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Elden Ring

From Software has released its newest, brutally-difficult game, Elden Ring, and it does quite a few things differently from the previous game's in From Software's "Souls-Borne" series. Most notably, Elden Ring has a full open world. That is, an "open world" by the definition that most players would use. Personally, I always thought that Dark Souls and Bloodborne counted as "open worlds" in all the ways that matter, but that's using a very generous personal definition. In any case, this legit open world in Elden Ring does dramatically change the way that Elden Ring is designed, balanced, and paced, and it should also change the way that players approach the game compared to previous titles.

I want to do the same thing that I did with Bloodborne and Sekiro, and provide my own personal tips and tricks for Elden Ring, from the perspective of an experienced, but not elite, player. These tips are geared towards new players coming into Elden Ring fresh, and for other experienced Souls-Borne players who may be having a hard time coming to grips with the new design of the game.

The open world dramatically changes how players should approach the early hours of Elden Ring.

In any case, I hope the following tips help you to get a leg up against the trademark challenge of From Software's Elden Ring.

Best class for beginners: The Prisoner

First of all, I want to share my opinion on which class is perhaps the best / easiest for beginning players. I haven't played extensively with all of the classes in the game, but from what I've played so far, I believe that the best option for an inexperienced or struggling player is to chose the Prisoner as your starting class.

I think this class is a good option for beginners because it has a variety of offensive and defensive options at its disposal. Prisoners start with an Estoc as the primary weapon, which is a thrusting sword with long reach that also has a swiping heavy attack that can also be useful for certain crowd-control situations. It also starts with a shield, giving the player immediate access to the ability to block enemy attacks, parry, and use Guard Counters (more on this in the next tip).

Prisoner starts with a good melee weapon, shield, and powerful magic spell.

The biggest advantage of the Prisoner class, however, is that it starts with an insanely good magic spell, the Magic Glintblade. This spell creates a delayed, homing, magic missile in the air. If you can force the enemy to chase you, then the delay can allow the magic missile to hit the enemy from behind as they pass the sigil that the spell creates. This can be great for many bosses and large enemies that block frontal attacks with a shield.

Further, if you take the Fanged Imp Ashes as your starting keepsake, you'll have the ability to summon spirits to fight along side you against tougher enemies, mobs, or bosses. Between the spirits and the magic spell, it's possible to defeat some bosses and mini-bosses without ever having to directly engage them, and without risking taking damage or being killed.

This does lead directly to the biggest downside of taking this class: it can potentially teach very bad habits. Even though you can fall back on defensive strategies to turtle your way through fights, I still recommend that you try to use that Estoc and Shield to fight enemies directly whenever it's feasible. This way, you'll hopefully learn good offensive and defensive tactics, such as attacking when enemies are open to attack, dodging and blocking at the appropriate time, stamina-management, and so forth. But you'll always have those good ol' cheesy magic spells to fall back on in a pinch.

The Magic Glintblade spell can be used to cheese many early optional bosses.

Use Guard Counter instead of parrying weak enemies

The Guard Counter is a new feature of Elden Ring that allows the player to perform a powerful counter attack immediately after successfully blocking an enemy attack. It's very similar to a parry, except that it can be performed after a regular block, and does not require the player to risk mis-timing a parry and taking full damage from an enemy attack.

The downside is that the Guard Counter does not always guarantee a critical strike or that it will break the enemy's posture the way that a parry would. Nevertheless, the Guard Counter is a safe and effective tool for dealing heavy melee damage with minimal risk.

Just be careful about trying to use it against an enemy combo. If your weapon is slower than the enemy's attacks, then their subsequent combo attacks after a successful block will likely interrupt your counter. Also, if an enemy attack is heavy enough and hard-hitting enough, it can deplete your stamina and stun you. In that case, you won't be able to counter. Don't attempt a Guard Counter if you have low stamina! So take some time to study the enemy's patterns, and use the Guard Counter wisely.

The Guard Counter is a low-risk alternative to parrying.

