It's been a little over a month since Elden Ring took the gaming world by storm, and the dust is finally starting to settle. Completing the massive game is no small feat, but millions of gamers (myself included) have completed the game and are ready to rank it amongst its predecessors. My most surprising takeaway was how developer FromSoftware made some very notable efforts to make the game more accessible than the Dark Souls trilogy and Bloodborne. It's not just me, either – accessibility in Elden Ring (or lack thereof) has been a major topic of discussion amongst fans recently.
Of course, that isn't to say that the game is easy. Far from it, actually, as Elden Ring has some of the most challenging boss fights in any game. I could write several thousand words about how much I despise the [REDACTED], Blade of [REDACTED] fight, but I digress. What matters most is that the game eases in newcomers in some surprising ways, though not all are without their drawbacks. Here are 10 ways in which Elden Ring is surprisingly accessible (and one big way it isn't).
10. Item Crafting
You'd be forgiven for assuming the item crafting in Elden Ring was an afterthought, but it's a cool addition nonetheless. You spend hours riding through the Lands Between on your faithful steed, Torrent, so why not pick up some resources while on the move? After obtaining some “cookbooks,” you can use an item crafting menu to create antidotes, arrows, and much, much more. You can easily get through the game without crafting, but it just may end up saving your scarlet rot-infected hide.
9. Flask of Wondrous Physick
The Flask of Crimson Tears is an essential item that restores health and can be refilled at Sites of Grace. It acts identically to the Estus Flask from Dark Souls, and should be a mainstay in anyone's item hotbar. The Flask of Wondrous Physick is lesser known, but offers a bevy of buffs. Found in the Third Church of Marika, the Flask of Wondrous Physick allows you to combine two ingredients for a temporary buff. Give yourself some extra poison resistance, make yourself tankier, or simply make it an extra gulp of crimson tears. The flask is rechargeable, but can only be used once between rests.
8. Refill Flask Charges on the Go!
Speaking of flasks, don't you wish you could just explore the Lands Between to your heart's content without worrying about resting? Elden Ring rewards players who want to keep pushing forward in an innovative manner. If you take down a group of enemies or a particularly strong foe, you'll gain charges to your health and/or focus flasks. If you're out of flask charges and see a group of foes nearby, it might be worth risking your neck to take them on and get those charges back.
7. Guard Counters (and Guarding in General)
Remember how much fun it was to use a shield in Demon's Souls and the original Dark Souls? Before every enemy encounter in the following games required you to roll around endlessly to exploit I-frames? Well, shields are back, baby! Not only is guarding (even sans shield) viable for much of the game, but you now have a nifty guard counter. Simply press the heavy attack button immediately after guarding an attack and you'll unleash a powerful counterblow. And I'll be honest – it's worth using for the satisfying “SHING!” sound effect alone.
6. Ashes of War
Sticking with combat, you can now apply Ashes of War to armaments to give them special attacks and traits. Better yet, you can apply Ashes of War to multiple armaments, with no penalty for switching. You can give a regular old broadsword the ability to inflict flame damage or power up a shield's defensive capabilities. It sure beats being locked into one upgrade path per weapon!
Jumping is hardly a new thing in open-world games. Heck, it's not even technically new in FromSoftware's Souls games. A dedicated jump button in this style of game, though, is something to cheer for. Jump across obstacles or spam powerful jump attacks to quickly stagger enemies. My only complaint is that it leads to the inclusion of more dreaded platforming sections.
4. More Checkpoints
This is a big example of accessibility in Elden Ring. Not only are Sites of Grace (the standard checkpoints) fairly plentiful, but additional checkpoints are made available in the form of Stakes of Marika. In simple terms, this means the run to retrieve your lost currency after dying is much less taxing than in Dark Souls. Whether it's a Site of Grace or a Stake of Marika, it's likely just around the corner from a challenging boss.
Torrent is your Tarnished character's spectral steed, and one of the game's best features. Your loyal companion makes both long-distance travel and combat less painful. The boost of speed while on horseback is appreciated, but Torrent's double-jump is a game-changer, allowing you to reach seemingly inaccessible ledges with ease. Hit-and-run horseback tactics also make overworld bosses significantly easier.
2. Spirit Ashes
Dark Souls games allow you to summon NPC characters to assist in boss battles under very particular conditions. Elden Ring offers the same NPC-summoning, but also has a new mechanic with Spirit Ashes. After obtaining a summoning bell from an NPC early on, you can summon spectral allies for nearly every boss encounter or difficult area. Summon a jellyfish to blast foes with a poisonous stream, or even a clone of yourself that can use whatever items you have equipped. Spirit Ashes make even offline gaming feel like a cooperative experience in Elden Ring.
1. Opt-In PvP
PvP (Player-versus-Player) is a controversial aspect of FromSoftware's “Soulsborne” games that has nonetheless remained a staple. Previous games offered risk-reward opportunities by granting abilities and increased stats at the cost of opening your game world to invasion by other players. Those with no desire to partake in PvP combat no longer have to set the game to offline mode in Elden Ring. Now, all competitive aspects are “activated” through the use of an item that you receive at the central hub area.
How Is Elden Ring Less Accessible?
Ten examples of notable accessibility in Elden Ring are nothing to shrug at. That being said, players should look out for one major potential pitfall that could create massive setbacks. It's ridiculously easy to miss even the most obvious item or NPC if you don't examine your surroundings thoroughly enough. As I shared in my early impressions article, I embarrassingly missed the very first Site of Grace in the overworld. The one called “The First Step.” Worse yet, many new players accidentally move past the tutorial section, which inexplicably requires you to drop off a ledge into darkness.
Elden Ring Is A Journey Worth ‘Gitting Gud' For
Elden Ring is without a doubt a challenging experience, but it is more forgiving and accessible than you would expect – at least for its first half. Patience and perseverance are still necessary to get your Tarnished to the Elden Throne, but nearly every situation has multiple viable solutions. After doubling down on difficulty with Dark Souls III and Sekiro, the relative accessibility in Elden Ring has me optimistic for FromSoftware's next major project.