How Hard is Elden Ring? – Explained

It's just as hard as it's meant to be
Elden Ring Difficulty Featured(1)

Players are often scared away from Soulslike games due to their infamous difficulty, leading them to avoid playing absolute masterpieces like Elden Ring. But is the ambitious FromSoftware title really that hard or are people simply exaggerating when they speak about it?

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Elden Ring Difficulty Explained

Following the same formula as the studio’s previous titles, Elden Ring is a very unforgiven game where anything can knock you out if you’re not careful. Controls can be stiff if you’re not used to the genre, which can be an immediate turnoff for some people. And there’s not much to say about it, because it does take some time to get used to that.

From the mightiest of bosses to the puniest of enemies, everything you see here can represent some sort of real danger. It only takes a few hits for you to be a goner. And if you get hit while surrounded by hordes of enemies, it’s probably game over.

When facing bigger threats (AKA bosses), players are incentivized to learn and respect their attacking patterns to find the perfect counterattack chance. This requires precise dodging or knowing when to block (or what you can or cannot block). Failing to do any of these may result in you being punished with losing over 40% of your health in a single hit.

The most annoying part (and one of the main reasons people tend to avoid the game) is losing your Runes after each death, and having to retrieve them at the point where you perished. And if you happen to die again, you lose them permanently. All of your hard work toward leveling up, lost within a few minutes.

Sounds like a really tough game, right?

Well, the thing is that a huge portion of the difficulty is tied to the player’s choices, which are highly influenced by the game’s design.

No, I’m not saying “it’s hard because you suck”. The game is deliberately designed to be cryptic by nature and won’t hold you by the hand, which can (and will) lead to unnecessarily harder situations. Magic can be overpowered, but you won’t see a word about that in-game, for example. You’ll have to either try and see for yourself what works best against certain types of enemies or look online for stronger builds and paths.

This can mislead players to keep trying to do things in “the hard way” instead of thinking outside the box. Throwables and consumables are useful too, you know? They can trivialize many enemies that you would otherwise struggle with for hours.

The game also features an open world, which means that you can tackle enemies in any order you want. If you managed to beat a harder enemy first, you’ll probably have an easier time with other weaker bosses soon after.

And you’re free to grind as long as you want before heading to the next big target, making the endeavor even easier. Alternatively, all you can do is get your ass kicked if you accidentally stumble upon an area filled with enemies way above your level.

Bosses are hard. But some are sometimes just easy. And one thing they have in common is in how well their attacks are telegraphed. You’ll learn most of their patterns after a few attempts, but you can still be surprised by a sudden new addition from time to time.

They feel like fair opponents instead of overpowered stat sticks that beat you to death no matter what you do. Sometimes (a lot of times, actually), all you can do is be curb-stomped for hours. But when you finally get that good run, there’s no better feeling of accomplishment once you beat it.

And this is only possible due to the previously mentioned design choices, which make overcoming those hardships a crucial part of the game. It’s not meant to be easy, but it isn’t impossible either. Elden Ring has been many people’s first introduction to Soulslike games, and it’s not a coincidence that it’s currently regarded as the best in the genre by many fans.

While the whole game and its enemies are definitely at a difficulty level above what most titles in the modern industry would consider “Normal”, Elden Ring isn’t the hardest game ever made. It requires a ton of dedication and patience, but it all pays off in the end as there’s nothing more satisfying than slaying those memorable bosses in their own domains.

Can You Change the Difficulty in Elden Ring?

Just like other genres in the game, Elden Ring has no Difficulty settings built in. Not without mods, at least. You have a standard difficulty and everyone has to beat the game on it. But just as previously mentioned, a huge chunk of it is tied to the player’s own build choices and progress throughout the game.

While pure melee fighters may struggle with certain bosses, magic-focused characters will obliterate them to smithereens in no time, for example. Some weapons will be way more effective than others during a playthrough, and leveling them is also crucial to beating those milestone enemies.

Malenia, the game’s famous hardest boss, is the same regardless of who’s playing. The difference is in how players choose to face her. Will they go head-on with no preparation at all or will they use specific, tried-and-true strategies like bleeding builds against her?

Hell, you can even gang up on her with another player. And if none of that works, you can always grind indefinitely until you’re satisfied. There are lots of ways to tackle this game, and some of them just happen to be way easier than others.

And going for the “easiest” route won’t take away any merit from your achievements. Nothing is forbidden here, and you’re free to choose your preferred path. There’s no “proper” way to play a Soulslike. Those variant paths weren’t added just for show. Go and take them from time to time as long as they make you happy.

Elden Ring has set a new bar for what the genre can be. It can be harder and harder, but it doesn’t mean it isn’t accessible for everyone who wants to give their shot at the genre. And with an upcoming DLC dropping this year, it’s time to see what else the game has to offer.

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Patrick Souza
Unfortunately stuck on Hoyoverse hell. Whenever he gets the chance to escape, he enjoys playing some good 'n old RPGs and other story-driven games. Loves tackling hard challenges in games, but his cats are still the hardest bosses he could ask for.