While Elden Ring is certainly a bold step forward for developer FromSoftware, it’s still a Soulsborne game in the ways that matter most. That means that the game is not only incredibly difficult at times but can also be pretty confusing, especially for new players who may start the game without even a basic understanding of its simplest mechanics.
Elden Ring is slightly more generous than other Soulsborne games when it comes to teaching you about the basics (more on that in a bit), but the motto of this game is still “figure it out as you go.” While that style of game design is the biggest contributor to this title’s wonderful sense of adventure, it also leads to more than a few moments of missing out on seemingly basic concepts simply because the game allows you to miss them from time to time.
So while learning to love Elden Ring does mean learning to love figuring things out as you go along, here are a few essential tips and tricks that will help you at the start of the game.
Come Into Elden RingWith Some Idea of Your Ideal Playstyle and Preferred Class
While Elden Ring allows you to build your character in ways that ensure you don’t have to commit to a particular playstyle the moment you select your starting class (more on that in a bit), you will make things much easier on yourself if you come into the game with some basic idea of what kind of character you want to play as.
If you want to make this part of the process as simple as possible, just ask yourself which of the combat styles appeals to you the most:
From there, consider choosing one of the following classes based on those basic preferences:
Melee – Vagabond, Hero, Warrior, Samurai
Ranged – Bandit, Samurai
Magic – Astrologer, Prophet
Hybrid – Confessor (Incantations/Melee), Samurai (Melee/Ranged), Warrior (Dual-Wielding/Ranged), Prisoner (Offensive Magic/Melee), Bandit (Stealth/Ranged)
Wretch – Wretch
We’ll cover this topic a little more in-depth in future articles, but even a basic understanding of your personal play preferences and the classes best equipped to service that style from the start could go a long way to helping you navigate Elden Ring’s considerable learning curve.
Spend Your Runes Often and Without Fear
In Elden Ring, Runes are used for…well, pretty much everything. You’ll spend Runes to buy new items and spells, you’ll spend Runes to upgrade your equipment, you’ll spend Runes to level up your character, and you’ll lose all of your Runes whenever you die (though they can be recovered). Because Runes are so valuable, you’ll probably be a little hesitant to spend them at the start of the game.
However, you really should be spending Runes as often as possible on as many things as possible. While there are certainly times when you’ll want to save up a small fortune of Runes in order to level up at a Site of Grace (especially if you’re facing a boss or similarly frustrating roadblock that you just can’t get past), don’t worry about buying that extra item or upgrade just because you’re wondering if there is something better to spend your Runes on. You will have plenty of opportunities to earn more Runes later in the game.
Speaking of which…
Farm Runes As Often As Possible
Whatever else it may be, Elden Ring is still a traditional RPG in a lot of the ways that matter most. That means that you’ll often find yourself relying on pretty basic RPG concepts in order to overcome some of the game’s toughest challenges.
In fact, one of the best ways to beat pretty much anything in Elden Ring is to “farm” Runes by killing groups of basic enemies, visiting a nearby Site of Grace to respawn them, and then rinsing and repeating until you have enough Runes to level up and/or upgrade your equipment. It’s not the most sporting strategy, but it’s a tried and true Soulsborne tactic that is made that much easier in Elden Ring thanks to the game’s open nature and the various paths forward (and around) that the game offers you.
Certain Early Areas in Elden Ring Are Much More Difficult Than They Appear
Anyone familiar with the Soulsborne games probably won’t need to be told this, but there will be many times in Elden Ring when the most obvious path forward isn’t always the best path forward. In fact, a few of the game’s toughest challenges can be found near Elden Ring’s starting area.
While there will be times when you’ll be forced to bash your head against the wall in order to get past a certain boss or roadblock, Elden Ring’s open-world sections often allow (and encourage) you to temporarily avoid most challenges until you feel like you’re better equipped to handle them. While the temptation to punch above your weight may be strong, retreating is sometimes a better option than it’s ever been before.
