Dark Souls - Attributes and Stats Explained
Whether Dark Souls Remastered is your first foray into the world of desperation and undeath or more of a homecoming, it is important to understand exactly how certain things work. Personally, I believe the very first aspect any player should learn about is how the game’s attributes affect the player character. Let’s talk stats, soft caps and diminishing returns.
There are eight traditional attributes for the player to upgrade while the total character level and number of currently held Humanity also count as attributes in their own way. There are two aspects that all attributes share: the existence of soft caps and diminishing returns. For the uninitiated, soft caps are points at which continuing to level an attribute would be not optimal or even virtually useless.This is due to the concept of diminishing returns. Simply put, once the soft cap is reached, the player will see less and less return on their investment. With all that out of the way, it’s time to take a closer look at each attribute and what they do.
At the top of the list is arguably one of the most important attributes if you dislike seeing that infamous “YOU DIED” screen. Vitality is super simple; the more you put into it, the more health points your opponents have to eat through before your inevitable death. Something to note here is that Vitality has two soft caps, one at 30 and one at 50. While the amount of health points earned will drop once you reach level 30, you won’t see truly diminishing returns until you hit the soft cap at level 50. This means that you can gain a fairly high amount of health before reaching this level.
For this attribute, it is paramount to understand how Dark Souls handles spells. Instead of using a magic meter or a mana pool, the player character’s spells have a certain number of uses before they need to be recharged at a bonfire. This number of uses is unique to each spell and is also determined by how many slots the spell takes up. How many spell slots a player has to attune spells to is defined by their Attunement. This is all the attribute does and becomes completely useless after level 50 because it no longer gives any spell slots once that soft cap is reached (even though the attribute can be raised to 99). Simply put, if you plan on making use of any Sorceries, Miracles or Pyromancies, you will need to raise your Attunement.
Now we’ve reached another of the most useful stats for staying alive… well undead. While Endurance has a slightly lower soft cap than Vitality and Attunement at only 40, it does provide bonuses to three separate stats. Between increasing the player’s total stamina, equip load and bleed resistance, Endurance makes investing in it well worth it. For clarity’s sake stamina points are used for most actions and are necessary if you plan on doing much else beyond standing in place. The player’s equip load not only outlines how much they can have equipped at any one time, but also determines what kind of roll animation they will perform (more on this in the “Combat” article). Finally, bleed resistance is just that, the player’s resistance to the bleed effect that some enemies and weapons apply. At the soft cap of 40, stamina stops increasing all together while equip load goes up at the same rate as always and bleed resistance slows to a crawl.
This is the first attribute we’ll cover that deals with meeting attribute requirements and increasing the damage the player does. How it does this comes from the way Dark Souls handles weapon and spell damage. Every equippable weapon in the game has attributes that must be reached to wield and that their damage can scale up with. For example, the Large Club requires 26 Strength to wield one-handed and has “A” rank scaling in Strength, meaning that it has the second best damage multiplier (“S” being the highest) for that single attribute. The higher your Strength, the more damage you do with big, smashy weapons. This also applies to weapons with split scaling but usually to a lesser degree. Bear in mind that Strength has two soft caps with a special caveat. The first cap is at 20 (slight scaling drop) and the second is at 40 (drastic scaling drop), but these can be reached at 14 and 27 if two-handing since doing so gives special prosperities (also covered in the coming “Combat” article).
Dexterity is similar to Strength, but is used to meet the requirements of finesse weapons, and applies a bonus to attack rating on any weapon with Dexterity scaling. Unlike Strength, Dexterity also increases the speed at which Sorceries, Pyromancies and Miracles are cast. Because of this, Dexterity has the same soft caps as Strength at 20 and 40, being where scaling drops slightly and drastically, but also at 45 when spell cast speed stops increasing. Also, Dexterity does not benefit from two-handing and must reach the 20 and 40 caps to make the most of a weapons scaling.
Okay, this is equal parts a joke and gospel truth in the established Dark Souls community. Resistance is easily the least sought after because while it does increase physical defense, fire defense and poison resistance, it does so extremely slowly. It’s almost always better to invest in Vitality for more health or Endurance for a higher equip load to wear heavier armor. So, while it is a joke when a player’s advice for leveling Resistance is “Don’t”, it comes from a place of knowledge and understanding of the usefulness of other attributes.
Where you have Strength for smashy weapons and Dexterity for finesse weapons, Intelligence is used for all things magic. While this includes weapons with inherent magical properties and weapons that have been infused to have Intelligence scaling, it mostly applies to catalysts. All but one catalyst (weapon/tool that casts Sorceries) requires and scales based on Intelligence. Also, all Sorceries have their own Intelligence requirement to cast. The more you increase your Intelligence, the more Sorceries you’ll be able to add to your arsenal and the more damage you’ll do with them because of your catalyst. Intelligence has two soft caps at 40 and 50 with a special exception for a single catalyst at 45. Each one of these caps sees attack rating scaling drop drastically.
As Dexterity is similar but slightly different to Strength, Faith is similar but slightly different to Intelligence. Instead of dealing with Sorceries, Faith applies to Miracles and Faith-scaling weapons. Instead of catalysts, Miracles use talismans (with only one scaling with Intelligence). Instead of three soft caps, Faith only has one at level 50. Faith also has the added bonus of increasing the player’s magic defense, although this should not be the sole reason for investing in the attribute.
That’s all the traditional attributes out of the way, here are two unique cases that players should be aware of if they want to make the most of benefits and bonuses available to them.
For those not in the know, Humanity is a sort of consumable item in Dark Souls that has several different applications. When used, it fully heals the player and increases the current Humanity (called Soft Humanity) count by one. This count can be found in the top left corner as part of the HUD that includes player health and stamina. Players can use these Humanity to become human (allowing online interactions), give to NPCs for various effects or kindle bonfires (increasing the number of healing Estus that bonfire gives when rested at). What some may not know however, is that having a high Humanity count can increase several stats as well as increase damage on particular weapons. The Humanity stat has a soft cap at 10 and 30 which apply to two of the three stats it benefits. At 10, item discovery no longer increases while curse resistance stops growing at 30. Players can also increase all their defenses by up to 50 points by holding the maximum 99 Soft Humanity. Although, this is extremely dangerous in nearly any case because they are dropped upon death and can only be recovered if the player makes it back to their bloodstain.
Finally, we have the player’s total Soul Level or the sum of all their other attributes. This entry is sort of misleading though as your actual Soul Level does not increase your defense, but your total number of stats does. Simply put, the more stats you have increased, the higher your all defenses will go. Fun fact, it takes over 1.6 billion souls to reach the maximum Soul Level with any of the starting classes.
While nearly all the stats were covered at one point or another in the description of all the attributes, there are several more stats that simply were not necessary to mention by name. Most of these are self-explanatory such as the weapon damage of the four weapon slots and defense to various damage types (strike, slash, thrust, and lightning). Then there’s poise. These will get more attention later on, but for now we’ll leave them be.
With that, any player should have a much better grasp of what the various attributes and stats of Dark Souls are and what they do. Of course if you’ve got any questions, feel free to drop them in the comments and I’ll be sure to address them. Just like the first article, I’d like to make a shoutout to a content creator that has made a ton Dark Souls stuff. This time, it’s Limit Breakers with a crazy amount of useless (and sometimes useful) data on the series as a whole. If you’ve ever wanted to know what the longest possible bar is Dark Souls is, Limit Breakers has your back. Tomorrow, we will be revisiting the Age of Ancients in greater detail.
Until then, Praise the Sun and Vereor Nox.