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Dark Souls 2 Xbox 360 tips - equipment, boss and secrets guide

Story spoiler-free advice for besting From Software's new action-RPG

Well, we've reviewed Dark Souls II, but as fans of the original game will know, sometimes it can take weeks or even months for the true complexity of some of the world's secrets, systems and lore to become apparent.

Here's a rough guide for getting the most out of your Dark Souls II experience. Lesson the first: trust nothing and no-one. Except us, obviously.

Be chatty

Make sure you stick around until the end of every NPC conversation - until they begin to repeat lines. Squeezing every last drop of dialogue out of certain characters, like Lucatiel of Myrrh, is the only way you'll unlock the ability to summon them for boss fights. Talking to NPCs like the Emerald Herald or sullen Saulden will also open up important new menu options or eventually give you the invitation to join a covenant. And, chatting to merchants in hard-to-reach locations may also persuade them to relocate to your hub base at Majula. These benefits aside, you might just want to chat to soak up that little bit of extra backstory.

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Be economical

Due to the fact that enemies now vanish after you've faced them a certain number of times in Dark Souls, regular souls - your currency - are in much shorter supply. Therefore, the worst thing for you to do is to waste them by going through a fog door and straight into a boss fight you're likely to repeatedly lose - thus increasing the chance that you'll permanently lose everything you've banked. If this happens, consider using a Homeward bone, which will teleport you back to a bonfire and enable you to make your way to Majula and spend any souls you're carrying before moving on.

Dress to impress

For warrior classes, I recommend upping your strength to 20, equipping the Bastard Sword (a fairly common drop early on in the game), and buying the golden Twin Dragon Greatshield for 2,000 souls from Maughlin, the armour vendor in Majula. The Bastard Sword is slow but hits hard, whilst an upgraded greatshield will minimise chip damage taken from a number of the game's early bosses. Also, make sure you have a long range weapon or spell - a crossbow or a basic Soul Arrow spell will do fine - to kite enemies. The blacksmith in Majula will also sell Titanite shards for you to upgrade your weapons and equipment, but be aware that he only has a finite amount, so choose what you wish to use them on wisely.

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Well-healed

Talk to the Emerald Herald in Majula and she'll give you a token of her friendship - a single Estus Flask. Gee, thanks lady. But, she also informs you that bringing back Estus Shards will allow her to increase the amount of swigs you can get out of it. If you don't want to wait too long for your first one, I suggest looking in the little well between Maughlin and Shalquoir (the cat)'s huts. In addition to Shards, Sublime Bone Dust burned at a bonfire will increase the strength of each Estus use. If Flasks aren't getting the job done, however, Life Gems - a common drop from most vanilla enemies - can be more useful when fighting multiple or slower enemies, as they heal gradually over time and you can still move whilst activating them.

Pick your fights

Run away from large groups - they'll give up the chase after a while and return to where you found them, allowing you to swiftly double-back and get a few cheap hits in. As an addendum to that, never go into combat angry. If you're feeling stressed stand up, make a cuppa and come back once you've cooled off. If you're angry you'll rush in and forget what you've learned, and that's where mistakes happen.

Make a move only when you know a hit will land safely, and even then, be sure your enemy isn't attempting a feint. Watch for telegraphed attack patterns, learn 'em, and learn 'em well. Remember: every action you perform - be it rolling, casting, blocking or swinging - will deplete stamina. A key part of combat, especially for a warrior, is backing well off, dropping your shield and allowing your stamina to replenish, before going back in for more.

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