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Paul le Fou

24/7 lofi hip hop man to study/relax to
(He)
I think this game has also mostly avoided the common Souls problem of flashy endgame spells being too unwieldy to use.
This was not the case at launch, but they buffed pretty much all of the endgame spells in patch 1.04. A lot of the endgame spells were slower and didn't have enough (or any?) hyperarmor, plus simply weren't powerful enough. They buffed almost every incantation besides the most basic ones though. This, of course, was after I'd finished my faith/strength build so I guess I have to go back to play a full-faith build now.

Sorceries compensate by being bonkers powerful (and pretty cool in their own right), nd INT weapons and builds are very strong, but there's no question that Faith is super versatile and cool in Elden Ring.

Anyway. I did the Stormveil skip last night and...I was shocked at how easy it was. I'd heard you could skip Stormveil but never looked into how and assumed it was an "unintended" thing and involved double jumping up and down weird cliffs and the like. ...but there's just a road. You can very easily accidentally find your way around Stormveil, despite EVERYTHING pushing you that way. It's pretty wild.
Yeah, Faith whips ass now. But so does sorcery! Sorcery is, I think, much more powerful overall, but has a much narrower focus. Being able to spam pebbles/shards/comets at range whips any single incantation's ass in damage, range, efficiency and speed. But incantations have such a wide variety of options that are still more than powerful enough to do the trick, and reward switching around to fit the situation. Even the "main" spells, fireball and lightning bolt (whatever they're called), fill two different niches - one flies straighter, faster and farther, the other gets lobbed and (I think?) is more powerful.

Meanwhile, for sorcery you basically just need a bread-and-butter nuke or two to handle 75% of situations. Then a homing or invisible spell for dodgers, an AoE or two, and maybe a "big enemy go boom" spell like magic shower or comet azur and you're mostly set. After that it's just playing around with stuff for style and/or because you got bored. The only real difference in a sorcery playstyle is if you go full Carian Glintblade and use sword spells with phalanxes and such.

Meanwhile, both int and faith have some really strong weapons for pure builds or hybrids with either strength or dex. You really can't go wrong. That, I think, is what elevates this game to all-timer for me.


I actually did skip Stormveil by accident on my playthrough just through exploring, but realized I might be getting in over my head and so went back and did it right away.
I didn't even do it accidentally, I just explored pretty thoroughly and rode right past. Love it. Open world, baybeeeee

There is. In the last big overworld area there's a way to teleport over there.
There's also a quest you can do to get you there as early as reaching Liurnia. It does require being online though, since you have to invade 3 people.
Also I got a weapon that upgrades with Sombers and got it to +9 without having beaten a single boss (except the Tree Sentinel) and I'm level 40 without having finished a single dungeon

Uhhh, I think I solved Elden Ring
Open world, baybeeeee

One of the things I consistently felt that DS2, DS3, and BB were missing from DS1's design was the ability to dash around right at the start of the game and collect a lot of gear to make a specific build to run with. DS2 narrowed it down a bit with multiple progression-locked paths, and DS3 and BB made it even harder to get later-game gear without progressing. DS1, you couldn't necessarily complete an endgame build before setting foot in the Undead Parish or anything, but you could definitely pick up the basics of most builds to get you going. Almost any weapon type could be dashed to before you seriously started fighting in the burg, especially with the master key, plus a few key upgrades if you knew where to look. It made subsequent runs easier to get rolling with (in lieu of a respec option, which DS2 and 3 had at least).

Elden Ring, of course, allows for a LOT of this. Anything in Limgrave, Liurnia or Caelid that isn't a boss drop can be gotten with persistent enough death runs. Or even just exploration and playing out of order! Hell, you can pretty easily dash for the lift medals and get to Altus too, giving you access to the mountain and plateau as well. The death runs would get harder and killing the scarabs might actually get a bit trickier without leveling, but you still have a ton of stuff you can grab there. And yeah, somber stones up to +9 are included in that (not sure you even need to hit the plateau for that, since you find a couple in Dragonbarrow, an area which seems to exist for no reason at all beyond giving you a late-game-scaled area that can be reached early with no prerequisites).
 

