In the days after Elden Ring‘s release, Twitter was awash with horror stories of its first major boss: Margit, The Fell Omen. He was tough—stifling newcomers and longtime fans alike with unpredictable attacks, massive damage, and ability to fight at close range or distance. Margit quickly became a meme, but in reality he was a well-intended lesson from Miyazaki on how to play Elden Ring: Take your time.
In their eagerness to progress Elden Ring’s main plot, many players faced Margit far too soon, eschewing the game’s enormous world and plethora of side quests in their race toward the finish line. On the other hand, I came to Elden Ring a few days late and knew all about Margit. So, instead of heading to Stormveil Castle, I explored. All over the opening area of Limgrave, The Weeping Peninsula to the south, and even parts of Liurnia, which you’re not meant to visit until after defeating Margit and another boss, Godrick the Grafted.
By the time I accidentally stumbled into battle with Margit, I beat him on the first try. I proceeded through the next 100 hours of the game in similar fashion—avoiding the traditional difficulty walls by emphasizing exploration. Now at level 110 or so, I’ve beaten many of the game’s major bosses. Here’s a rundown of several high profile bosses and how many attempts it took me to beat them:
- Margit: 1
- Godrick: 2
- Rennala: 2
- Radahn: 1
- Astal: 1
- Morgott: 1
The point isn’t that I’m great at this game. I’m definitely not. The lesson is the opposite: Elden Ring gives the player the tools they need to succeed against the game’s innate difficulty. Even better, the solutions are optional and player-driven. Exploration is obviously a huge aspect of the Metroid series, but Metroid Dread is so streamlined players are given little opportunity to leave the critical path and power up. During my “Normal” playthrough of Dread, I spent an hour exploring and collecting missed upgrades after hitting a wall against the first boss, Kraid. I ended up with a dozen or so more missiles, but no more health than. Exploration didn’t make me appreciably stronger or better equipped to take down the boss that was causing me grief.
I just had to “git gud.”
Or stop playing.
In a recent piece called “Elden Ring
has an easy mode, but many players aren’t brave enough to use it,” Input
’s Steven Wright explores how Miyazaki has included these optional gameplay solutions for fine-tuning the game’s difficulty compared to previous Souls
You can burn mana to spawn AI helpers called Spirit Ashes in almost every boss fight with no penalty, and you can even find specific items to improve their stats, just like how you hire the blacksmith to sharpen your sword. There’s also the Flask of Wondrous Physick, an early game pickup that grants customizable buffs, such as a few split seconds of infinite mana — which is the secret ingredient in many of the sorcery cheese videos you’ve seen online.
Regardless of how you feel about difficulty options in games like this — or how you define the tricky but vital business of accessibility — it’s undeniable that Elden Ring offers players more options to sand down the sharp edges of its brutality than not only any previous Souls entry, but most “hardcore” games in general.
The key here is that the difficulty-relief comes through various systems that the player can toggle on/off at will and when needed. Want to cruise through the game? Explore widely. Upgrade the Mimic Tear Spirit Ash (a summonable AI-controlled companion) or Black Knife Tiche and let them do the dirty work against bosses. Radahn got you down? Summon friends or strangers to help you out. Struggling as a melee user? Change your build to support ranged attacks.