Dark Souls 2 secrets guide: shortcuts, estus shards and more

PC Gamer

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Article by Glenn Butera

Like Dark Souls' Lordran, Dark Souls 2's Drangleic is a world packed with secrets. There are secret paths to ferret out between areas. Bosses that you may never face in a normal playthrough. Estus flask shards and Pharros' Contraptions and Souls Vessels to find. We've compiled a guide to Dark Souls 2's most vital secrets. If you're just starting out (have you read our beginner's guide ?) or a seasoned veteran, you'll find a wealth of useful information for your journey through Drangleic.

Want to skip ahead to a specific part of our secrets guide? Click one of these links to jump to the information you're looking for, whether it's the location of every single estus flask shard in the game, a list of the most important Pharros' Contraptions, or the NPCs you absolutely must talk to.

Page 2: Estus Flask Shards and Sublime Bone Dust

Page 3: Pharros' Contraptions and Soul Vessels

Page 4: The most important NPC merchants

Check out our Dark Souls 2 hub for more guides, a ton of 4K screenshots, videos, and analysis of the PC version from Dark Souls modder Durante.

Level Shortcuts

Looking to take some time off your speed run or skip a tough boss fight? These helpful shortcuts will quickly and safely lead you through the world of Drangleic.

Entry to The Lost Bastille: There are two ways to reach The Lost Bastille.

Finish No-Man's Wharf and use the ship to get to the Exile Holding Cells bonfire.

Use the Soldier's Key (obtained from The Last Giant) on the door in the giant sword room of the Forest of Fallen Giants. Head up to the ramparts and defeat the Pursuer. Continue past the boss fight area and you will find a nest up a small set of stairs. The Pursuer's eagle will take you to The Tower Apart bonfire.

Ruin Sentinels boss skip: This skip requires the Exile Holding Cells bonfire and a Pharros' Lockstone.

Head down the ladder after the Heide knight and turn right. Break through the wooden planks on the wall and head to the opposite corner of the room. Strike the locked door with your weapon to get the Royal Swordsman to open it from the other side. Defeat the enemies in this area and head into the next room by climbing up the short ladder outside and falling through a window. Turn right and use a Pharros' Lockstone in the next room. The further of the two secret rooms will open and have an elevator cage to take you up to the entrance to Sinner's Rise, or you can backtrack down the staircases to the Servants' Quarters bonfire.

Smelter Demon boss skip: In the large lava room that leads to the Smelter Demon boss, lower the bridge using the lever and halfway across drop off to your left. Turn the wheel to close off the fire from the kiln room and enter the kiln from either doorway. Climb the ladder and kill the Alonne Knight Captain to reach the next area.

Shrine of Winter: There are two ways to reach the Shrine of Winter.

Open by lighting the Primal Bonfires after defeating The Rotten, Old Iron King, Duke's Dear Freja, and The Lost Sinner.

Acquire a set number of souls in a playthrough (e.g. if Soul Memory entering NG+ is 2,500,000 you will need 4,500,000 additional souls to enter the Shrine of Winter): NG: 1,000,000. NG+: 2,000,000. NG+2: 3,000,000 and so on up to NG+7: 8,000,000.

Helpful Hints

Drangleic is a dangerous land full of challenges waiting to steal your souls. There's lava that will kill you. Phantoms that will kill you. Poison that will kill you. Here are some tips to survive some of Drangleic's toughest environments and save your souls even in death.

To safely walk on the lava rocks in the Iron Keep , use the Pharros' Contraption water pools (roll in them), Flame Quartz Ring +2, and the Smelter Demon armor. Make sure to use an Estus Flask while on the lava before opening any chests.

There are three Rings of Life Protection that you can acquire throughout the game that will allow you to keep your Human Form and Souls upon death. The rings only cost 3000 souls each to repair, allowing you to nullify death.

  • No Man's Wharf: At the top of the second set of stairs with the Varangian Sailor throwing oil jars, turn left and the ring will be just inside the house in an alcove.
  • Shaded Woods: Take the left doorway at the Ruined Fork Road bonfire and go all the way around the circular stone structure to find the ring guarded by 2 Goblins.
  • Felkin the Outcast: Sells for 6000 souls

If you do not have any White Phantoms summoned you can quit the game in a boss fight.When you reload you will be placed outside the boss fog gate.

Estus Flask Shards

Lifegiving Estus Flasks don't come easy in Dark Souls 2. You'll have to hunt for flask shards to assemble complete flasks. Here's where you can find each and every one of them.

Majula: Strike the stone resting on the edge of the well to raise a corpse with the shard.

