Dark Souls continues to endure. From Software, the developers behind the Dark Souls series, basically invented a genre and added new lexicon to the gaming landscape. Souls-like games are everywhere, and even major publishers are adding Souls-like elements to their massive games. When there’s a Star Wars Souls-like, you know this particular type of action-RPG has struck a chord with the wider video gaming world.
And we’re still playing it. Dark Souls is still early in the series — more refined than Demon’s Souls, but much looser and less polished than Sekiro. The game adds more balance, but still features some wildly unbalanced elements. You can spend an entire playthrough messing around with a single set of weapons and armor. And there are a lot of weird weapons in this game. Here, we’re going to talk about 20 of our favorite builds. Some of these builds are completely OP. Others make the game easier for PVE. And some are just flat-out weird. Whatever your playstyle, there’s got to be something you’ll want to try below.
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#1: The Giant Dad Build
- Requirements: Giant Armor Set, Zweihander Sword, Grass Crest Shield, Mask of the Father, Havel’s Ring
The legend is back. If you haven’t tried out the infamous “Giant Dad” build, it might be time to replay Dark Souls. This hilarious PVP build is designed to be as OP as possible. With the right stats (and a lot of grinding) you can gain full mobility with the Giant’s Armor Set while also wielding the Zweihander 2H sword. Give yourself the Mask of the Father, Havel’s Ring, and the Grass Crest Shield to improve your mobility. Now you’re an unkillable tank that can strike with the Zweihander four times, dealing insane damage.
And the Zweihander can be upgraded into a +5 Chaos Zweihander to increase damage. With Chaos, damage increases the higher your Humanity. Eat a bunch of Humanity and reach +10, and you’re dealing so much damage nothing can get in your way. The only downside is that this build is ridiculously hard to put together, and you’ll have to farm for tons (and tons) of souls to upgrade the Zweihander into a +5 Chaos Zweihander. If you’re feeling dedicated, this build is a community favorite.
#2: The Fast Dad Build
- Requirements: Havel’s Armor Set, Zweihander, Grass Crest Shield, Mask of the Child, Ring of Favor & Protection, Havel’s Ring
Because the Giant Dad isn’t fast enough. Here’s a Lightning Bruiser build without any of the lightning that’s also a lot easier to attain. Get Havel’s Armor Set, put on the Mask of the Child, wear Havel’s Ring (and Ring of Favor & Protection), then slap the Grass Crest Shield on your back while you 2-Hand the Zweihander. Combining this guy and building up to Endurance 40 will make you incredibly tough and incredibly fast. You can fast-roll, attack and mid-roll away during a combo, and more poise so you won’t get interrupted so easy.
This is the faster version of the Giant Dad, and you can spend those souls upgrading the Zweihander to a Chaos or Lightning element when you’re ready. This is all about protection and dealing easy damage.
#3: Glass Cannon Build
A simple build for PVE that can absolutely destroy bosses — and it ain’t bad for taking on other players too. This build is all about buffing the fastest hitting weapon in the game. The Falchion is very quick, and you can build up a 4-hit combo easily with enough stamina. Throw in some Faith learning to grab the Sunlight Blade Miracle, and apply the Power Within Pyromancy too. Your weapon becomes so absurdly strong, some bosses will go down in literal seconds. Wield the Falchion 2H to deal even more damage! This build is all about speed, so you’ll also want to make sure you can fast-roll and move with full mobility. Not that it should be too hard. You don’t need much protection when you’re this strong.
#4: Anti-Aggro Sniper Build
Don’t want to fight enemies in PVE at all? Just use this anti-aggro ring! The Ring of Fog can be acquired from Snuggly the Crow or the Forest Hunter Covenant, and it turns the player transparent, drastically lowering your aggro. Most enemies in a zone won’t attack you. Now combine that with the Black Bow of Pharis, which has longer range than other bows. Now combine that with the Hawk Ring, which gives your bows +50% range. Now you’re sniping enemies far outside their aggro range while you’re invisible. You can swap to melee for close-range fights and duel each enemy 1-on-1 without having to worry about friends getting involved. Incredibly useful for some of the areas that are packed with enemies.
