Dark Souls 2 can be a confusing game, and this is a guide to help you beat it. We’re not going to tell you exactly what to do, or how to do it, but this is a guide about the major items you must collect and bosses you must beat to finish the game. In order to beat Dark Souls 2 you’ll need to capture the four great souls to progress towards the end-game content in Drangleic Castle. The four great souls are The Old Sinner (Sinner’s Rise), Old Iron King (Iron Keep), The Rotten (Black Gulch), and Duke’s Dear Freja (Brightstone Cove Tseldora).
You can tackle these bosses in any manner that you see fit. Below, you’ll find the order that we tackled the Dark Souls 2 Great Souls, and what you’re supposed to do with the souls after you have them to beat the game.
The Old Sinner
There are a couple of ways that you can get to The Old Sinner. If you beat the Pursuer, the bird’s nest unlocked after that boss fight will allow you to fly to The Lost Bastille. From there, it’s a short trip to Sinner’s Rise, where The Old Sinner resides. You don’t have to take the nest route though. You can also progress through The Lost Bastille by way of the N Man’s Wharf. You’ll need to fight your way through The Lost Bastille, and fight the Flexile Sentry though. The Old Sinner was our first great soul to tackle, and he feels like the most natural character to try first from a difficulty standpoint.
To make The Old Sinner a little bit easier, you can unlock the doors on the right and left of the mist gate before entering the boss fight, and they’ll give you the opportunity to light the room.
To get the key, you’ll need to beat the Belfry Gargoyles. They are similar to the Gargoyles from the original Dark Souls. Getting the Bastille Key will allow you to light the flames on both sides of The Old Sinner’s Boss Room. You can beat The Old Sinner without using the Bastille Key, it’s just a lot harder as targeting doesn’t work, and the room is pitch black.
You know that giant hole in Majula right in front of the mansion? This is the way to Great Soul number two. Buy the reduced fall damage ring from the cat in Majula. Make your way down through the underbelly of this world, where you’ll finally reach The Grave of Saints, and through to The Gutter. The last zone you’ll encounter is The Black Gulch. The Rotten’s lair is located at the end of The Black Gulch.
Duke’s Dear Freja
Duke’s Dear Freja is in Brightstone Cove Tseldora. Remember the stone statue that is blocking your way in the very beginning of the game? You’ll need to unpetrify this statue with a Fragrant Branch of Yore and start progressing through this massive area. Make your way through the Shaded Woods to the Shaded Ruins, then through the Doors of Pharros to finally arrive in Brightstone Cove Tseldora.
Depending on the order in which you’ve tackled Dark Souls 2, Brightstone Cove Tseldora is also the home of Ornifax. Ornifax will allow you to trade all the boss souls you’ve been collecting for some powerful weaponry. Unlocking Ornifax is another story altogether. So we’ll leave that for another tutorial. After you’ve freed her, she’s located just outside the last bonfire before Duke’s Dear Freja in the room with all the dolls.
The Old Iron King
Getting to the Iron Keep is a bit more complicated than other areas, and not necessarily explained in the game. Though you’ll need to get there, because that’s where The Old Iron King resides. Heading towards Heidi’s Tower of Flame from Majula, you may have run into a contraption in the tunnels on the way there. If you’ve cleared out Heide’s you’ll have met the miracle merchant at the second bonfire. If you exhaust all talking options with the merchant, she’ll unlock the path to Huntsman’s Corpse for 2000 souls. The path is at the contraption on the way to Heide’s Tower of Flame, but you must exhaust all talking options with the merchant to make her appear there and offer the path. Progress through Huntsman’s Corpse to Harvest Valley, then into Earthen Peak. In Harvest Valley you’ll fight a tough minor boss fight, which can be made easier by lighting the windmill on fire on the way to the fight. Once in The Iron Keep, the path to The Iron King is fairly straight forward, but you will need to fight the Smelter Demon on the way.
The Four Souls
At this point, if you’ve got the four great souls for Dark Souls 2 and lit the four Primal Bonfires, you’ve fought your way through many of the game’s areas. However, the real fun is just beginning.
With the four souls collected and the four primal bonfires lit, you’ll want to head back to The Shaded Woods to the Forked Road Bonfire. Taking the path to the left, you’ll now be able to reach Drangleic Castle.
During your initial time in Drangleic Castle you’re primary objectives are activating an elevator and snagging a key (As well as fighting a couple of mini bosses). Once you’ve got the elevator activated, you’ll progress to the Shrine of Amana, and then into the Undead Crypt.
In the Undead Crypt is where you’re going to get one of the major items that you need to beat Dark Souls 2. You’ll get King’s Ring. You may have seen doors already in Dark Souls 2 that ask you to produce the sign of the King. There is one such door in Forest of Giants that we’ll be heading to shortly. The King’s Ring is the key to these doors, and require that you are wearing the ring to open them.
The King’s Ring is one piece of the puzzle, but there are a couple more items that you’ll need to reach the final bosses of Dark Souls 2. We’ll use King’s Ring to open a new path in the Shadow Forest. Getting there is easy. Head back to the Forked Path Bonfire, and this time take the middle path. You can now access Aldia’s Keep, an area that is absolutely infested with Dragons. You’ll need to be prepared to tackle multiple dragons at this point in the game, and some of the toughest knights that the game has thrown at you up to this point. Aldia’s Keep will let you know right away if you are leveled well enough to proceed. As is the usual process for tackling strong enemies in Dark Souls, attempt to lure one enemy out at a time, especially on the large staircase to the Ancient Dragon. Progress through Aldia’s Keep until you reach this friendly dragon, and receive the Ashen Mist Heart.
Now you’re going to use the Ashen Mist Heart and the King’s Ring to fight another boss, in Forest of Fallen Giants. You may recall there being a locked door asking you to produce the symbol of the king in Forest of Fallen Giants, and that’s where we’re headed. Head back to the second bonfire in Forest of Fallen Giants, the one with the cackling merchant. Head down the ladder and across the bridge. Take a right, and then a left. The door will be on your left. Remember that you’ll need to be wearing the King’s Ring for the door to open. With the Ashen Mist Heart and the King’s Ring, you’ll now have access to another new area by interacting with the tree directly ahead of the entrance. Here, you must defeat The Giant Lord. Doing so will give you the Giant Lord Soul.
The Giant Lord is a pretty intimidating boss, due to your inability to see what he’s doing. However, many of his movements are similar to The Last Giant. You can roll between his legs and attack his feet with multiple chained attacks. When he goes for the big swing with this arms, roll through his legs. When he goes for a foot stomp, just move to the other foot.
With the King’s Ring, Ashen Mist Heart, and Giant Lord Soul you can now head back to Drangleic Castle. Head to the first bonfire. On your left is another of Vendrick’s locked doors. This is the path to the final bosses. Open the final king’s door and travel down the long path to two more boss fights — back to back. The Throne Defenders are two bosses that must be defeated together. If you are Holllow, you’ll need human effigy if you want to summon AI or Human phantoms for help. The Throne Defenders need to be killed successively within a certain amount of time or they will respawn. You’ve only got a few seconds that can lapse between their deaths. Once you’ve finally defeated The Throne Defenders, you’ll be introduced to Nashandra, the final boss of Dark Souls 2.
Not quite made it to this point in Dark Souls 2, or don’t know where to get started? Check out our Starters Guide for Dark Souls 2.