Dark Souls 2: Which Class Should I Start With?

Dark Souls 2 is out in less than a week, and I need to decide my starting class! Before I begin, two quick disclaimers:

  1. I’d be lying if I told you that your starting class is critically important in any Souls game. Skill and determination play a much larger part.
  2. Not all the facts are in yet, so I’m just going off of what the community has managed to dig up. Please don’t blame me if something ends up being fabulously wrong down the road.

Before we can talk about what makes one class better for you than  another, we should start with…

What The Stats Do

I’m dividing the game’s 9 stats into 2 categories: offensive stats and support stats.  Offensive stats are those which increase the damage of scaleable weapons or Miracles and Sorceries.  Now I know there is still a lot of confusion around this term, so I will explain — if you already know, simply skip ahead.

What are scaleable weapons?  I just wanna HIT stuff!  

Easy there, Billy. We’ll have you clobbering undead in no time, but first you have to understand why there are all those LETTERS on your weapon.  I’m talking S/A/B/C/D — remember those from Dark Souls? Those are telling you how greatly your character’s stats are affecting that weapon’s performance.  You just need to figure out which letter goes with which stat (there are icons which make this clear).

You want to equip the weapons that bring out your highest stat, not the ones that scale based on your lowest! For this reason, it’s wise to pick one offensive stat to go with based on how you like to play.  Settling on an offensive stat is probably the most important decision regarding your character’s growth that you can make.

OFFENSIVE STATS

  • Strength: Smash everything! Strength is generally reserved for the game’s biggest, hardest-hitting weapons which are usually slow and best used while wearing heavy armor.  Guard Breaking is a new feature in which you, well… break the guarding posture of your foe and initiate a punishing attack similar to a backstab or a riposte.  The higher your strength the easier it will be to execute this trump card.
  • Dexterity: Most Dexterity-based weapons aren’t big, they require close range (daggers, katana and the like) — but they get RESULTS.  Status effects like Bleed and Poison scale based on Dexterity now.  This is the trump card of a Dex-based character.  Get in close and quick, and leave them with a gaping wound filled with poison.
  • Intelligence: Everyone laughed at you for your love of books. Let’s see who’s laughing when you’re raining thunderbolts upon them with your totally cool (not really that cool) wand!  But there’s more!  Intelligence now scales the power of Fire-based weapons.  That means if you want to swing around a flaming sword — and do it right — you gonna want youse some booklearnin’.
  • Faith: “And you shall know my name as the lord, when I lay my vengeance upon thee…”  That’s what you’ll be saying when you whip some divine justice out on your foes — probably wielding a Talisman of some kind to do so.  Or maybe just heal yourself so you can conserve Estus Flasks for the heat of battle!  But there’s more!  Faith now scales the power of Lightning-based weapons.  That means if you want to poke foes with a Lightning Spear, you best go down to the river to pray, studyin’ about that good ol’ way.

Important Note re: Weapons: A lot of weapons that work well for one offensive stat may require a few points in another in order to equip.  For instance most longswords are designed for Strength builds, but require a bit of Dexterity.  Min/maxing is all well and good, but at the end of the day your weapon’s moveset is of the utmost importance.  If you’re not comfortable, swinging it, then you prolly gonna die.  So don’t be afraid to toss a few points into another offensive skill just so you can equip the weapon that works for you.

 

SUPPORT STATS

Support stats are those which don’t directly contribute to damage in any way, but you kinda totally need.

  • Vigor: You’re brimming with life, and would like to keep it that way. Vigor raises your max HP and nothing more.  Mostly important if you imagine yourself ever getting hit.  If you’re fast on your feet, you can probably keep your Vigor on the low side.
  • Endurance: Increases your Stamina.  Stamina is used for evading and blocking, so this is pretty important since if you’re not doing one of those things, you’re doing the other.  This stat is even MORE important now that you can exhaust your stamina. By executing any action that would bring your stamina below zero, your character will become “dizzy”.  When this happens, other players can do one of those punishing, unavoidable, and highly demeaning attacks to you (see riposte, backstab, etc.).  I honestly can’t think of a play-style that doesn’t benefit from Endurance.
  • Vitality: This adjusts your Equip Load. The main benefit of having a high equip load is that you can execute different evasive rolls depending on how burdened you are.  Less burdened = faster, farther roll.  More burdened = slower, weaker roll.  I think you also run faster when not uber-burdened as well, but I’m not sure.  If you’re the type who wears light gear, you can keep your vitality low. Likewise, if you have EXTREMELY effective defenses — I’m talking a shield that can stop a truck — you can avoid evading entirely.
  • Attunement: They STILL won’t take you seriously? Is it the wand?  It’s the wand isn’t it. Beef up your Attunement and you can smite them with your magics before they can utter a laugh!  That’s right: Attunement boosts spell casting-speed.  It also increase the number of spells you can equip.  Spells are  finite after all, needing to be replenished at bonfires.  Attunement is pretty worthless to those who just wanna swing big weapons — though it never hurts to enchant said big weapon?  Alternatively, Attunement could be ignored for those who want to use their high Intelligence or Faith for only Elemental weapons.  This one is really only important if you’re casting offensive spells.
  • Adaptability: This stat is new and fairly mysterious.  Current theories suggest it helps increase how well your character can evade — as in the number of invulnerability frames.  If this is true, Adaptability will be massively important to characters who want to be nimble.  What we know for sure about this stat, is that it increases defenses as well as resistances to status effects like Bleed and Poison.  Truly, all characters will want to dump some points into Adaptability.