#5: Bleed Scythe Build
The killer Lifehunt Scythe can be forged from Halfbreed Priscilla’s Boss Soul, and with the right gear, you can become a bleed-inducing machine. The Lifehunt Scythe applies 50 bleed on any enemy it hits — fill the bleed bar, and the enemy will take 50% HP damage. The Scythe, due to its shape, can also hit shielded enemies do to its angled shape. That makes it a perfect choice for annoying turtlers in PVP. The only drawback is you’ll need to boost your Bleed Resistance, as the Lifehunt Scythe also applies 40 bleed on the user.
To nullify that bleed on yourself, grab the Black Iron Set from Anor Londo (or any other high bleed resist set) and the Bloodbite Ring. When your bleed build up gets too high, up Bloodred Moss Clumps to cure yourself.
#6: Tornado Launcher Build
- Requirements: Golem Axe
A very simple and specialized build specifically for dealing with one annoying area of the game — the Tomb of Giants. This zone is straight-up terrifying. Its dark and packed with difficult enemies. If you want to make life way easier here, just get the Golem Axe after defeating the Iron Golem in Sen’s Fortress. Take the Boss Soul to the Giant Blacksmith in Anor Londo to craft this giant axe. The axe itself isn’t that special, it’s the special tornado blast move! This tornado sends enemies flying the opposite direction, and can be used to easily knock enemies into bottomless pits. There just so happens to be a huge bottomless pit just to the left at all times in the Tomb of Giants, making the Golem Axe one of the most useful weapons for this very specific instance.
#7: Dragonoid Form Build
Want to become a fire-breathing dragon? Not all Dark Souls players have investigated this hilarious Dragon Covenant combo, which gives you a literal dragon head on your undead hero. Using all the Dragon Stones, you gain a super-punch attack, flamethrower breathe, and a knockback roar that buffs you temporarily. Stack the Pursuers Sorcery spell and you’ve got basically an unblockable combo for most enemies that works in PVE and low-level PVP. You can reach the Dragon Covenant as early as Blighttown — at the bottom of the area, there’s a big tree with a secret illusory wall you can reveal.
Take the Great Hollow down to the bottom, where there’s a second illusory wall leading to the spooky Ash Lake. Down here, you can find a dragon. Pray to the dragon, and you can join it’s covenant… and get these cool dragon stones that transform you. Every Dark Souls player has to try this build at least one.
#8: Pyro Side Build
Pyromancy isn’t just for spell-casters. If you don’t want to go pure-magic, you can do a little Pyro side-building on the side and still get great results as you progress through the game’s PVE. Pyromancy is great for melee-focused characters because fire damage doesn’t scale with any of your stats. You can have low intelligence and still unleash some serious damage with pyro spells. Grab Great Combustion and you’ve got a spell that deals high damage to resistant enemies even in the late-game. Put on the Crown of Dusk headgear and the Bellowing Dragoncrest Ring to augment damage even further. Having a little magic to go with your melee can make the game much, much easier to handle.
#9: Dark Souls 3 Playstyle Build
A high-risk, high-reward build that focuses on Strength and Endurance while ignoring most magic. You’ll want to be light on your feet for this build and avoid elemental infusion on the Uchigatana — infusing elemental power removes all stat scaling. This build gives you speed and plenty of chances for quick strikes on enemies, but very little guard ability. You’ll need to rely on fast roll invincibility frames to survive. For veterans of Dark Souls 3, Bloodborne, or Sekiro, this is just a natural extension of the skills you’ve cultivated. Focus on speed and strength, ignore all that turtling, and embrace risk with the Red Tearstone Ring, which gives you +50% damage when you’re below 20% HP.
All the enemies in Dark Souls 1 are absurdly slow compared to future From Games, so if you’re used to the faster-paced combat, this is the type of build you might be itching for.
#10: Shadow Assassin Build
This build won’t make you invisible, but it will turn you into an incredibly nasty assassin with the highest backstab damage in the game. The Dark Silver Tracer + Hornet Ring boost your backstab damage by a huge amount. Combine that with a light armor set like the Shadow Set and the Dark Wood Grain Ring, which turns your fast roll into a ninja flip, and you’re a circle-strafing machine.
The combo of Gold Tracer and Dark Silver Tracer gives you a one-two punch of bleed and toxic damage. You’ll just need to defeat Artorias and steal all this cool stuff from Ciaran when she appears in his arena. Swap out the Shadow Set for whatever armor you prefer — the shadow set just gives you that ninja edge.