Yes, It’s Fine to Run Past Elden Ring’s Enemies
There are many times in Elden Ring when the only (or best) path forward will be blocked by powerful enemies. While you’ll often be tempted to try to fight your way through those foes (and that is sometimes your best and only option), never forget that it’s often possible to simply run by those enemies and get to your destination.
There will be times when that strategy will backfire hilariously, but you’re not using every tool available to you in this game if you don’t occasionally use stealth or old-fashioned sprinting to go around enemies rather than try to go through them.
Mounted Combat Can Make Things Easier (But It’s Not Always Your Best Option)
The first time you’re able to summon your Spirit Steed in Elden Ring (the loveable Torrent), you’ll probably feel like you just broke the game. After all, what Soulsborne game wouldn’t have been made a little easier by being able to access a living mode of transportation that allows you to power strike enemies, run away, and then repeat the process?
While there will be times when Torrent will help you take down some of Elden Ring’s toughest open-world enemies (especially in the beginning), mounted combat isn’t always your best option. If you’re dealing with a pack of incredibly fast foes, or anything that can easily dismount you with magic attacks, it’s probably best to hop off your horse and kill them the traditional way. Otherwise, you risk getting dismounted and leaving yourself vulnerable for a deadly follow-up attack.
Spawn at Stakes of Marika Whenever Possible
The first time Elden Ring offers you the chance to spawn at a “Stake of Marika” rather than the last Site of Grace you visited, you’ll probably have no idea what that actually means. As it turns out, though, that’s almost always your better option.
Throughout The Lands Between, you’ll find several Stakes of Marika that basically serve as secondary spawn locations and organic checkpoints. Typically located near bosses and other open-world death zones, these Stakes won’t let you access the usual array of features you’ll find at a Site of Grace (like fast travel and leveling up), but they’ll usually let you spawn closer to the point where you just died.
So, unless you need to use a particular Site of Grace feature right away, you’re almost always better off spawning at a Stake.
Fast Travel, Fast Travel, Fast Travel
Given Elden Ring’s general difficulty (and FromSoftware’s reputation for design hostility), I was surprised to find that the game lets you fast travel at any time simply by pulling up the map and selecting which previously activated Site of Grace you want to be transported to. As it turns out, that feature only makes the game slightly easier.
Still, you should absolutely fast travel as much as possible in order to optimize your time with the game and bounce between key locations with ease. Unless you’re just trying to find every little thing in a particular area, don’t feel bad about using this game’s fast travel feature liberally.
Buy a Crafting Kit Right Away
At the time that you meet the first merchant in Elden Ring that you’re likely to encounter (Merchant Kale), you probably won’t have enough Runes available to you to actually purchase anything from their considerable inventory. However, you absolutely need to return to this merchant once you’ve acquired at least 50 Runes so that you can buy a Crafting Kit.
This easy-to-miss item unlocks the ability to craft items in Elden Ring and make use of the various resources you’ll find. While you’ll need to locate additional kits to expand your recipe repertoire (and some classes will get more out of this mechanic than others), you’re missing out on a key part of the game if you happen to overlook this early item.
Follow the Trails to Your Next Destination
Every Site of Grace and certain statues in Elden Ring will emit “trails of light” that initially appear to be little more than cosmetic indulgences but are actually the most important compasses in the game.
The golden trails that emerge from Sites of Grace point towards the nearest Sites of Grace, which are typically located next to major objectives and other open-world key areas. You’ll be able to spot these trails as you approach a Site of Grace, but you can also see them on the map after you’ve activated Sites of Grace that emit them and point towards major locations.
There are other statues in the game that will emit trails of blue light that will lead you towards dungeons containing valuable items. Basically, you’ll always want to follow these trails of light whenever you see them unless you’re busy doing something else.
Focus on Upgrading a Few Key Weapons
Anyone familiar with the Dark Souls series will likely already know this, but upgrading your weapon in Elden Ring is a somewhat strange process. While you may think that you’ll get stronger weapons throughout the game as you progress (and that’s certainly sometimes the case), there are more times when you’ll be able to upgrade a “basic” early weapon that better fits your class and turn into something incredibly powerful.
