Elden Ring difficulty check without spoilers
March 9, 2022 12:36 AM   Subscribe

I knew Elden Ring was reputed to be relatively difficult, but after banging my head against the first boss for a while I just want to make sure I'm not missing anything.

I generally think of myself as a decent video game player (completed 16 heat in Hades, completed Celeste, reached master multiple times in HotS, find BotW combat to be enjoyable and require some focus but not usually difficult).

I was expecting Elden Ring to be somewhat difficult based on the reviews, especially since the trigger-based weapon control scheme is not one I'm familiar with (I'm playing on Windows with a Switch Pro controller), but so far it's been several degrees more difficult than I expected. I want to avoid spoilers and generally figure out how the game works but I also want to make sure I'm not missing something major that's supposed to make this fight easier. For example in BotW my wife and I missed Hestu until we were already 2/3 of the way through the game and couldn't do anything except laugh that finding him earlier would have made things easier.

So far in Elden Ring I've made it to Margit in the castle, but have spent over an hour fighting him (with multiple breaks to explore more and level up) but have not gotten him below ~1/2 health yet.

I'm a level 21 confessor and most of my levels have gone into str/dex/vit. I've improved my sword a couple levels at the smith but most of my gear is no more than a slight improvement over the starting gear. I feel like I've explored most of the starting area of the map at this point but haven't spent time grinding any enemies for runes. The only thing that surprises my slightly is that I haven't learned how to craft items yet, but I assume that's coming later.

Am I right to think that my character is not unusually underpowered and that the main issue is that I need to get better at playing the game? If so that's fine, just want to be sure I'm not missing something.

I would prefer to avoid spoilers/big direct hints so I'm asking here instead of, e.g., googling how to beat him.
posted by unus sum to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Margit is significantly stronger than many of the other bosses you'll encounter in the game, relative to when you will encounter them. Personally I was level 30ish when I finally beat him, but it wasn't easy.

I suspect this is intentional - the game points you in a particular direction knowing you won't be ready. It's its way of encouraging you to explore the world.

You're doing fine. Margit's a bastard. if you're level 21 now, then there's lots more level-appropriate stuff you can find if you explore in the other directions.
posted by Lorc at 12:48 AM on March 9, 2022 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks Lorc, that’s extremely helpful. I will wander around exploring for a while before coming back.

(I will keep checking this thread in case anybody else has anything to offer.)
posted by unus sum at 12:54 AM on March 9, 2022

I should add that while the heavily skill-based combat means that while people can and do become very good at these games, the levelling system is partially a difficulty system in disguise. The game is designed so that you can go off and level up to a point where you're comfortable with the difficulty.

It's not just raw numbers either. Margit's attacks have particularly difficult timings and his combos are unpredictable. Out in the world South of his castle, you'll meet bosses who are more straightforward, with just one or two real tricks each. And the skills you develop facing them will remain when you eventually go back to Margit. And then you won't be trying to learn all his tricks at once from scratch, but recognising tricks you've seen elsewhere.

Finally - a lot of the souls game community fetishises difficulty and purist attitudes. But it's a fact that these games are meant to be played and enjoyed socially. Getting hit by a barely visible trap, or stomped by an unexpectedly difficult boss is part of the experience. But so is warning your friends about it, or getting tips and tricks on what worked/didn't for them. When I get stuck on a particularly difficult part I have no shame in watching a video to see how other people managed.
posted by Lorc at 1:06 AM on March 9, 2022 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I am a moderate, though casual gamer. I have had ZERO interest in previous souls games. They just seemed hard and not fun. I will admit, I'm terrible at Elden Ring, but I like how it looks and my spouse and I are each playing so we get to help each other. (Okay, I'm not that bad, but I'm not great at patient fighting.)

I beat Margit somewhere around level 25 ish. I also used distance weapons and other... help sorta talked about below. (I don't play online.)

As vague as possible:
There is an easily missed (some people are missing it? Not sure what triggers it?) NPC that shows up and gives you something to... bring help, if you missed them then you can try to look into that. I think you have to go to a certain grace beacon.

Just before Margit, maybe bring help (no online required).

Crafting, maybe a merchant ...
posted by Crystalinne at 2:16 AM on March 9, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Margit fought solo is absolutely one of the most annoying early From bosses I've encountered. Answering the question is tricky because while I guess the things crystalinne is hinting at are maybe technically spoilers, they're also a gate for core system of the game that you absolutely must have if you don't want to solo the bosses (also definitely present in a lot of advertising material for the game). And ways to not solo bosses are the game difficulty modifier in elden ring, especially comparing it to other From games, so if you missed it you're at a huge disadvantage. Anyways, here's a direct answer to that in a details tag:
If you don't have the spirit calling bell already: Go to the church of Elleh (right after the beginning) at night and talk to Renna. I have no idea why they made this be a "night only" thing, it's incredibly annoying as a game designer, on par with other early stuff like putting a cliff in Margit's arena IMO. Then use ashes in absolutely every boss fight unless you want to practice your i-frames or something. Also summon NPCs with the gold calling signs where available, there is one for Margit. Bosses focusing their attention on summons takes a huge weight off needing to get every dodge perfect. *Also*, if Renna doesn't appear it's probably a bug, and just google some workarounds. Worst case scenario you will need to get to the roundtable hold and buy it, which is actually very easy to do before Margit, and may happen accidentally if you just explore enough.

The only thing that surprises my slightly is that I haven't learned how to craft items yet, but I assume that's coming later.