#11: Poison Punk Build
Want to spread the joy of poison to everyone you meet? Go with this simple build and grab any of these weapons. The Gravelord Sword takes the longest to earn, so you can always go with the Guardian Tail as your beginner poison punk blade. Move up to the Dark Silver Tracer to deal even more damage, then combine the Gravelord Sword with the Dark Lord Tracer to become a true toxic maniac. Add some Rotten Pine Resin to your weapon, and you’re applying so much poison your enemies won’t know what to do. Great for early PVP or even dealing with lots of PVE. Just sit back and wait for your enemies to succumb.
#12: Max Damage Build
Want to do so much damage you can kill some bosses in a single hit? Yep, that’s possible in Dark Souls. Grab the Dragon King Greataxe by chopping off the Gaping Dragon’s tail, then you’re free to progress into insane damage territory. Get the Dragon Torso Stone from the Dragon Covenant in Ash Lake and unleash a roar to buff yourself, then get your health down to 20% total with the Red Tearstone Ring equipped for +50% damage. Add on a buff from a white invader like the Channeler’s Trident, and now every enemy in the game will die in one or two hits. Even certain bosses! And this lasts far into NG+, so you can continue to chop through enemies like lumber even after multiple playthroughs.
#13: Caveman Bonking Build
Everyone loves to bonk, and the Great Club is the best bonking weapon of them all. This hilariously massive club can be acquired in a suicide run very early in Dark Souls, then you can set about building up your strength to use it effectively. Sprint to the bottom of Blighttown, and you’ll find the Great Club on an island in the swamp nearer to Quelaag’s Domain.
The Great Club only requires 28 Strength — not too bad for such a huge weapon. To really use it in the late game, you’ll probably need to reach 50 Strength. If you don’t want to go the strength route, you can infuse the Great Club with lightning or chaos elements, removing the strength scaling. Hilariously, the Great Club can even score backstabs! You can use it with Great Shield if you want! It is a little slow, but the damage is fantastic. If you’re looking for a relatively easy build for PVE domination, the Great Club is a good place to start.
#14: Faith Poker Build
Faith can be a powerful force in Dark Souls. This light magic has healing, defense buffs, and plenty of deadly attacks that work on almost anything. The Lightning Spear is an early game ranged magic missile that can take care of almost anything, and everything you need to upgrade and unlock more attunement slots is relatively easy to acquire, even for new players in the first part of the game. Astora’s Straight Sword is found near the undead dragon in the Valley of the Drakes — Astora’s Straight Sword is basically a better Drake Sword with better scaling and cheaper upgrades. It can also be acquired very early in the game… if you can survive the sprint to reach it.
Starting with the Lightning Spear, you’ll slowly upgrade to the Great Lightning Spear or even the all-powerful Sunlight Spear. Wrath of the Gods, which can be purchased in the Firelink Shrine after defeating the Capra Demon, is a powerful AOE magic attack with a very fast startup that knocks back enemies. A perfect combo with your lightning spears. Just save that straight sword if you’re absolutely required to poke things to death.
#15: Homing Missile Sorcery Build
- Requirements: Homing Crystal Soulmass, Tin Crystallization Catalyst, Black Sorcerer’s Set, Bellowing Dragoncrest Ring
Once you reach the Duke’s Archives, you’ll be able to greatly expand your sorcerer skillset. After being imprisoned, you can free an NPC called Big Hat Logan. Save him, then purchase all his spells (including Homing Crystal Soulmass) and you’ll drive him mad once you defeat Seath. Return to his area and defeat Big Hat Logan to gain the most powerful Sorcery Catalyst in the game, too! Throw on a Bellowing Dragoncrest Ring, and all those spells like Homing Crystal Soulmass that summon multiple projectiles? You’re now doing +20% damage per projectile, per cast!
That spell and catalyst are only available late-game, so this build is more for NG+ runs. You can also grab other great Sorcery spells and try to build from there — Dark Bead, Black Flame, and Pursuers. They’re all in the Artorias of the Abyss DLC area, and they’re all game-bustingly powerful. If you’ve never given any thought to sorcery, why not give it a try for a second run?
