Seanbaby: Like the rest of the world, Brockway and I are playing Elden Ring. And like the rest of the world, our experiences are wildly different. FromSoftware basically made a game the same size as our actual planet and let you go off in whatever direction you want without any explanation or backstory. Your character’s statistics are Savvy, Gardening, Pep, Robustness, and Fingermancing, and none of them do or change anything. Each individual weapon requires 3 weeks of training to properly operate. The tutorial covers 1% of this, doesn’t care if you’re listening, and is located in a cave you’ll run past. The entire world agrees (and is right) when it says Elden Ring is the fucking best.
Brockway: Elden Ring is maybe the best game I have ever played. It’s beautiful, terrifying, enormous, and every inch is dense with atmosphere. And that’s coming from me.
This cannot be overstated: I don’t just hate FromSoftware games, I think they indirectly ruined gaming for the last decade. If I were given one corporation-killing bullet and sent back in time to eradicate a game company from pre-existence, I would file as an S-Corp and blow my brains out. It is impossible to pick just one video game developer that deserves destruction. But FromSoftware would be on the list – not because they made edgelord no-compromise games full of hateful bullshit (they did), but because every single company saw Dark Souls and thought they could do it, too. They could not. I started this game personally angry at it, and now I love it so completely I’m going to write one half of an article about how I don’t understand it. That’s how fucking good it is. I’d say I’m about to eat crow but I’ve literally been eaten by a crow several times in Elden Ring so I think they anticipated this turnabout.
Seanbaby: Anyway, I’m a bit further along than Brockway, so I decided to write him this walkthrough and explainer for the hit game Elden Ring. Hopefully it will be useful to you too.
Brockway: Holy hell, your character looks like that? Here’s mine:
She looks like an anemic schoolgirl dressed as a lost sock for a Halloween party whose theme is Sad Things You’ve Forgotten. We are already not playing the same game.
Seanbaby: To start, let’s explore! Pick a point on your map that looks like it has something and head there. This is easy because every corner of every room or landmass has something. A crucial item, a hilarious sudden bear, at least once an entire lost continent– the people who made this game are maniacs. There are more lootable remains and dungeons in this than in Steven Seagal’s Russian home. If you’re used to games like Grand Theft Auto that will render 6,000,000 square miles of woods to hold one health pack and a .0004% chance of Bigfoot, Elden Ring will feel like an hour long orgasm, or as it’s probably called in the gaming community, “mommi 5pr0inging.”
Okay, so once you find your destination, ride that way on your ghost horse. This won’t work since the landscape is a maze of impassable mountains and unsurvivable chasms.
Brockway: I pointed toward what looked like a lovely tree and I fell down a well into a city beyond time and now I’m hiding from ghost cavemen. Is this normal? Is this the normal first level?
Seanbaby: No problem, just put a vague description of what you’re looking for into Google until you find a Reddit thread where someone is trying to get to the same place. You’re almost one tenth there!
Brockway: I looked up “ghost cavemen” and I just get a Scooby Doo episode. Here’s the thing: There are exhaustive guides for every part of this game because it’s the biggest thing in the world right now, and every single human being on Earth is currently putting 600 hours into it. But you will never find one cohesive place to reference that information, because there’s too much missing. I would argue that is the gameplay loop of Elden Ring: You don’t know shit, try to survive it.
Just read through all 40 pages of the IGN guide on the Poison Swamp? Too bad, you were actually looking for the Blighted Wetlands, which are behind the Poison Swamp – if you see the Rotten Delta, you’ve gone too far. Check out Polygon’s guide on the Bog of the Unclean, but don’t just rely on that or you’ll miss the entrance to the hidden dungeon (an invisible wall beneath a dragon’s ass) containing the Grandsword of Fervent Sundering, a weapon which splits the world in two with every swing and is vital for beating the sub-tenth secret megaboss of the Udderdark. Sean, I am barely making this up. What the fuck am I supposed to be doing and please hurry, I just saw a spectral neanderthal squat by my bush and sniff.
