Dark Souls 2 offers an extraordinary amount of freedom within the game, however by making poor decisions either from general lack of knowledge or just because you can may cost you later in the game. Yes, like in the first Dark Souls, your poor decisions often come with a particularly high price that often makes the game more difficult if not blowing your chances at beating it all together. There are just some things in the game that players should not do. Some are obvious, but some are a little more vague. Even kneeling in the wrong place can activate hard mode in the game. And yes, Dark Souls 2 does have a hard mode and it is pretty brutal.
Throughout my own playthroughs and what I have heard of others, I've gone ahead and compiled a list of the things that one should not do while playing Dark Souls 2, unless they want a bigger challenge because they are all hardcore and cool like that.
Don't Kill the Little Old Ladies
Those little old ladies at the beginning of the game look kind of creepy and, when in the Dark Souls mentality, even menacing. But killing little old ladies is mean, m'kay? They are found in the first area of the game called the Things Betwixt in a hut in the woods. You can kill them which will net you human effigies (though no souls) and you will hear some ominous laughter echo through the hut.
Why are they laughing at you? Because you just killed your option to respec. Lucky you.
The effigies are nice, but not worth it.
Don't be Wasteful with Human Effigies
Speaking of effigies, don't be wasteful with them. They are a scare commodity within the game (especially early) and are really rather required for some parts. Just don't use them unless absolutely necessary and even then exercise all other options. For those suffering from the HP penalties of death in hollowed form, instead of using humanity to fix that make use of items like the Ring of Binding, Ring of Life Protection and Ring of Soul Protection to nullify death.
For some extra effigies, do farm dogs in the Lost Bastille for some extras.
Don't Kill the Emerald Herald
While it is unlikely you will want to kill the Emerald Herald, as they are not super creepy like those old ladies, accidents do happen. However, if you do it is really just best to restart your game. Technically it is possible to raise her by expending souls at her grave, but it is pretty pricey. The Emerald Herald is the only means in which players can level up and upgrade their Estus Flask.
You Know What? Just Don't Kill Any NPCs
Between the Emerald Herald and old ladies, there is a bit of a trend going on here. Just don't kill any friendly NPC folk. Once roused, they stay hostile to you and players can cut themselves off from some handy items in the game. Though if you do manage to hostile an NPC fellow that you need, there is one option. You can bribe Cromwell in at the top of the church in Brightstone Cove Tseldora. If you kill a merchant, though, you are a bit out of luck.
Be Careful Using Bonfire Ascetic
Players will notice after killing enemies in an area around 15 times that they will not spawn anymore. This can be fixed by purchasing a Bonfire Ascetic from a merchant and burning it at any bonfire. This respawns enemies and bosses as well as makes them drop more souls and become more difficult. This is necessary for soul farming in Dark Souls 2, but can be deadly if you are not ready. Doing it too much is a recipe for disaster as well as your bonfire's level will carry onto New Game+. Don't use this option too early though; it makes enemies in other areas harder as well.
Don't Waste Souls by Letting Gear Break
There is a little red bar under each item on your HUD that is actually quite important. This red bar shows how close your gear is to breaking. By resting at a bonfire, it restores durability of dented gear, however if you allow it to completely break, you will have to pay to fix it.
If you aren't meticulous about it or are planning a long journey without stopping at a bonfire, carry back up gear just in case. Also, it is worth noting that swinging big melee weapons in tight places cause them to clang against walls which unfortunately does durability damage.
Don't Join the Company of Champions
Don't kneel at the Victors Shrine in Majula. Just don't do it. Joining the Covenant of the Company of Champions may sound awesome but it activates the hard mode of Dark Souls 2. By joining the Company of Champions it increases the games difficulty by removing co-op functions, increasing enemies and giving the bosses extra strength and health. So you better be a Dark Souls expert before traveling down this arduous path.
If you happen to accidentally kneel before the shrine and join by accident (hey, it happens. *cough* to me *cough cough*) you can go speak with The Cat in Majula to escape your pact.
Don't Forget Some Giant Souls for King Vendrick
King Vendrick toughness as a boss is directly proportionate to the number of giant souls a player is carrying. The less you have, the tougher this boss will be. Unless you are super confident in your abilities, don't forget to go get a few.
Don't Release Navlaan As A Hollow
This is one of those few times where it is absolutely okay to use a human effigy, in fact it is strongly encouraged. Navlaan is an NPC locked in a cell in Aldias Keep. If you free him as a human, he is a wonderful asset. However, if you free him while Hollowed, he becomes obsessed with killing you and will attack you as an invader.
Don't Neglect to Burn the Windmill Before Fighting Mytha
Make this fight easier on yourself and head down to the bonfire by the windmill, grab a torch and burn that sucker. Once the windmill is burned, it drains the poison pools in the area as well as the one in the boss area. The Baneful Queen Mytha with the poison pools still up makes this one of the most unpleasant bosses in the game.
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Don't Waste Those Boss Souls
Boss Souls are a useful, but precious commodity. It may be tempting to cash them in for a quick boost; however it is best to conserve them in order to trade them for boss weapons. There are two vendors in the game that serve up boss weapons in exchange for boss souls: Straid of Olaphis at the top of the Lost Bastille and Ornifex in the Shaded Woods.