The fastest-selling Souls game yet, Elden Ring has drawn more players than any previous entry, many of them new to FromSoftware’s mojo. While plenty have enjoyed deciphering the game on their own, including a few developers we spoke to about the game’s approach to tutorials, others have found themselves hungry for a more guided introduction.
Hop on social media, especially the Elden Ring subreddit (opens in new tab), and search for the game with terms like “new player,” “tutorial,” or even “didn’t know” and you’ll find a bottomless well of Tarnished feeling stumped. Some of the most commonly overlooked things are little details like how to heal or quickly dismount your spirit steed, Torrent, or how to two-hand weapons.
In a similar vein, many players have joked about getting far into the game, if not outright beating it, without discovering certain features. Some players never realized (opens in new tab) that guard counters, where you launch a staggering attack after blocking a hit, were even a thing. Some didn’t know you can charge spells by holding the cast button. Ironically, a not-insignificant chunk of players unwittingly skipped the tutorial, the Cave of Knowledge, only to blitz through it later on (opens in new tab).
Elden Ring is a massive open-world game, but it mostly cuts the waypoints, quest lists, and other markers that have become common in the genre. Not only that, it’s a FromSoftware game, and it’s got all the eccentricities that come with that. We can also attribute some of the confusion to how Elden Ring handles tutorials – outside the Cave of Knowledge, usually with sparse messages or prompts, though there is at least a helpful tips gallery in the main menu now.
To get another perspective, we asked a few developers – some of the same folks who helped us outline what the hell a Souls-like even is – how they feel about Elden Ring’s teaching methods and how tutorials are best applied.
“I don’t mind tutorial sequences that are organically part of the world,” says James Silva of Ska Studios. “‘Uh oh, a fallen tree blocks your path. L3 to crouch.’ Ninja Village in Ninja Gaiden Black, for instance. I do this in Salt and Sacrifice.”
Silva reckons the collaborative Souls community is as good a resource as the game itself. “I come from a generation where gamers relied on community lore to fill the gaps left by instruction booklets, and Souls-likes recaptured this for me,” he adds, joking that he also had to Google how to two-hand weapons. “Despite [the Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice tutorial character] Hanbei the Undying, I got the best advice on timing Mikiri Counter from a friend, just like old times.”
Indeed, for every post from a struggling newcomer, there’s another thread rounding up useful tips (opens in new tab), sharing discoveries (opens in new tab), or helping others avoid common mistakes (opens in new tab). This is how these games work, which is why FromSoftware’s appeal for no Elden Ring spoilers is so odd (opens in new tab). Every day brings new developments. Don’t jump off a steep ledge without testing the height with a rainbow stone. Why bother with dogs when you can repel them with a special torch? Don’t hug that one lady, she’s radioactive or something.
This sense of collaboration – jolly cooperation, you might call it – is woven directly into the game through the message system, and there’s a fair argument to be made that giving players the tools to teach and warn (and troll) each other in-game is one heck of a tutorial in its own right.
Kiron Ramdewar of Mortal Shell publisher Playstack highlights the design challenge that FromSoftware faces. “The big problem that Elden Ring (and other Souls-likes) have is that the games purposefully aren’t chock-full of guides and tooltips,” he says. “Giving players the feeling of discovery and freedom means you do not want to bombard them with tutorial screens or guiding arrows. It is a tricky balancing act when working with millions of players of varying ages, skills, and experience with the genre.”
Ramdewar acknowledged that a more bespoke, optional tutorial could help some players, but is quick to add that “with the number of systems in Elden Ring, I think it would slow the game’s opening significantly if everything was explained to the player via gameplay-focused tutorials.”
“You are encouraged to experiment and try things in the game, and I think that is a massive part of the game’s success,” he concludes.
“Tutorials in FromSoft games tend to not be that great,” says Jean Canellas of Death’s Gambit developer White Rabbit. “That said, I think that better tutorials would make the game lose part of the mystery. I would say one of the core design pillars of Elden Ring was just that the player can miss features, items, NPCs, mechanics, and tutorials. Some players missed the whole tutorial of Elden Ring! I normally wouldn’t say this is good design but in Elden Ring you are being asked to stay curious at all times. It makes for a very compelling game.”
“When I played Super Metroid, I was blown away that the game didn’t teach you how to wall jump,” Canellas adds. “When I discovered it on my own I felt this sense of wonder that isn’t easily replicated. Elden Ring is filled with moments like those, even if it comes at the detriment of being somewhat obtuse to beginners.”
Some newcomers will no-doubt continue to try Elden Ring and feel like they’ve stepped on a rake they paid $60 for, but as the community’s understanding of the game evolves alongside its resources, it should become easier and more satisfying to get into (opens in new tab). You just might want to look beyond FromSoftware’s brief study guide to get a practical crash-course.
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