The Lands Between is an uncharted wonderland of secrets, dangers, and surprises. Mixing the tight combat mechanics, satisfying level design, and tough boss mechanics with an impressive open-world makes Elden Ring the crowning achievement of developer FromSoftware. There are many folks who might be interested in giving this game a shot but are unsure whether or not they will be able to enjoy it, considering the reputation the devs have earned for making difficult games that demand from their players. On the other hand, those who love that challenge may not be prepared for all the new systems this game brings.
There’s still no true difficulty setting to pick from when starting Elden Ring, for better or worse, and the game likes to keep many things obscured or hidden. That includes some mechanics and tips that could go undiscovered for your entire time playing. Elden Ring is perhaps the most accommodating to those new to the Souls-like game, as long as you know a few key tips. Whether you’ve linked the first flame a dozen times or never pulled off a parry, here’s a spoiler-free beginner’s guide to getting started in Elden Ring.
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The first decision you need to make in Elden Ring, as with every FromSoftware game, is what class you will start as. This is easily the most important decision you will make in the early game since each of the 10 classes starts at a different level, with different stats and different starting gear. It can be a little overwhelming, especially for new players, to see so many options and need to make this critical choice without really understanding what the stats mean.
Without going into each stat and class in-depth, there are a few important things you should know that can help you make this decision much easier. The first is that Vigor and Endurance are universally great stats to have. They determine your health and stamina respectively, with stamina relating to how many attacks you can do, physical or magic, how much you can block, jump, roll, run, and even how much equipment you can wear. Besides that, focus on strength if you want to carry giant, slow weapons, dexterity for fast, light, and ranged weapons, or intelligence or faith for spell casting builds.
The Vagabond is a solid beginner class for most melee-focused players, coming with very balanced stats, a longsword, halberd, and shield. While this choice is going to play a major part in your early hours of Elden Ring, know that you can always build your character in whatever way you want as you play and get a better idea of how you like playing, and can even later reset your stats and reallocate them again without having to start the entire game over if you feel like you’ve made a terrible character.
Along with you starting class, you also need to pick a Keepsake. These are the new starting gifts from the Souls series, and you’re asked to pick from a list of nine, with little context. We have a full guide on these you should check out, but the best pick for beginners is easily the Golden Seed. This material can be used to grant you one additional sip from your precious health potion. It may not sound like much, but one extra refill can often mean the difference between beating a boss and getting sent back to your last checkpoint.
Once you’ve made your character and completed the tutorial, Elden Ring will open up to you. The game is very proud to show you a massive landmass you can essentially explore fully right from the start. Resist the urge to wander off right away. Stick to the main path, following the guiding light from one Site of Grace to the next, for just a little bit until you meet a character named Melina. She will show up when you’ve rested at your third Site of Grace and agree to be your maiden, which essentially means she will give you the ability to level up, plus give you your trusty steed Torrent.
Exploring is all well and good, but if you can’t spend any runes (XP and currency) you build up, they’re just liable to be lost when you inevitably die. Also, having Torrent makes rushing back to anywhere you died to retrieve your lost runes far easier. Meet Melina ASAP so you don’t waste any time or levels early on.
The idea of mounts is brand new, and should not be overlooked. Elden Ring is really, really big. And, yes, it is very dense with enemies, secrets, and odd things you will want to investigate, but sometimes you will just need, or want, to get to that one spot as fast as you can. Torrent can be summoned at the touch of a button and drastically increase your speed, but also lets you double jump to reach otherwise inaccessible areas. Use him often to easily bypass the riffraff roaming the lands to slow you down, or even as an escape if you get ambushed by a giant beast you weren’t expecting.
Traditional fast travel is also open right from the start. Unlike the first Dark Souls, you can immediately warp directly to any Site of Grace you’ve discovered. What’s even better is that, so long as you’re not in combat, you can teleport to your site of choosing from anywhere in the world. Just pop open your map, highlight the Site of Grace you want to go to, and hit the Travel button to instantly warp. This is another great way to cut your losses, again as long as you’re out of combat, and cash in your runes if you’re afraid of losing them.
Both of these conveniences make exploring that much easier to do, which is important because so much of this game is just waiting to be discovered. We won’t spoil anything here, but there are places, people, enemies, mysteries, quests, items, and so much more that you will just happen upon if you ride out in whatever direction looks appealing to you. Unlike most modern open-world games, you will be rewarded more often than not for actually scraping the world for secrets. Yes, you have a map now, but nothing on it will point you towards a hidden area or NPC waiting to give you a quest (which won’t show up as a marker on your map either). For once, Elden Ring makes you feel like exploring is worthwhile in an open-world game, so shake off any preconceived notions and let yourself follow your curiosity. If you find something you can’t figure out or want to come back to later, remember to place a custom map marker down.
Crafting is yet another new function in Elden Ring. While not at all necessary to make it through the game, but very useful for most builds. To craft, you will use materials you can pick up around the world, mostly plants, but also bones and meat from wild animals you kill. Thankfully, FromSoft realized just how often people would probably be stopping to pick some flowers on their travels, especially since there are materials everywhere, and you can do so without dismounting Torrent. You can essentially just tap the interact button as you ride around to always snatch up whatever material you run over.