Paul le Fou

24/7 lofi hip hop man to study/relax to
(He)
Elden Ring, of course, allows for a LOT of this. Anything in Limgrave, Liurnia or Caelid that isn't a boss drop can be gotten with persistent enough death runs. Or even just exploration and playing out of order! Hell, you can pretty easily dash for the lift medals and get to Altus too, giving you access to the mountain and plateau as well. The death runs would get harder and killing the scarabs might actually get a bit trickier without leveling, but you still have a ton of stuff you can grab there. And yeah, somber stones up to +9 are included in that (not sure you even need to hit the plateau for that, since you find a couple in Dragonbarrow, an area which seems to exist for no reason at all beyond giving you a late-game-scaled area that can be reached early with no prerequisites).
Case in point, my strength build:

I'm playing a Heavy build, leveling only strength/endurance/vigor. I was finding it kinda rough, at first: I had my starting halberd in 2 hands, but it was simply inferior to a sword and board in almost every way, and early armor was not doing enough to make the lack of protection worth it. Plus, I could wield maybe one heavy weapon, only 2-handed, with nothing else on my bar and had to forgo armor upgrades to do so. That did decent enough damage, but it just wasn't scratching the itch. I kept poking around a bit, but finally I said fuck it and Activated Stat Mode: I ran from the beast temple to the Dragonbarrow and killed Greyoll for a cool 96,000 runes, as you do. That's a lot of STR, END, and VIG right there. Then, from the very same grace, I ran the other direction into the fort and grabbed Radagon's Soreseal (and the Dectus Medallion to boot). That's +5 each to Vig, End, Str, and Dex - boom. It decrease damage resistance, but especially at this low level the extra HP, flat defense, and equip load definitely make up for it. But I could still easily be more tanky, so I dropped down behind the beast temple cliff towers to get the dragoncrest shield talisman for extra physical resistance.

Suddenly I was power-stancing great weapons, and could actually take some hits—the Unga Bunga build was open for business. This was more than enough to roll through Stormveil Castle like an Indiana Jones boulder. That got me Godrick's Great Rune, which nets me yet another +5 to each stat, and the arsenal charm to increase my equip load even more (dragoncrest went on hiatus). I got lucky with drops in Stormveil - got the banished knight armor and helm both drop from a single knight (and then a friend dropped me the hands and legs to save me some farming).

So now I'm wearing a full set of banished knight armor, wielding a rusty anchor in one hand and Godrick's great axe in the other, and I make things go squish. I did take 2 rounds to get to Rennala's phase 2, but once I did, each jumping L1 did ~45% of her HP. Yeah.

I also have a set of a great mace and a brick hammer for when I find stone and crystal enemies in mines. I'm still not impervious to damage or anything, and I'd have to drop a lot of armor to use more than one colossal weapon (but I only have 2 colossal swords and 1 colossal weapon at the moment, anyway. I'm eyeing those swords together, though...). I also went and fought the great jar's soldiers to get the maxed out arsenal charm for even more equip load. I also have a greatshield onhand, but I think I'm only going to pull that out if I find myself having a lot of trouble with stuff, opting instead to try the classic "Use heavy object, hit them very hard" method first.

I think the next major stop on the express build train to slamtown is to get to Volcano Manor to do the invasions. I think I can fight Tragoth as early as the second step, and then I'll have The Biggest Armor to work up to. I suppose I can cycle in some Lionel pieces while I build my equip load up to mega heights, once I find that in Leyndell, but, c'mon. Bull Goat armor.
 

Patrick

Magic-User
(He/Him)
DSII requires you to beat some early bosses, but it gives you a lot of free range in which path (with associated equipment) you want to go down. It’s a bit obscured, but the structure of the first half+ of the game is a lot like Demon’s Souls 5 worlds. DSIII and Bloodborne are way more linear and locked off in comparison.

But not super important. I totally agree that ER leans into what the first Dark Souls was doing in a wonderful way.
 

