Get ahead in the Lands Between with these helpful tips and tricks.
For a long time, the Souls community has been eagerly awaiting the release of the latest FromSoftware title, and in the process, has stirred up a lot of people. The international press loves the game (we do too!) and that will help introducing newcomers to Elden Ring. The collaboration with George R.R .Martin forms the narrative basis of an extensive adventure that, unlike many other open-world titles, does not take you by the hand. To ensure that you don't get lost in the Lands Between and successfully complete your journey to become an Elden Lord, we have summarised some tips and tricks that might ease your play experience.
Combat & Weapon Arts
Soulslikes are generally games with a high entry barrier. In a strict trial-&-error process players are punished for not knowing how to play the game. The be-all and end-all is the combat system, which is a rhythmic back and forth. Depending on your preferred play style, you have to keep the right distance from your opponent, recognise time windows for your own attacks, parries or the use of regeneration items, all while you have to avoid the enemy's counter-attacks at all costs. The timing has to be precise, you have to stay concentrated and keep level-headed especially during the final moments.
All of your actions consume stamina and therefore you sometimes need to retreat and take a moment to catch your breath instead of pressing on. For beginners, we would recommend using shields as they negate damage types. Nevertheless, timing is important here as well, as you will need to lower your guard to regenerate your stamina. When you realise that you are getting nowhere with pure defence, two-handing your weapon and joining the offensive might be the best call. Jumping attacks are a good way to stun most of the simple enemies but be aware that nothing is free in these games.
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Most weapons have a special ability called Weapon Arts, which you might recognise from Dark Souls III. You can use it by pressing L2/LT on the controller but be aware, that shields or other items that you are holding in your second hand can also have an additional effect. If in doubt, you must be able to quickly switch between your equipped items if the situation requires it. Additionally, in Elden Ring you'll find consumable items called Ashes of War that are basically Weapon Arts. You can use it to alter your current equipment's active ability.
Your player level has a big influence on how much damage you deal and how much you can take before you wake up at the last Site of Grace. After a certain point, however, your armour has little effect on your survival skills, but since you ideally don't want to get hit anyway - and sure, that's easier said than done - your playstyle may be benefit from using lighter armour that puts more distance between you and your opponent with every dodge roll. Your damage numbers scale with the weapon's corresponding status values and if you invest in upgrades at the blacksmith, the multipliers increase greatly. The necessary resources are few and far between, but if you have the runes (money) you can buy the first few upgrade tiers for almost everything.
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Online and PvP
Don't be surprised that bosses have two or more phases and will best you with nasty manoeuvres. Other players and friendly NPC summons can help divert the attention of tough opponents away from you, giving you a bit of a breather during battle. This respite is deceptive, however, because depending on the number of players, in online mode the boss will have more life, does more damage and your allies will usually be a little weaker than they are used to. You should also remember that the boss likes to change targets even in a single sequence of blows, so don't be lulled into a false sense of security.
To access the online mode, you'll need (in addition to the provisional online membership on the consoles) the consumable "Furlcalling Finger Remedy", which allows you to detect the summoning signs of other online players in the first place. Alternatively, seek out one of the summoning pools located near the boss room - but you might want to set a password, if you are playing with a friend. This is a small statue that exists in every dungeon and you have to find it to activate it manually. You can invite up to two friendly players into your world, but this also makes you vulnerable to invaders whose target is to kill you. Incidentally, Elden Ring does not support cross-play, so for the time being it will not be possible for players on different platforms to explore the Lands Between together. However, players within the same console family are allowed to assist each other.
Summoning allied NPCs works in a similar way: Some NPCs signs are visible in front of a fog gate because it's their quest-line. Alternatively, you should look for an item called "Spirit Calling Bell", which you can obtain in the course of the game after a few hours. As soon as you are within the Summoning Pool zones, it allows you to summon any of the Ashes you have found so far. After each use, you will need to rest in order to use the ability again and you should make sure that you fulfil the FP requirements to lure the spirits into your world. By the way, you can also upgrade the quality of the spirit Ashes after some time, to make them more resistant and effective.
