Every time there is a new souls game there is a new series of opinion pieces by gaming pundits questioning the difficulty of FromSoft games. Elden Ring is the first one I’ve really been able to invest a serious amount of time into (and succeed).. And, as someone who has previously criticized (which may be too strong a word) FromSoft for overly-difficult games, I feel like I can toss my thoughts in on the “Is Elden Ring too hard?” debate.
Elden Ring difficulty: Who this is important to
The chief kinds of people who justify asking for greater accessibility (or difficulty options) in FromSoft games are those who are handicapped, older people with slower reflexes, people with limited free time, or a combination of all three (which is me).
When Elden Ring started revealing gameplay, I had to ask myself.. Is Elden Ring’s difficulty too hard for me?
Elden Ring’s technical accessibility
Well, Elden Ring hasn’t really improved technical accessibility; Elden Ring like other souls-likes requires a lot of hand-gymnastics and a controller, which may not work for everybody. I myself have such bad pain that if I had to constantly react quickly and push all sorts of buttons in perfect sequence all the time I wouldn’t be playing it.
Instead, Elden Ring reduces the frequency requirement of this sort of thing in the form of an open world that encourages you to get out and explore, rather than trying to push on through a boss to get to the next region.
In fact, many boss fights are optional.
Even more, there are numerous ways to “cheese” the game in order to level up, get better gear, and be better equipped to handle both required and optional boss fights, and this sort of thing isn’t really an exploit in the truest sense: FromSoft clearly expects you to do this.
On top of this, magic and ranged combat in general gives players who may not feel confident in the direct confrontation of boss fights an out. Magic and ranged combat is Elden Ring’s lowest difficulty.. However, the game still presents a good and interesting challenge, which means the game retains the classic FromSoft “Death is a mechanic” system.
How much time do you need to play Elden Ring?
This is where things go south: Elden Ring is hard to really play in short sessions. Sure, you can run around the open world, do a mini dungeon, and then exit safely in less than 30 minutes.
Legacy dungeons, or even really progressing in the game, however, demand just a bit more of you.
I myself get my best experience when I sit and play for about 2-3 hour (uninterrupted, given the lack of pause) sessions. This allows me to really understand what I’m doing, where I’m going, and complete a solid plan, even revising it to level up a bit more in order to complete said plans.
This is where Elden Ring’s easier difficulty crumbles just a bit: Despite having a wide swath of respawn points in the form of Stakes of Marika alongside the Lost Grace sites, if you’re not looking up information on a second screen while you’re playing you can be stuck for hours trying to figure out what you should be doing next.
Oh, and I’ve been severely time-limited myself, meaning not only do I have less time to play, but less time to produce the guides that keep this site awash in traffic.
So, in summary: Is Elden Ring too hard?
In all honesty, this is going to be a very subjective thing. I know a number of people who hit the refund button on Steam that I’d consider accomplished gamers; more accomplished than me, in fact, and I run this site.
If you want the next Ubisoft Open World with FromSoft imagination, this isn’t it.. But then it wouldn’t be a FromSoft game, as others are fond of saying.
Elden Ring IS easier, but not in any way most of us expected.
Is it for everybody? Not quite, just because of the time factor.
For the most part, for once, Elden Ring is a FromSoft game I’m good enough to play.