What do I need to know before I start playing Elden Ring? Oh, Elden Ring. There's so much to learn and understand about you, and you won't so much as let us pause you, not even in single player! There's nothing worse than the sudden urge to check something in a menu or pull up a guide and knowing you can't — unless you're happy to have your head smashed off by an enemy you can't even see because you're looking at the aforementioned menu or guide. Video Editor Liam Richardson and I — both Soulsborne newbies when we encountered Elden Ring — have put our (happily unsmashed) heads together and come up with a list of tips and tricks we think you ought to know when you first venture forth into the Lands Between.
Who is this guide for? Everyone, really. Players completely new to the world of FromSoftware will almost certainly benefit from a little forewarning about what to expect. Elden Ring takes many of its cues from past Soulsborne games, but even if you're a long-time fan, this spiritual successor to Dark Souls et al. is a standalone with its own stuff going on and, what's more, some of the terminology used for familiar concepts might trip you up.
Elden Ring: tips and tricks for beginners
Create a character you like, but don't sweat your choices
Elden Ring has the kind of in-depth character creator we've come to expect from swanky modern RPGs, and you can easily sink a lot of time into just tweaking the RGB balance to get your character looking exactly right. However, there are surprisingly few choices to be made here that have a huge impact on how you play the game. Picking your character's origin (or class) determines their starting stats, and your choice of keepsake for them gives them a modest advantage in one specific area at the very start of the game. Other than that, character creation in Elden Ring really is mainly cosmetic.
You don't get to distribute your character's starting stat points at will, or pick their equipment beyond their keepsake. This is because Elden Ring doesn't lock you out of anything based on the character you initially choose to create. You're free to mould your build according to what you find yourself enjoying most as you play through the game, which is why you're choosing an origin rather than a class: you decide up-front where your character came from, but where they go from there is as yet unwritten. I would say, if you're an absolute beginner, it's better to err on the side of caution when picking your origin. Because, as we've already established, it really doesn't matter that much, picking a higher-levelled and more balanced class like the Confessor to begin your first playthrough with gives you a very modest leg-up without requiring you to sacrifice any key elements of the Elden Ring experience.
Make liberal use of Sites of Grace, but plan ahead
Sites of Grace are Elden Ring's answer to the bonfires from Dark Souls. The last Site of Grace you interacted with will be your respawn point if you die or exit the game, so it's useful to give one a nudge whenever you see it (unless you're really not sure you want to respawn in your current location, of course).
Resting at a Site of Grace is one of the best things you can do for your character's wellbeing. Just sitting down by one for a few seconds refills your health and focus (mana), and replenishes your flasks. It's also a calm spot to do a bit of inventory management via the Sort Chest option. There is one major downside, though: resting respawns all enemies, from minions to bosses, so be mindful if you're planning to, say, backtrack through a boss area right after healing up at a Site of Grace.
Buy the basics from Kalé as soon as you meet him
One of the first locations you'll likely reach after leaving Elden Ring's starting area is the Church of Elleh, a derelict church and current residence of a vendor named Kalé. Chat to him and he'll recommend you buy a crafting kit before moving on. This allows you to craft any recipes you know in any location, as long as you have the required ingredients. It's a potentially lifesaving ability that you'll want access to as soon as possible.
Before moving on, if you can afford it, I highly recommend picking up a torch from Kalé as well. It won't be long before you're exploring some darkened areas like caves, and take it from someone who tried: it's not worth skimping on the only light source you'll have in those areas. If you think combat in Elden Ring is hard, I assure you it's even trickier in pitch darkness.
Do your homework: take the time to learn enemy attack patterns
Elden Ring presents you with an array of weaponry and magical attacks to choose from, and I'm not going to give an in-depth run-down of every option here. The important thing to know in the beginning is that you and your tiny health bar will be going up against enemies with much bigger health bars, who also have the benefit of knowing the game much better than you because they're part of the program. Here's how to go about beginning to even that out.
They may look intimidating — indeed, they are intimidating — but enemies in Elden Ring only have so many attack moves that they can throw at you. Spend a little time dodging around them (see below) and observe their attack patterns. Every enemy type attacks differently, so there's definitely a lot to learn, but you'll begin to get a sense of when it's safest to dart in and land a blow of your own.
Make use of jump attacks for more damage
Elden Ring isn't about to tell you this, but jump attacks deal more damage than attacks from a standing position. Leaping up into the air before sticking the pointy end into some monster doesn't just make you feel like a badass, it's a legitimate strategy. It's also effective at interrupting whatever your opponent is about to do, meaning you often get the chance to nip in with a follow-up attack before feeling the pressing need to get yourself out of range.
Dodge rolling is your first line of defence (and a decent shield is your second)
Dodge rolling consumes stamina so you can't just roll all the way out of trouble like one of Elden Ring's surprisingly whimsical goats, but it's a very useful way of getting yourself clear of immediate danger nonetheless. Time it right while they're gearing up for a hit and your opponent's attack will fall wide of the mark, potentially giving you a chance to dart back in and knock a few points off of their health bar while they recentre.
You can also equip a shield or block an attack with your weapon. Though it's less ideal than not getting hit in the first place, blocking an attack can usually save your life at least once before your stamina is exhausted. Every character begins the game with a small shield linked to their origin, but it's worth picking up something more substantial (like the Manor Towershield found at Stormveil Castle) as soon as you reasonably can. Big bosses will more often than not overcome your shields regardless, so in critical path boss fights it probably makes more sense to ditch your shield and chance blocking with your weapon; but it's advisable to keep your best shield on hand at all times just the same.
