So about Elden Ring's combat...

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PurpleShyGuy

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#1  Edited By PurpleShyGuy

Like everyone and their dog, I've been playing Elden Ring, and judging by the fact I find it extremely difficult not to play this game whenever I have any free time available, I surmise that I'm really enjoying it. Elden Ring brings back the freedom to pursue a multitude of branching paths, which is something that Fromsoft's last few games have been slightly lacking in. I believe that this new open-world structure has helped a lot of people to get through Elden Ring, since now you can just wander off somewhere else if you are sick of banging your head against a difficult boss.

It's no secret that Fromsoft are known as the developers that make really hard games, but that difficultly was always in service of making a player think about their actions. Both Demon's and Dark Souls punished people for being too cavalier, since getting surrounded by enemies would quickly lead to death as you could only focus on one adversary at a time. You movement was also slow, which made you think about when to attack and when to not. The very combat system Elden Ring uses today was made for this slow and deliberate movement, but the majority of enemies and bosses are anything but.

There has been a focus on quicker action ever since Bloodborne came about, and it's something that I'm not a fan of. Enemy attack patterns are awkwardly paced and sometimes poorly telegraphed, and this isn't helped by the fact that your character still moves like a lethargic brick. Sekiro actually made some good headway in this regard, with cancellable attacks, a quick and reliable dodge, and visual and audio cues for certain dangerous enemy attacks. But Elden Ring seems to have disregarded these changes, and it is back to this cumbersome middle ground. I'm still firmly loving this game, but I just wish that the developers would realise that not every boss needs to a whirling ball of death.

What's everyone else's opinion on this? Is there something I'm missing here? Or do you feel the same way?

This isn't even my final form, or my second from final, or even my third from final.
This isn't even my final form, or my second from final, or even my third from final.

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Efesell

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I feel this a little bit.

There’s a lot of enemies in this game who fight with a sort of… familiarity with how players have adapted to the games. So yeah that means a lot of INCREDIBLY delayed and ridiculous looking slow strikes and a lot of giant enemies being able to react on a dime to you spinning around them.

I don’t dislike this approach on the whole but it does add a pinch of salt every so often.

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Justin258

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#3  Edited By Justin258

The fights with Margit and Godrick have been the worst aspects of this game so far. Delayed attacks (where they start the animation and then hold it until you finish rolling) and those spastic unlimited stamina attacks are not at all fun to deal with. They're also both tanky as fuck, even after upgrading and leveling. I've explored other parts of the game, fought other bosses, and had lots of fun, but I really hope all the main and/or later bosses aren't like this.

Edit: Want to also note, for me Dark Souls 3 is the highlight when it comes to Souls bosses. I think the majority of them are just some of the most satisfying enemies to fight in any video game. I never played much Bloodborne because frame rate and Sekiro railroaded you into a gameplay style that didn't work for me.

EDIT 2: It is also worth noting that I haven't played many games over past three or so years that are controller focused and I haven't gotten way into a Souls game since I last replayed Dark Souls 3 in like... 2018? I think? Anyway, I might just be way out of practice with this kind of game and controllers in general.

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csl316

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#4  Edited By csl316

I like the quicker combat from Bloodborne on, but honestly... the combat is my least favorite part of these games. I always found it serviceable, but kinda clunky and limited. Most of its appeal is learning enemy patterns and seeing your attack numbers increase over the course of the game.

You have a bunch of options to build a certain way, but the moment to moment stuff isn't all that interesting. It's the world design, the art, the intense bosses, the music. That's why these games always go towards the top of my GOTY rankings. Although I liked just about everything when it comes to Sekiro's gameplay.

Also, Quickstep is essential as a weapon art if you like to avoid stuff. I use it constantly.

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Efesell

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I don’t think attacks are poorly telegraphed though. Just very meticulously designed to catch a player dodging early. It’s just a little silly if you think about why something would fight like that.

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mellotronrules

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i actually don't mind the pacing or feel of combat- it's just something i adjust to, for better or worse.

if i can have one pet peeve on the combat side though- it's the enemy animations. i can't tell you how hilarious/deflating it was to spend my first few minutes buzzed on the effusive critical praise and visual presentation- only to hit that first wolf cave and have them animate attacking me like they were being puppet-ed on strings (lots of moonwalking up ramps and zooming to close distance like the wolves were wearing roller skates). maybe it's just the animals, i dunno.

also- the amount of bosses that do the telegraphed MY ARM IS RAISED SO HERE COMES THE BIG ONE only to slam it down and have an area of effect totally disconnected from arm placement can be annoying. i know it's how these games are, and if you see it coming you get the fuck out of dodge...but there's still a lot of BS in terms of being fully behind a boss and still being affected by a front-focused animation.