Now let’s take a look at our starting classes and see how they excel and where they are lacking.  All the following data is coming from this wiki.

THE CLASSES

Warrior – “I know I want a Strength build with some wiggle room.”
Highest Offensive stat: Strength – 15
Highest Support stat: Vigor – 7
This class is designed for a standard Strength build.  All stats related to magic and most support stats are average.  If you know you want big weapons early on, and that’s about it, this isn’t a bad place to start.  This class is pretty forgiving if you decide to throw in a splash of either Sorcery or Miracles down the line.

Knight – “I want to be a Strength build and an iron wall.”
Highest Offensive stat: Strength – 11
Highest Support stat: Vigor – 12
Lowest stat: Intelligence – 3
The Knight has a ton of HP and high Adaptability (which I suppose is why he doesn’t get a shield).  Knights are also pretty awful when it comes to Magic, with the 2nd lowest investment in Faith, Intelligence, and Attunement.  I honestly like the support stats on the Knight better than the Warrior — I am thinking with a minor boost to Strength and Dexterity (and a shield) this character could be a better starting point for a pure Strength build.  Could also be a contender for a Miracle-casting knight.

Swordsman – “I want to start strong & fast, and I’m confidant in my abilities.”
Highest Offensive stat: Dexterity – 16
Highest Support stat: Endurance – 8
Lowest stat: Vigor – 4
This character is set up to hit hard early on, with the highest offensive stat and weapons (yup, two of ‘em) that are already upgraded.  However, having the lowest Vigor score of any class, terrible Vitality, AND sad Adaptability make the Swordsman exceptionally vulnerable.  Did I mention no shield as well? Yikes!  With 7 points in Intelligence and 6 in Attunement, becoming a Dex/Int hybrid seems like a good bet, but spreading this character any thinner too early on is dangerous IMHO.  A big Adaptability boost might be sufficient to make up for the lack of other support stats, with this character relying strongly on evading.

Bandit – “I have no interest in magic, just weapons (Strength or Dex)”
Highest Offensive stat: Dexterity – 14
Highest Support stat: Vitality – 11
Lowest stat: Intelligence – 1
The Bandit is a weird one.  I love how this class is as dumb as a brick!  You could probably take this character in either a Strength or Dex direction, though I think the support stats are better for a Strength user…  Despite a high Faith stat, the Bandit is BEST suited to completely ignore magic entirely: its combined Faith, Int, and Attunement is only 11 points.  That means this is the best starting point for any players looking to entirely ignore casting Sorceries and Miracles.  The Bandit, like the Knight and Warrior, seems pretty forgiving for a first playthrough since it can go in multiple directions easily.

Cleric – “I want to cast Miracles and maybe play as a holy knight.”
Highest Offensive stat: Faith – 12
 Highest Support stat: Vigor & Attunement – 10
Lowest stat: Endurance – 3
A Cleric is best suited as a miracle spammer, with the option to become a Miracle-casting Knight type down the road, thanks to decent Strength, Vigor, and Vitality. The low Dex stat will limit this character to Axes and Maces as your only offense for a while.  If you can wield these weapons well, you could probably get away without boosting Dex very much at all.  No better place to start if you want to be a holy knight type or a Miracle spammer.

Sorcerer – “I want to cast Sorceries and maybe become a quick Dex build.”
Highest Offensive stat: Intelligence – 14
Highest Support stat: Attunement – 12
Lowest stat: Strength – 3
The Sorcerer and Swordsman are both strong on offense right out of the gate, relying on evasion to keep them alive (they both have 10 points invested in Adaptablity and Endurance).  Low strength means it could be a while before this character can wield a sword, but Soul Arrow should be enough to keep you alive.  The Sorcerer could either stay the course of a Magic caster, or become a Dex/Int hybrid, much like the Swordsman.