Speaking of which, you may notice some glowing skulls littering the land that you can’t really do much with but kick around. Run them over with Torrent, though, and they will break and always drop an item you can pop to give yourself a small influx of runes. These are great for when you need to buy a cheap item or are just a few runes short of leveling up.
The comparisons to Elden Ring being mechanically similar to the Dark Souls series is absolutely applicable. At the core level, you will be using light and heavy attacks (or magic), weapon skills, blocking, and rolling through most encounters. But, Elden Ring introduces a few new ways to vary up combat in your favor. The most notable ones you learn to incorporate into your arsenal are jumping and block counters.
Jumping in any FromSoft game has always been … clunky to say the least. A big feature of Sekiro was the addition of not just a jump button, but how jumping became core to that game’s combat. Elden Ring brings back the jump button, and while it isn’t as essential in combat as it is in exploration, it is easily one of the best new tools you should learn to lean on in fights. Jumping isn’t so much a defensive option as rolling, though it can be used that way, but is one of the best ways to reduce an enemy’s invisible poise meters. Charged heavy attacks and jumping strikes are the best ways to reduce this meter, especially on bosses, eventually leaving them open to a Bloodborne style visceral attack for massive damage.
Block counters are brand new to Elden Ring, and again are kind of glossed over and never really mentioned after the opening. If you’re playing a class that utilizes a shield, then you will be holding up your slab of metal quite a bit to block attacks. Parrying does come back and is again the high-risk, high-reward play for shield users, but block counters are a kind of middle ground between parries and blocking and waiting for an opening.
After you block an attack, hitting heavy attack retaliates with a powerful strike that, like jumping attacks, also seems great for reducing enemy poise. But unlike a parry which guarantees that free critical strike, block counters may not interrupt or stun an enemy if they’re in the middle of a combo. It’s great against bosses, just as long as you learn which hits are safe to use it on.
Like jumping, stealth has also finally gotten a real chance to shine in Elden Ring. Crouching is done by just pressing down on the left stick. It makes your character much harder to spot and allows you to hide in the environment. This won’t be useful at all in boss fights but should be your first course of action when exploring the landscape or dungeons. While undetected, you can shuffle up behind unsuspecting enemies and get a clean backstab off. If it kills, and no one else is in sight, you can continue your assassinations until you mess up and get spotted, or manage to clean out the entire area without a fight.
It isn’t mandatory, but stealth also is more effective at night, which makes sense. Either way, even getting one or two kills before the alarm is raised and you’re forced into open combat can make things much easier to get through. Or, if you’ve got the space and some patience, you can run away until the enemies forget you killed their pals, reengage stealth, and get some more backstabbing done.
Yes, upgrades are back and, in some ways, is just as convoluted as in prior Souls games. Early on, you will be introduced to a blacksmith who can upgrade your weapons and armor in exchange for Smithing Stones and some runes. Don’t stress too much about upgrading your weapons early on if you like them, but don’t invest too heavily since you’re going to find much better gear later on that you’ll want to pump up with upgrades fast. There are also different upgrade paths in Elden Ring.
Aside from your weapons and armor, upgrading your healing flask, called the Flask of Crimson Tears in Elden Ring, is arguably even more important. There are two ways you can upgrade your flask: How much it heals (or replenishes your magic if you’re using the Cerulean Tears) and the number of charges it can hold. Each of these upgrade types requires a different item you need to find, either Golden Seeds or Sacred Tears. These are both very rare items to find, but if you’re doing your exploration you should stumble across at least some of them. Golden Seeds are a bit easier to find since you can always find them beside small glowing saplings that look like the massive Erdtree, but in either case, you should spend some time searching these out as they will benefit you for the entire game.
When you do have these items, you can upgrade your flask at any Site of Grace. Just sit down and select the Flask option and choose the option to upgrade it depending on which items you have. At first, it will only take one of these items to upgrade, but later ones will require more.
Finally, this is still a Souls game when you get right down to it. If you’re following the golden path of Elden Ring, it will only be a matter of time before you reach a zone, or more likely a boss, that just feels insurmountable. When this happens, don’t feel like you need to constantly throw yourself at it over and over until you either get sick of the game or manage to do a perfect run. The main path is a fraction of what this game has to offer, unlike past games where a bad boss could literally stand between you and doing basically anything else in the game except grind in previous areas.
This goes back to our tip about exploring, but it really is worth highlighting again for anyone who might approach Elden Ring like prior Souls games. Going in a completely different direction from the main path is good for more than just seeing new places, getting materials, items, and whatever else. There are also tons of small and medium-sized dungeons, random bosses, and powerful gear to find and face that can be just as challenging and rewarding as the main path. Plus, even if you don’t get something you would personally use doing one of these side activities, you’re still earning runes and leveling up to make your next attempt a bit easier.
Of course, summoning is also an option. Aside from NPCs you can call in to help you with major bosses, it’s also easier than ever to summon friends to help. Elden Ring can be really hard, but there are always ways to either take a break and still make progress, or tune down the difficulty with help or upgrades, so don’t ever feel like you’re stuck with nothing else you can do.
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