Seanbaby: The place you’re looking for is named something like Hargoth’s Fingerless Sorrow, and to get to it you need to have first ridden Majesta’s Carousel into The Moist. You’re going to want to Google one of those next, but by now you’re going to run into a second problem. Because Elden Ring doesn’t exactly have a story so much as a random series of very strange events happening in a different order for everyone, telling anyone about anything is a spoiler. For instance, I shouldn’t have ruined your first hilarious sudden bear death, and I’m sorry. The point is, if getting to a location involves riding past a pretty waterfall, smaller-than-normal man bat, or unexpected bear, people aren’t going to want to tell you about it. Plus, you can’t even get to The Moist until you’ve taken the lesser pubic bone from Moff Torment the Key Pubis.
Brockway: Oh, is that what that’s for? I accidentally stole it from those guys (he’s eight men fused together at the pelvis) after I missed a jump to a rooftop and fell into a whirlpool that did kill me – oh, how it killed me! – but in a way where I then woke up in a special realm of slughell that is only accessible by dying in that exact fashion.
Seanbaby: Okay, I know where that is. Search for “lavaslug +maze -scooby” and you’ll find a map someone made. Not of that cave, but keep following the different wiki links outward, some of which will be empty placeholder pages by SEO clickbait sites, until you get to the second of eleven optional questlines leading there. You did the 13th, which is not recommended. Okay, you’re going to run into some trouble along the way, so let me talk you through Elden Ring combat.
Brockway: Jesus Christ, thank you. I thought I could take the ghost of this giant because he was chained up, but it turns out he just uses that chain in horrible ways and he punted half of me over a mountain. I still woke up in hell though, because you can’t leave hell until all parts of you find the exit roughly at the same time. Gimme some tactics.
Seanbaby: No problem. When I come across a sounder or shrewdness of enemies, I use my small laser spell against them. I think it’s called Glintsparkle Fingerburst, but Sparkleblade Virginurge should work fine. Getting the drop on them is easy because Elden Ring creatures can only detect shapes four feet in front of them, and no noise at any range. Here’s where you have to be careful, though. After the first guy dies, the others will carefully and slowly decide to ignore it, giving you barely enough time to kill any number of others.
Brockway: This looks familiar! I also use that and only that magical rock on literally everything I see. It’s the most powerful spell in the game as far as I know. I actually saw a clip of it before I started and it made me giggle, so I made my character a magical girl from an anime, figuring I’d find a little sailor outfit at some point. And I did find a little sailor outfit, but it was made from little sailors.
Hey check this out, I was really proud of the way I barely killed these hideous children who live in a shrub with my magic rocks.
Seanbaby: Oh, you’re doing it the hard way. You want to shoot all your star pebbles at them before they form a child tornado. If they’re leaping around like this, run fifty yards away and wait a few seconds before they forget about you and take naps. At its core, Elden Ring is a stealth game. And by stealth, I mean flinging noisy laser frisbees from across a small room. You must be the unseen frisbee vengeance of The Shrub Child Woodlands. If there’s an afterlife in this game, and there’s definitely at least seventeen named things like Darkroost of the Forgotten, I sent 70,000 souls there and they’re all wondering what killed them. Oh, but be careful! Not all enemies are normal-sized! If you come across a big enemy, switch to the big laser. I think I use Moontinkle’s Astral Lubricant, oh, but be careful again! Some of the enemies will get all the way turned around and give you a heartbreaking look before they die.
I don’t have that laser. I have Magical Rock, and Three Magical Rocks (Worse). I can merc a whole camp of sleeping peasants doing their best, but if anything moves my Plan B is to find a safe place to die. Is there literally anything else you can teach me about combat?
Seanbaby: No, that’s all you need to know for combat. Oh wait, sometimes you’ll run into a fast boss who jumps out of your laser before it’s done melting him. When this happens, do a somersault and then laser again. Refer to this paragraph later if you’re having trouble with a boss.
