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How to upgrade your character and craft the best weapons in Dark Souls 3

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PREPARE TO DIE LESS

Your journey through Lothric doesn't end here. Be sure to check out the rest of Polygon's Dark Souls 3 guide , which offers everything from tips for beginners and returning masochists to detailed walkthroughs of every area — including all of the secret, bonus content.

Crafting returns to the wide world Dark Souls 3, and it's thankfully not as confusing as it was in previous installments. Rather, From Software has opted for a more streamlined approach that's less Souls and more Bloodborne.

But that doesn't mean there aren't nuances aplenty and minefields to step through, because once you use a gem to upgrade, it's gone for good. This guide will teach you how to maximize your crafting output based on your particular style of play and explain what each gem does and where to find them.

HOW THE CORE LEVELING SYSTEM WORKS

Souls games can often be a stressful affair, especially if you are going in completely blind on some of the more esoteric role-playing game mechanics. Before you dive into the more complicated concepts and specific gem infusions, you'll need to understand how stats work.

As always, after earning a specific amount of souls for defeating enemies, you can exchange them for the right to level up, increasing one statistic at a time at Firelink Shrine. Here's a rundown of how each individual stat works, and why it may suit your needs.

Vigor

Although there are many schools of thought, Vigor is arguably the single most important stat in the game for new players. While it's is possible to circumvent stats like Dexterity and Strength to inflict damage in many ways, Vigor, which directly impacts your total amount of health or HP, is paramount.

Raising your health pool is key for taking massive blows in encounters like boss fights, and it can help you avoid the fabled one hit kill scenario. Placing a greater emphasis on Vigor can allow for a bigger cushion, allowing you more time to learn the rhythm of bosses without having to retread the path between the bonfire and the boss.

A good rule of thumb is that, every few levels, put one point into Vigor. It's a small concession, but frost resistance gets buffed with each level.

Attunement

Attunement has a caster-centric focus for classes like Pyromancers, Sorcerers and Clerics. By putting points into it, you can unlock additional slots for spells. Those range from healing abilities to fireballs, all the way to temporary buffs. In Dark Souls 3, some spells can take up multiple slots, so keep that in mind before thinking that you'll be able to wield as many as you want.

Your first 13 levels will only net you one slot, with the 14th granting an additional slot and the 18th granting one more. It's important to know when these ceilings will hit, so you don't erroneously inject points without actually gaining a short term benefit. Instead, save souls to jump Attunement slot levels and focus more on other stats bit by bit.

Endurance

Endurance can impact a variety of different outcomes in combat. Tied to your stamina meter, which depletes every time a player takes an action, Endurance is nearly as important as Vitality for everyday use. Even things as menial as blocking an attack or rolling use stamina, and running out can result in a massive damage spillover on a boss fight.

For example, some bosses have combo attacks that require multiple rolls or blocks to mitigate damage, and without that stamina threshold to fall back on, you can't use any defensive options other than manually moving out of the way — which can be tough for the quicker encounters.

Once you reach level 40 Endurance, you'll will no longer get a 1:1 return on points invested in the stat. That's fine, tough. At level 40, you'll have more than enough stamina to beat the game.

In previous Souls games, Endurance was nebulously tied to a player's gear weight limit, but that is not the case in Dark Souls 3.

Vitality

Speaking of equipment load, Vitality governs how much your character can hold before they start having trouble moving around. Reaching a certain weight ratio — 70 percent in Dark Souls 3 — will result in slower movement overall and a slower roll effect. For those who wear heavy weapons and swing heavy weapons, put sparing points into Vitality. Poison resistance also increases as a result of increasing your Vitality, and Defense raises slightly more than it does with other stats.

Dark Souls 3 does not have a light, medium and heavy rule for rolling. It's all or nothing, so as long as your build stays below the heavy cap at 70 percent, you can roll to your heart's content at full speed — at least until you run out of stamina.