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Humanity

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It does feel as if the bosses and even mini bosses have become a lot fast and aggressive while the player is still moving at the same pace as always. I don’t mind boss AI evolving but it seems that while bosses have now become a lot more proficient at dealing with player dodges, there hasn’t in turn been a significant overhaul for player movement. It seems like Froms answer to dealing with a lot of these harsher baddies is the summon system but that just breaks combat completely as bosses lethargically switch aggro back and forth. It’s not really a great answer.

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sombre

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Dodge rolling the game

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tartyron

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#9  Edited By tartyron

Godrick had been a particular fucker for me. I’ve managed to get to level 40 and the dude is still spanking me as bad as ever, with or without co-op partners. I’m fairly sure I can murder the entire population of Limgrave bosses included, but Godrick is just fucked and honestly, I’m getting sorta sick of him. And I LIKE difficult bosses, but the whirl of limbs and hard to read attacks is just too chaotic for me to wrap my brain around yet.

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Ares42

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Honestly, I still find it puzzling that everyone favors dodging over blocking in these games. I'm convinced a vast majority of "normal" Souls players would find the games way more enjoyable if they just learned to use shields properly. This game even offers a great new offensive tool for shieldbearers.

I get that the "hardcore elite" Souls players don't wanna use them because it makes the games too easy, and they like the mastery aspect of dodging, but most people would probably have a better time just getting through things with less challenge.

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Efesell

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@ares42: The reason I avoid blocking is that you have to over commit to a heavy build so hard if you want to actually be good at blocking and then still being able to punish. Whereas a dodge is cheap and relatively forgiving while barely using much of your resources.

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Ares42

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@efesell: I don't really wanna belabour the point too much, but I've heard that sentiment a fair amount and it's never really rung true for me. I feel like a lot of people try blocking a bit early on in their first Souls game, with a bad shield and low stamina, and then they get frustrated with it and don't try it again. I've run hard caster builds in all three Souls games that relied on blocking rather than rolling with no issues at all. Just get a good shield, upgrade it, spend 10-15 points in stamina rather than HP early on and you're fine.

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TheRealTurk

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I have mixed feelings on it.

On the one hand, some things series has always struggled with are still terrible in Elden Ring, which is getting tiresome this many games in. The camera is frequently a challenge against bigger enemies like giants where you can't see where you need to attack and what they are doing at the same time. The worst enemies continue to be dogs and rats, whose animation and damage frames are still completely divorced from one another.

On the other hand, I don't think it's quite fair to say that the combat hasn't improved in some ways. I personally detested the system in Sekiro and am glad they mostly moved away from it. This engine has never been good enough performance wise to carry off the frame perfect timing that game demanded, so I think its good they moved back to the more deliberate Souls-style pace.

There are other things that have been added, too. A lot of enemies seem to have animations and move sets specifically designed to counter long-time Souls players. Most of the big slow enemies have at least one AoE that prevents you from just camping near their butt and moving under their attacks. Other enemies have additional follow-up attacks after the point you would normally dodge that are designed to catch you out for being too aggressive.

As far as bosses go, I haven't found any too hard so far. I didn't struggle with Margit nearly as much as everyone else seems to - I beat him first go at level 20 by using the block counter to break his stance repeatedly. And maybe that's the thing. I wonder how many players are actually taking advantage of things like the block counter or jump attacks versus trying to play this like Dark Souls 3.

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Efesell

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@ares42: I guess. Although this game specifically seems to have a whole lot of things that just say “cute shield” in my experience.

In any event I wouldn’t say it isn’t viable or anything just that I don’t think it’s inherently safer or less frustrating to focus on being good at blocking.

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LapsarianGiraff

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I think Sekiro has the best, most responsive combat From has ever developed, so of course I'm a little salty that they went back to the Dark Souls rolls and woefully delayed parry timings. That being said, none of these issues have anything to do with the bosses themselves -- having just beat Radahn, they're just your run of the mill Dark Souls bosses on roids to punish the usual cheesing strategies. And your movement/attacks are more than up to the task of dealing with them.

But man... SEKIRO, THOUGH. A game that controlled like that with this open world structure so people don't just bash their head against Lady Butterfly until their brain's scattered on the pavement... that would be incredible.

