Souls veterans give their insights into the approachability of the Lands Between
Elden Ring has been out for over a month now, having received the highest-rated title ever of 95 on OpenCritic. Naturally, this has caused various discussions to form online about how approachable it is, particularly for newcomers that wish to see what the buzz is all about. The difficulty of the various bosses within the Lands Between can seem harsh and unfair at times, even for the most experienced of Souls Veterans. This is not a surprise, considering that it was developed by FromSoftware, who are notoriously known for making the most enraging games – specifically the Dark Souls series, Bloodborne, Demon’s Souls and Sekiro.
Hidetaka Miyazaki’s games always have, and most likely will always will be, incredibly tricky to get your head around at times. In a recent interview with Playstation, Miyazaki said: “We understand that Souls-like games are regularly associated with impossible levels of difficulty with high barriers to entry. But we try to design the games to make the cycle of repeatedly trying to overcome these challenges enjoyable in itself.” This is a key part of Souls games, players must go back and learn from their mistakes in a boss fight, to make sure they are able to get closer to defeating it the next time – or the next 100 times.
Of course, using guides, watching strategy videos and summoning help may enable you to do this in Elden Ring, but difficult fights like the General Radahn have prevented some players from carrying on with their playthrough entirely. With a huge variety of unpredictable movements that are both close and far-ranged, fights like this can take dozens of tries – even for the most experienced Souls players and high-level builds. So, can Elden Ring really be considered as accessible to newcomers?
A Senior Director at a games company that wishes to remain anonymous, has played all of FromSoftware’s titles, and seems to think so. “It is accessible, but it’s still a souls game. If you don't enjoy combat-heavy gameplay, and you don't enjoy the die, die, die again, finally you win cycle, then you won't like it,” he says.
“It's about as accessible as any other Souls game, in that nothing is really explained very well. For example, the importance of scaling weapons vs levelling up. Or how poise works, or pretty much any of the subsystems that make the game.”
For newcomers that are struggling, they suggest summoning help from fellow players or spirits, using a guide to get powerful early on and playing as a magic user, which he describes as “as overpowered as ever, it really is easy mode for souls games.”
“Sometimes Elden Ring feels really unfair, but then you see that the right equipment will make the fight much easier. Sometimes you just have to learn the boss move sets and be patient. You can't button mash and expect to win. Persevere and understand that everyone struggled at first, but at some point it clicks and you can't imagine playing any other kind of game.”
Similarly, Sam Ritson, a 24-year-old student and Souls Veteran, thinks Elden Ring is an accessible gateway game, enticing new players to go back to previous FromSoftware titles and see what all the fuss was about. “I would definitely describe it as the most accessible Souls game,” he says.
“In previous titles, if you were stuck on a boss in the linear narrative, you had to keep trying to defeat that same boss until you got it - or ‘git gud’ as the community likes to put it. Elden Ring is open-world, which is amazing. Come across a boss you can’t beat yet because you’re lower level? Get on your horse and go across to the other side of the map. Find a new way, level up, come back when you feel you are ready to give it a go again.”
Although, Sam warns that Souls games are not for the faint of heart. “Whilst I understand that a lot of people do opt for easier games, every once in a while we need a specific game that doesn’t adhere to those expectations of difficulty,” he says. “If people aren’t willing to put the time and effort in to enjoy the game how it was meant to be played, then they don’t deserve to enjoy it in my opinion. It’s very similar to my views on English dub over foreign films, just watch the film how it was intended, we don’t need to westernise everything.”
30-year-old Josh Knatt, who is head of Video Content Creation here at RR, has played Bloodborne and Demon’s Souls. Josh also agrees that Elden Ring is accessible to new players. “Despite the fact that it uses the same core gameplay systems from previous Souls titles, Elden Ring provides players with a much broader world to explore to practice their skills than previous titles, along with it having a much less ambiguous narrative,” he says.
“However, many of the enemies now have a broader range of faster attack patterns that may catch many new players unaware, and the fact that all bosses are multi-phased may cause some people to struggle. FromSoftware games are notoriously difficult. Elden Ring is not easy no, however, being patient, exploring the world and learning how best to make use of characters move sets are integral to this.”
For newcomers, Josh advises that there is no need to power through a boss on the critical path and instead, people should focus on levelling stats and hunting down golden seeds, which increase your healing flask capacity – very handy for long and difficult battles.
The absence of difficulty settings has been a reoccurring debate since the release of Demon’s Souls in 2009. Each time FromSoftware brings out a new game, there is criticism about the level of difficulty involved in completing it. As Miyazaki has said, FromSoftware are renowned for high levels of difficulty, but this can be overcome, through determination and learning from previous mistakes.
In titles such as the Dark Souls series, you needed to rely on summoning other players as the only source of help in boss battles. Although, in the huge open-world of Elden Ring, there are many more options available to help you when you are stuck. You can summon other players, use spirit ashes, or simply explore elsewhere and level-up, so that your chances are a little higher the next time you try.
As the Souls Veterans have explained already, Elden Ring really is built for you to explore and move on elsewhere when you’re not feeling ready for something. Although it is still incredibly difficult at times, like any other Souls title, new players should not be put off by FromSoftware’s reputation for impossible levels of difficulty. As long as you are determined to win, willing to learn from your mistakes, seek help if needed and explore the huge world of the Lands Between when you’re stuck, anyone can give Elden Ring a try.
What do you think? Is Elden Ring accessible to new players, or might it be too difficult? Let us know in the comments.
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