Look, Elden Ring can be really tough, as all FromSoftware games are, and you will almost certainly get stomped at least a hundred if not hundreds of times during your journey in the Lands Between. However, all this attention on playing up the difficulty, as usually is the case once we get into The Discourse, detracts from the fact that the game can also be hilariously easy.
You might even say that’s the optimal way to play Elden Ring. The non-linear open world design means if you’re up against a boss that’s just too powerful, well, just go explore somewhere else and come back when you’ve gotten stronger along with some new gear or spells. And if you want to farm for hours on end until you’re Level 100 before you’ve even faced Rennala, then that’s your prerogative.
But I’m not even talking about grinding and farming runes, which, while certainly helpful in the initial hours, isn’t my idea of fun. The beauty of this huge world is that, despite your best efforts to comb over every part of the map, there’s probably going to be a cave, a catacomb, a path to a whole underground map that passes you by.
At the same time, the devs have clearly designed some of these areas with the expectation that you’ll discover them earlier, because enemies aren’t scaled in Elden Ring. Go to a late-game area too soon and you’ll probably be one-shotted, but go back to an earlier area and, like Heisenberg, you are the one who knocks.
Take Leonine Misbegotten at Castle Morne. The first time I went to this optional castle, I missed the NPCs that have a related questline and I didn’t realise the path to the boss was literally under my nose, so I just went somewhere else and forgot about it, for about 20 hours. By the time I went back, I took down what was one of the fearsome early bosses for many players in about three hits.
I’m sure some FromSoft masochists who just want to trudge through hell every step of the way will disagree, but I find it a satisfying delight carving through foes who would’ve caused me grief hours earlier - those ginormous grizzly bears, bosses who attack in pairs, the absolute bastard Crucible Knights. Or how about those creepy Cemetery Shades? I took down in one fell swoop while mockingly taking it on in the buff.
In fairness, this isn’t different from previous Souls games, but it was also very rare that you’d be compelled to revisit earlier areas. It's the same for low-level quests in The Witcher 3 or Monster Hunter World (or Rise) with rewards that are now obsolete. In Elden Ring, however, every discovery is its own reward - though those rare weapons, talismans or spirit ashes are all of some value no matter when you actually find them. And I just love coming across some of these places late to discover that what had been intended to be an intimidating boss at the end of an area can now be flattened in seconds.
It’s not like it hasn’t been earned either. After all the brutal challenges I’ve endured in the late game (and boy, are there some toughies there), getting to be OP isn’t just a joy, it’s sweet revenge.