Mark is a college lecturer from Liverpool. He has a keen interest in Japanese culture and loves video games. A proud father and grandfather.
This guide will be for anyone who has chosen Elden Ring to be their first Souls game. Maybe you have been put off in the past by the reputation of these games as being too hard, or you've been attracted by the hype. Whatever the reason, you have chosen well. Now, get ready for your entry into the best series of games ever made!
There are no story spoilers in this article.
The mechanics of Elden Ring are an evolution of all the previous titles in the series. The core gameplay mechanics are what makes them a Souls game.
The label Souls comes from the first few entries in the series, Demon's Souls and Dark Souls. These games do not hold your hand, they treat you as an adult and let you explore and discover everything for yourself. A refreshing change, don't you think?
Elden Ring has added a few extra ingrediants into the mix because of it's open world setting, but it stays true in most ways to the recipe.
An easy way of explaining this is to take a standard game from another series, for example, Assassins Creed, and then you take away all the things that make the game easier. These include the following.
No Missions or Objective Markers
There are no guiding features showing you where to go. Although Elden Ring does have a map, a first in the series, it does not have any pointers on the map until you actually discover them yourself.
You don't even get the map at the beginning; you have to find the Map Fragments as you explore.
No Mini Map
This can be unnerving for anyone used to playing other games. You have no guiding mini-map other than the one that builds up inside your mind as you explore and remember certain features.
Within a few hours, you realise that the mini-map is another hand-holding feature and that its ommision enhanses your experience and makes you learn the area, not just follow a map.
Death As A Mechanic!
When you die in other games, it is quite rare. If you do die, the game usually gives you some hints as to how to not die next time. Souls games are literally trying to kill you, constantly.
Death is used as a method to teach you. You walk through a doorway and there is someone hiding behind it and stabs you in the back. What do you do? Well you check behind every door you go into, just in case. Lesson learned.
One of the main reasons the games are so popular is the combat and the options that you have. You really can mould a character to play exactly as you want to play. Do you want a fully armoured Knight with a huge sword? Or a lightly armoured assassin with swift dual blades? Or what about a wizard or pyromancer killing from range? You take your character from a weak, easily killed mess to an absolute beast.
One of the best parts is re-doing the starting areas after you have been playing for a while and seeing how easily you dispatch all the enemies you had so much trouble with at the beginning. Elden Ring has developed the combat with the basics of Dark Souls 3 and added elements from Sekiro and Bloodborne and improved it immeasurably by adding crouching and jumping.
No Pause Button
It doesn't sound like much, but during the game it creates so much tension because you are committed. You can't pause and get a respite or a breather.
This is mainly due to the online nature of the game, which will be explained later in this article. You can only pause when you rest at a Grace point so you can level up, etc.
Obscure Clues and NPCs
Instead of meeting an NPC and being told what to do and where to go, Elden Ring follows the series with the same obscure information to work with but you quickly get used to this method of playing.
Most of the information you need is in the Item Descriptions as you discover new things and the NPCs only offer clues. Also, most NPCs have quest lines that you know absolutely nothing about until later in the game and you realise you should have done something you didn't.
Usually, when you find that nice woman you were talking to is now dead! This makes the game so replayable and you may have five or six quest lines to maintain at any one time. It's quite brilliant writing and makes you remember, or take notes like I did.
Making Areas Missable
How many developers do you know that trust their players enough that they create large sections of their game and make them easily missable unless you explore thoroughly? I played through Dark Souls 3 and thought I had found all of the areas of the game until I watched a video one day and they were talking about a Boss I didn't recognise. It seems I had missed out a massive chunk of the game and had to replay the game to try and find it!
All other games direct you quite openly to where to go next, either with direct instruction, a map marker or some landscape feature i.e. Syncronisation Points in Assassins Creed which populate the map with where to go and what to do.
Exploration Is Key
The game rewards you for exploring, trying new things. Some of the things that make this interesting are features like Illusory Walls. These look like normal walls but they disappear when you hit them. Sometimes these are optional areas but sometimes you cannot get a needed shortcut without finding the disappearing wall.
You can go through the whole game and miss out on an area by not finding one of these walls. Exploration rewards you with powerful items like weapons or spells that you also would have missed out on.
Don't Get Disheartened! Keep Going!
The key to the Souls games is perseverance and learning from every death. When you face an enemy you are having trouble with, you may get the feeling that you can't beat it, but everytime you try you learn a bit more about its moveset and you can try other ways of beating it, maybe a bow or magic from range.
Each enemy is weak to something and finding its weakness is part of the fun. The feeling you get from finally beating a boss is addictive and drives you on to the next one. Some bosses will give you little trouble and some will keep you fighting for hours. I once spent four days trying to kill The Dancer in Dark Souls 3. I just couldn't work it out and I resorted to using a spell to kill her in the end. It's not cheating if the game gives you the option (that's my excuse, anyway).
Most of all, go into the game with an open mind, take your time leveling up, learning the basics of the combat and trying every new weapon, shield and item you find, there may be something you find that will help you further down the road. If you find an area too hard, go back to an area you have already completed and do it again, save up the souls, and then level up some more, getting stronger in the process.
With Elden Ring being open world, if you find a roadblock then move on to somewhere else until you get stronger and then go back and try again.
This spoiler-free guide will hopefully give you some pointers on how to "get good" and beat this tricky but fantastic game!
© 2022 Mark