It's no secret that Dark Souls takes place in a relatively bleak world, but new players might be surprised by just how oppressive that atmosphere can be. Wandering through dilapidated castles and abandoned homesteads is genuinely depressing - and that's before an enemy sends you tumbling over a cliff to your doom.

There is, however, one place that players can call home: the Firelink Shrine. What was once a small, essentially unofficial rest stop is now its own dedicated destination - and, while the rest of the world is dedicated to killing the player in the worst ways possible, the inhabitants of the shrine are there to help the Unkindled in their quest to link the fire.

Of course, as with the rest of the game, Dark Souls III doesn't really hold your hand when it comes to making the most of the Firelink Shrine. You'll have to really explore the grounds to unearth all of the shrine's secrets - but, for the time being, let's take a look at the Unkindled's permanent allies:

Fire Keeper

Increases Soul Level

Easily the most important NPC in the game, the Fire Keeper plays a pivotal role in player progression - namely, helping the Unkindled level up. Simply put, without the Fire Keeper around, players can't make progress - and, while she's not quite as talkative as Bloodborne's Plain Doll, it's still nice to have a friendly face waiting for you back at home base.

She'll always be relatively close to the bonfire, though she won't always be in the exact same spot. If she's not standing next to the hallway leading to Andre of Astora, she's probably sitting near the base of the the thrones.

Andre of Astora

Reinforces and Infuses Weapons

Hundreds and hundreds of years have passed since the original Dark Souls, but Andre of Astora is seemingly no worse for wear. The Undead blacksmith returns in Dark Souls III, and he hasn't changed a bit: he'll help the Unkindled reinforce their weapons, along with infusing them with elemental gems. After leveling up, weapons are the most important facet of the game - and Andre is the one who'll help keep your blades sharp. Not only that, but the blacksmith will reinforce your Estus flask, giving players a stronger version with each Estus Shard they bring to him.

Andre's never hard to find - he's at the end of the long hallway immediately behind the bonfire, and the sparks coming off his anvil are hard to miss.

Ludleth of Courland

Forges Boss Weapons

In previous games, Boss weapons would need to be forged by a blacksmith for a huge amount of Souls. Now, Boss souls have their very own vendor - and he just happens to be one of the Lords of Cinder.

You can find Ludleth of Courland sitting in one of the massive thrones that surround the bonfire - however, in order to begin transposing Boss souls into weapons, you'll need to defeat the Curse-Rotted Greatwood and retrieve the Transposing Kiln. Never fear - we've already got a guide on how to do just that.

Just remember - transposing souls isn't cheap, so make sure to have at least a few thousand on hand before you head over to Ludleth.

Shrine Handmaiden

Sells and Purchases Items

For the first time ever, Dark Souls III features a proper store. That may sound ridiculous, but longtime fans will be happy to know they don't have to spend hours and hours just trying to get rid of their extra gear. Better yet, bringing the Shrine Handmaiden different ashes will unlock new items and armor sets - which is great, even if said ashes aren't exactly easy to find.

Like Andre, the Shrine Handmaiden will always be in the same spot. If you're headed towards the blacksmith from the central bonfire, she'll be on the right side of the hallway near the entrance.

Hawkwood

All-around Negative Nancy

It just wouldn't be a Souls game without some sort of crestfallen knight, and Hawkwood does a great job of filling that role. True, he doesn't sell anything useful, or teach the player anything, or even offer up a bit of support, but he does teach the 'Collapse' gesture! That's something ... right?

If you're looking for a relatively depressing conversation, Hawkwood will be sitting on the right side of the shrine immediately next to Yhorm's throne.

Of course, these NPCs are just the start - over the course of your journey through Lothric, you'll meet all sorts of bizarre characters. We'll have a guide on the optional NPC questlines of Dark Souls III soon, so stay tuned!

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