Explorer – “I know exactly what I want, I just need the items to get me there.”
Highest Offensive stat: Strength/Dexterity – 6
Highest Support stat: Adaptability – 12
Lowest stat: Faith & Intelligence – 5
Haha, this one is my favorite!  I think I decided about halfway through writing this that I want to be an Explorer.  OK, so here’s what this job is all about: high support stats and low offenses.  Why? Well, this class is described as coming “equipped with many items.”  This means (most importantly) consumable items that deal damage to foes, a la Firebombs in Dark Souls.  The basic premise here is to use those items until you find a weapon that suits you and then pump whatever offensive stats you need to utilize it!  Cool huh?  This character really is designed to be an explorer!  I can see this becoming a favorite of speed-runners, or those who want to get a key weapon as early as possible.  For this reason, despite my excitement, Explorer may be a better bet for a second playthrough.

Deprived- “I’m naked lol.”
All stats: 6 (and this character is naked teehee)
Originally I was excited that this class was Soul Level 1, since I assumed it would offer great freedom in character building.  In reality, I’m thinking the only real benefit is the novelty of being naked.

So. Now that I’ve written all this, who’s it gonna be? Jeez…

Here is what I am thinking:

  1. Sorcerer or Swordsman: Both characters start as glass cannons, with great offenses and a reliance on evading to survive.  Both can potentially become effective Dex builds with a splash of  Sorceries on the side.  This is basically what I want for my first character, it’s just a question of what I want first: upgraded swords or Soul Arrow.  
  2. Bandit: I have a weird idea with this guy, but hear me out.  I’m thinking he could be a Faith hybrid who never actually casts Miracles.  Rather than pump up his Attunement to get a slot, I could ignore the stat entirely but pump Faith with the sole purpose of having a strong Lightning weapon.  Leaving my Intelligence at 1 and my Attunement at 2 would make me really happy, because that is some effective Min/Maxing.  The points I save from investing in Attunement can go into support stats or towards equipping the perfect weapon.
  3. Knight: This class starts out pretty resilient, and could probably carry me far enough into the game to take it in one of several directions.  I could see it becoming a pure Strength build, a Miracle-casting knight, and even a Faith/Dex hybrid.  This may be one of the most forgiving classes as long as you know you want to ignore Intelligence.
  4. Explorer: It’s totally possible that as soon as I find an awesome weapon with my first character, I will start a new game and try to run to it.  The Explorer is designed to do just this.

Wow, this got realllly long.  Sorry about that!  I hope in wading though all this you have a better idea of how you want to start in Dark Souls 2.  The Souls series can certainly induce anxiety with its infamous difficulty, so not having to worry about your starting class come March 11th should be a huge relief.  Good luck out there, don’t let the game crush your spirit. Or, in other words… “You have a heart of gold… Don’t let them take it from you!”

5 Responses to Dark Souls 2: Which Class Should I Start With?

  1. Eliseo says:

    Ah, Stockpile Thomas! I accidentally stabbed him with my talisman when I started Demon’s Souls. I only beat the game about a couple of weeks ago and still haven’t started Dark Souls. :/ I went with a Strength/Faith build (Temple Knight) in that game because I liked miracles. I’d like to try being ‘just’ a magic user, but it seems difficult since you run into enemies who are very resistant to magic. What class did you pick during your first Dark Souls playthrough?

    • kotowari says:

      Haha, I remember when you tweeted about that! Too bad for old Thomas…

      When I play Dark Souls the only classes I ever pick are Pyromancer (Because SL1 and comes with Pyromancy), Thief (Because comes with Master Key), and Cleric (Because highest Faith).

  2. Michelle B says:

    Thanks for this update, I was pretty sure I was going to start off as a sorcerer anyway before this update, but this has cemented it. I like playing pure mage builds at the moment in the Souls games.

    What’s happening to pyromancy though? Brought back into one role again like in Demon’s?

    • kotowari says:

      That\’s what I did for my first run of Dark Soul — pure sorcery until I got the Moonlight Greatsword!

      I believe Pyromancy scales with intelligence though I am not certain. As a Mage you should be able to utilize it.

  3. Ujn Hunter says:

    Grabbed Dark Souls II on both PS3 & Xbox 360… but after making it to Majula with my Knight… I decided to go back to playing Dark Souls! Guess I’ll eventually come back to Dark Souls II, but I’m having too much fun in Dark Souls at the moment now! :P

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