4 Spoiler-Free Tips for Elden Ring Newcomers, from a Souls Veteran

After a wait that totals nearly a thousand days, the release of Elden Ring is almost upon us.

To those who have been paying close attention to FromSoftware and the Souls series (Demon's Souls, Dark Souls and its sequels, Bloodborne, Sekiro and Elden Ring) for a while now, Elden Ring is shaping up to be director Hidetaka Miyazaki's biggest game yet. Trailers released by publisher BANDAI NAMCO as well as footage from the Closed Network Test hosted early last month suggest that Elden Ring may be in fact Miyazaki's magnum opus. Elements from all previous games in the FromSoftware Souls library have seemingly been fused. The sky-high expectations of many veterans, for the time being, look likely to be met.

In addition to those who have been waiting for this game long before its announcement, Elden Ring has brought newcomers to the series in droves. According to Steam's popular wishlist chart, Elden Ring is the most-wished-for game currently and outlets have reported it has maintained that spot since early January this year.

FromSoftware's Souls series sets itself apart from the crowd in many appreciable ways aside from difficulty, the obvious quality that fans and journalists continue to tout as its defining quality. These games are deserving of an army of positive adjectives, but the one unfortunate adjective that sticks to this series (and therefore drives away many of those who could come to love these games) is difficult. Even Miyazaki himself gave an interview regarding difficulty and accessibility last month.

To address that, I would like to start my list of tips with one for any nervous newcomers or any of those who still remain on the proverbial fence about purchasing Elden Ring due to its reputed difficulty:

Be patient with bosses.

One of the main sources of difficulty cited in these games is the bosses. Many players will report getting stuck on one boss or another and bashing their controller against the nearest inanimate object never to return. This is a mistake. Boss fights in these games are rarely walks in the park -- it's true. It is also true that every boss has a weakness. Some large bosses may be vulnerable by their feet, where hitting the player is difficult. Some weapon-wielding bosses may be open to attacks on their off-hand side. Some bosses may have an elemental weakness indicated by their appearance or behavior. Before destroying your monitor and writing a scathing Reddit post, try to notice these weaknesses and use them to your advantage on your next attempts. And you will have multiple attempts -- that's part of the game. Don't ever feel ashamed or discouraged for not being able to beat a boss on your first attempt.

If after several attempts you're still unable to defeat a boss, try exploring new paths. The Souls series has long given players a choice of locations to find new gear, level up and fight other bosses. Elden Ring looks not only to be no exception, but to be the most open of all the Souls games released so far. When you do finally defeat that boss that's been haunting you for a while, the feeling is nothing short of exhilarating. Enjoy your struggle against overwhelming odds and celebrate like hell once you've overcome them.

While in the past, I (and many other self-styled Souls veterans) personally have chosen not to summon allies to help me defeat bosses on my first playthrough, don't feel pressured to follow my lead. Jolly cooperation has been a vital part of the series' fan culture since its inception. If you're worried it will make boss fights too easy, you should know that bosses receive a health buff per summoned ally to balance the fight.


Go in blind.

Around a week before any game releases, especially in the case of one as high-profile as Elden Ring, it's inevitable that the internet will become awash with not only marketing-department directed trailers but overly revealing reviews and leaks. If you've made a habit of following pre-release hype through forums and social media, it's time to break it.

These games are built on strong foundations of exploration. Knowing as little as possible about the substance of the game gives you the best chance at enjoying the artistry that FromSoftware has consistently delivered with their series for over a decade. As you play, avoid discussing your experience with others playing the game and avoid guides. Surprises lurk around every corner in these games, and you're unlikely to see all of them on your first playthrough, and that's okay. Let this adventure be your own. Save guides for a second playthrough.

I know this one is a difficult ask even for veteran players. It's natural that as hype builds, the desire to see more builds. Resist that urge. Trust me.


Play a character that appeals to you.

One of the first decisions that Elden Ring will ask of you is to choose a starting class. Every game in the Souls serious barring Sekiro has forced its players to choose a class before really understanding what each attribute entails.

The truth is that the class system is designed to be unrestrictive. It's highly unlikely that choosing any one class will lock you out of any playstyle choice you intend to make over the course of your playthrough. Don't worry about min-maxing. Choose the class whose aesthetics appeal to your fantasy.  Chances are you will find new gear so quickly you won't have much time to be unhappy with your choice. It's unconfirmed if respec will be an option in this title, but past entries in the Dark Souls series have had the option, so it's likely to make a return.

Spend some time in the character creator and really make a character whose story you feel comfortable being a part of. Many people opt to go with a default character or make a bulging-eyed, beaked a blue-skinned monster when playing these games. These games have always had comprehensive character creators -- take advantage of that to immerse yourself deeper into this new world.

Experiment with different weapon combinations. Find something you feel comfortable using. Don't worry about damage numbers or what other people say is best.


Pay (close enough) attention.

The worlds that Miyazaki and his team at FromSoftware create are dense, mysterious and in his words, "incomplete." Circumstances are often left vague, and details are hidden. Connections between characters and events in the lore are implied or found in item descriptions. Unlike much mainstream media, FromSoftware games demand to be engaged with to be understood. But don't get too bogged down by this fact. You aren't meant to know what exactly is going on.

Take your adventure one place, one enemy and one encounter at a time. The storytelling methods employed by FromSoftware are evocative and subtle. Pay attention, but don't let the details hold you back. The understanding of the story and world of Elden Ring will likely be much different on your first playthrough compared to your second and third. Celebrate that fact. The writers and designers worked long and hard to make sure each player will have a their own uniquely satisfying adventure.


Now that you've finished reading this little expression of my hype, you're now best prepared to make your way into the world of Elden Ring. No more spoilers!




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