Alixsar

The Shogun of Harlem
(He/him)
I didn't know about until I started researching it but there's a Abductor Virgin in the Academy that can teleport you to Volcano Manor. So for Sombers, you can get real swole REAL early. But FWIW, Elden Ring locks a ton of good items away in end game areas too. The one that is most annoying is Marika's Soreseal. Can you IMAGINE how useful this would be for low level caster builds? But you get it halfway through the optional superboss' area with the toughest enemies in the game, after running a gauntlet of minibosses...literally impossible for a low level to get, but by the time you're strong enough to get it, you don't need it anymore. It's kinda useless, which is wild because it gives you 15 or 20 levels worth of stats.

I get what you're saying and you're not wrong, but ER has the same "problem". This can be remedied a bit by having a friend join your game and pick up stuff you drop and then joining your other character and dropping stuff, but that's also "cheating" so I dunno

I think in ER it matters the least though, since you can level literally every weapon you find up to 2nd-to-max-level by the end of the game and you get MULTIPLE final-upgrade-level items for each type of smithing stone. You can have more fully upgraded weapons that you can equip. There's tons of options, it's fine. So maybe you can't use what you want to "main" for a while, but you can probably get there relatively early, and you can definitely find an option that is equally as fucked up to use until then
 

Paul le Fou

24/7 lofi hip hop man to study/relax to
(He)
I didn't know about until I started researching it but there's a Abductor Virgin in the Academy that can teleport you to Volcano Manor. So for Sombers, you can get real swole REAL early. But FWIW, Elden Ring locks a ton of good items away in end game areas too. The one that is most annoying is Marika's Soreseal. Can you IMAGINE how useful this would be for low level caster builds? But you get it halfway through the optional superboss' area with the toughest enemies in the game, after running a gauntlet of minibosses...literally impossible for a low level to get, but by the time you're strong enough to get it, you don't need it anymore. It's kinda useless, which is wild because it gives you 15 or 20 levels worth of stats.
You're misunderstanding me. There's never not been good stuff locked away in later areas (nor should there be, late areas should have good loot). It's never been about getting everything you want right away, and it's not a problem that there's good gear you can only get later on.

What I'm talking about is twofold: 1. The ability to assemble basic components of a build to get it off the ground earlier than strictly "intended" rather than having to wait until the prescribed time to get any given piece of gear, and 2. Being able to go around with purpose, choosing places you know have good stuff for you, to assemble pieces of your build. That, as opposed to "progress this same route with whatever you happen to have and pick up stuff as you find it, regardless of what you want or prioritize." It often but not always includes being able to get some "late" stuff early. But even without that, Elden Ring offers that freedom to go where you want to pick up exactly what you want waaaay more than even DS1 did. (Note that this is also specific to playthroughs after the first, or if you're using a guide, and is a whole separate thing from going in blind to explore and following the basic progression guideposts.)

Marika's Soreseal is one example of something that would have been much nicer to be able to grab earlier on and it's placed strangely late (but it could still be useful for hybrid caster classes, even though Radagon's is far more useful in general, undeniably, because of the stat spread). But at least you can get Marika's Scarseal, which is the same effect but 3 levels each, in Siofra River (so pretty early). Unlike physical builds, it's also pretty easy to get hats that increase int or the talisman that increases faith pretty early too.

Now, Malenia's Great Rune, that's a fucking design disaster. The most dynamic great rune, in that it alters a fundamental game mechanic, having an actual big effect on how you play the game that can change your whole approach. It stands out amongst Godrick's (free levels and stats, basically never not the best choice until the end of the game), Radahn's and Morgott's (slightly more hp/fp/stam or just a chunk of HP, woo, so interesting and totally worthwhile). Rykard's is cool but is only for adventuring, requiring you switch up for bosses where it does absolutely fuck-all. But no, the most conceptually interesting rune is locked behind the game's hardest optional boss basically right at the end of the game, and it's not even something you get to take to NG+ with you, so you really never get a chance to use it. At best you can use it for the Fire Giant, Maliketh, Godfrey, Radagon/EB. You could leave Rykard or something until later but if you can beat Malenia to get the rune you're way overpowered for almost anything else in the game anyway. What a fuckup.
 