You shouldn't get easily discouraged to challenge a mighty foe, but if you feel like you're constantly running into a wall, it's certainly worth trying to find something else to do, before returning here. Apart from a few spikes, the difficulty of the enemies is fairly evenly spread across the major areas of the game. You should take a closer look at Limgrave at the beginning, although the western part already has some more dangerous enemies to tackle. In the far south lies Weeping Peninsula, which is hardly a threat apart from poison damage once you get the hang of it. The area is also recommended for initial exploration as it contains many valuable upgrade materials that will improve your Estus Flask (we'll come to that in a second).
After you get your first Great Rune, head to Liurna, to the west. It is easy to get disoriented in the shallow water, so you should locate landmarks. Once you have played through this area, the Altus Plateau awaits you in the far north. The dangerous area of Caelid in the East also becomes a possibility, if you are levelled up high enough. Just beware that poisonous status Scarlet Rot will kill you after a short time even in the late game - luckily your horse Torrent can withstand those influences. From this point on you can also venture into the underground worlds, because deep under the surface there are more areas waiting for you.
Keep an eye out for golden trees where you can find so-called "Golden Seeds". You can use these at the bonfire to increase the maximum number of healing flasks (for both mana and HP) you are carrying. After a short time you will need to collect larger amounts of seeds to get a new flask, so you should start looking for "Sacred Tears" instead. These will improve the quality of your regeneration and this will help you a lot in tough situations. You can find these items near abandoned churches you find during exploration. Having enough healing items can play into your favour, especially during longer exploration tours. Sometimes you will receive some of your healing potions back after defeating groups of enemies or killing scarab beetles.
If you are travelling in the open fields, you will often be on the back of your spectral steed Torrent, which will help you greatly in battle. Generally, you need to remember to hit to the left with LB/L1, while RB/R1 will attack enemies that are to your right. LT/L2 and R2/RT are charged attacks that are a little harder to aim because of the additional delay, so they are more suited for hit & run strategies. The high horse attacks have the advantage that they can easily stun most of the enemies (as it does incredible poise damage), so you can land a few hits relatively safely.
You still have to be careful of groups of enemies, because if you are surrounded and Torrent takes a few hits, he will leave you behind and you will find yourself defenceless on the ground in the midst of an angry mob. The spirit horse has its own health bar and sometimes takes damage in your place. If you heal yourself with a Flask, he will also regain some his lost health. You can also heal him by feeding him few berries but if he dies, you have to sacrifice one of your healing potions to bring him back. Always treat him with respect, Tarnished!
Magic and Miracles
Because the world of Elden Ring is so incredibly large, it can be difficult to find anything in particular. If you already know that you want to cast magic or miracles later on, then you should decide on the corresponding character classes at the very beginning of the game. In the Souls games, casting spells requires not only the necessary character stats in the key areas intelligence, arcane and faith, you also need to equip the right tools and have internalised the magic formula(s) beforehand. Spells require a wand and if you want to cast miracles/enchantments, this is only possible with a seal. There are special weapons that can take over a cast function, but you will have to be careful looking for them. Don't forget to upgrade your magic items at the blacksmith to increase its damage scaling.
Just like in Dark Souls II, there is a rare consumable item in Elden Ring that gives you access to locked areas. You will need these "Stonesword Keys" in later areas and therefore you should make sure that you acquire a supply of them early on. Many traders have some of them in their storage, but these keys are not exactly cheap. Unfortunately, there's also no guarantee that the investment will pay off, as not all upgrades and rewards will benefit your play style. In the worst case, you'll get a weapon or a spell you don't need, but there are also rewards that might not have an immediate impact on your character stats but are actually useful. These would be upgrades to your inventory (that let you learn more spells or equip more medallions as you progress through the game) or items that allow you to improve what neutral NPCs have to offer.
Keep a journal
Again, the Lands Between are huge and you need to be careful not to be overwhelmed by the abundance of options. Pinpoint and mark interesting locations, challenges and the positions of traders, NPCs or anything else that catches your attention on the map - even if you haven't found the 'map' item of each region yet. If you notice that you are stuck at any given point, make sure you don't forget that place and come back later. It is generally recommended that you take notes while playing. Pay attention to what you are told - and be aware of what you see. The most important messages are repeated by the NPCs, but this does not protect you from skipping essential details, which would make your life so much easier. Just because Elden Ring doesn't keep a quest diary for you, you are not exempt from the duty of having one.
Those were our tips and tricks. Do you have any hints that might help other players? Let us know in the comments.