Also, most early-game shields will not have 100% damage reduction. Even if you successfully block, and successfully execute the Guard Counter, you will still take a small amount of damage through your block. For most early-game enemies, this damage will be negligible, but it can still add up over the course of an entire dungeon.

The Guard Counter is particularly effective against a lot of hostile animals, such as dogs, rats, and the incredibly annoying sword-footed birds in Stormveil Castle. It's less effective against enemies with fast combo attacks, or with heavy attacks that will instantly break your guard.

Explore, and track your own progress

The open world might be intimidating, and so you might think it's best to power on to Castle Stormveil and progress the story. Doing so will cause you to miss out on a lot of valuable loot that is available in Limgrave West. However, you also don't want to immediately turn around and start exploring. The NPC that you encounter immediately after leaving the tutorial area and stepping out into Limgrave will point out that you are maidenless, and therefore, at a disadvantage. He recommends heading straight for Castle Stormveil. You should follow this advice and head towards Stormveil, but just outside of the castle, you'll rest at a Site of Grace that will trigger the appearance of you maiden (and your horse). Once you've done this, you can now turn back and explore more of the world.

Many players and critics praised Dark Souls for the openness and interconnectivity of its world, and the fact that it allows the player to head off in multiple directions right from the start. However, the options besides Undead Burgh were really "false options", as they are only really viable for more experienced and skilled players. Exploring the open world of Elden Ring, however, is not so full of false choices. Multiple optional areas are perfectly viable for inexperienced players with low-level characters, and they provide valuable rewards.

Some players may also be dismayed by the lack of a quest log and the scarcity of map markers. However, Elden Ring gives the player a variety of tools for marking progress and the location of important points of interest on the map. The map provides a set of markers to go along with the waypoints. Markers come in various icons, such as a skull, treasure chest, person, tree, animal, or so forth. Use these markers to mark the location of NPCs, vendors, locked doors, treasure you can't get to, difficult enemies you want to return to, and so forth. You can also press a button to bring up a list of discovered Sites of Grace (it's the Triangle button on a Play Station gamepad). From within this menu, you can also mark any number of Sites of Grace with a star icon, and then filter by those marked locations. Use this to mark dungeons you haven't finished, and then delete the star mark after you've completed the dungeon, in order to mark your progress for later reference.

I'll provide a list of where to find some good early items below, but I've hidden them for players who don't want to have specific rewards from specific locations spoiled for them. Feel free to expand the below section and read if you feel so inclined. In summary, however, exploring optional areas can reward upgrade materials to make your weapons more powerful, powerful spirit summons that can provide a leg up against hard encounters, talismans that provide various damage resistances, and so forth.

[Show Potential Spoilers] [Hide Potential Spoilers]
  1. After meeting the maiden and being given the ability to summon your horse, return immediately to the Church of Ellah. An NPC there will give you the ability to summon spirit ashes, which can be useful against the optional bosses.
  2. I recommend starting with the Groveside Cave north of the Church of Ellah. It's fairly easy, containing just a few wolves and a boss. Defeating the boss will award the Flamedrake Talisman, which buffs fire resistance. This will come in handy in the Limgrave Tunnels and if you chose to battle the Dragon in the swamp.
  3. The nearby Stormfront Catacombs rewards a powerful summonable spirit.
  4. With your summonable spirits and improved fire resistance, proceed to buy a torch and then head to the Limgrave Tunnels. This location is a bit more challenging, but will provide a large sum of Smithing Stones for upgrading your weapons. Tunnels are hidden in the dark shadows of the elevator shafts, so use your torch to find and explore them.
  5. A vendor on the beach to the southwest can sell a bow if your class did not start with access to ranged attacks.

Fight on horseback

And while you're exploring and farming the Limgrave West map, be sure to do so from horseback. The horse can outrun most enemies, and can also outrun a lot of the big, area of effect attacks that some enemies and overworld bosses will use. If you struggled against the Tree Sentinel Knight (the big knight in golden armor on horseback south of the Church of Ellah) or against Dragon Agheel, then go back and challenge them again from horseback. I wager you might find the battle much less one-sided.

