Elden Ring, the latest in FromSoftware’s long line of unforgiving action RPGs, is a truly excellent video game. The challenges are imposing as ever, and even more satisfying to overcome this go around. If you’re familiar with games like Dark Souls, Bloodborne, and Sekiro, you likely have a good idea of what to expect, but there are a number of new mechanics in Elden Ring that are worth having a handle on. Here are some important Elden Ring tips to keep in mind as you step forth into the Lands Between.
(Note: Button annotations refer to default controller configurations on PlayStation and Xbox.)
Don’t miss the tutorial!
Don’t laugh – Elden Ring is a difficult game that requires your full attention at all times. So much so that you can completely miss the Cave of Knowledge tutorial area at the very beginning if you’re not observant enough. Seriously, it really happens.
When you start in Elden Ring, you’ll be in a cave, and there’ll be a doorway leading to the Lands Between. But just before that, there’ll be a hole off to the side which leads to a whole other hidden part of the cave. The drop looks high, but don’t worry, you won’t be hurt too much.
It’s a must-do for everyone. Even if you’re a veteran of Dark Souls games, it’s worth doing the tutorial to make sure you have a handle on some of the new mechanics introduced in Elden Ring, and to stock up on some key items before heading into the open world. It’s worth it!
Use your Pouch!
In previous FromSoftware games, using your items quickly in the field was a bit cumbersome. You’d have to equip them in the inventory screen, and to pick the one you wanted, you’d need to scroll through them by repeatedly pressing down on the directional pad before being able to use them.
You can still use this method in Elden Ring, but it’s not exactly the most efficient way to pull out your healing flask while facing a tough enemy. How many times have you scrolled past the thing you need, or accidentally used the wrong thing? The good news is you can now assign four items for instant use with the Pouch.
How do you assign items to the Pouch?
To assign items to the pouch, bring up the primary menu screen, and on the right hand side you’ll see slots where you can equip an item to each directional button.
To use those items in the world, Hold Triangle/Y Button and then press the corresponding directional pad button.
No more scrolling! If you assign just one item to your equipment slot, it essentially becomes another instant-use item slot, very handy for things like healing and calling your horse in a pinch.
Here’s what we have assigned to our pouch, as an idea to get you started:
Triangle/Y Button + Up: Spirit Summons or Tarnished’s Wizened Finger (for writing messages)
Triangle/Y Button + Left: Flask of Cerulean Tears (FP regeneration)
Triangle/Y Button + Right: Flask of Crimson Tears (HP regeneration)
Triangle/Y Button + Down: Spectral Steed Whistle (Calls your horse, Torrent)
Square/X Button: Fire bombs or other throwable weapons
Remember to use Guard Counter
One of the new techniques in Elden Ring is the Guard Counter, a technique that allows you to counterattack immediately after blocking an enemy blow with your shield. More often than not, it will stagger an enemy in the same way that parrying does, leaving them open to a critical hit.
While it won’t be effective on all enemies, you can more or less rely on it for any human enemies, or enemies that are your size. And yes – if you’re a FromSoftware veteran it can feel a bit like cheating. But in the world of Elden Ring, you gotta take any advantage you can get.
How do I perform a Guard Counter?
To perform a Guard Counter, have a shield equipped. While you’re blocking with L1/LB, wait for the enemy to hit your shield, and then hit R2/RT to perform the Guard Counter hit. You can follow up with a critical hit by using R1/RB.
One thing to keep in mind is to guard counter at the end of an enemy’s attack string. If you perform it too early, you can be interrupted by follow-up hits.
A good, low-stakes place to practice this technique is in the Cave of Knowledge, which is the tutorial area encountered at the beginning of the game.
Keep an eye out for Glowing Skulls at night
The world of Elden Ring features a day/night cycle, and certain things only happen at night – one of which is the presence of skulls with glowing eyes, found on the ground.
Keep a keen eye out for them, because when you crack them open by rolling into them, you’ll be rewarded with 200 runes – the currency you spend on levelling up and buying things from merchants. This might not seem like much, but the skulls are more common than you think, and when you’re just starting out it can mean being able to pick up a few extra useful items (like Crafting Books) that will set you up for the long haul.
And hey, it’s free money without a catch. Cherish this rare opportunity in life.
Watch the skies for Golden Rain at night
Another thing that can only happen at night is that the enormous golden tree you see in the game will make it rain gold leaves. While it’s not something you can just snatch from the sky while shouting “FREE MONEY”, when it rains gold, the runes you earn from killing enemies will increase by roughly 5%.
Don’t be afraid to go out at night, and when it starts raining gold leaves (you’ll also see a glowing gold aura around your character), it’s not a bad idea to return to an enemy enclave you’re confident you can tackle, and let loose.