Brockway: I found this really cool spell that’s Three Rocks (Purple) and I tested it out on this fucked up moth and he showed me what rocks are really all about.
We are not playing the same game.
Seanbaby: Yeah, powering up is important in Elden Ring since your Glintfaith damage is determined by your Verve and Beekeeping.
Brockway: Fucking!! I specced fully into Platitude and split some points into Dogma for extra Principles Regeneration. How do I get more runes? Like, I save a good amount to level and then the Dread Children of Maura Tierney eat me from the knees up because I got off Femur Grover’s Hayride before the Bridge of Soft Regret.
Seanbaby: The fastest way to do this is at the Cliffside of Cranky Emu. Ride past the, spoilers ahead, awesome neon skeleton, to get on the ridge overlooking a swamp of fussy emus on the other side of a bottomless canyon. Equip one of your 70 bows, I like Prince Giggle’s Bonestinger, and drop an arrow onto the nearest bird’s head.
Brockway: I have one bow. It is called ‘a bow.’
Seanbaby: Search online for how to upgrade that to Har Danal’s Creamshot, but you’re going to have to really wrestle with the advanced search settings. Anyway, after you’ve done that, here’s how the plan works: these birds hate with a fury irrational even for birds, and they will charge you with no thought to the certain death between them and you. They will fluff and bluster right into the void and they’re worth 11,000 experience points. That’s the Elden Ring equivalent of a three year community college program. And this game doesn’t care if a bird died from your laser or its own stupidity– all of those points go to you.
If there’s an afterlife for birds in Elden Ring, and there probably is called Duskwind’s Eternal Aviary, I sent 2,000,000 emus there who will spend eternity agreeing that they are all just so goddamn fucking pissed.
Brockway: Okay, but how do you get past the Blood Ocean? Because I keep dying in the Blood Ocean. You see the Blood Ocean in your gif, right? That’s where I live. That’s my house. I opened a treasure chest and it moved all of my stuff into the Blood Ocean.
Seanbaby: You can leave, but it takes three tarnished on three cross-platforms to summon a Blood Raft, which reminds me: If you’re really having problems, you can try teaming up with other players. To do this, you can’t invite them using a sensible interface. Instead, you use a Wet Finger item to draw your name on the floor. If the Elden Ring servers are online, which are only available between the hours of 25 and 7, this might work after several tries, depending on the number of fish in your inventory. Other players can then use a Grave Melon to witness your Fingershard and Maidencall you into their Tarnishrealm. Depending on the Poise of your armor load, this will tell a number of people, “Unable to summon golden collaborator” before you are pulled into a world with one boy who has abandoned his Playstation and another who wants you dead. To streamline this process, it only works in certain areas, and also doesn’t work.
Brockway: You literally need to use all of these fingers in a nuanced and undocumented order just to play multiplayer. True story: I had to explain this process to my 74 year old father. We play games together and he wanted to check out Elden Ring. I think the design bible of FromSoftware should be updated with the mandate “you must be able to explain this to your 74 year old father.”
Seanbaby: In Japan, they have a whole holiday based around explaining a sack of fingers to an elderly man. It’s another tough thing to Google, but speaking of explaining, be sure to watch out for messages from other players! Notes can be placed anywhere, especially stupid spots, which means the world is graffitied with mean-spirited pranks, people tattling on the pranks, and I’m done listing things. Every four inches of cliff has a note urging you to jump off, but in a high fantasy code. Because Elden Ring didn’t give players the ability to type to each other– you have to MADlibs messages together from Game of Thrones speech templates and Narnia keywords. So a cliff might say…
… when what it really means is:
Brockway: I get what you’re saying, but three of the times I committed a trust-fall suicide, it turned out to be the only way to open a portal to a secret cabinet full of Agony Ghasts who, once defeated, gave me a four-handed axe that apparently casts something called The Hungering Hurricane every time you swing it (I can’t use axes).
