It's been a year since Dark Souls 3 first battered us all into submission, but it's time to scrape the rust off that claymore and wade back in. This time we'll be discovering the secrets of the Ringed City, the brutal RPG's final DLC.
Over six months after the launch of the main game, get ready to take on Dark Souls 3 first DLC, Ashes of Ariandel. It takes place in Painted World of Ariandel, features several (very snowy) new areas, bosses, new weapons and spells, as well as a new PvP arena to get stuck into once the journey is over.
Wrapping your head around online play in Dark Souls III can, it's fair to say, be a little tricky - especially if you're new to the Souls series. Online play can be just as obtuse as the rest of the game, often requiring you to find and deploy an array of abstract, unhelpfully-named items. It doesn't help either that many of Dark Souls multiplayer functions are tied to covenants; that is, NPC-governed clans that, frequently, are hidden away in the game's obscurest corners.
THIS GUIDE CONTAINS MILD SPOILERS FOR THE GAME'S MISSIONS AND BOSSES.
Not all walls in Dark Souls 3 are what they appear, and attacking or rolling into the solid-looking brickwork in a few places will reveal a hidden area. Without investigating every wall in every location we can't be sure this list is complete, but here are the ones we know about so far.
If you've spent any time with Dark Souls - even if you never got beyond the Taurus Demon - then you'll be familiar with rare, health-restoring Estus and already know to seek it out. Dark Souls 3 changes things slightly. First, you get Estus Shards which can be collected to increase the number of charges an Estus Flask may hold - you can learn where to find those by referring to our Dark Souls 3 Estus Shard Location guide. Alongside that, there are also Bone Shards which can be collected and burned to increase the amount of HP each Estus Flask charge will restore.
Upgrading your Estus Flask and bonfire through the use of Shards is important for survival in the Kingdom of Lothric, and to help you on your way there are eleven Estus Shards and ten Bone Shards to be found as you progress. Some are tucked in out of the way locations and others in areas that require dispatching an enemy horde, but the detours and extra fights are worth your time - having that one last shot of healing power could make the difference between success and failure. Read on for how to find the Estus Shards - if you're looking for the Bone Shards, hop over to our Dark Souls 3 Bone Shards location guide.
In addition to the basic ending, Dark Souls 3 has three additional endings to choose from. Two require a small setup that can be done before starting the final fight, but the last one needs a lot of additional things to be done at specific points during the game.
Covenants are a multiplayer component of the game. Some encourage you to engage in PvP to earn rewards; others encourage co-op play; and some are more defensive in nature. You can switch covenant at any time without penalty, so pick and choose as you go to keep things interesting.
From a distance, Dark Souls looks like any third-person action RPG, and while it shares many of the mechanics with other titles in the genre it also does things a little differently. If you're new to the series it can all seem a bit baffling, so here's a grounding for those of you who don't know your Ashes from your Estus Flasks. Further down you'll find a guide to levelling your character efficiently, including where to find the best places in the game to farm Souls.
Feared and loved alike for its stern difficulty and brooding atmosphere, the Dark Souls series has now reached its third release - although it's the fifth in a broader family of From Software games made under Hidetaka Miyazaki that also includes the PS3's Demon's Souls and the PS4 exclusive Bloodborne. The seven years since Demon's Souls release have seen the games go from a cultish acquired taste to big sales and huge critical acclaim, without ever compromising on the core that made them special.