There are eight different classes to choose from in Dark Souls 2, and they're fairly evenly spread out over a trio of broad categories: spellcasters, sword-and-board damage sponges, and more nimble melee fighters. Each character represents a perfectly viable choice for completing the game, but which class is the right one for you? We've pooled our thoughts on the strengths and weaknesses of all eight of the classes available in the game, and what you can expect from each one in combat.
If you find it easier to approach your decision based on raw stats and experience of the first game, we'll start with a quick comparison chart of each character's strengths and weaknesses. If you're more interested in broad combat flavour, then skip down the page a little for a class-by-class breakdown of what's available, along with a light sprinkling of stats to remind you where the priorities lie.
Dark Souls 2 stats
|Vig||Vigor||Increased HP, Petrify Resistance|
|End||Endurance||Increased HP, Poise, Physical Defense|
|Vit||Vitality||Increased HP, Equipment Load, Physical Defense, Petrify Resistance|
|Adap||Adaptability||Increased Resistances, Agility, Poise, Poison Damage|
|Str||Strength||Increased HP, Guard, Attack Damage|
|Dex||Dexterity||Increased HP, Attack Damage, Poison/Bleed, Physical Defense|
|Int||Intelligence||Increased HP, Attack Damage, Poison/Bleed, Physical Defense|
|Fai||Faith||Increased HP, Fire/Lightning/Dark/Bleed Damage and Resistances, Increased Casting Speed|
|Att||Attunement||Increased HP, Attunement Slots, Casting Speed, Agility|
Dark Souls 2 class comparison
If you prefer your ranged damage to be a little less reliant on the arcane arts, consider the Bandit. Adept with a bow, and packed full of dexterity, you'll find this character very capable of picking off a threat from afar, before darting in with a sharpened axe to finish off any stragglers.
With its single starting point in the intelligence stat, this is not a character you want to focus your attention on if you have any ambitions for weaving the arcane arts into your combat flavour. It's a solid choice though for those who want a taste of two very different worlds.
The Cleric represents a pretty standard RPG archetype, and focuses heavily on spellpower for its damage and buffing potential. Specifically, the Cleric relies on miracles in Dark Souls 2, and you'll start the game with a very useful healing spell, as well as a mace.
You shouldn't have too much trouble walloping your way through the early part of the game with this healing and damage combo, but do make sure you track down some miracle merchants sooner rather than later, otherwise you run the risk of falling behind the curve as the difficulty deepens.
One for either the brave, the foolhardy, or the highly experienced, the Deprived starts with generous all-round stats but very little else besides. There's some meagre armour in your starting inventory though, so for goodness' sake make sure you throw it on before venturing even a single step into the game. You'll get a dagger to fight with early on, but after that you're on your own.
Don't miss a single opportunity to upgrade your gear if you're determined to take this character all the way through Dark Souls 2. Your reward for persevering through the game though is a comparatively stronger late-game class - it's just tough as nails to get there.
Like the Deprived, the Explorer doesn't make for a great beginner class. It's true you'll start off with a backpack full of intriguing consumable items, but they come at a significant cost when it comes to starting stats.
This class is best suited for those who want to replay the game and feel like they're rolling the dice on a new experience. If you do choose to take this class into battle, make sure you spend a little bit of time rummaging through the goodies you've been given, and be very careful not to recklessly waste any of your precious consumables.
The Knight represents a very traditional and familiar RPG class. With its high Adaptability stat and generous boost to health right from the off, the Knight is a great choice for the newcomer who wants to focus on a melee character that can stand his ground in the face of a few mistakes.
While you probably want to start off with a one-handed sword in one hand and a just-in-case shield in the other, with practise you should be able to graduate towards wielding one massive, enemy-obliterating weapon - and relying on your dodging finesse to avoid your opponent's counter-attacks.
As you'd expect from the name alone, the Sorcerer starts the game with a massive boost to its Intelligence stat, and is the obvious choice for anyone who typically favours a magical-flavoured combatant in RPGs.
Range is, of course, your friend with the Sorcerer class, but you'll want to keep a shiv about you for any unexpected encounters, and also stock up on new spells at every opportunity. You'll benefit greatly from your Soul Arrow ability, which is good for 30 shots before you're forced to top it up again at a bonfire.
A character that's tailor-made for the duel-wielding sabre enthusiast, the Swordsman works best with two weapons equipped, and has the kind of starting stats that not only boost damage output, but also mitigates a little of your enemy's too.
You'll benefit greatly from mastering precision positioning in combat, so this wouldn't be the first choice of character for the novice melee fighter, but there's a certain thrill to the Swordsman's combat style that makes this class hard to pass on.
If hitting things in the face hard - if not blisteringly fast - is your cup of tea, then the Warrior makes for a fine character choice. He's designed to hold a shield and a sword and make great use of both in combat. You'll need to manage your stamina bar quite carefully when playing this character, so keep an eye on any shortcomings in combat and level up your stats accordingly.