mid to late game depends partially on how many Estus Flask upgrades you have acquired. Note that heavy armors aren’t as effective as in previous games, but do help you mitigate damage.
Many Strength oriented weapons are greatswords and greataxes, which are slow to attack and heavy. You are welcome to try these weapons out, but they are difficult to wield for non-veterans.
You should consider sticking to the Long Sword until you enter the High Wall of Lothric. In this area you will find a Broadsword on a corpse near the second bonfire. The Broadsword is a slightly more powerful straight sword that will serve you well for the Undead Settlement portion of the game.
If you prefer heavier-hitting weapons, then you’ll want to pick up the Claymore found at the fire-breathing dragon in High Wall of Lothric. This is a light-weight greatsword that can be used effectively both in one-hand and two-handed combat. You may also want to consider the Uchigatana, which is a parry style weapon that has become one of the game’s most popular choices. For pure Strength builds, the Butcher’s Knife is a solid choice that has a weapon skill capable of healing you as you kill enemies. If you like axes, then the Deep Battle Axe is effective for most of the game, while Arstor’s Spear is a favorite among spear fans.
Toward the end of your time in Undead Settlement you will be given a Irithyll Straight Sword after killing an Outrider Knight. This weapon is very powerful, is similar to the Long Sword, and can last you the entire game if you enjoy the quick attacks of straight swords. It has a frostbite attribute, which slows stamina regeneration for foes, as well as high damage scaling on each upgrade. The only problem with it is that it requires Twinkling Titanite to upgrade, which is a rare upgrade item. Even then, it’ll scale to 200+ damage quicker than your Broadsword, and its frostbite attribute is a neat perk.
Toward the latter parts of the game, as you place points in Vitality you can decide to transition into an ultra greatsword like the Zweihander, a great hammer, or other heavy weapon. It’s up to you, and there are so many weapons in the game that you’re bound to find one that you love.
Knight Armor is extremely potent, but as you get father into the game you may find that its average magic damage mitigation is holding you back, or that you just want something with a new look. The first thing you’ll want to do when thinking about wearing heavier armor is obtain a Havel’s Ring by trading in a Soul of a Stray Dragon, an item obtained from a mini-boss in Farron Keep. You’ll also may need to place a few points into Vitality depending on the armor set.
ALSO READ: Top 10 Exotic Armor Sets in Dark Souls 3
One of the first upgrades that you will encounter is the Lothric Knight Set. This set drops off Lothric Knights (the red-caped knights). Each piece has a relatively low drop rate, so you’ll want to use a Rusted Coin to increase item discovery when farming the set. This set has slightly better physical damage mitigation, poise, and much better tolerance for magic than the Knight Set.
Once you’re around halfway through the game you can farm the Silver Knight Set from Silver Knights. This gear is better than the Lothric Knight Set in every regard, and requires slightly less weight, making it worth your time. This set has healthy competition from the Black Knight Set, which is earned late-game, but is considered one of the coolest-looking sets of armor.
During mid to late-game you can also consider farming the Cathedral Knight Set, Gundyr’s Set, or purchase the Exile Armor Set. All of these have high weight requirements, so you’ll definitely need to place points in Vitality to be able to wear these armors and still be able to use a mid-roll.
Lastly, there’s the return of Havel’s Set. This armor is extremely heavy and protective, making it the ultimate prize for players with a high volume of Vitality.
This build is intended for players looking for a simple and effective build to play. It’s not for everyone, but does leave room for deviation for those who prefer Quality or Dexterity builds, or want to include Faith-based miracles into their arsenal. I’ve been able to defeat some of the game’s most difficult bosses within three tries using the Knight build, and can attest to its power. Good luck in your adventures!