Similar thing, I don't think it's really spoiling you to just tell you that "From slightly hid this key item for a core game system from you very early on and you missed it only because you haven't played other from games before and weren't attuned to their conventions", but:
You missed a relatively cheap purchase of the crafting kit from the first vendor (at the church of elleh). He hints that you should buy it, but it's subtle.

posted by advil at 6:11 AM on March 9, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Another way to get a leg up on Magrit involves finding a particular NPC and buying something from them, separate from the merchant hint above. To find the NPC, explore the river in Limgrave.
posted by curious nu at 6:21 AM on March 9, 2022

Best answer: I have never played a Souls game before this one, and I still have no idea how half the mechanics of special attacks etc work, I'm playing on keyboard and I beat him as a button masher, cheesing the fight at level 28 with the assistance of some in game mechanics (details given in the hidden text in the post above by advi)l While the purists might shun the mechanics if it's in the game it's not cheating.

A trick my husband had to tell me is in a From Software game keep talking to NPCs even if you think the conversation is finished, try again. Sometimes the NPCs need to feel like they know you before they share things and listen to what they say, hints can be very vague.

Also have you found all the early little mini dungeons & hidden chests? Are you sure? There are some useful bibs and bobs to be found, the game really rewards exploring.
posted by wwax at 10:03 AM on March 9, 2022

Response by poster: Thank you everybody, all your answers were great. I appreciate you balancing alerting me to core mechanics I just happened to miss vs spoilers.
posted by unus sum at 10:05 AM on March 9, 2022

When you say you've explored the starting area, I assume you mean Limgrave? There are some other areas accessible before Margit that are level-appropriate.

Head south from Limgrave for another fairly large level appropriate area
Across a guarded bridge or some cliff-jumping, you'll find the Weeping Peninsula, which seems to sit between Limgrave and Stormveil Castle in difficulty. I was able to explore most in the level 15-25 range

There are also some map features that I'd recommend investigating as well.

If you spot dark circles on the map surrounded by orange, they're worth a look.

They're mines, which are a great source of smithing stones for weapon upgrades.

(Those details tags are nested, so the first level is still somewhat vague, and the second has more specifics)

As a new Souls player, I've also found Fextralife's videos to be extremely helpful. There's a series of character build guides that are relatively spoiler-free (they're recorded in Limgrave, although the second half often has some item location spoilers). I found it really helpful to watch someone play in different ways with different weapon types to get a better idea of what the game wants me to be doing. That said, it sounds like you're more experienced with these kinds of games than I am (I usually stick to turn-based, simulation, or very combat-light games) so they may be less helpful for you.
posted by duien at 10:43 AM on March 9, 2022

I feel sure that if you can beat Hades and Celeste, you can handle Margit. You've got this!

But! Elden Ring is, very much more than the previous games by From, a "come back later" one. There is so much to explore that you can always, always go off somewhere, find a new piece of gear, level a bit, and return. It's encouraged and rewarded.

Some low-spoiler tips I'd recommend:

-You can find a Faith-based weapon art east of the castle entrance, SE of the coliseum and just above a catacomb. If you don't have one already this will add faith damage to your weapon and increase its DPS by a lot. The tool to apply these arts is in the ruins south of Stormgate.
-In that area is also a soldier camp with a 100% physical block shield in a chest, useful if you don't have one
-Explore and find merchants. One is in the Church of Elleh just north of where you start. Another useful one is on the beach SW of there. They have crafting tools.
-There should be an NPC you can summon next to Margit's door. This isn't a crutch or easy mode, for first time players it's practically essential.
-Watch out for panic rolls! Margit's timing is weird and invites you to roll early. If you dodge at the right time he leaves huge openings.

If you are on Playstation let me know, I will happily be summoned and help you! More details if you want to memail me!
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 11:01 AM on March 9, 2022 [1 favorite]

For the record, I had a bit of a time with Margit and I consider myself a Souls veteran (although not a particularly good one). And by the time I beat him I had a +7 weapon because I'd explored a lot. And I used the summon.

The difficulty in this game is overall lower than previous Souls games because bosses aren't usually blockers like they were in the past -- I'm dozens of hours in by now and I've only encountered five mandatory bosses. (Margit is one of them.) You can explore all over finding stuff, although the various areas have a pretty obvious difficulty tier going on.

Am I right to think that my character is not unusually underpowered and that the main issue is that I need to get better at playing the game?

I'd say you're doing fine. The main focus in FromSoftware's games is skill-based, but there are lots of ways around that.
posted by neckro23 at 12:31 PM on March 9, 2022 [2 favorites]

But! Elden Ring is, very much more than the previous games by From, a "come back later" one.

I just want to nth this notion, because it's true for Margit and it'll be true for all sorts of other stuff you find later and will decided to come back to even later still. I have been using map markers a lot to note hard fights I don't want to keep banging my head against in the moment, and I go back and revisit those periodically when I've leveled myself and my gear up some more. You can explore a tremendous amount without killing anything particular; Margit really only gates off a little bit of content and being able to take him down is probably a good signal that you're even ready for that bit.

I had been all over the dang place before I got around to actually taking him down. I found the fight very annoying and victory a bit flukey, but it was still a satisfying mix of having powered up some and having gotten better at dealing with big impossible feeling fights elsewhere around the map. When in doubt, explore. They made a really satisfying big-yet-dense world and you can get to a whole lot of it with nothing but some gumption and a horse.
posted by cortex at 2:29 PM on March 9, 2022 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Just in case anybody is checking back, after going back to the church (where I had indeed missed both NPCs!) and leveling up and exploring a bit more I was able to beat Margit. Along with my favorite ash (jellyfish) I actually enjoyed the fight quite a bit. The mini game of passing aggro back and forth between us was fun.

Thanks for all the help everybody!
posted by unus sum at 1:48 PM on March 13, 2022 [2 favorites]

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