Still loving Elden Ring, though.

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Humanity

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#16  Edited By Humanity

@ares42: I tend to ween myself off blocking after the beginning of the game because later bosses will posture break even the toughest shields unless you really deck yourself out in super heavy armor. Even then, in Elden Ring especially, bosses have just such overwhelming attack flurries that you can safely block 1 or 2 hits but then the remaining 5 concurrent strikes will break you.

I was using the shield early on and having a great time, especially for minor mobs because you can do the shield-counter which staggers a lot of enemies. Combined with life-back-on-criticals this is a great technique for topping up your health. Eventually though I found STR based weapons with the new jumping attack really demolish things a lot faster and easier than Dex pokers. So I just committed myself to 2 handing and rolling and personally I've been having a much better time.

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LapsarianGiraff

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@ares42: I'm mixed on this. I agree that blocking is viable, and Elden Ring more than earlier Souls games rewards blocking. The Guard Counter is fantastic, (though many later enemies have specific patterns to punish this that, while you can still work around, make you think about whether or not to Counter more,) and lots of boss attacks can be tanked with the shield. There was one fight, the Crucible Knight in the Evergaol before Stormveil, that really taught me this. In the first phase, I could dodge my way through everything, but in his second phase he followed up most of his attacks with a huge tail swipe that literally could not be dodged in time after dodging the first swing, and I was getting frustrated until I remembered blocking was a thing and I could take a small amount of chip damage instead of outright dying, ha.

That being said, dodging is still far more efficient in terms of stamina usage, and works 90% of the time. So I think the takeaway is, as banal as it sounds, "all things in moderation." There are several attacks that will punish people who block too much, and there are attacks that punish dodgers like what I just mentioned. You're encouraged to use both.

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AV_Gamer

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#18  Edited By AV_Gamer

Simply put, the bosses in this game are the hardest they've done in a Souls-like game so far. I believe they did this as a response to all the speed runners completely dissecting their past games, as even many of them are having trouble with the bosses, as the many tricks they've used in the past to cheese bosses depending on the type of boss no longer work. I'm sure in time they will discover some new strats, but it clearly will take sometime. As far as the combat goes, it's the same as its ever been in a From Soft game, the bosses are just punishingly harder.

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PurpleShyGuy

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@efesell: The types of attacks that seem poorly telegraphed to me are the ones that either have the enemy very suddenly fly towards the player with little warning, or the ground slam attacks which have bigger hit-boxes than the particle effects would have you believe.

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Giefcookie

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At about 65hours played now with a dex/int Cold katana dual wield build and I've blocked probably fewer than 10 total attacks during that time. Played most of the game 2-handing a katana, then found another decent one and went full dual wield madness.

The delayed attacks especially mid combo are a pain, but summoning some spirits to create an opening or just completely backing off when you realize what the boss is doing has worked pretty well. The Quickstep and the improved version of that (Hounds something?) are also pretty clutch if you want to be melee without a shield. Being able to dodge quickly away to observe those crazy long attack strings also gives you way more time to actually figure out where the opening is.

Compared to Sekiro I'm having way more fun with it just because of the lower difficulty overall. Could do with less action queueing though, getting hit while trying to dodge and then that dodge coming out good second after the input is still weird.

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Ares42

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That being said, dodging is still far more efficient in terms of stamina usage, and works 90% of the time.

I feel like that's a pretty drastic over-estimation. Dodging works great when you've already mastered the encounters. Blocking works great from the get-go. That's the big difference. I've been watching two buddies playing the game today and the amount of struggling they go through because they have to learn dodge patterns is just astounding.

With a shield you can confidentally walk into pretty much any fight and just take your time and you'll eventually win. Sure, there's a few encounters here and there where you'll get screwed, but I'd say that's far preferable for people who's finding every encounter to be a struggle.

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LapsarianGiraff

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@ares42: Fair. In my experience, even in my first couple of fights with Margit, who everyone says is the antichrist of Elden Ring, the dodges felt pretty self evident. His extra light daggers thrown out are rough when you first encounter them, but he does these HUGE leaping strikes where he hangs in the air forever saying "you should roll now!"

I was talking about this with another friend who's played a lot of Souls, and we agreed that Elden Ring is probably harder for people who have already played a lot of Souls and feel like they've downloaded the timings. All the frame traps and delayed swings and extra attacks are only effective because a fair number of people have learned to play these games on autopilot since Dark Souls. Whereas a new player with no assumptions would just... learn the pattern, the same way we all did in 2011 with Dark Souls.

