Elden Ring Beginner's Guide Combat Survival Exploration

Similar to the Souls games, Elden Ring can prove to be a challenge for newcomers. However, with a bit of skill, some luck, and an abundance of patience, players can succeed. Indeed, this is the most approachable Souls-like game around, so it’s a great way to see what this genre is all about. Here’s our Elden Ring beginner’s guide to help you with combat, survival, and exploration tips.

Note: For more information, check out our Elden Ring guides and features hub.

 

Elden Ring beginner’s guide – Combat, survival, and exploration tips for Tarnished newcomers

Deaths are only the beginning

Let’s get this out of the way: the most common consensus about Souls/Souls-like games is that they’re very difficult, and that’s totally fine. Elden Ring follows this concept well, though there are many improvements that can help a newcomer. Still, you’re bound to die often, but that’s just part of the game. Never feel discouraged and, if you think you’re hitting a brick wall during a tough boss fight, it’s fine to explore other locations or level up some more.

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The Cave of Knowledge

After your first “death,” you should spawn in a dimly-lit cavern. There’s a chasm that you can jump down to, which leads to the Cave of Knowledge. This is the game’s tutorial area, with several tips that appear as messages or signs. You’ll even battle a miniboss to see if you’ve learned the basics.

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Gathering and losing runes

Runes are the basic currency in Elden Ring (akin to gold/souls). Every enemy you kill will drop a number of runes. Likewise, you should look for skulls with glowing eyes. When you break these, you can pick up Golden Rune items, which can be used via your inventory to earn runes.

Runes are used to purchase gear, upgrade abilities/weapons, and level up. Still, be forewarned that you’ll lose all the runes you have on you if you die. You have a chance to retrieve them from the spot where you perished. But, if you get killed along the way, those runes are gone for good. As such, it’s sometimes a better idea to amass some extra runes in a low-level area if you need that extra level up or spend them on useful items, as opposed to losing them completely in high-risk zones.

Note: You can learn more in our rune farming guide and rune loss prevention guide.

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Sites of Grace and fast travel

Elden Ring‘s landscape is dotted with Sites of Grace. These are “bonfires” or save points with multiple functions. One of the most important is that they act as fast travel points, so you can swiftly go from one area to the next provided that you tagged/discovered the Site of Grace  there.

Similarly, when you rest in a Site of Grace, you restore all your HP and MP, as well as the charges of your flasks/potions. However, enemies will also respawn. The good news is that some crafting materials like ores and herbs will reappear once more, allowing you to collect a lot of them in a short time. Likewise, Sites of Grace are often found at the beginning of dungeons or in front of a boss arena, which means you won’t need to go through a pack of enemies just to reach an objective.

The deaths you experience will cause you to respawn in a Site of Grace or a nearby Stake of Marika (checkpoint). Apart from these, Sites of Grace have other functions such as leveling up, assigning flask charges, memorizing/equipping spells, and more.

Note: The Site of Grace that you’ll visit in an area known as Gatefront is where you’ll meet an important character named Melina. She’ll allow you to use Sites of Grace to level up by spending runes.

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Picking the right character for your playstyle and learning about stats

Every class in Elden Ring will function in a similar manner if you build them the same way over time. The key differences are with the starting weapons/armor and stat spread. Speaking of stats, here’s the gist:

  • Vigor (HP), Mind (FP/mana), and Endurance (stamina and carry weight) are all passive functions with bars at the top-left corner of your screen.
  • For those who want to focus on physical damage, you can go with Strength (slower but stronger weapons) or Dexterity (faster but weaker weapons, and slightly increased spellcasting time). Those who like to focus on Strength can try the Vagabond or Hero. For Dexterity, meanwhile, the ones with the highest base stats are the Samurai and Warrior.
  • As for spellcasting, there are three stats to consider. Intelligence is primarily used by Sorcery-type spells (i.e., offensive elemental abilities), whereas Faith is used by Incantation-type spells (i.e., some offensive holy spells, but also a bunch of healing/support abilities). Lastly, Arcane can be used by both schools of magic, though it’s also the stat that determines your item discovery/drop rate. Spellcaster starting classes include the Astrologer (Intelligence), Prophet (Faith), and Confessor (Faith).
  • Some classes can be considered hybrids due to having two stats that are higher, while the rest lag behind. For instance, there’s the Bandit (Dexterity and Arcane) and Prisoner (Dexterity and Intelligence). Lastly, there’s the Wretch, which is for more experienced players.

Not counting the three passive functions mentioned above, you might see gear pieces or spells that require several stat values before they can be equipped/used (i.e., STR 14, DEX 16, and FAI 8). Because of this, the concept of leveling in Elden Ring is mostly about prioritizing a particular offensive stat. You’ll only add points into other stats if you want to equip/use a particular item or spell. Naturally, adding points to Vigor (HP) is a given just to help you survive, whereas magic users will also want more Mind (FP/mana).

Note: You can learn more in our character creation guide and attribute respec guide.

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Mounting up on Torrent

When Melina lets you use a Site of Grace to level up, she’ll also give you an item that lets you summon Torrent, your trusty horse. Torrent can be used to traverse the landscape faster, though you can’t call upon him in interior areas or dungeons.