Seanbaby: Yes! Some people will wallglitch back up from the depths of The Ghast Wardrobe just to help other players find the hidden entrance. It’s madness, and you never know when something is a helpful hint or The Dire Sanctum of Yarg’s most pointless prank. Every single dead end has a note that says “try attacking” right in front of one that says “liar ahead” right ahead of one that says “plump but hole.” You have no reason to believe anyone, so you have to hit every wall. Plus, I wasn’t kidding earlier when I said those lunatics hid a secret hidden in every place. There’s no such thing as a hallway that ends without an item or an invisible door in Elden Ring. Besides, what’s the harm in telling you to punch a wall? You’re poking around for extra skeleton chunks in a spider cave– those three seconds weren’t precious to you. But here’s the thing– while I was writing this, a video went around of a secret door you have to hit like 50 times to open. That’s a nightmare. Think of the chaos that level designer put into the world by telling nerds, “Oh, some of these walls only open if you hit them for a half hour. Enjoy your new life. LET ALL JOY DIE HERE IN THE INFINITELY POINTLESS STABS OF YOUR SISTERMILF KATANA +7.“
Brockway: Oh I have that, but I don’t have the Perspicacity to wield it. I dumped too many points into Sobriquet thinking it would let me use whips, but it turns out there’s only one whip and it’s a joke reference to a Japanese folklore character that appeared in a spin-off Souls rhythm game that didn’t see western release. It took me several hours of research to get that joke, but it’s pretty funny. First you have to understand that desire resides in the butthole and anti-desire, which also resides in the butthole, are paired concepts that-
Seanbaby: I’m not sure what’s going on or why we’re killing so many emus, which isn’t unusual for me since I’m a cutscene skipper, but the only cutscenes Elden Ring shows me is when a boss pulls a part of himself off to reveal more tentacled version of himself. Wait, sorry, spoilers– every guy in this has half a Resident Evil octopus living inside him, and you don’t have a maiden which seems both very important and not something that has any effect on anything you do. There are some people you can talk to, but most of them are sad ghosts and don’t seem to care whether you’re paying attention.
Brockway: And yet, and I’m dead serious here – I love it. Hardly anybody talks about anything and they make no sense when they do, because all dialogue is just for atmosphere. The actual storytelling seems to be done just by exploring an area.
Here’s my favorite example: I wandered up a hill and then went completely insane and died.
“Huh,” I thought, “that was weird. I don’t remember eating a bunch of insanity. I wonder what happened.”
Three madness deaths later and I had it figured out: There was a tower on a distant mountain flaring an intermittent insanity star. By dodging and rolling between cover so I never looked at the crazy sun, I circled around and climbed atop the tower. There were fifteen starving maniacs and the burning star of lunacy flared with the rhythm of their screams. I managed to slaughter them all in between bouts of explosive sky mania, and broke the curse of the random hilltop!
That picture isn’t me, it’s somebody competent enough to use a melee weapon – I can’t go back and take a screengrab because I fucking beat it! That’s the best sidequest I ever played, nobody gave it to me, nobody said a word, and nothing was ever explained. Later, I killed a village of starving maniacs (who had not synced up into a choir and therefore manifested no lunacy star), and found a note that was like “the king of madness lives at the bottom of some city.” I don’t know what that means or where it is, but I do know I’m suiciding off of every ledge until I find his cabinet – me and that motherfucker maybe have some unfinished business, I guess?
Seanbaby: Anyway, let me know when you hit the guy who has the unbound star axolotl inside him and I’ll tell you the best laser to use against him.
Brockway: Okay I’m at that guy, and I hope this makes sense, but now I’m him? Like I think I’ve become him and it is definitely a punishment. I can’t save until I betray something dear to me and oh – oh no. Somebody’s somersaulting into the room. Seanbaby, you didn’t use The Fingerous of Tarnation did you? That was not my Realmsign! Sean, I’m so sorry, I feel the revulsion growing inside me and it tastes like Axolotl – you cannot dodge my Glitterstar Vomitblast! The Swampwitch lied! Charge your Virginous Nightlaser!
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