Before Elden Ring, I had played less than two hours of any other FromSoftware title. Comfortable in the FPS world, the mechanics of Dark Souls or Bloodborne were too specific and too unforgiving for my often twitchy reactions. The promise that Elden Ring would be more approachable than the Dark Souls games that scared me off (thanks to its open world and flexible fast travel system) was the only thing that convinced me to even try FromSoftware’s latest game.
I’ve now logged nearly 75 hours of playtime with Elden Ring, and am taking my sweet time making my way through The Lands Between. I’ve written about how I’m using summons to get through the game with help from friends and strangers alike, and I’ve crafted such a magic-focused build I can cheese my way through almost every encounter. But what is it like when an Elden Ring player tries another FromSoftware title? Have I actually learned anything that will help me get through a franchise I have famously had temper tantrums over? Turns out, Elden Ring has gently molded me into (pause for effect) a FromSoftware fan.
Becoming Elden Lord
I’ve attempted Souls games before Elden Ring, and I was stupid enough to try them on Twitch back when I used to stream. For several sessions in a row, my rather meager viewership was forced to watch me curse, groan, scream, and otherwise act like a toddler being denied a sweet as I tried and failed to get out of Dark Soul 1’s Undead Burg. Since I’m so quick to get frustrated and (at the time) completely unaware of FromSoftware’s enemy AI, I couldn’t figure out their attack patterns and kept getting caught up in a barrage of undead dogs or nailed by a crossbow bolt from all the way across a courtyard. After a few attempts on my stream that felt nothing short of Sisyphean, I put down Dark Souls, vowing to never touch it again.
But Elden Ring promised to be different than other FromSoftware titles, and the studio delivered. The game offers a variety of paths to take in order to improve your abilities, find better weapons, and practice your combat skills – in short, to better equip you for the punishing battles you’ll undoubtedly face. When I first stepped foot into The Lands Between, I almost walked into the infamously hard Elden Ring Tree Sentinel but was scared of his sheer size, so I turned on my heel and urged Torrent towards an area that looked less intimidating. Hours upon hours of gameplay later, and long after the anti-Tree Sentinel sentiment had spread across the internet, I realized I hadn’t yet bested the bastard. I returned to the opening area, and with my menagerie of magic, took out his entire HP bar in three hits.
With dozens of hours under my belt, an impressive number of great enemies felled, and a solid understanding of swordplay, I felt ready to tackle another FromSoftware title. Beating bumps that I would normally cower from helped me realize I can handle tough battles if I’m properly prepared for them. So I booted up Dark Souls Remastered and jumped back into the Undead Burg.
That was my first mistake. I have since learned that FromSoftware games famously go unfinished because players get stuck in particularly tough areas, take a break from the game, then return and are once again deflated by that area’s difficulty. As soon as I load my Dark Souls save, I am immediately killed by an undead attack dog. I spawn at a bonfire and shiver when I remember that this is the frustrating path to the Capra Demon that caused me to curse out my entire stream audience nearly a year ago.
My second mistake was an utter lack of preparation. Elden Ring has taught me a lot of things, but it’s clear that I am underpowered and utilizing the wrong build. My original Dark Souls build from months ago was focused solely on strength, whereas my Elden Ring build is all about dexterity and intelligence, which offers high physical damage and the ability to cast spells quickly. I’ve become a certain type of FromSoftware player now, and shoehorning myself into an old build clearly won’t work. I make several heroic efforts to get through the area, which includes a flame-spewing dragon, more attack dogs, and fast-moving thieves mobbing you on your way to the Capra Demon boss battle. I only make it to the boss once – on the way I’m taken out twice by dragon fire, three times by dogs, eight times by thieves, and twice by falling off a ledge. When I finally cross the misty threshold and meet the demon head-on, he defeats me in two swipes. I quit Dark Souls again.
It’s then that I remember the advice of GamesRadar’s Joe Donnelly, who assured me that “once you get into pyromancy in Dark Souls, you can get OP pretty fast.” Instead of starting from scratch with a new build focused on pyromancy, I stupidly tried to attack the game from an angle I’m not comfortable with. So, still stinging from the dog bites in Dark Souls, I decide to give Dark Souls 3 a try instead. This time I start with a pyromancer build, and once I get the hang of throwing fireballs, I easily take out the first boss Ludex Gundyr, laughing maniacally as he falls to the ground. From there, I breeze through the first area in Lothric, cheesing my way past foot soldiers, thieves, and knights alike.
When it comes time for me to fight the second (and more difficult) Dark Souls 3 boss, I’m admittedly worried. Will my reliance on pyromancy be my downfall? Will I be forced to try and utilize my inferior swordsmanship? Turns out my IRL Luck stats are pretty high, as Vordt of the Boreal Valley is an ice-based boss who takes a ton of damage from fire attacks. I make sure I have my equip-load low enough that I feel lithe and agile, and spend the fight dancing away from his sweeping mace attack and throwing fireballs in its wake. I vanquish Vordt on my first try, and emerge into the next area with all the confidence of a veteran FromSoftware player. Because thanks to Elden Ring, I am one now.
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