Soulslike games come in all styles, genres, and sizes. There are the more “mainstream” AAA titles like the FromSoftware titles Dark Souls, Bloodborne, and Demon’s Souls. You also have the indie games like Hollow Knight and Mortal Shell. That said, each Souslike follows a similar pattern, and will guide you on a journey of triumphant highs and harrowing lows.
If you’ve played one Soulslike game, you’ve been inundated with the genre’s difficulty curve. Similarly, the Soulslike gameplay loop of chipping through progression by way of slowly becoming more comfortable with the combat is another mountain to climb.
The Leaderboard does a great job of walking you through the genre’s defining features, if you’d like to see a video review. For more in-depth videos exploring the stories and hidden details behind popular games, subscribe to the Leaderboard YouTube channel.
We’ve compiled a top-level Soulslike guide that should cover most games falling under the genre. You can use these tips as rough guidelines for your next outing in a Souslike game.
Learn enemy attack patterns
This is one of the quintessential tips in our Soulslike guide, or any Souslike guide. Whether it’s a small grunt-type enemy or a boss, learn each move they have. This is typically no easy feat as it does require some patience. That said, the difficulty of a Soulslike game does go down once you learn the ins and outs of an enemy.
For non-boss-type enemies, your best bet is to take a defensive approach the first time you engage them. Take the time to understand their weapon set, their reach, and how quickly they react to a block or a parry.
For bosses, this requires a lot more wherewithal. You can take a similar approach in the beginning, but note that a lot of bosses enter a second or third phase. This can sometimes change their form, their level of aggro, and even their moveset.
Regardless of how much time it may take up learn enemy patterns, it will pay off. Once you feel confident in engaging enemies, playing the game would be easier and a lot more fulfilling.
Manage health, stamina, and magic
A common element in many Soulslike games is the importance of managing your various meters. Health, stamina, and magic all play an important role in whether you live or die during your next encounter.
Keeping your eyes glued to your character and enemy will only result in defeat. It doesn’t matter how those meters are displayed or where on the screen they are, manage them accordingly. The last thing you want is to be low on health right before an enemy takes a swing. There’s also nothing worse than needing to roll away from an attack and realizing you’ve depleted your stamina.
Use bonfires and checkpoints
Often in Soulslike games, a bonfire or any other equivalent signals a safe area used to rest for a checkpoint. These don’t come around too often, so make use of each one you find. This can sometimes be where you can fast-travel to other locations, level up, or take a breather.
Though, be aware that with every use of a bonfire comes a cost. Traditionally, using a bonfire will reset the map and cause enemies surrounding the area to respawn. This plays into the deeper risk-reward system these types of games are known for. Often, you’ll find that bonfires replenish healing items. However, that means any enemy you’ve defeated will once again stand in your way.
There’s no inherent right or wrong way to approach the use of bonfires. Instead, it’s encouraged to use them as often as you feel the need to. Don’t take these safe havens for granted.
Consistently upgrade your character and weapons
No matter the Soulslike you’re playing, you’re likely to come across “Souls” or some other type of currency collected by defeating enemies. These are often your main line of upgrading your character. Investing in those hard-earned Souls will allow you to boost your stats and prepare you for the ongoing challenges. Since many Soulslikes are treated as RPGs, these in-game currencies are a valuable commodity.
The same goes for upgrading weapons. In certain games, for instance, Demon’s Souls, you’ll need Souls and resources found throughout the world. Whatever your games’ currency is used for, don’t hoard it.
Search for shortcuts
A staple in many Soulslike games is shortcuts. The distance between each bonfire or checkpoint can be gruelling as you continuously face an onslaught of enemies after each death. However, that path can be cut down thanks to a handy shortcut.
Usually, these can be found pretty late in any given area. However, once you discover how to use an elevator or open that once-locked door, the run to the next boss can be more streamlined. If you’re looking at a game like Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice or Demon’s Souls, shortcuts can be found in the most unsuspecting areas.
Invest time into the lore
We’ve included this into our Soulslike guide not so much to improve your chances of success, but to make sure you’re not missing on the best part of these games: the stories. It’s a common element in this specific subgenre that the narrative and the world’s lore aren’t handed to you on a platter. Instead, you have to actively search for context.
Throughout your time in any given Soulslike, take the odd moment to really invest in the scenery and identify and visual storytelling cues. Item descriptions can also provide a ton of backstory to characters and the game’s mythos. Although NPCs will often speak vaguely, you can use that dialogue to piece together the lore. There are so many contextual clues scoured around the game and it’s well worth your time to investigate.
And to top it all off, some lore tidbits will hold information that is not readily given through hints or descriptions.
Interact with the community
The “git gud” crowd can create the perception that there’s a wall between newcomers and the communities of traditionally hard games; I believe that isn’t true. Throughout my experience playing many Soulslike games, the online community has been incredibly helpful.
Social media, forum sites, and Discord groups can all provide incredible tips that go way beyond the more generalized ones found in guides. If you’re looking for ways to improve a specific build, or to know the best farming locations, the online community is a treasure trove of support.
The Soulsborne community is more often very encouraging and will engage with one another in incredible ways, and guide new players through the worst stretches of the Soulslike learning curve. If there’s a particular Soulslike game you’ve been eyeing, it’s always worth investigating its respective subreddit.
We hope our universal Soulslike guide can assist with the next game you decide to tackle. Stay tuned to SQUAD for more gaming content!