It seems like everyone, even people who don’t usually partake in FromSoftware games, is playing Elden Ring. It’s currently the seventh most played game on Steam based on number of concurrent players and has a score of 97 on Metacritic, putting it on track to be this year’s highest rated game.
And while I have enjoyed the bits of Elden Ring I’ve played, I’m not too keen on joining the rest of my Tarnished colleagues in the Lands Between just yet. I’m gonna wait for the guide writers, speedrunners, and wiki editors to catch up, because from my dabblings in FromSoftware games, I know that in order to truly enjoy Elden Ring, I’m gonna need a lot of help that just doesn’t exist yet.
Elden Ring is a game that’s meant to be mysterious. The real fun isn’t just in defeating the challenging bosses, but also from the wonder of accidental discovery. So I understand how using guides and explainers might seem antithetical to the way Elden Ring is meant to be experienced.
But I don’t want to be surprised in Elden Ring. With how punishing these games are, surprises usually mean instant death and instant death in FromSoftware games also means a loss of progress. Hours of work and meticulous rune accumulation suddenly wiped out because of something I wasn’t prepared for, like a teleporting treasure chest or a surprise bear-skeleton?
I understand why some players absolutely love that kind of troll, but that’s the kind of stuff that will make me put down a game and never pick it up again. Having a guide helps iron out all the less glamorous bits of gameplay that might turn Elden Ring from an otherwise enjoyable experience into one that makes me want to curse my existence. I also don’t believe going into something fully armed, with all the information I can, will ruin the wonder of the game. Despite watching hours of speedruns and Let’s Plays before attempting Bloodborne on my own, I still felt the weirdly pleasing mix of horror, shock, and dread getting got by a snatcher for the first time.
A guide wouldn’t truly ruin my fun because it can’t beat a boss for me. Having a walkthrough handy for my journey through FromSoftware’s previous game, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, has made my trial against the Guardian Ape that much more tolerable. I knew where to go to farm XP and what items to buy to prepare for the fight. And though that hairy bastard has been giving me the (poop-smeared) business, I’ve been getting such a kick out of seeing my progress in real time. While having a guide can spoil some aspects of Elden Ring, it can’t take away that feeling of accomplishment.
I’m also a person who likes having a quick reference guide. I know playing Elden Ring almost requires keeping a journal of what’s where and I’m delighted by my peers sharing their illustrated notes on social media. But again, nah. If I have a question, I want it answered immediately. I don’t want to muddle through on the possibility of discovering it for myself, or hope that a past version of me found the answer before I knew the question. That’s just not appealing to me. That’s not to say I’m going to run to a wiki the minute I encounter any friction in the game, but I want the option. I’ve been accompanied by an open laptop all throughout my Sekiro journey and I’m having the time of my life.
I do appreciate how social media has become the de facto wiki for Elden Ring as its actual wiki slowly builds up in the days post-release. People are sharing tips and tricks and helpful builds and strategies. Though they wreak havoc on my FOMO, I know that I’ll reference these posts and tweets as much as any formal guide in the months to come.