We’ll likely have more to say about Elden Ring’s best weapons as we dive a little deeper into the game, but for now, it’s enough to know that your best option is usually to focus on a few key weapons that scale well with your stats and upgrade them as you go. You’d be surprised how far some early weapons can carry you (especially if you find the perfect Ashes of War to upgrade them with).
Get the Flask of Wondrous Physick as Soon As Possible
Like so many of its spiritual predecessors, Elden Ring hides some of the game’s most valuable items along some of its world’s most obscure paths. While it’s certainly possible to miss many of those items and still enjoy your time with the game, the one item you’ll likely want to go out of your way to acquire is the Flask of Wondrous Physick.
To find the Flask of Wondrous Physick, head to the “Third Church of Marika” found in East Limgrave. You should be able to locate it along the main path to that region, but here’s a snapshot of the church’s location in case you just seem to keep missing it:
There, you will find a treasure chest located next to the area’s Site of Grace. Inside is the Flask of Wondrous Physick.
This incredible object allows you to combine special “tear” items to create compelling concoctions that yield a variety of powerful effects. In its most basic form, the Flask of Wondrous Physick functions as an extra healing potion, but a little experimentation can turn it into anything you need it to be.
Carefully Consider Your Flask Charge Distribution
Once you’ve accessed a Site of Grace, you’ll be able to re-distribute the “charges” in your flasks so that you’re able to decide whether you want more FP (magic) restoring charges or more HP (health) restoring charges.
It’s important to realize that you can change your flask charge allocations at any time, so there’s no need to feel like you’re committed to a particular distribution strategy. As your skills and character grow, you may find that you need more FP or HP in the majority of combat situations. Be sure that your flask charges reflect your most common needs.
Consider Running the “Tutorial” Dungeon
While it’s entirely possible to beat Elden Ring without ever realizing that the game contains a “tutorial dungeon,” those who are interested in learning the game’s basics may want to explore the Cave of Knowledge.
The Cave of Knowledge can be found to the right of the graveyard you’ll spawn in once you’ve properly entered The Lands Between. Soulsborne veterans can probably skip this area without missing out on anything too significant, but those who need a more thorough introduction to the game will find one in this unusually helpful tutorial area.
Elden Ring is a Different (And Harder) Game at Night
The first time you realize that resting at a Site of Grace allows you to “pass time,” you’ll probably wonder whether or not it really matters whether or not you explore the game at night or during the day.
As it turns out, it very much does. While the exact differences are still being discovered, I can tell you that your stealth skills are much more effective at night (which basically means that it’s easier to sneak up on enemies while approaching them from the front at night) and that you’re more likely to encounter powerful enemies and special interactions at night. There are also certain objectives and encounters that can only be experienced at night or during the day, so be sure to check certain locations under different conditions in order to help ensure that you’re seeing everything.
Use Your Ashes of War Wisely
Ashes of War are special items that essentially allow you to alter a weapon’s special attack. They initially appear to be simple upgrades to certain weapons, but the truth is just a little more complicated than that.
While Ashes of War can make certain weapons significantly more powerful, they can also alter the stats and general functionality of a weapon in ways that you might find make it a little worse than it was before (or at least different enough that it “feels” worse). Furthermore, while you can replicate Ashes of War, doing so is an expensive process that you won’t be able to consistently rely on.
All things considered, you really want to carefully consider which weapons you apply which Ashes of War to in order to ensure that you get the most out of one of the game’s most valuable upgrade resources.
If You’re Using a Shield, Be Sure to Guard Counter
While I tend to agree that learning how to effectively dodge roll tends to be a more useful overall Elden Ring tactic than relying solely on your shield, learning to get your shield up at the right time will save your life more times than you’re probably going to be willing to admit.
However, in order to get the most out of a “shield-based” playstyle, you’re going to have to learn how to utilize Elden Ring’s Guard Counter system.
Whenever you block certain attacks with your shield, be sure to listen for a special “gong” sound and keep an eye out for a special “wind” animation. When those things occur, it means that you’re able to quickly perform a special power attack that can kill lesser foes and give you a significant advantage against larger ones. If you’re not using this mechanic as often as possible, you’re not getting the most out of a shield build.