Behemoth

Dostoevsky is immortal!
(he/him/his)
Finally beat Malenia. I got a little better at reading her tells and avoiding her attacks, but it mostly came down to levelling up my weapon to 25 and getting a good run with the Mimic Tear. It wasn't a clean or skilled win, but it was a win.

On general game progress, I chewed through the Godskin Duo pretty easily (if they're going to summon friends I'm going to summon friends). Now I'm at the Dragon Sentinel in Farum Azula. Feels like I'm getting close to the end of the game, but I've felt that like three times already, so who knows?
 

Paul le Fou

24/7 lofi hip hop man to study/relax to
(He)
My Unga-Bunga Brunhilde build continues apace.

I spent a lot of time powerstancing the great stars and great mace - strictly speaking they were less powerful than the axe options I was using (greataxe and rusty anchor), but the healing on the great stars made it worth it, and on bosses the bleed made up for the lack of power (and normal enemies didn't need the power as much). But once I made it through Leyndell, rushed the Forbidden Lands and grabbed the +5/+6 smithing stone bell bearing, I caught my colossals up to my greats and made the switch.

Greats -> colossals are a significant, but not massive, difference - something like 20% more AR which has born out as about 20% more damage - but the extra benefits in stagger damage are pretty great. Testing loadouts on Omens by the sewer's top grace, it took something like 5-6 hits to break an omen for a critical with my double greathammers; with colossal swords or bonkbois, I'd do it in three.

I ended up going for colossal swords over the giant smasher and prelate's red squasher for now, because it was a significant savings in weight for a very minor loss in damage. I'm using the Greatsword and the Grafted Greatsword right now. The grafted one is technically stronger since sombers are easier to get high levels of, but I'm still working ashes of war into my rotations and its art is a passive buff, so I keep it in my offhand. Considering 90% of my attacks use both anyway, nothing in particular is lost.

After playing a relatively fragile caster (medium-well armored with a good shield, not even a flimsy one!), being a tanky brick has been pretty fun. Those Leyndell knights that are usually the bane of my existence? This time through I was able to pretty much just bully them (and that was with the greathammers, not even the colossals). The lightest armor I've worn in ages is a full Banished Knight (altered) set, rotating Bull Goat set in when I have the carrying capacity. I can and do take several hits as a matter of course and shrug them off. When something does a lot of damage or catches me in several hits, I get annoyed, like "why haven't you let me crush you to a paste yet? Who said you could hurt me?"

I'm worried about the late-game though. There's a theoretical upper ceiling on defense. I'm currently running Radagon's Soreseal, Arsenal Jar Charm, Erdtree's Favor (just upgraded to +1), and dragoncrest shield +1. Plus pretty much constantly running crab meat when it matters.
If I drop weight from my weapons (and/or keep leveling endurance, which of course I am) I can get up to full bull-goat set. Sooner or later I can take off Radagon's Soreseal (I really am loath to right now, since those stats are so good. I could sub in +5 str but I'd still lose end and vig, plus some dex). I'll eventually pick up the +2 or Great version of the dragoncrest shield. That upgrade and switching Radagon's out would give me another 10ish% absorption (though I'd lose some HP and equip weight, both impacting my overall survival; it usually just about balances out). But I know how much damage enemies start doing in the endgame, and I dunno how well I can actually keep up with that.

One thing I've had in my pocket but haven't touched yet is the other option: Greatshields. I haven't needed the defense enough to switch from power stance to one weapon and greatshield yet, but I have a feeling it's going to start happening in at least some spots soon. Luckily I can grab the Biggest Greatshield here at any moment, and then it won't matter what kind of armor I'm wearing since no one will be able to touch me anyway.


This is the first time I've played a full-on Biggest Weapons bonk build in any souls game, I'm realizing, and honestly, I've surprised myself with just how much I'm enjoying it.

Bonk!
 

