Last week, I shocked myself by starting a playthrough of FromSoftware’s Elden Ring.
For those of you who have been following this blog for a while, you probably know I am not a fan of difficult games. And that’s what FromSoftware is known for: making brutally hard games. You might recall I was too scared to play Bloodborne, even though I thought it was a beautiful game.
So as gamers everywhere got hyped for the release of Elden Ring, I sat quietly replaying Skyrim and counting the days until Horizon Forbidden West instead.
In short, I couldn’t care less about Elden Ring. It was not a game for me.
My husband, however, is a big fan of FromSoftware’s notoriously difficult games. He played Bloodborne first and got hooked on the challenge, the creative boss fights, and the dark atmosphere. In recent years, he’s picked up Dark Souls games, too. I would sit next to him on the couch while he played, reading a guide to him to warn him of what was coming. “Now turn left and there will be two knights right behind the gate. There’s a collectible next to the bush there.” That kind of thing. It was fun to help, and it was fun to watch him play.
Naturally, my husband was fully on the hype train for Elden Ring. Although we had both started playing Horizon Forbidden West the previous week, he just had to try out Elden Ring on release day. He’s been hooked ever since.
Watching him with the game, I was curious about how the game felt. I hadn’t tried any FromSoftware game before. How hard was it, really? I don’t know why, exactly… but I wanted to find out for myself.
So I jumped into my own game of Elden Ring. It was just to try it. But kind of like when I decided to give up meat for two weeks “just to try it” and ended up a life-long pescatarian, I am now 20 hours into my little experiment and loving it. I am still playing Elden Ring. And I plan to keep going.
As a newcomer to these kinds of games, I have found Elden Ring to be surprisingly forgiving of my mistakes. And I’m not as bad as I thought I’d be. My husband even complimented my well-timed rolling dodges, something I never thought I would be able to do in a video game. (I’m clumsy and have bad timing, guys.) If anyone has ever wanted to try a FromSoftware game but felt too scared… Elden Ring is the one to try. It’s still brutally difficult, but you might just get hooked like I have.
Today, I thought I would share my initial impressions of the game as an amateur player — including how the game challenges me, what I’m enjoying most so far, and how this game softens the blow for players compared to past FromSoftware games.
First off, can I just say I kind of hated the character creator in Elden Ring. I am slightly ashamed to admit… I had to use an online guide to create a character who looked normal. (Props to GuestQueen on YouTube for giving my character her beautiful face.)
Normally, I am someone who spends hours creating the perfect character in RPGs, and I intended to do the same here. But something about this creator was really difficult for me. The starting faces were just okay. As soon as I started changing something, everything looked out of proportion or squished or the profile would be distorted. It was unnatural, so finally both my husband and I looked up templates online and just followed their settings.
The other half of character creation is, of course, choosing your starting class. Elden Ring has 10 classes to choose from. It’s a little overwhelming. My husband and I watched a guide to the classes to get a better feel for how they operated. Seeing gameplay helped.
In the end, I chose the Astrologer class, while my husband chose the Confessor. Something that I find confusing is the difference between sorcery spells (what I use as a mage) and incantations (what my husband uses as a person of faith, I guess). It’s almost like I cast spells and my husband performs miracles — and they’re different things, even though both look like magic. I am finally starting to wrap my head around the difference, but there were times when my husband tried to use sorcery and I wanted an incantation and… it was just confusing. Is this a thing in Dark Souls, too?
The Astrologer class has proven to be the perfect choice for me as a newcomer to these games. I started with two spells, Glintstone Pebble and Glintstone Arc, which I could perform from a distance — and they are surprisingly powerful. Early on, it took a good three hits to kill a low-level enemy, but as I level up Intelligence, they do more damage and fewer hits are required.
Because I started out in robes, I was pretty defenseless in the early hours of the game. This is where I need to keep my distance in some circumstances. However, I still like to sneak up behind enemies for a good backstab. I’ve also been in my fair share of sword fights; as long as I dodge and heal, I do okay. But ranged combat is where it’s at most of the time.
Another thing that helps is allocating my Flasks according to my play style. You get two types of Flasks in Elden Ring: one for healing (HP) and one for focus (FP). The latter affects my mana pool, which enables me to cast spells. When I’m keeping my distance by casting magic, I don’t get hit as often. For this reason, I keep more FP Flasks on hand to deal damage from afar, leaving myself fewer HP Flasks because I don’t need them too often.
At 20 hours into the game, I have new armor (better than my robes), a new staff (which I found via an online guide) and a new gravity spell that’s more powerful than my starters. I can’t wait to find more to add variety to the combat, as it does get stale to use the same two spells over and over! But overall, I am getting through the game with minimal frustration and having a lot of fun.
