Let us get something straight from the get-go. The lemon suckers who simply tell you to 'git gud' online are being egotistical elitists. If you are struggling with Demon's Souls or any of From Software's games, then there are sure-fire tips to help your gameplay run all that smoother.
I bought the original Demon's Souls on release back on the PS3 and subsequently got so frustrated with it, traded it in, then bought it again 3 times in repetition. I have been pummelled to oblivion over and over and over and over again by so many demons, ghosts, disease-ridden rats, giants, dragons, crystal golems, jesters, and blood starved beasts over the 'soulsbourn' series that I have seen the 'You Died' screen more times than I care to remember.
Sinking possibly thousands of hours into the games collectively, I have overcome every boss (besides Black Dragon Kalameet, screw that guy), smashed every DLC, platinumed Bloodborne, finished games with all kinds of character builds, and have praised the sun more times than Solaire himself. Sure, getting good at the game helps. Of course, it helps! Damn lemon suckers. But how do you get from being an undead chump, to being a soul hoarding champ?
Here are some tips and tricks to help you dominate in the world of Demon's Souls.
Do Not Always Pay Attention to 'Helpful' Tips
I know! What an awfully strange tip to give you as an entry into a list of helpful tips. Every list is in some way going to be biased and reflective upon the writer's personal experiences. So, no matter how experienced a player is, something that works for them, may not necessarily work for you. Try what they suggest, but do not let yourself get disheartened if something does not work the way you hope it does.
My biggest concern when it comes to 'tips' is for starting class and character builds. A lot of 'tips' tell you to play as the royalty class as it is an 'easy mode'. THIS IS PURE PISH POSH.
The royalty class in Demon's Souls makes the game easier at the start as it gives you access to a wider selection of tools, from melee and magic, with pyromancy becoming an option for you incredibly quickly. This lets you pick off most enemies from a distance without getting into any danger and allowing you to exploit weaknesses easily. Yes, even the blue-eyed knights in Boleterian Palace.
Why is this not a good thing? Well…
Starting Class is Irrelevant in Demon's Souls
If you are not putting yourself in danger at the start of the game, then you are not going to be learning when to dodge, parry, block, how to manage your stamina, how to stagger opponents, how to time your critical attacks and backstabs, or even when it is safe to munch on some healing grass. If you are not committing these to muscle memory at the start of the game, then as you progress into harder areas and face tougher opponents that you cannot pick off from a distance, then you are actually making the game HARDER for yourself, not easier.
No matter what class you choose, make sure you are putting yourself in the brunt of combat until you feel proficient enough with at least dodging, back stabs, and windows of opportunity to heal. Yes, you will die, that is the nature of the beast.
Character Builds are NOT Irrelevant
I agree that it is crucial to build your first ever character to have at least a few different options available. Being able to fire off even the most basic of spells will make fights easier against opponents that are weak to magic, or having access to some miracles will make surviving easier with more healing options etc. But, having access to a variety of options right from the start will be more to your detriment, not your aid. Build your character slowly, hone your melee skills first and foremost.
It is easy to get lost when it comes to developing your character. It might be tempting to dump all your souls into increasing your strength or health. I would recommend using your first hours of levelling up making sure you can equip a variety of equipment. Not necessarily better equipment, but different equipment.
How do you do that? Choose what to level after you have a feeling of what playstyle you enjoy.
What to Level Up
Having a base stat of 12 or so in strength, dexterity, magic, and faith will go a long way for giving you the options to try out different play styles. Discover which plays more to your liking is highly beneficial.
There is no official way of resetting your level to redistribute in Demon's Souls. So, I would not recommend increasing strength further than this point if you find you are enjoying flinging spells left right and centre, or faith further if you are enjoying squashing foes under a massive hammer etc.
I will always recommend that no matter your progression, always dump a few points on endurance from time to time. This will slowly build your equip burden ratio, allowing you to wear heavier armour and carry bigger weapons and still be able to roll around like a spring bunny.
You may even consider starting a new character if you have developed your character in a way that has proven hard to use for you. You would be surprised how quickly you can rinse through enemies and areas when you know where everything is already.
