I have now recorded nearly 75 hours of gameplay with Elden Ring and am taking my sweet time making my way through The Lands Between. I wrote about how I am using summons to get through the game with the help of friends and strangers alike, and I’ve created a build so focused on magic that I can make my way through almost any encounter. But what is it like when an Elden Ring player tries another FromSoftware title? Have I really learned anything that will help me get through a franchise that I’ve notoriously had tantrums for? Turns out Elden Ring gently molded me into (pause for effect) a FromSoftware fan.
Become Elden Lord
I tried Souls games before Elden Ring, and I was dumb enough to try them out on Twitch when I used to stream. For several sessions in a row, my rather sparse audience was forced to watch me curse, moan, scream and otherwise act like a child denied a treat while trying and failing to get out of Dark Soul 1’s Undead Burg. I’m so quick to get frustrated and (at the time) completely oblivious to FromSoftware’s enemy AI, I couldn’t understand their attack patterns and kept getting trapped in a barrage of undead dogs or pinned down by a crossbow bolt from all the way through a courtyard. After a few tries on my stream that looked like Sisyphean to say the least, I put Dark Souls down, vowing never to touch it again.
But Elden Ring promised to be different from other FromSoftware titles and the studio delivered. The game offers a variety of paths to take to improve your skills, find better weapons and practice your fighting skills, in short, to better equip yourself for the punishing battles that you will undoubtedly face. When I first stepped into The Lands Between, I almost stepped into the infamous hard Tree Sentinel of the Ring of Elden but he was scared of his bulk, so I turned on my heel and pushed Torrent to an area that seemed less intimidating. Hours and hours of gameplay later, and long after the anti-Sentinel Tree sentiment spread across the internet, I realized I still haven’t beaten 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 behind me, a staggering number of great enemies downed and a solid knowledge of swordplay, I felt ready to take on another FromSoftware title. Beating the bosses I would normally take refuge from has helped me realize that I can handle tough battles if I’m properly prepared for them. So I started Dark Souls Remastered and went back to the Undead Suburb.
That was my first mistake. I have since learned that FromSoftware games notoriously don’t end because players get stuck in particularly difficult areas, take a break from the game, then come back and are once again deflated by the difficulty of that area. As soon as I load my Dark Souls save, I am immediately killed by an undead attack dog. I hide at a campfire and shiver when I remember this is the frustrating path to the Goat Demon that made me curse my entire streaming audience nearly a year ago.
My second mistake was a complete lack of preparation. Elden Ring taught me a lot, but it’s clear I’m underpowered and using the wrong build. My original Dark Souls build from months ago was all about strength, while my Elden Ring build is all about dexterity and intelligence, offering high physical damage and the ability to cast spells quickly. I have now become a certain type of FromSoftware player and it clearly won’t work in an old build. I make several heroic efforts to get through the area, which includes a flame-breathing dragon, multiple attack dogs, and fast-moving thieves to attack you as you go into battle with the Goat Demon boss. I only reach the boss once: along the way I am eliminated 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 face the demon head-on, he defeats me in two blows. I left Dark Souls again.
That’s when I remember the advice from 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 focusing on pyromancy, I foolishly tried to attack the game from an angle I didn’t feel comfortable with. So, still stinging for dog bites in Dark Souls, I decide to try Dark Souls 3 instead. This time I start with a pyromancer build and once I learn how to throw fireballs I easily take out the first boss Ludex Gundyr, laughing maniacally as he falls to the ground. From there, I move through the first area of Lothric, making my way through infantrymen, thieves and knights alike.
When it comes time for me to fight Dark Souls 3’s second (and hardest) boss, I have to admit I’m worried. Will my addiction to pyromancy be my undoing? Will I be forced to try to use my lower sword skills? It turns out that my IRL Fortuna stats are pretty high, as Vordt of the Boreal Valley is an ice-based boss that takes a lot of damage from fire attacks. I make sure I have my load of equipment low enough to feel nimble and nimble, and I spend the fight dancing away from his mace attack and throwing fireballs in his wake. I win Vordt on the first try and emerge into the next area with all the confidence of a veteran FromSoftware player. Because thanks to Elden Ring, now I am.
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