If you bought Elden Ring on a whim because all your friends are talking about it, you might be wondering: When does this get fun?
The early hours of From Software’s newest masterpiece are a good deal more friendly than the developer’s previous games, like Dark Souls and Bloodborne, but there’s still a whole lot of learning you have to do to really get into the groove. Elden Ring aggressively tries to teach the player some very important lessons right out of the gate, but based on my social feeds and group chats, it doesn’t seem like everything is landing as it should.
If you want to enjoy Elden Ring as much as everyone else but find yourself frustrated in the early going, here are a few important mistakes you should avoid, all of which can be easily corrected if you’ve accidentally stepped into them.
Don’t bang your head against fights you can’t win
Credit: From Software/Steam
In general, Elden Ring is a game that I encourage people to play exactly how they want, at the pace they want. The game has a remarkable amount of flexibility both in how you get to outfit your character and how you’re allowed to tackle the open world. I can’t control how anyone plays it and I wouldn’t want to even if I could.
However…I also want people to have fun, and fun is hard to find when you spend hours trying to win an unwinnable fight. The most common example of this I’ve seen from new players in my orbit is the Tree Sentinel. He’s the big gold-armored jerk on a horse patrolling outside the cave you emerge from at the start of the game, in case you missed him.
This may feel counterintuitive because it’s not how most mainstream games operate, but the Tree Sentinel is there precisely to tell you not to fight everything in your path. You have to abandon those instincts and drop the assumption that an impossible obstacle wouldn’t show up directly next to the starting area. Yes, From would do that, and did that. You can beat him later on, of course, but it’s not worth your time at the start unless you figure out a cheesy strategy with magic or ranged weapons .
Tree Sentinel (like any other boss in the open world) can be easily avoided by going around his area either to the left or the right, but even if he notices you, just run until he gives up the chase. You’d be surprised by how often Elden Ring lets you slip past bosses or scary groups of enemies just by sprinting or riding your horse. Combat is optional more often than you’d think. Try everything once, but if you’re overmatched, find another way.
Don’t ignore the little guidance you get
Credit: From Software/Steam
Speaking of Tree Sentinel, you’ll probably first notice him from the vantage point of the first Site of Grace checkpoint right outside the tutorial cave. That Site of Grace, like many others, has a glowing line of light coming out of it that points to the left of the Tree Sentinel’s arena, toward a crumbling, abandoned church. This is also reflected in the Site’s icon on the map. Go to the church and you’ll find a merchant with another Site of Grace that predictably has another shimmering line coming out of it, pointing north.
Keep following these lines and before long you’ll have a horse (plus some other goodies) and the ability to take on a big boss called Margit who everyone on the internet rightfully hates. Pursuant to the earlier tip, Margit is too powerful to beat that early in the game, which is From Software’s way of telling you to go explore the world, power up, and come back later.
These glowing waypoint lines are useful throughout the whole game, but they don’t exist to just tell you where to go. They merely guide you towards major points of interest, some of which you’ll be ready to take on and some of which you won’t. Of course, there are also tons of side activities off the beaten path to find too, so go ahead and explore if you want. Just remember they’re always there if you need an idea of where to go next, and adapt accordingly if you run into an angry, murderous brick wall along the way.
Don’t fret about dying
The primary source of Elden Ring’s infamous difficulty is simple: Just about every enemy and boss can kill you really fast. Dying carries more weight here than in most other games because you drop your supply of runes, the catch-all currency you use to both upgrade your character and buy items. You can collect those runes again at the site of your death, but die on the way there and that batch of runes is lost for good.
This adds a layer of risk to everything you do that can make you feel timid and risk-averse when I’d argue that’s the opposite of how you should approach Elden Ring. If you’re carrying enough runes to level up (you can see how many you need in the Status menu), do that before doing anything else. If not, just let go and stop caring about losing them. There are so many ways to get runes back, not to mention the fact that any level-appropriate boss will give you enough to level up two or three times if you kill them.
Each death in Elden Ring should be seen not as a setback, but as a source of information. Dying is downright productive in this game as long as you study what happened and make adjustments. Sometimes that can mean slightly altering how you dodge a certain attack and sometimes that means going in another direction because whatever’s killing you is too daunting to deal with right now.
Last but not least, dying is more often than not really funny. Elden Ring is a slapstick delivery mechanism disguised as a grand open world adventure. Each boss fight is like the Jackass bullfighting sketch, except after 30 tries Johnny Knoxville actually wins.
Learn to laugh at your failure and I promise Elden Ring will become so much more fun.