Forest of Fallen Giants (Cardinal Tower bonfire): Head up the staircase behind Merchant Hag Melentia and destroy the breakable door. The shard is in a chest on the second floor of the bonfire room.

Majula: Obtain the mansion key from Cartographer Cale (located in a cave in the large open area after the first fog gate). Use the key on the mansion in Majula and kill the skeleton in the basement. The shard is on a corpse on the right.

No-Man's Wharf: After ringing the bell to call the ship, continue past and head down to the ground floor. Turn left and the shard will be in a room with behind some poison pots guarded by Varangian Sailors.

The Lost Bastille (Exile Holding Cells bonfire): Head down the ladder after the Heide Knight and hug the left wall after killing the Undead Jailor and 2 dogs. Hug the left wall to find the chest containing the shard.

The Lost Bastille (Tower Apart Bonfire): Fight through the room with the Royal Swordsmen and get the Antiquated Key in the chest in the next area. From the Servants' Quarters bonfire (after Ruin Sentinel Boss), head left in the bottom floor of the circular stairs room instead of going up the stairs and drop down from the rooftops. Use the key on the door to your left and break through the boards in the opposite corner. Hug the left wall after dispatching them to find the chest containing the shard.

Harvest Valley (The Mines bonfire): Just before entering Earthen Peak on the bottom floor, there is a small set of stairs leading down to a long hallway filled with poison. The shard is at the end of the hallway. Note: the poison can be drained by using the torch on the windmill axle near the Central Earthen Peak bonfire.

Shaded Woods (Old Akelarre bonfire): In a chest directly across from the bonfire door on the bottom floor. To enter this area you must use a Fragrant Branch of Yore (obtainable in Harvest Valley) on the petrified Rosabeth of Melfia.

Shaded Woods (Shaded Ruins bonfire): Unpetrify the Lion Clan Warrior across the log to the right of the bonfire and kill him. He will drop the Fang key that can be used to open the door at the end of the corrosive pits area to the right of the giant Basilisk. Inside the door is the shard and Weaponsmith Ornifex (Boss Soul Trader).

Brightstone Cove Tseldora (Royal Army Campsite bonfire): Just before the Prowling Magus & Congregation boss fog gate, there is an illusory wall on the left. Head up the staircases and the shard is at the top.

Brightstone Cove Tseldora (Lower Brightstone Cove bonfire): On a corpse through the door directly opposite of the bonfire room.

Drangleic Castle (Central Castle Drangleic bonfire): After activating the golem to start the elevator, head through the large room with the Alonne Knight Captains, Primal Knight, and Royal Guards. The shard will be located in a solitary chest in the room just before completing the loop back down to the bonfire.

Shrine of Amana (Crumbled Ruins bonfire): After killing the ogre hug the right wall instead of entering the hut, and you will find the shard after killing a Lizardman and two Amana Shrine Maidens.

Sublime Bone Dust

Sublime Bone Dust upgrades your Estus Flask to a max of +5, allowing for greater health recovery from each swig. To upgrade your Estus Flask, you must burn the Sublime Bone Dust in the Majula bonfire. If you attempt to burn additional Sublime Bone Dust past +5, you will receive a message stating “Cannot burn further items."

Heide's Tower of Flame (Heide's Ruin bonfire): After defeating the first Old Knight, you will see a second with a large hammer just up a set of stairs. Killing him will drop the Sublime Bone Dust and he will not respawn. You can use a bonfire ascetic after defeating the Dragonrider boss to respawn the Old Knight and obtain another Dust.

Huntsman's Copse (Bridge Approach bonfire): Just before the end of the bridge to the Executioner's Chariot boss, jump across the small gap to the right onto a ledge containing a corpse with the Sublime Bone Dust.

Black Gulch: After defeating The Rotten boss, there will be a small cave on your right with a chest containing the Sublime Bone Dust between the boss room and the Primal Bonfire.

Iron Keep: After defeating the Old Iron King, you will find the Bone Dust in a chest before heading down the stairs to the Primal Bonfire.

Sinner's Rise (The Saltfort bonfire): Head down the ladder and down the stairs to the elevator. At the bottom of the elevator take a left and kill the Enhanced Undead. The Sublime Bone Dust will be located up against the wall behind it.

Pharros' Contraptions

Throughout the world you will see Pharros' Contraptions that look like a stone face on a wall or floor. If you insert a Pharros' Lockstone into the contraption, you will trigger an event that can be either a secret or a trap. Here are four contraptions you should make sure to seek out.