Strength

One of the more obvious stats in the game, Strength has an effect on gear that's tied directly to a relevant playstyle. If you want to wield a massive hammer, wear heavier armor sets or carry giant shields, you’ll need plenty of Strength. These items may have a requirement for a certain level of Strength to be able to wield them, and most pieces of gear also scale with strength — meaning they will increase their effectiveness when players have a higher strength rating.

As a bonus, fire resistance will also be increased when when you increase Strength.

Dexterity

More important than it is at first glance, not only does Dexterity govern how well players can use items like bows and other swifter loadouts, but it also determines how fast players can cast spells — and it reduces fall damage.

Because of these benefits, having a weapon that scales with both Strength and Dexterity — even if you favor the former — can be a good idea. This is especially true if you find yourself falling often or if you want to discover new locations without taking fatal damage.

Intelligence

One of the three stats that is most closely associated with spellcasters, Intelligence not only boosts resistance to magic attacks, but it also increases the effectiveness of spells. Whereas a lot of weapons tend to only require a relatively low amount of Strength or Dexterity, Pyromancers and Sorcerers will find that many high-end spells favor a high Intelligence rating, so this is a very important stat to focus on.

Keep in mind that Intelligence favors both pyromancy and sorcery, not miracles.

Faith

As a more nuanced style of play for Clerics, Faith governs miracle spells and boosts dark damage resistance. Miracles require a talisman (or sacred chime) to cast. They can also trigger benefits like basic healing, gradual healing over time and even offensive capabilities like lightning spears and shockwaves.

It's not just for miracles, though: Faith impacts many pyromancy spells. As a result, Sorcerers will want to focus on Intelligence, Clerics on Faith, and Pyromancers on both.

Luck

Not to be trifled with by newer players, Luck is a strange stat that influences several factors in Dark Souls 3. In addition to its synergy with select items in the game, Luck dictates the frequency of item drops from defeated enemies. Later in the game, if you find yourself farming for a certain kind of gem or crafting material, bumping up Luck a bit could help you on your quest.

Keep in mind that Luck by its very nature is random, so if you're having trouble progressing, leveling a surefire statistic like Dexterity, Strength or Vigor is a better idea. That said, you will raise your curse resistance and gain a greater affinity for inflicting poison and bleed effects when your pour your souls into Luck.

HOW TO USE GEMS TO MAKE THE BEST WEAPONS

As in previous Souls games, you can use items you find to upgrade your weapons. Dark Souls 3 concentrates on a collection of gems for upgrades, each of which changes your weapon in some fundamental way, often adding elemental damage like fire or magic to them.

Upgrading your weapon is also related to your character's stats. If you've poured a lot of souls into Dexterity, for example, then a Sharp Gem will provide you extra benefits because it scales the weapon's damage to Dexterity.

Infusing your weapon with a gem doesn't always provide an immediate bonus. We note this below where it has the biggest effect, but it's important to explain at the outset that infusing your weapons with some gems can be bad if it you do it too soon. If you don't have stats to back your upgrade up, infusing can actually result in a reduction of your weapon's damage, at least temporarily.

Blood Gem

Abilities and purpose

The main use for a Blood-infused weapon is to inflict the bleed effect, which instantly drops a character's health and stamina levels a drastic amount once the proper amount of damage has been applied.

Blood Gems are very useful as player-versus-player weapons, as they can catch other players off guard with the lacerating effect. With non-playable characters and for player-versus-enemy uses, however, they're decidedly less effective — especially since most of the tougher enemies are immune to or otherwise resist the effect.

Where to find it

You can find a Blood Gem in a building near the Church of Yorshka bonfire in Irithyll of the Boreal Valley.

Fire Gem

Abilities and purpose

As you might expect, Fire Gems add fire damage to any weapon.

They also remove traditional stat scaling. Anything that eliminates scaling statlines from a weapon can be a short-sighted strategy. You'll get a powerful weapon immediately, but it won't grow more powerful as you do. It's best-served for a niche item that's pulled out every so often to defeat an enemy weak to that particular element.

Where to find it

When players encounter Siegward of Catarina in the Undead Settlement, help him destroy the Fire Demon to net a Fire Gem. If you want, you can also start with one during the character creation process.