Behemoth

Dostoevsky is immortal!
(he/him/his)
And that's a wrap. I need to collect my thoughts on the game, and I don't know that I'll be able to add much to what others have said, but it's my favorite game I've played in a long, long while (since Breath of the Wild, I guess). Definitely top ten, and maybe top five? I'm tempted to dive right back into NG+, but since I spent like 150 hours on this playthrough, I should probably take a break for a while.
 
I started a Guts cosplay build and cleared out Limgrave as normal, including Stormveil and Godrick, but not before visiting Caelid to get the Greatsword and some smithing stones, and upgrading it to +7 which is roughly twice as strong as the game expects you to be. Then I slingshotted myself up to Mt Gelmir and the Altus plateau and now my Greatsword is locked to +20 until I reach some truly end-game content. And now I'm gonna start exploring Liurnia.

The game cannot handle a +20 colossal weapon at this stage lol. Also wow I didn't expect the buff to Colossal weapon blocking to be so good. It's a different game being able to use this thing to guard-counter without feeling like I ate a full hit to do it.
 

air_show

elementary my dear baxter
I started a new character because I was getting annoyed with the dual-wielding character I made at the start. I just felt like I needed a shield. So I made a hero and went around with an axe for a while and eventually switched to a broadsword. Simple but effective.

But Stormveil is gving me a hard time. The sword birds give me hell (as do all flying enemies that dart and swoop around constantly) but what I really can't handle are the knights that do the swooshy wind attacks. They are absolutely fucking relentless and it seems like my defensive options are completely useless against them, emptying my stamina bar and knocking me off balance almost instantly. Every time I encounter one I die and feel like I'm making no progress in learning how to fight them.
 

Paul le Fou

24/7 lofi hip hop man to study/relax to
(He)
I started a Guts cosplay build and cleared out Limgrave as normal, including Stormveil and Godrick, but not before visiting Caelid to get the Greatsword and some smithing stones, and upgrading it to +7 which is roughly twice as strong as the game expects you to be. Then I slingshotted myself up to Mt Gelmir and the Altus plateau and now my Greatsword is locked to +20 until I reach some truly end-game content. And now I'm gonna start exploring Liurnia.

The game cannot handle a +20 colossal weapon at this stage lol. Also wow I didn't expect the buff to Colossal weapon blocking to be so good. It's a different game being able to use this thing to guard-counter without feeling like I ate a full hit to do it.
I'm currently using that sword power-stanced with the colossal greatsword, so I haven't actually done any blocking (I use my face to block), but I keep kinda thinking I should? But also I have greatshields to block if I need to. Maybe I should try 2-handing a single weapon for a bit, see how it goes.

The game can probably barely handle a colossal weapon of any level at that point, but a +20 weapon of any size or type will be pretty damn broken right then, yeah. Sounds like fun :D

But Stormveil is gving me a hard time. The sword birds give me hell (as do all flying enemies that dart and swoop around constantly) but what I really can't handle are the knights that do the swooshy wind attacks. They are absolutely fucking relentless and it seems like my defensive options are completely useless against them, emptying my stamina bar and knocking me off balance almost instantly. Every time I encounter one I die and feel like I'm making no progress in learning how to fight them.
What ranged attacks do you have? I recommend picking up a bow, crafting some fire pots, and/or getting some throwing knives (crafted or bought). That should help with the birds at least, but also might help whittle down the banished knights (who really are sons of bitches, it's true). The pots especially should be good against them. Dodging is typically better than trying to block through them, though if you go out to the soldiers and try to farm up a brass shield, that might help a lot too; it's the best medium shield in the game.
 

air_show

elementary my dear baxter
Does Stormveil ever end for fucks sakes? It just goes on and on and on. And the graces seem to be getting awfully far apart. Every time I die to some fucking eagle insta-killing me I get sent back to the otherside of that goddamn army and have to fight through the entire thing over and over again, dealing with hordes of enemies and ballista spam. It's burning me out.
 

Regulus

Sir Knightbot
I'm not sure which set of ballistae-equipped enemies you're having to fight through, but there are ways around both of them that avoid fighting entirely. The castle is also pretty dense with grace sites, so you may have overlooked some. If you're talking about the fortified courtyard area, there's specifically a grace site to the rear of the Omen with the big cleaver.
 