Forest of Fallen Giants (Cardinal Tower): Head down the ladder in the back of the ballista room to find a illusory wall contraption that yields a Titanite Slab and the Chloranthy Ring.

The Lost Bastille (Servant's Quarters): In the outdoor area with the well and dogs there will be a room with a raised platform in it. Entering through the windows is the easiest way to get on the platform and you can turn right to find an illusory wall contraption that opens two areas. One of the areas has a Soul Vessel, while the other has a cage elevator and a Wilted Dusk Herb.

Undead Crypt (Undead Ditch): After the shield-wielding Imperious Knights, drop down the hole and head straight ahead and slightly to the left to the wall in front of you (there is no stone baseboard in this region). Press the action button on the wall to open it and there will be an illusory wall contraption in front of you. The wall that it illuminates is directly opposite your current location and there is a Great Lightning Spear inside.

Dragon Shrine (Shrine Entrance): Head up the stairs and kill the Drakekeeper. The illusory wall contraption is located just behind him under the stairs. It opens the wall to the left containing the Staff of Wisdom and the Judgment armor set.

Soul Vessels

Can be used to reallocate stats by giving one to the middle of the old firekeepers in Things Betwixt. (Note: You cannot lower a stat below the original base stat of your class.)

Majula: Obtain the Mansion key from Cale the Cartographer (located in a cave in the large open area after the first fog gate) and defeat the skeleton in the basement. In the back left corner of the basement you will find a chest that contains the soul vessel. If it is not a soul vessel, closing the game and restarting it will allow you to open the chest again.

Using a bonfire ascetic on the Majula bonfire does not grant you another soul vessel.

Majula: Speak with Crestfallen Saulden (sitting next to the obelisk) after bringing 4 NPCs to Majula and he will give you a soul vessel.

The Lost Bastille (Exile Holding Cells bonfire): In the area just before Steady Hand McDuff's workshop (contains 2 dogs and an Undead Jailor) there is a boarded up entrance that you can destroy. Open the door with the Antiquated key, or hit it with a weapon. This will cause the Royal Swordsman on the other side to open the door. Straight ahead will be a building with a raised platform in the back. Once up on the platform, turn left down a passageway and use a Pharros' Lockstone to open two secret rooms. The closer room contains a chest with a soul vessel in it.

This soul vessel respawns when you use a bonfire ascetic on the Exile Holding Cells bonfire.

Drangleic Castle (Central Castle Drangleic bonfire): Kill an enemy near the golem up the ladder to bring it back to life and activate the elevator. Ride the elevator up to the top and the soul vessel will be in the middle chest.

You do not have to enter the room with the golem. If you have magic and the binoculars, you can open the gated door and kill the last stone soldier on the left. This will activate the golem and you can head back down the ladder.

Undead Crypt (Undead Crypt Entrance bonfire): Just before the fog gate, if you drop off the edge to the left, you can enter a room containing a chest with the soul vessel and a ladder to get to the next bonfire.

Memory of Orro (Giant Tree on the ramparts in Forest of Fallen Giants): At the start take the right doorway and turn right immediately in the room where Giants are fighting soldiers. You will see a corpse in the corner with the soul vessel.

This soul vessel respawns when you use a bonfire ascetic on The Place Unbeknownst bonfire, but in order to do this you must defeat the Giant Lord boss.

NPC Merchants

As you talk to NPCs and meet certain requirements, some merchants will sell rare and useful items. Here are some to watch out for. Remember that you can resurrect a dead merchant by offering souls at their gravestone.

Maughlin the Armorer: Immediately available in Majula.

Sells Alva set after 16,000 souls and will give you Aurous set if you speak with him having 0 souls in your inventory. Sells Moon Butterfly set after bonfire intensity 3 and Moon Butterfly Hat after intensity 4.

Steady Hand McDuff: Found in a cell in The Lost Bastille accessible by blowing up the wall with a rolling explosive barrel. He will sell and smith items for you once you give him the Dull Ember from the kiln lava area in Iron Keep.

You can move McDuff off the chest he is sitting on by lighting the torch in his cell. There is a Twinkling Titanite in the chest.

Straid of Olaphis: Unpetrify him up the stairs in The Lost Bastille near the bridge to Sinner's Rise.

Sells Great Lightning Spear and Sunlight Blade after finishing the Undead Crypt.

Weaponsmith Ornifex: Unpetrify the Lion Clan Warrior to your right from the Shaded Ruins bonfire and kill him to obtain the Fang Key. Use the key on the door down in the Shaded Ruins corrisive pits to free him and he will move to a room in the bottom of Brightstone Cove Tseldora.

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