Elden Ring is a tale about a land that has been forsaken by its masters, with many of its legends, deities, and gods either decommissioned, missing, or nearly forgotten. Fans of Elden Ring multiplayer might know exactly what that’s like, because as far as they’re concerned, game developer FromSoftware has left them out in the cold, too.
In a recent survey conducted among 10,000 players, 90% of the respondents said they felt that the multiplayer experience could be improved, with around 70% noting that they didn’t feel the mode was balanced. Over 60% of those who replied to the survey, by the way, say they’ve put at least 100 hours or more into the open-world masterpiece. The issue is pronounced enough that a group of Elden Ring players have spent months whipping up an entire website that’s meant to spread the word about the current state of multiplayer. The 10,000 survey correspondents, meanwhile, came from the fanbases of well-known Elden Ring content creators such as ZioStorm and ChaseTheBro.
If you’ve played older FromSoftware games and experienced the PvP there, “balanced” is likely not the first word that comes to mind. “Flawed” might be more accurate. Despite that, fans partake in the social mode because it’s unlike most things you can experience in video games.
“Summoning, covenants, invasions, duels, messages have always felt like an extension of the compelling world of the game, not really something ‘tacked on’ for the sake of being able to have it as a minor selling point,” Amir, one of the PvP website’s co-founders, told Kotaku.
Part of what sets the Elden Ring situation apart is the audience: this is by far the most popular game FromSoftware has released, so the number of people who might become PvP players is much higher than before. Unsurprisingly, 70% of the survey respondents say that multiplayer is overrun by glitches and exploits. For example, there’s the helmet swap glitch that players trigger by swapping between certain glintstone crowns. Doing so allows you to restore your HP regardless of how many FP (Focus Points) or flasks you have left, and without the vulnerability of stopping to use an item.
In the survey results, a word cloud that gathers some of the most commonly cited issues offers a vague glimpse into what aspects players take issue with, but notably, words like “Bleed” and “Bloodhound Step” are noted in bold.
Anyone who has had the misfortune of playing PvP — or the areas of Elden Ring that generate NPC attackers based on real-life players’ builds, such as the Fia encounter — knows exactly what the bleed pain point is all about. It feels like everyone is running builds, likely bolstered by the much-hated Moonveil Katana, that can shred your health in seconds via stacked status effects.
“The incredibly short time it takes to kill another player is one of the biggest issues plaguing Elden Ring’s PvP,” reads the PvP website. “This negatively impacts the gameplay experience, as many players don’t even get a chance to fight back and experience the combat before they die in seconds due to a single hit, or a quick sequence of attacks.”
Really, references to bleed builds’ dominance is plastered all over the website. Part of the issue is that an already-powerful strategy is getting pushed into hyperdrive thanks to lag. The site notes that players often have to deal with “phantom hits” that show they’ve successfully evaded an attack while their opponent’s screen shows that they were in fact dinged. Most diehards already know how to deal with bleed builds, but newcomers might not come back after their first few unpleasant, short-lived online encounters.
But even if experienced players know that, say, you can just use a colossal-class sword to interrupt your bleed-hungry opponent, or that a build consisting of at least 60 Vigour and plenty of heavy armour can be a potent defence against bloodletters, the bleed situation still flattens the overall experience. When one build is predominant, it limits what kind of builds everyone else can run if they want to be effective against the biggest possible threats. Much like players force themselves to stay within a certain level range to ensure a good multiplayer experience, the community has to uphold a sort of gentleman’s agreement that folks in PvP won’t default to the same broken, boring build. But there’s no guarantee they won’t, and you can’t blame players for using everything they can to their advantage — which is why fans strongly feel that FromSoftware needs to step in.
The Moonveil Katana, one of the most-used weapons for bleed builds, also seems to be a massive problem. Beyond the fact that its weapon Skill is a high-speed projectile that exceeds the limitations of most melee weapons, it also stuns opponents into submission — so you can continue wailing on them. And, to add insult to injury, the website notes that it also “breaks all forms of passive poise and most instances [of] hyperarmor.”
“While there were a few improvements we were personally looking forward to, there [were] far many more regressions in the multiplayer systems [from previous games] despite the developer’s good intentions,” Amir said, noting that even the simple act of going into multiplayer is confusing. (Unfortunately, Elden Ring makes it very easy to accidentally disable multiplayer even after you use the items meant to trigger the mode.)
“The PvP specifically also largely regressed due to large oversights on things like damage scaling, specific attack mechanics, status effects, poise mechanics, bugs, etc.” Amir said. While games often don’t ship in a perfect, balanced condition, part of what makes this frustrating for long-time fans is that these aren’t new issues for FromSoftware games.
“Lots of the issues are repetitions of issues already made and solved in previous games, and we point this out in a lot of our articles so the developers can look to their previous solutions for similar problems,” said Amir.
Another much-reviled ability, Bloodhound Step, is also prominent on the website. On paper, the ability to quickly evade incoming attacks sounds excellent — and it is, when you’re up against boss AI. But against other people, the move is absolutely broken.
“In online play, it effectively renders players invulnerable as long as they have the FP and stamina remaining to continue using it,” the website reads. “It is also significantly faster than sprinting, so it can be used to freely escape far from any harm at will.”
There are plenty of other issues that aren’t just the things people have been complaining about since the release of the game, of course. There are AFK farmers, who hide from actual combat just to collect Runes. And many players believe that the multiplayer rewards aren’t particularly motivating. But it’s topics like game-breaking spells that have entire articles dedicated to their shortcomings. Here, abilities like Carian Slicer are highlighted — in this case, because the spell can be unleashed with the speed of a dagger but with the damage equivalent of a greatsword. This single spell can, at times, demolish around 40% of a player’s health.
In short, many aspects of Elden Ring’s PvP are messed up. But curiously, beyond providing some well-researched and kindly worded feedback for FromSoftware, the website also acts as a portal for resources that can be enjoyed by anyone who wants to get into Elden Ring’s multiplayer community.
Granted, it’s tough being any kind of Elden Ring fan right now. Everyone appears to be clamoring for another morsel of the year’s best-selling game, perhaps in the form of DLC. But at least those of us who’ve blitzed through the single-player campaign have had some proverbial bones thrown our way. Early updates to the game largely focused on quality-of-life changes, such as adding map markers and prompts, with some gameplay tweaks that balanced out a wider variety of builds. Important tweaks to aspects like bleed were included in these adjustments, but overall, those who like cracking a Furled Finger to invade other Tarnished haven’t quite gotten the same kind of TLC that the rest of us have.