To get through difficult parts of the game — including boss fights — I often have to grind to level up. This is not a problem for me in Elden Ring. Because the game is open world, there are so many beautiful landscapes to explore where I can defeat foes, acquire runes, and eventually use that experience to level up my character. Plus, the game includes dozens of mini-bosses or field bosses that allow me to practice my skills and gain extra runes in the process. After taking on a few of these, I feel more ready to take down the big bosses.
All leveling is done at Sites of Grace, which are specific save points strewn throughout the game. This is a major way FromSoftware has made Elden Ring a more accessible game than some of their others. For example, in Dark Souls, save points are spread far apart, and you have to work your way through linear levels to get from one to the next. If you die en route, your runes are lost on the spot — unless you manage to return to that spot to pick them up on your very next run. In Elden Ring, the same system is in place, but the frequency of the save points, combined with the open world, makes it far easier to find your way back to your runes without dying again — and they’re probably never too far away, anyway.
Like other FromSoftware games, Elden Ring is known for its epic boss fights. So much creativity went into each and every boss in this game. The main story bosses — meaning the ones you have to defeat to progress to the next area of the game — are the hardest to beat. Still, all they really require is that you learn their moveset, so you know how to avoid their attacks and hit them where they are weakest. In that sense, defeating a boss can be a numbers game. You just need that perfect combination of skill and luck. With enough tries, those two things will eventually come together so you can take down the monster.
As a newcomer to these games, I have relied on my husband to help me with these bosses. Elden Ring has a pretty robust co-op system that makes it easy to call for aid from a friend… or even another random player willing to jump into somebody else’s game.
But the game takes things a step further by providing NPCs to aid you in some of these battles, too. For example, outside the arena of the first main boss, Margit the Fell Omen, you can call on the aid of an NPC sorcerer named Rogier. It’s up to you whether you ask for the help or not, giving each player some control over their personal experience and level of difficulty.
There are also ashes that allow you to summon ghostly NPCs, such as wolves, for a short time. With these helpers, boss fights are much easier — at least until the boss kills them. It’s also worth noting that summoning these ghosts is only available in certain places, so if you are too far afield, you won’t be able to ring for them. Fortunately, they have been available for my boss fights so far!
After watching my husband play Dark Souls, I believe the NPCs and summons in Elden Ring make this game much more accessible than other FromSoftware games. They are the true game-changers in how this game feels. Although the combat itself is still brutally hard at times, these little crumbs of help make the game more forgiving overall.
Elden Ring‘s co-op has made this game truly playable for me. I started the game solo… but as soon as my husband and I figured out how to play together, we teamed up for the majority of the game (so far, anyway).
I’ll admit that the system Elden Ring employs for co-op is convoluted and confusing at first. One player has to leave a special mark to indicate they are willing to enter another player’s game. Then the host player has to ring a bell (it requires erdleaves, so you have to collect these in the game) to see and interact with other people’s marks. And if you want to play with a friend (rather than a random player), you need to set a password first. It took a few tries to figure out how to do all this correctly, and it’s still hard to remember which player needs to do what, depending on who joins whose game. I wish Elden Ring had simplified this system!
If you are the player joining a friend’s game, you are transported into their version of the world with half of your potions available. This makes you a little weaker… or at least easier to kill. Fortunately, if you die in another player’s game, you keep all your runes. Because the progress only affects the host’s game, my husband and I play every area twice. But this only helps us with leveling, so we’re good with that!
Perhaps the only annoying thing that happens is being invaded by other players. Elden Ring allows players to invade each other’s games to duel. Unfortunately, the only way to avoid invasion if you don’t want to participate… is to play offline. That means if you are online playing with a friend, you are likely to be invaded by another player. With a couple of exceptions, most invaders have been easy to kill because my husband and I are together taking down one enemy, but it’s still a nuisance — especially if they deplete the potions you were going to take with you into the next area or boss fight. The only way to regain those potions is to sever your connection and rejoin your co-op session to begin again.
Other than that minor annoyance, playing Elden Ring with my husband has been so much fun. Now, when I’m playing by myself, I get stressed fearing what’s around every corner. But when my husband and I play together, it’s a blast running around this beautiful world together, coordinating our strengths to take down the toughest enemies. Since my husband prefers melee whereas I prefer ranged magic, we make a great team, too.
Currently, I am Level 41 and looking forward to taking down the third story boss. When things get too dark and difficult, I just put down my controller and take a break. For someone like me who doesn’t like stress in their games, short bursts can be the best way to play. I still have so much to learn, but each time I sit down to play, I am surprised at how much I’m enjoying myself.
Are you playing Elden Ring? I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences with the game, too.