When faced with an overwhelming adversary, sometimes the only option is to fight dirty. In my case, Elden Ring dev FromSoftware is a gigantic Goliath and I’m just little ol’ David loading up his sling. As such, I felt no shame adopting hit-and-run tactics against a terrifying enemy after finding myself bereft of healing options while exploring a daunting fortress.
Stormveil Castle is the first “legacy dungeon” you’ll find in Elden Ring. These areas play a major role in the game’s overall goal (i.e. defeating all the story bosses) while also providing players with a bit of old-school, Souls-like adventuring. Every part of the early game feels designed to usher you towards this imposing stronghold and, once you get there, it acts as a wonderful intro to the environmental verticality made possible by the jump button. Just don’t look down while navigating the ledges and parapets situated on Stormveil’s various towers.
Where Elden Ring’s open-world format gives you a lot of leeway in terms of engaging enemies and escaping from battle by way of the horned horse Torrent, legacy dungeons are more akin to classic FromSoftware level design in that careful resource management and backtracking to checkpoints via shortcuts is crucial. Sometimes the smart move is to give up some progress in the hopes of preserving your runes, a new commodity for levelling up and buying items that functions much like souls in Dark Souls, and try areas again with more knowledge of their dangers at your disposal.
But I’ve never claimed to be a smart man.
I was, at least what felt like at the time, hours into my journey through Stormveil. The all-important Flask of Crimson Tears (read: Estus Flask) that serves as your main method of health-restoration in Elden Ring was empty and I wasn’t ready to spend the magic energy necessary to cast my Prophet’s healing incantation. My health was in a decent place, but I was still desperate to find a shortcut before engaging in any more battles. That’s when I encountered a terrifying, multi-armed monster I knew all too well as being a pain in the arse in the closed network test. But after exhausting all my other paths, I realised my only way forward was through the cathedral-like space the creature called home.
I started slow. Sneaking behind my foe, I used my last little bit of magic to cast Flame Sling, a long-range fireball incantation I learned after defeating Stormveil’s first boss. This, my most powerful attack, erased less than 1/10 of the monster’s health, prompting me to hightail back to the safety of an adjacent room. I weighed my options. Should I return to my last checkpoint and see if I could make it back here with more resources? No, I thought, that would take way too long. Should I face this guy head-on with my short spear? Hell no, I’m not good enough at this game for that.
Then it hit me: If the monster eventually forgot about me and returned to its set path, I’d be able to tiptoe up while its back was turned, get a few hits in, run back to my safe zone, and repeat.
First, I made sure to use up the magic left in my reserves for multiple Flame Sling casts before switching to my less-powerful weapon. After that, it was about stabbing the monster once and dashing away like Skeletor. I eventually worked out a system where positioning myself in a specific spot in the safe room would lure my enemy towards the corner of the arena, allowing me to sneak back in and hide behind a pillar to reset its aggro. From there, it was simply a matter of making sure I didn’t get too greedy and go for a second hit. My patience was my strongest weapon and, nearly 15 minutes later, I was rewarded with the gruesome creature’s death and free to continue exploring Stormveil Castle.
In a lot of ways, Elden Ring is an evolution of the FromSoftware style. It incorporates gameplay elements from every previous game in the Souls series, even non-Souls predecessors like Bloodborne and Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. And while difficulty discussions often focus on the “achievement” of finally beating a difficult Souls boss, cheesing obstacles like I described above is also woven deep into the very fabric of the genre. Take the Taurus Demon from Dark Souls, for example. It may serve as that game’s first true skill test, but the bridge on which you fight it is also designed in such a way that you can trick the boss into leaping to its death with no combat required.
In fact, players have discovered that several Dark Souls bosses can be defeated with careful positioning or exploits. It’s a time-honoured tradition at this point.
This may not be the way FromSoftware intended me to deal with this Elden Ring monster, but I’m not sorry for doing what I needed to do to survive a small part of this humongous, punishing game. If the devs want to be jerks and teleport me to some far-off, high-level area, I think finding the cheapest, easiest way to overcome every other hurdle is the best response. And honestly, I’m just waiting for players better than me to, I don’t know, figure out how to kill the final boss without throwing a single punch or something wild like that.