Remember to have the patience for stealth
FromSoftware introduced stealth mechanics in its previous game, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, and has kept some of these mechanics in Elden Ring. It turns out they’re very, very useful.
Because of its open world, Elden Ring allows you to approach situations from a variety of angles, and if you have the patience for stealth, you can thin out enemy ranks more easily by using backstabs (R1/RB directly behind an enemy), and avoid getting mobbed by more enemies than you can handle.
It’s just as useful against large, single targets – getting a really good amount of damage in to start the encounter is always a good thing.
Later in the game, there will be enclosed dungeon areas with very difficult enemies. You can take them on, of course, but you can also save yourself the lost health and potential headache by simply sneaking right past them. So don’t forget to do it!
How do I sneak in Elden Ring?
To enter stealth mode, simply click in on the left analog stick. The game will teach you this in the Cave of Knowledge tutorial area at the beginning of the game, but what it won’t tell you is that you can move more quickly with the Circle/B button.
Spirit Summons are your best friends. Use them!
One of the new gameplay mechanics in Elden Ring are the Spirit Summons. They’re ghostly forms of Elden Ring’s enemies that you can summon to fight on your side, in certain situations.
When you see a white tombstone icon on your screen (pictured), usually during boss fights and major enemy encampments, you can spend some of your FP to summon the Spirits to help you out – and they’re great.
At the very least, they can act as decoys to distract enemies while you attack them from behind. Pick the right kind of Spirit Summon for the situation, and they can make a significant contribution to whittling down the health of your enemies.
You’ll get your first Spirit Summons, three Lone Wolves, early in the game as part of your natural progression. Other Spirit Summons, like sorcerers, poison-spewing jellyfish, naughty little stone imps, archers, and more can be found via merchants, treasure chests, and in the game’s world.
You’ll be able to upgrade the Spirit Summons once you progress far enough and meet a certain character – but the resources you need to do so are quite rare. Nevertheless, even at their base level, Spirit Summons are an incredibly useful tool that you shouldn’t feel bad about using – Elden Ring will still be very challenging, even with this assistance.
Don’t be afraid to restart and pick another class
Elden Ring lets you pick from a variety of character classes when you start a new game, and each has a very particular specialisation, in terms of their spread of attributes and their starting equipment.
As with previous FromSoftware games, you’ll eventually be able to obtain the armour and weapons of every one of these classes as you progress, and reshape your character stats to your liking as you level up. Like the famous saying goes: In the end, it doesn’t even matter.
But at the beginning, it absolutely does matter, because your class will heavily dictate your playstyle for the first several hours. If you think you’re having a bad time from the outset, it would be worth trying a different class before you pack it all in.
Perhaps you picked the Warrior with two swords because they looked cool, but realise that you really need to rely on the safety of the Vagabond’s shield. Perhaps you’re not vibing with the slow and cumbersome, strength-based weapon of the Hero, and would prefer something lighter and quicker that relies on dexterity, like the Bandit’s dagger. Maybe you just want to stay far away from every enemy you can, and would prefer the sorcery of the Astrologer, or the bow of the Samurai.
You can redistribute your stat points in Elden Ring
If you realise you’ve made a bit of a goof levelling up some hours into the game, don’t worry. You’ll be able to respec your stats sometime later, but you’ll need to defeat a somewhat tough enemy to do so.
How do I respec my stats in Elden Ring?
The first thing you need to do is reach the second open-world area, which is Liurnia of the Lakes. Follow the guidance of the Sites of Grace and you’ll eventually reach a location called Academy Gate Town.
Some distance southwest of this area is a gazebo sitting in the middle of the lake, surrounded by three enormous shrimp, who should be pretty docile. Northwest of this location is another giant shrimp, which is all on its lonesome.
Kill this shrimp, kill it good. But be prepared, because once it goes down, it’ll transform into a much more fearsome Scion enemy with flailing limbs all over the place.
Beat this enemy and it’ll drop the Larval Tear, which you need to hang onto and exchange with an NPC you’ll meet in the future to reassign your stats.
Remember to stop and smell the roses
Elden Ring is going to be a tough slog no matter how well-equipped you are. But no matter how much trouble you’re having, or how many walls you’re beating your head against, remember to stop every once in a while and just admire the scenery.
Elden Ring is a quietly beautiful game with some haunting landscapes, and it’s easy to forget that with how much danger there is in the world. So if you’re having a tough time, stop by the nearest cliff and take a moment to just gaze out into the ocean, or enjoy the nice horizon to centre yourself.
Who knows? Maybe you’ll spot a path or area in the distance you haven’t explored yet, and that could be the leg up you need to continue on with the rest of your journey.
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