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Bad at Elden Ring? Ahead of the DLC, here's some expert advice from streamers who've beaten it with mind control, a saxophone, and a camera

Don’t fear the Shadow of the Erdtree. Even if you’re not armed with a sax, a polaroid, or powerful brain energy.

The erdtree and a boss in Elden Ring's Shadow of the Erdtree DLC.
Image credit: VG247/FromSoftware

FromSoftware’s games are pretty hard, aren't they?

I think so, even if there are plenty of people who don’t, and I wasn’t even trying to play through Elden Ring using my mind.

“I went in completely blind,” streamer Perrikaryal says of her first time trying the game as a Souls newbie, which was actually with the EEG tech she used to become the first person to finish off a mind control run through it. “I had seen others play it and knew a little bit about the mechanics, but I went straight in for the challenge.”

“I've played Elden Ring conventionally after starting the run and it’s definitely a very different experience with different learning curves,” she continues, “As basically a total beginner, my first conventional playthrough was a little overwhelming to start, but once I shifted my mindset and learned to treat boss fights as a slow process of gathering information, recognising patterns, and practising rhythm, instead of something stressful to rush through, I caught that souls-bug really quickly; they’re now one of my favourite genres of game.”

Fellow streamer Nikoheart also decided to throw himself in at the deep end by having his first taste of Elden Ring come with unorthodox controls, this time via a custom DSLR camera controller he’d spent six months working on. “I had seen it played/speedrun so many times over the course of its existence that [I knew] it was the perfect fit for the camera,” he says. What followed were some titanic struggles with the likes of the Godskin Duo, Commander Niall, and Rennala, though Nikoheart did somehow manage to beat Malenia with his first attempt.

Meanwhile, streamer Dr. DeComposing, who’s since beaten Elden Ring without taking a single hit using an electric saxophone - a Roland AE-10 Aerophone to be exact - jumped into The Lands Between for the first time the same way a lot of regular players did. “My first playthrough of Elden Ring started the moment the game unlocked on my PS5 release night, I got the Platinum for it less than a week later.” He adds that discovering things in the game at the same time as the rest of the community was particularly fun, even if the early versions of some bosses - such as pre-patch Radahn - proved “outrageously difficult” to beat.

In line with what she said earlier, when it comes to folks who might be trying Elden Ring in conventional fashion for the first time ahead of the Shadow of the Erdtree DLC, Perrikaryal has one big piece of advice: “Take your time.”

“Something that really got me into Elden Ring was spending my time exploring, collecting, and doing all those tasks that Elden Ring really rewards you for,” she explains. “Find storylines and quests that are more obscure. And then, when you come across bosses and pivotal story moments, you’ll find them much more rewarding - and [it] will make you appreciate the lore and artistry [even more].”

Interestingly, this approach mirrors how you’ve got to play the game if you're using an EEG. “With mind control you ought to play, even a super tense game like Elden Ring, meditatively. Which makes the slow-process, enjoy-the-ride mentality even more important,” the streamer says. She’s found that tweaking things like the “visualisations for each action” until they’re as close to ideal as possible is important, as well as making her character builds “work for the mind control, not the other way around.”

“Levelling is also very good,” she jokes, “Playing with mind control taught me to get more creative with types of combinations, spells, damage amplifiers [and] tricks, because higher damage is something you’re going to want. Max those stats.”

“Have fun and experiment,” is Dr. DeComposing’s key bit of guidance. “I tell people all the time that Elden Ring is probably the best FromSoft game for folks new to the series, because the previous Souls games were fairly linear, it made it so that if you got stuck on a boss, you could feel like it was a wall preventing you from experiencing the rest of the game,” he says. “Whereas, in Elden Ring, the open world structure makes it so that you can go try a bunch of other dungeons/bosses/etc if you get stuck on a particularly difficult boss.”

For those who might fancy becoming Elden Ring electric sax masters, he recommends watching the MIDI-to-keyboard input setup tutorials of speedrunner CZR, who’s famous for playing Super Mario 64 using an actual drumkit.

Nikoheart has a number of top tips for conventional playthroughs, including playing offline initially, so you can avoid losing progress thanks to invaders before you’ve gotten comfortable. Doing plenty of research on character classes before committing is something else he recommends, as well as using Ashes of War “to find the best weapon skill that'll work for your playstyle,” and trying to score a weapon with good stats early on. “Torrent is your best friend by the way,” he adds, “if you're not going to quick warp to a location, just get on Torrent whenever possible and start legging it to your destination.”

If you’re in the mood for a paparazzi-style playthrough, the streamer has two main bits of advice. First, “prepare for chaos” in terms of your input setup for your camera controller, as “quick, easy, [and] small hand stretches to the buttons” are crucial to making battles winnable. He also adds: “I wish I had a lighter camera to use as I was effectively holding about ~1.5kg for copious hours on end. The setup that was made specifically for my Canon 5DIII can potentially be brought over to older, lighter models, so that would make someone else's playthrough a bit more [easy] on the arms.”

No matter which way they’ll be approaching the DLC, pretty everyone who’s played the base version of Elden Ring has their own idea of what they want to see from the Shadow of the Erdtree, and these streamers are no different.

“I’m hoping for a continuation of the outrageously beautiful design of Elden Ring, and a deeper submersion into the lore of the universe,” says Perrikaryal. “I’d love to see more creative challenges, harder bosses, use of interesting classes and elements, and [the] tying up [of] any loose ends in terms of storylines. For my way of playing it in particular, I’d love more attacks that involve holding controls, like Comet Azur or Loretta’s Greatbow.”

Nikoheart’s also up for a challenge that builds on the game’s existing story and mechanics. “All of the bosses from the base game are each intricately unique, so you know FromSoftware [isn’t] going to [mess] around and may throw the hardest of the hard bosses into Shadow of the Erdtree, especially [when it comes to whatever] the 'finale' boss will be!”

Meanwhile, Dr. DeComposing’s looking forward to seeing whether the DLC incorporates Godwyn and Miquella in a big way. “I also kinda hope that the DLC will give the game new endings, similar to how Dark Souls [2’s] DLC added a new final boss fight. I'd also love it if FromSoft added a saxophone weapon into the game - Miyazaki-san, if you're reading this, it's not too late!!!!”

A not quite dead guy in Elden Ring's Shadow of the Erdtree DLC.
Me after trying Shadow of the Erdree for the first time - probably. | Image credit: VG247/FromSoftware

Regardless of whether it’ll give you the chance to beat a big baddie into submission using the sexiest sounding wind instrument our world has to offer, hopefully heading into Shadow of the Erdtree armed with this advice will help us FromSoft game strugglers experience the truth we all want to believe.

It’s never too late to catch the Souls bug.

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