Alixsar

The Shogun of Harlem
(He/him)
Stormveil is pretty long, but yeah it sounds like you missed a bonfire or two. You never have to go directly through that courtyard. Also honestly maybe you should just leave and go explore a bit? There's a bunch of stuff to do in the world, and it sounds like you need a break from Stormveil
 

air_show

elementary my dear baxter
I'm not sure which set of ballistae-equipped enemies you're having to fight through, but there are ways around both of them that avoid fighting entirely. The castle is also pretty dense with grace sites, so you may have overlooked some. If you're talking about the fortified courtyard area, there's specifically a grace site to the rear of the Omen with the big cleaver.
The last grace I found was to a bridge that goes to a huge locked door. As far as I can tell the path forward is up a stone stairway that's guarded by exploding bolt spammers. If I can even survive them I have to get through the entire gigantic field of crossbowmen and swordsmen to get to the big festering guy with the cleaver and the dog, and then if I get past him, the bird kills me. I can't fight those birds. They just, ignore all my defensive tactics? And I'm all the way back at the beginning of that gauntlet far as I can tell. I've opened the front gate and found the path through the cellar to said gate but like... that doesn't change the fact that I've got hundreds of enemies in my way on the path forward?

I've tried wandering the rest of the map but I've got like, all of Limgrave and Caelid mapped. My character's level is in the 30's. I've beaten a dozen or so mini-bosses, I've got my sword at +7. I've upgraded my flasks a bunch of times, completed sidequests for most of the characters I've met so far. Reaallly feels like I should be beating a major story boss and getting one of those Great Runes I keep hearing about by now.

I've even got these ruthless motherfucker goblin guys I took at the start and used the spirit tuner to make them monsters. They can help me clear the place well enough but it still takes goddamn forever, is extremely perilous, and is all for naught when a bird kills me.
 

Paul le Fou

24/7 lofi hip hop man to study/relax to
(He)
Sometimes you have to post to unlock the playing.

But yeah, it sounds like you went in the front gate instead of taking the side route in? Because going in the front gate sucks for reasons you have fully discovered, and isn't really the intended route. You don't have to run that ballista gauntlet or courtyard at all, the routes take you through the walls and over the roofs.
 
Sometimes you have to post to unlock the playing.

But yeah, it sounds like you went in the front gate instead of taking the side route in? Because going in the front gate sucks for reasons you have fully discovered, and isn't really the intended route. You don't have to run that ballista gauntlet or courtyard at all, the routes take you through the walls and over the roofs.
That being said: once you know the game and the castle better it is super satisfying to just run the gauntlet straight to the boss of the castle in like 2 minutes.
 

air_show

elementary my dear baxter
So, I did beat Godrick, A+ boss design very hideous. And while exploring the lakelands afterward I finally realized while having unconsciously noticed it for a while, that you do not lose stamina from sprinting. Suddenly I'm playing the game more like Sekiro but sword and board style and it's kind of amazing.
 

air_show

elementary my dear baxter
Oh and for the record I did do the sneaky route into the castle and all that. It's just that, I couldn't find any path towards the area I wanted to get to without having to go through certain areas head on and none of the graces I had found seemed to be near any shortcuts.
 

Paul le Fou

24/7 lofi hip hop man to study/relax to
(He)
So, I did beat Godrick, A+ boss design very hideous. And while exploring the lakelands afterward I finally realized while having unconsciously noticed it for a while, that you do not lose stamina from sprinting. Suddenly I'm playing the game more like Sekiro but sword and board style and it's kind of amazing.
You do lose stamina from sprinting while you're in combat, but not while you're out of it. Sprint past some enemies to aggro them and watch as your stamina starts draining.
 

Falselogic

Techno-Threadcromancer
(they/them)
Can someone come kill thisddamn giant snake for me

I swear I've spent more time on this dumb ducker.
 

Falselogic

Techno-Threadcromancer
(they/them)
Yes. I even looked up cheese methods online and re-speced my character to do it AND I still can't get through the second stage.
 
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