Note: You can learn more in our exploration and mounted combat guide.

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Use map markers and beacons

The Lands Between in Elden Ring is massive, and you’ll probably get distracted and lost as you explore its regions. With so many points of interest, you could easily feel overwhelmed. Still, you could open the game’s world map and press “R” to add markers. These icons will aid you in case you saw something interesting and would like to return to it later. You may also place a beacon on the map by pressing “E,” which adds a small icon on your compass but only when you’re fairly close to that location.

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Be on the lookout for statues that point toward something

While roaming the overworld of Elden Ring, you might spot odd-looking statues that point toward the horizon. If you interact with these, a faint trail will be revealed that leads to a dungeon. If the dungeon is further away, then you can base it on the trail’s general direction, which you’ll also see on your map.

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Dung Beetles restore flasks, and they might give other rewards as well

You’ll also want to have a keen eye for Dung Beetles that roll their “treasure” around. Those with a red and blue glow restore your HP and MP flasks, respectively. However, a select few are quite special. They might provide you with an Ash of War skill, Incantation spells, or Smithing Stones for weapon upgrades.

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Blocking, parrying, dodging, and guard countering

A plethora of mechanics are in play when you engage enemies in Elden Ring. Chief among these are the ones related to avoidance and countering:

  • Blocking is the most simple, as you just equip a shield to prevent hits. However, you could lose a lot of stamina with each hit that you mitigate. Sometimes, shields won’t have 100% resistances, too, which means partial damage will land.
  • Guard Counters, meanwhile, require you to block and follow up with a heavy attack. This can be devastating if you time it right at the end of an enemy’s combo chain.
  • Dodging is all about rolling in the right direction at the proper time to avoid a hit and get those sweet invincibility frames/iframes. A successful dodge means no damage is taken, and the enemy might be left open. A poor one could mean rolling straight into a blast or a powerful blow that annihilates you.
  • Lastly, parrying is an Ash of War skill that might be present in certain shields, but can also be assigned to others once you acquire the ability. This is akin to a perfect block where you deflect an attack and stun the enemy in the process.

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Poise/Super Armor, stuns, criticals, and stealth

While we’re on the subject, we should also discuss additional facets of combat in Elden Ring:

  • Poise – This is a stat that appears on your character panel and it’s based on your armor’s weight/type. It represents how vulnerable you are to interruptions when attacked by enemies (i.e., a split-second animation where your character is forced back upon getting hit).
  • Super Armor – This isn’t actually seen, but it’s a mechanic that’s in play when you fight elites and bosses. If you can wail away on them by using (a) charged/heavy attacks, (b) dash attacks, (c) jumping attacks, and (d) guard counters, they’ll eventually get stunned. You can follow up with a critical hit, which makes you invulnerable to everything else while the animation is playing.
  • Stealth – Stealth is a key gameplay mechanic while you’re exploring dangerous areas. You can crouch-walk behind enemies or hide in tall bushes. If you can get closer to a target without getting spotted, you can perform a critical hit.

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Ash Summons and NPC Helpers

After obtaining Torrent, you can go back to a Site of Grace that you visited earlier in the Church of Elleh. There, a witch named Renna will hand over the Spirit Calling Bell and the Lone Wolf Ashes. From this point onwards, you’ll have the ability to summon spectral beasts and mobs at certain areas of the campaign, including boss fight arenas.

Apart from this, certain bouts will allow you to summon NPC helpers. They will fight and create a distraction when you’re up against tougher foes.

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Multiplayer and solo online: Learn from others

I’m not going to talk about the PvP component of Elden Ring (because that definitely annoys me in Souls games). Instead, I suggest playing online even while you’re soloing. This allows you to see hints from other players:

  • Messages – Messages left in a white scribble might contain hints or funny blurbs.
  • White phantoms – Periodically, you might see white phantoms running around. These can help you ascertain what other players might be doing in that exact location.

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  • Bloodstains and red phantoms – When you interact with a bloodstain, you’ll see how a player died in that particular situation.
  • Multiplayer items and summons – Lastly, you can acquire items that allow you to become a host for co-op multiplayer or join those who are looking for help. Just be forewarned that playing co-op will also open you up to possible PvP invasions.

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When in doubt, cheese with a ranged weapon

Last but not least, I also advise you to pick up a ranged weapon in Elden Ring. This is because of how boss AI works. Overworld bosses have an aggro range and they also don’t replenish their HP unless you die or rest in a Site of Grace. As such, you can safely snipe them from afar, cheesing with ease as long as you have the ammo to spare.

Note: You can learn more in our ranged weapons and ammo guide. Also, since we’ve discussed everything, maybe it’s time to venture forth and tackle the objectives in Limgrave.

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Elden Ring is available via Steam. For more information, check out our guides and features hub.

Jason Rodriguez
Jason Rodriguez writes for various websites under the Enthusiast Gaming umbrella -- Destructoid, Flixist, Daily Esports, PlayStation Enthusiast, and PC Invasion. Jason's Steam library has 1,400+ games at the moment so he definitely has a lot of things to talk about. He's also one of only five games journalists from the Philippines. Just kidding. There are definitely more around, but he doesn't know anyone. Mabuhay!

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