If this is your first 'Souls' game, then this is possibly the most important thing to take heed of. Your character has several different rolls, depending on how heavy your equipment is. If you want to roll around like the aforementioned spring bunny, you will want to keep your equipment load under 50% to get the best from your dodge rolls. Your equipment is everything from the weapons and armour you have equipped, down to the rings you have on and your magic staff etc.
Take Time to Explore Areas
This Demon's Souls tip is self-explanatory. New armour, weapons, and NPCs could be lurking around any corner. This feels like a daunting experience, especially in areas that are littered with tough enemies, which could also be lurking around any corner. Picking up new equipment will give you something to aim towards whilst levelling up, which helps if you are unsure about what attributes to spend your hard-earned souls on.
It is in your best interest to seek out the numerous NPCs in the world of Demon's Souls. Each one will enrich your progression in some way or another. Some will be merchants that sell unique items, some need your help to further their own story, some join you in the Nexus and teach you new abilities.
In short, always make sure you talk to all NPCs you come across, pick up everything, and do not be afraid to explore.
Keep everything. Stockpile Thomas can hold an (almost) unlimited number of items. More stuff equals more options.
You can send items straight from your inventory into storage.
You also do not need to carry upgrade materials around with you. Blacksmiths will use shards and ores from your stockpile.
World and Character Tendency
If this is your first outing in Boletaria, then these are not really things you need to know the ins and outs of. But it is worth at least knowing what they are.
Each arch stone location has its own world tendency. Kill bosses in that area and the tendency shifts towards white. Kill NPCs or die in human form will shift it to black. If a world is in pure white tendency or pure black tendency then you will open new sub-areas, fight new bosses, and meet new NPCs.
If a location is in white tendency, then enemies are easier to defeat but drop fewer souls. Is the location in black tendency? Then enemies are harder to kill but you will reap more souls.
Character tendency is even less important for new players as the effects are minimal at best. Effecting your damage with only 3 unique weapons and opens a small amount of NPC quests.
To stop your areas creeping into the black, then fast travel back to the Nexus after you defeat a boss and take a suicidal leap from the upper levels. Dying in human form in the Nexus has no effect and allows you to hit pure white world tendency easier. As, let us be honest, you are only going to die again anyway.
Which NPCs to Trust
To save you a whole lot of potential frustration and a possible mid-game restart: kill Yurt. I hate spoilers and try my hardest to avoid them or giving them. However, Yurt caused me to start the entire game again back on PS3 and damn near killed my motivation to keep playing. So, hate me or love me for this tip, but kill Yurt. As soon as you free him from his cage, stick your sword through his face.
If you do not kill him, he will systematically start killing off the other NPCs in the Nexus.
Also, do not kill Patches. He may be an absolute miscreant, but he at least serves as an extra merchant.
The nexus is a hub for an assortment of NPCs. From merchants, teachers, and annoyances. You can very easily miss a few if you do not explore every nook and cranny. Be sure to explore the first level or two thoroughly, exhaust everyone's dialogue and get familiar with the services each offer.
Also re-explore areas from time to time. New NPCs may very well pop up.
It is not immediately obvious, but you can use boss souls to get unique miracles, magic, and weapons. It may be tempting to use the soul to dump a few points on vitality, but it is always more beneficial to trade them for unique items and spells when you can.
By the time you have access to this, you should have a character build coming along. This is important because boss souls are unique, and some can offer more than one unique trade. If you are tanking the game, then do not trade a boss soul for a new magic spell for example if you can turn it into a weapon too.
Accept That Dying is a Mechanic of the Game
This is an obvious one. But From Software's games have death as an in-built mechanic. This will be something everybody tells you, but do not give up if you die a few times in one area.
Make sure that you try something different though when you go back in. The main reason people die so many times in these games is their own stubbornness. If whacking an enemy over and over again is not making an impression, then engage the noggin and try something different instead.
Also, if you are being absolutely slaughtered in one area, then explore another arch stone location instead. They are not designed to be played in order.
So, there we have it. I hope this at least proves to be somewhat helpful for you on your adventures into Boletaria.
Long story short, curb your frustration, take your time, and enjoy yourself! Do not be afraid to make mistakes. Both in Demon's Souls, and life in general.