Stealth is (almost) always an option
There are a few more combat options in Elden Ring beyond mere attack and defence. Thanks to its open world, Elden Ring is more receptive to stealth than previous Soulsborne games; and you can actually make stealth the core of your approach to a surprising extent, since outside of the critical path most of the game's boss fights are optional. Some origins specialise in sneaking in and out of an area to collect resources without alerting nearby enemies. Even if you don't want to avoid combat forever, dropping into stealth can be a literal lifesaver during early exploration, as it can be used to circumvent area bosses who could easily flatten you when you're fresh out of the tutorial.
Summons are literally your friend
A problem shared is a problem halved, and Elden Ring provides you with a number of NPC assistants to help you out in combat: ranging from spirit ash summons you can call from your inventory to summon spots you can interact with before entering a boss arena if you're playing offline. If you're playing online, you can instead summon a real human co-op partner to join you by placing or interacting with a golden summon spot (red ones are reserved for competitive rather than co-operative summons, so watch out for that). Bosses in particular are just much easier to defeat with some help, and Elden Ring bakes these co-op encounters into the core of its gameplay, so go for it.
You don't suck, you're just underlevelled
If there's one thing everyone knows about FromSoft games, it's that they're punishingly difficult. The problem with this reputation is that it's easy for new players to get discouraged the first time they encounter a fight they can't win and assume that they're simply not good enough at this sort of game to continue.
I'm not about to make a case against FromSoft titles being hard as nails, but you need to understand that being unable to progress in Elden Ring is even less the end of the line for you than it might have been in other Soulsbornes. Elden Ring takes place in an open world setting, so if you're being smashed flat by a boss and don't have a hope in hell of succeeding, it's quite likely that you just need to turn back and explore a bit more. (This goes for area and optional bosses as well as main story encounters, FYI.)
Spend a bit more time wandering the Lands Between to get your character and their gear levelled up, and you'll be surprised how much better things are when you make your way back to that boss. I won't claim it'll ever be a walk in the park, but I can all but guarantee you that it will get easier.
Runes do everything, so rune farm as effectively as you can
In contrast to games that give you lots and lots of different currencies and XP bars to worry about, Elden Ring has consolidated all of that into Runes. Runes can be used to buy items from vendors, level up at Sites of Grace, and upgrade your equipment.
Luckily, Runes aren't terribly hard to come by: you get some every time you defeat enemies, so an effective if grindy method of increasing your bank is to fight low-level minion groups you encounter in the world, rest at a Site of Grace so they respawn, and repeat. Bosses are, of course, worth significantly more Runes, but taking them on is a much bigger risk. As a rule of thumb, human-ish-sized enemies are minions and anything bigger is an area boss, and there's absolutely no shame in using stealth to evade the latter until you've levelled up enough to stand a fighting chance.
Hoard your Golden Runes until the last possible moment
While it's not so effective as a farming technique since you can't control the supply, keeping an eye out for Golden Runes is another great way to add to your overall stash. Golden Runes can be picked up from the environment, especially from skulls with glowing eyes and stone coffins that are littered around the Lands Between; and sometimes looting a corpse will yield some too. Open Golden Runes (the item) up in your inventory to convert them into Runes (the currency).
A word of caution: when you die, you drop your Runes. You can retrieve them from the location where you met your sticky end, which is useful if you died because of something in the environment, but less helpful if you dropped them right in a boss arena it turns out you weren't ready for. Golden Runes are a saving grace in all this: until you open them up they're an inventory item and, therefore, persist after death. Because of this, we recommend only cracking open your Golden Runes at the point where you're ready to spend the Runes.
Housekeeping: manage your pouches and inventory
The hotbar in Elden Ring is managed via pouches, which you can set to contain your favourite items. Be sure to organise these in a way that's intuitive to you. The only hard rule, I would say, is that it's important to keep your Flask of Crimson Tears equipped in your handiest item slot for quick healing. It's also worth rearranging your pouches and inventory set-up when travelling between open-world exploration and a dungeon or boss arena, based on what experience has taught you that you'll need on different occasions.
On a wider scale, it's helpful to keep on top of your inventory management by, once again, ordering its contents in a way you find intuitive and easy to navigate under pressure. Also, bear in mind that this game tracks your equipment rate against your Endurance stat (because obviously it's going to do that), so be sure to unequip anything you're not actively using since encumbrance affects your all-important dodge roll.
Take advantage of the opportunity to annotate your map
Elden Ring goes with a light touch when it comes to auto-annotating your map of its vast open world, but you have a lot of freedom to mark up your own observations. Liam recommends putting a skull at a location where you encountered a boss you weren't ready for yet so you can avoid that spot for a while, which I think is a great call. It's also useful to mark up the locations of any friendly NPCs and resource spawn locations you want to be able to return to easily.
Remember that menus don't pause the game
This one won't be news to FromSoft veterans, but it can take newbies by surprise. Soulsbornes aren't the only games that keep the world around you running when you open a menu, and it's honestly to be expected in games that make difficulty part of the core experience, but it's worth knowing about in advance all the same.
If you do need to stop the game entirely, you need to exit to the main menu. The game auto-saves pretty much constantly, so you won't lose any progress; although you will reload at the last Site of Grace you interacted with, rather than on the spot where you were standing when you quit.
Is that everything you need to know about Elden Ring? Hell no! Luckily, we've got lots more guides for you to check out, going in-depth on everything from what character attributes and stats do and how they feed into our picks for the best builds, to where to find Golden Seeds and Sacred Tears to upgrade your health and mana flasks.