That being said, the same way your experience makes my "dodging works most of the time" claim seem like an overestimation, I think you are overestimating how effective shields are. When several of the bosses make their haymaker swings, the shield just doesn't have the defense or poise to stop you from getting crushed, unless you're focusing exclusively on a slow tank build. Whereas for my speedy Dex build rolling is the best option.

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Efesell

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@av_gamer: I actually don’t agree with this much at all. Elden Ring has a couple of specific standout bosses that are very difficult but taken in aggregate I would say it trends a little easier than say DS3 or Sekiro.

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#24  Edited By Junkerman

@ares42: @efesell:

Just thought I'd chime in here - Pretty much a first time Souls player here and I've been finding good success with blocking ~and~ playing as a faith based character.

I'm still using 100% starting gear for the confessor with the addition of the 100% immunity Brass Shield and the block counter has been my go to for the overwhelming majority of the fights since you can typically get a stun in there if you connect with a few.

I'm sure if I had a higher poise from putting on something other then my rags I'd have an even easier time but heavy armor looks bad... but with a few dodges and careful, well timed blocks its been pretty reliable.

I also found this Ashes of War from one of the bosses called Barricade. Its a dope as fuck near instant cast buff to my shield which basically jacks its guard boos up to insane levels for about 10 seconds. Its mana cost is around 5 or 6 or something low so it syncs perfect with my caster build and I can face tank all but the most insane burst attacks. Godrick took me about 8 tries to get down last night but I also got him so low on my first fight that I couldnt see health in his health bar any longer and got greedy thinking I could get that last swing in before his aoe got me. I was pretty rattled after that... one more Vigor point would have saved me 30 minutes!

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noboners

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#25  Edited By noboners

@csl316: quickstep feels like it was put in for people that still wanted to play this like Sekiro. I love it and wish it wasn't only on this crappy weapon I found. I'm literally dual wielding so I can use Quickstep until I can find the Ash of War for it.

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csl316

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@noboners: I got lucky and found the ash, but don't remember where. I immediately put it on my main weapon.

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Efesell

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I cannot imagine sacrificing a weapon skill for a different way of dodging though.

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noboners

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I've found myself not really using the other Ashes. Or at least not finding one worth using. The flail I'm using has a pretty dope spin thing but it's super circumstantial. So if I need to, I just two hand it and do that skill. And I'm guessing the other Ash will help the weapon level up with Dex, which is what I'm focusing on already. And Quickstep fits my playstyle so much better.

I should probably note that I've only played for about 16 hours. I've beaten Margit but not entered the area right after. Instead just pretty much stayed in Limgrave and Weeping Peninsula, so I'm still pretty early and all my opinions could change by the end of the weekend.

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#29  Edited By ajamafalous

Definitely agree; I feel the combat has been actively bad in the Souls games since Bloodborne and Dark Souls 3, and now they've gone even farther in that direction with Elden Ring. I'm sure plenty of people feel exactly the opposite, and that's okay. For context, I have the platinum trophy in all but DS3 (which I beat a couple times but didn't like enough to replay for the platinum; I haven't played Sekiro), so I'd consider myself a 'series veteran' or whatever.

There are too many attack strings that are 4-8 hit combos that you can't have the stamina to block the entire thing (even with a high stability shield and 50+ endurance), so you're forced to dodge, but then some of the attacks follow each other so quickly that you won't even have finished your medium roll to be able to roll the followup and you will get hit. I also hate the design that started with Bloodborne of the bosses all having a million health and flying around the room with big jumping attacks, and everybody having big delayed strikes where they hold their weapon back for like 2.5 seconds and then swing it forward to hit you in like six frames, and every boss doing 360 degree sweeps with every attack and also being able to spin 170 degrees in between every attack to track you and prevent you from finding a safe spot for certain attack strings on their side/back. I also really think this game needs the Monster Hunter system where you can delay your wakeup from a knockdown and you have iframes on the ground until you do so; probably over half of my deaths are me dying without control of my character because one hit clips me and then several rapid followups kill me before I can roll, or one hit knocks me down and then a big followup kills me before I can get up. Why not just kill me with the first attack if you aren't going to let me play the game once I get hit once? So that I can sometimes be saved by the boss's AI not using the followup that was a guaranteed kill? That is not fun to me.