Difficult enemies might be easier to fight from horseback.

Remember that Torrent can jump, double jump, and also do a dodge dash move. From what I can tell, Torrent appears to have invincibility frames at the start of his dash, just like the player character has during a roll. Torrent's speed can also allow you to back far enough away to give yourself time to heal up. And you can even run away entirely, and live to fight another day.

Personally, I've become fond of fighting from horseback with a halberd. It has great reach for jousting / strafing runs against enemies, and the charge attack can be held down until just the right moment to land a powerful blow.

Do note that you cannot use your shield on horseback. Instead, the buttons that usually block or parry will instead perform light and heavy attacks (respectively) to the left side with your primary weapon. It's also possible for your horse, Torrent to take damage independently of you. If he starts to take damage, you can heal him with Rowan Raisins (which are craftable from Rowa Fruit, which is widely available in the overworld). I recommend equipping Rowa Raisins to one of your pouches, so that they are easily accessible in the heat of battle.

Top off your health before engaging a mob

After defeating most mobs in the open world, Elden Ring will reward you with a recharge of your healing flask. Of course, this does no good if your flask is already maxed out, so go ahead and top off your health before engaging a mob. You'll get that flask use back after defeating them, which will mean more total health for you!

There's also a certain type of creature that can be found in the overworld which, when killed, grants a recharge of your healing flask. And to be honest, I feel like checkpoints are pretty generously placed throughout Limgrave. You're never too far from an opportunity to recharge your healing flask, so there's really very little reason, if any, to not keep your health topped off while exploring the overworld.

Checkpoints are liberally placed throughout the overworld.

Once you get into dungeons, however, it's a totally different story, as these play out much more like traditional From Software levels. In the dungeons, every use of your healing flask is precious, and you should only use it if you will actually get the maximum benefit from the healing that it offers.

Use Spirits before relying on multiplayer

This tombstone icon means summoning spirits is allowed.

Elden Ring allows the player to summon spirit ash creatures to help you in combat. They can only be summoned for certain encounters in certain areas of the map. If you see a glowing tombstone icon on the left of the screen, that means it is possible to summon a spirit ash. Spirit ashes cannot be summoned in multiplayer, but they can be summoned if you also summon an NPC cooperator.

Spirits can distract enemies and bosses and deal a little bit of damage, which will take some of the pressure off of a difficult encounter. They won't, however, single-handedly win the fight for you. They aren't Solaire fighting the Bell Gargoyles, nor are they a practiced human cooperator who might defeat a boss for you and rob you of your sense of achievement. The summonable spirits fill a middle-ground role for players who need a little bit of help, but don't want the fight spoiled by relying on multiplayer. It might be just what you need to push yourself over the edge to victory.

The torch is actually good

In past From Software games, the torch has often felt like a pointless tool. Areas are rarely (if ever) pitch dark enough to necessitate the use of a torch to see where you're going. Even in the Tomb of the Giants in the first Dark Souls, a torch is probably unnecessary, since you should have access to light-generating sorceries, and maybe even the Sunlight Maggot by then. The torch was supposed to be a big part of Dark Souls II's design, but that changed mid-development, and the only place it ended up being useful for was the Gutter.

In Elden Ring, however, some of the caverns and tunnels do go to pitch black, especially if you're using HDR. Because of this, the torch may be necessary for illuminating that darkness and ensuring that you can see where you're going. Holding up the torch with the left bumper button will increase how much of your surroundings are illuminated, and it will partially block enemy attacks. The left trigger can be used to attack enemies, and the fire damage that this deals can be very effective against some of the fire-vulnerable enemies that you may encounter in your early explorations.

The torch also does not give away your position when sneaking through a dark location. You can sneak up behind an enemy while holding the torch in an otherwise pitch black corridor, and the enemy will not notice the bright light coming up behind them.

The torch is almost a necessity in some of the darker dungeons and tunnels.

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