#16: Lightning Halberd Build
Sick of Ornstein and Smough? Want to make them and everything else in Anor Londo a lot easier? The Lightning Halberd is a build specifically designed for dealing with one of the most annoying parts of the game. Once you reach Anor Londo, you’re stuck in Anor Londo. That’s a good time to start boosting the Halberd and infusing it with Lightning. Lightning is a special damage type that doesn’t require high stats, and gets through most armor. That includes Smough’s heavy armor.
The goal is to kill Ornstein first, then you can cheese Smough by luring him into the pillars around his arena. Use the Halberd’s long reach and the sprinting attack to get in good hits before backing away. If you defeat Smough last, he’ll drop the Leo Ring which improves your thrusting power even further. Using the right spears or halberds, you can really put the hurt on bad guys without boosting your strength too much.
#17: Defensive Offense Build
Want to have high the highest defense in Dark Souls while also still having enough equipment load to wear (relatively) heavy armor and use a huge sword? Then you need to get the Greatshield of Artorias. This is one of the easiest and safely PVE builds for basically anyone — the Greatshield of Artorias is just that good. Not even Ornstein and Smough can stun you. The toughest enemies in the game will barely glance off your shield. And with the Greatshield of Artorias, you’re immune to almost all status effects. Poison, bleed, and others just don’t work on you.
Everything else for this build is your choice. The weapon can be literally anything. The armor can be upgraded as you progress through the game. Havel’s Ring and the Cloranthy Ring as just to help give you the equipment load you need for relatively fast movement. This build doesn’t require fast rolling, so you can weigh yourself down, move at a medium pace, and have enough stamina to deal lots of damage. This build is all about wars of attrition. And with this shield, you’ll always outlast the enemy.
#18: Balder Knight Build
The Balder Side Sword is one of the best thrusting swords in Dark Souls thanks to its extended reach, and the fact that it combos from one thrust attack into another. That makes the Balder Side Sword ideally used with the Leo Ring. For the full Balder Knight experience, you’ll also need a full set of Balder Armor. Unfortunately, all this Balder stuff drops from enemies at an absurdly low rate. The enemies are found very early in the game, in the Undead Parish, so technically you can get all this stuff early, then farm souls for Dexterity to deal even more damage.
If you want to speed up all that farming, you can grab the Covetous Gold Serpent Ring. Because this is a farming / RNG heavy build, you only need that ring up until you’ve acquired everything you want.
#19: Soul Farming Build
I don’t want to wait around for souls. I want lots of souls right now! To get all those souls, you’ll need the Covetous Silver Serpent Ring, found in the Tomb of Giants near the second bonfire, and a weird rare hat called the Symbol of Avarice. Like the previous build, if you want to get the Symbol of Avarice, I highly recommend wearing the Covetous Gold Serpent Ring while farming Mimics. There’s only a 0.1% chance of it dropping. Ouch.
But if you combine both, you can start raking in the souls. The best and easiest farming spot is in the Painted World of Ariamis. From the bonfire, go to the Phalanx and kill it. Firestorm / Wrath of the Gods are very efficient but they’re not required. After killing it, reset and repeat. This is currently the best way to earn souls without cheating.
#20: Humanity Stealing Maniac Build
Sick of playing Dark Souls like a sane person? Why even use weapons when you can just punch everything! This absurd build is for only the most insane Dark Souls players that want to give themselves a challenge. Sure, you could just run around naked without any equipment at all, but we’re going to give you a fighting chance with the best possible punching build. Star with the Claws or Caestus, with the ultimate goal of obtaining the Dark Hand.
This build is all about becoming a soul-stealing monster. Join the Darkwraiths Covenent and farm the wraiths in New Londo Ruins. With the Dark Hand, you can steal Humanity from other players (and some NPCs!) with a grab attack. It isn’t easy, and doesn’t work every time, but stealing Humanity is the dirtiest move in Dark Souls. That’s the stuff we covet the must. Taking it, even if you die, is the ultimate sign of disrespect. If you’re feeling like harvesting the souls of unsuspecting players just to amuse yourself, the Dark Hand is a fun alternative to actually playing fair.
Dark Souls is the little game that could. Its just one game, but it is so packed with weapons and weird features, we could make builds all day. And some players do. Maybe it’s a good time to revisit Dark Souls, and let us know which builds are your favorites.