Chaos Gem

Abilities and purpose

Don't get confused by the terminology: Chaos is merely a souped up, rarer version of the Fire Gem. Instead of merely providing fire damage, this gem will also scale with Faith and Intelligence, making it a very enticing option for a caster.

Where to find it

A crystal lizard near the beginning of the Demon Ruins area.

Heavy Gem

Abilities and purpose

Heavy Gems are useful if you're going for a Strength build, which is probably what most newcomers are striving for. By infusing an item with it, the item will scale alongside your the Strength stat. For this reason, it's best to save a Heavy Gem until later in the game, after you've committed at least 20 or more points into your character, as leveling up and having insufficient strength inherently lowers the damage of the item until you upgrade it further.

In short, infusing with this gem too early will result in a pointless reduction of your weapon's damage. Once you've reached a comfortable level of health and stamina, you can pump points into Strength and watch the returns grow.

Where to find it

Players can net a free Heavy Gem from the Hawkwood NPC at the Firelink Shrine in the middle of the game, or force it out of him by killing him. No other NPCs will become hostile, so after earning the Hawk Ring from Hawkwood after you defeat the Abyss Watchers, you can generally take him out without consequence, as long as you're willing to forgo his summoning help.

Sharp Gem

Abilities and purpose

The Sharp Gem will severely skew your weapon towards Dexterity scaling, which is handy for swifter melee weapons and bows. Much like the Heavy Gem, base damage is scaled back immediately after infusion, so saving it for the right item at the right time is best. It will also overwrite any previous scaling bonuses, but will still provide applicable strength scaling if the weapon calls for it.

Where to find it

The Catacombs of Carthus has a Sharp Gem out in the open during normal level progression.

Refined Gem

Abilities and purpose

As a middle ground of sorts between the Heavy and Sharp Gems, the Refined variant settles for a mixture of both Strength and Dexterity scaling.

Not conducive to a min-max strategy (a common tactic in gaming where a player goes all-in on a certain stat at the expense of others), this wishy-washy Gem is good for those of you who haven't committed to one particular statline or style of play. Since it's more effective to just choose one, new players will want to stick to a Heavy or Sharp infusion.

Where to find it

When you come across the giant church at the High Wall of Lothric (directly opposite the Vordt boss bonfire), the knight right before the entrance drops a Refined Gem.

Raw Gem

Abilities and purpose

The Raw Gem is one of the most interesting materials in the game, in that it eliminates scaling altogether and simply increases a weapon's damage outright. Note that putting points into Strength or Dexterity while using this item is a completely useless affair in the short term, though switching to any other weapon or swapping out the Raw Gem will allow you to regain those benefits.

To be clear, it is possible to complete a large chunk of an initial playthrough using a reinforced, Heavy infused weapon, especially if it's a reliable item like a sword. Once you've upped your Strength or Dexterity to an acceptable level, you can simply swap it with a Heavy or Sharp gem. We wouldn't recommend using a primary Raw weapon outside of a challenge run — especially because this material reduces resistances to all elements.

Where to find it

A crystal lizard in the High Wall of Lothric drops one very early in the game.

Crystal Gem

Abilities and purpose

Like the Chaos Gem, Crystal scales with Intelligence, so Sorcerers will appreciate this option, especially if they can locate one early on. It's a pretty straightforward material in that it serves the needs of staff-wielding heroes in the same sense that the Heavy and Sharp gems serve those muscular heroes with strong weapon sets.

The difference here is that Crystal also adds the magic damage effect, which is yet another element that is a part of the aforementioned weakness and resistance system. A resistance to the same effect is also a bonus of this gem.

Where to find it

You can find a Crystal gem on the Road of Sacrifices, in a building near the Crystal Sage.

Deep Gem

Abilities and purpose

You can add of the more interesting elements of the game, Dark damage, to an item with a Deep Gem because. As a bonus, Dark resistance increases significantly. Note, however, that unlike the Chaos or Crystal varieties, using this material eliminates scaling of any kind.

Where to find it

Deep Gems seem to be a rare drop from enemies in the Irithyll of the Boreal Valley zone.

Blessed Gem

Abilities and purpose

As one of the many magic-centric gems, the Blessed Gem is for Faith-based builds and Clerics. Rather than provide an Intelligence boost, this material scales with the Faith stat more than any other in the game. It grants a gradual health recovery bonus, too.

Naturally, this sort of gem benefits from infusion with a talisman, which is always at the side of a healing-based character. Keep in mind, however, that the benefits outside of the latent healing boost are better served for mid to late-game builds that have pumped a lot of points into Faith.

Where to find it

In the Cathedral of the Deep, locate the Giant at the top of the tower and find the gem near him.

Hollow Gem

Abilities and purpose

Hollow items funnel back into the Luck stat, plain and simple. They don't eliminate scaling from weapons, but will inherently boost your luck by 15.

Here's the catch though: Players need to take advantage of the Hollowing system that's enacted by the NPC Yoel of Londor, who is found at the Undead Settlement area, and moves to Firelink Shrine after speaking to him. Interacting with Yoel will grant the player the ability to become hollowed after death, which in turn activates the Hollow Gem. As an advanced skill, we wouldn't recommend using the Hollow Gem or experimenting with the mechanic in first playthroughs.

Where to find it

Enemies in the Road of Sacrifices will periodically drop a Hollow Gem.

Poison Gem

Abilities and purpose

Poison is another element in the Souls series, which, just like the bleed effect, can be applied to enemies or player-versus-player opponents with enough force. Without any bells or whistles, the Poison Gem allows players to trigger this status ailment and provides a significant resistance to poison.

Just like the Blood Gem, we don't suggest using poison with one of your core player-versus-enemy weapons. Most of the major foes in the game are immune to its effects. Although it doesn't eliminate the scaling of an individual item, you'd be better suited going for something that directly impacts a useful stat.

Due to the resistance boost, having an ancillary piece of gear like a shield on standby, infused by a Poison Gem, can be useful when walking through hazardous areas like swamps or sewers.

Where to find it

Poison Gems occasionally drop after you defeat dogs and slugs in Farron Keep.

Simple Gem

Abilities and purpose

As one of the more oddball materials in the game, the Simple Gem not only grants bonus magic damage (as well as a small resistance increase), but it also allows for a certain degree of FP recovery over time. Just like most magic-centric gems, you're granted a bonus based on your Intelligence level.

Where to find it

One is laying right near the start of the Irithyll Dungeon area.

Titanite

Abilities and purpose

Titanite is the most common item in Dark Souls 3, and it can range in quality from Shard, Large Shard, Chunk, all the way up to a Slab. Shards drop from just about every type of enemy in the game as a rare find. You can also purchase them from the Shrine Handmaid in Firelink Shrine. Over time, you will acquire new shop inventory items by defeating bosses and progressing with the story, opening up the option to purchase shards.

It's important to note that, rather than follow the infusion mechanic that gems provide, you can use Titanite reinforcement. Put differently, using Titanite won't make a weapon scale better or add fire damage, but it will increase its current stats. As in past Souls games, you can reinforce items to level 10, increasing damage as your weapon levels up. You can use Titanite in tandem with Gems, too, to obtain a higher damage level — especially with Strength and Dexterity-centric gear.

It may seem like a good idea to use Titanite in any old item, but it's best to commit to a style of combat first. There's a finite amount of latter materials available. To truly max out all of your items, you'll need to put in some extra playthroughs with New Game+.

Where to find it

A Titanite Scale, a rare items used for the final step of reinforcement, is waiting for at the beginning of of the game. To earn it, defeat the mutated Crystal Lizard in an alcove inside the Cemetery of Ash.

PREPARE TO DIE LESS

Your journey through Lothric doesn't end here. Be sure to check out the rest of Polygon's Dark Souls 3 guide , which offers everything from tips for beginners and returning masochists to detailed walkthroughs of every area — including all of the secret, bonus content.