I started as Hero and leveled to 16 str/10 dex for Lordsworn's Greatsword (later 17/11 for Zweihander after Rennala) but other than that I put every level into Vigor until 40 and then every level into Endurance until 50 while wearing the heaviest armor I've found (Banished Knight; still haven't found anything heavier/with more poise 50 hours later), so it's not like my character could've been much tankier than it was already at the start of the game.

I also think it's probably really important for people to kinda outline how far they are in the game when they're giving impressions. I've seen a lot of people posting things like 'I haven't run into any trouble so far!' when I suspect they've probably only done some of Limgrave and/or Liurnia. I've killed some absolutely fucked bosses in later areas (the Fallingstar Beast in the tiny room, the Godskin Apostle in the Divine Tower of Caelid, Starscourge Radahn) that seem to just completely hardcounter the way I typically like to play these games (biggest greatsword, heaviest armor, medium roll, and sometimes a shield (in the earlier games, because they seem to make enemies counter shields more and more as the series goes on)). I had to beat Godskin Apostle strictly by baiting out fireballs, and only punishing fireballs, overhead slams, and the forward spinning attack with the Zweihander rolling attack poke, because even the default 2h R1 was too slow to use without getting hit. Radahn as a melee is almost purely 'hope that he focuses the NPCs long enough that you can kill him and that he doesn't target you with seemingly-undodgeable attacks like the tracking rocks in phase 2 or decide to followup with the oneshot divebomb after he knocks you down' for the average player. I think he's probably replaced Bed of Chaos for me as the most poorly-designed fight in the series. Obviously there are going to be players (and there are probably already videos; I didn't look) that can just stand in front of him and perfectly iframe every attack, but I've been fighting a bunch of bosses and even regular enemies now that have some attacks that are so fast that I literally cannot dodge them on reaction. I only died a handful of times in the Demon's Souls remake last year, rebought DS1, 2, and 3 on PS5 to get the platinums after that (originally played them on PC), and do deathless/hitless Fatalis, Arch Tempered Velkhana, Tempered Furious Rajang, etc. runs in Iceborne all the time, so I don't think it's a 'my reactions aren't what they used to be' thing. I can say that I didn't feel any satisfaction upon beating any of those bosses in Elden Ring; more like 'that was stupid and completely unfun; I had completely solved Godskin Apostle's moveset by the third attempt and it still took me five more because I kept getting unlucky on my dodge iframes and would die to a combo from full health.' In Iceborne, it took me probably 10 or 15 attempts at Fatalis (timing out at 30 minutes each; plenty of deaths mixed in) before I beat him, but I felt like I was actively learning and getting better with each attempt until I beat him, and I haven't lost to him since. That is a fight that feels tough but completely fair; I almost never die on Fatalis to something that I feel like wasn't my fault.

I just never felt so railroaded by bosses in the earlier Souls games as I did in Bloodborne and now Elden Ring, where it really feels like I'm being punished for my build choice. I never got anywhere in Bloodborne while I was trying to use the Greatsword and 2h Hammer and only progressed after I restarted with the fastest cleaver starting weapon. I guess it feels like the difficulty spectrum between builds was much tighter in older games than in the newer ones. The effectiveness highs in Elden Ring are much higher ('lol I am literally just stunlocking this boss to death with Zweihander R1,' or 'lol I just rode around on my horse and shot lightning at the boss until it died without it ever getting near me,' etc.) and the lows are much lower ('lol I literally cannot use an attack other than rolling R1 because every other attack is too slow'). I feel like at some point in the series, the boss design changed from being able to avoid damage by getting out of the way to being required to avoid damage by dodging perfectly; from 'you can avoid damage from 2/3 of the attacks by being in the right spot or dodging to the correct side for each attack' to 'hope you time your iframes right for all of these attack chains.'

Anyway, long rant of complaints, and I want to stop before I write another several pages. I just really like the early games in this series and feel like, other than liking DS1 more than DeS, they've gotten farther away from what I originally liked about them with every iteration. There are a few parts of Elden Ring that I like (the castles really feel like Souls levels, which I didn't think they could pull off, and I think being able to poise break an enemy so that you can crit them is a neat addition), but most of it feels somewhere between middling (the budget, repeated caves that are just Chalice Dungeon-equivalents) and actively bad (the lack of interesting things in the open world, and how you don't know what camps/ruins are actually worth clearing for their rewards, so 90% of the time you go out of your way just to get something irrelevant to your build, and how the horse seems to be force-dismounted/killed after 1-2 attacks by most of the later enemies and seems to have no poise at all or a dodge with iframes to avoid attacks) to me. Again, I'm sure people will completely disagree with that, and that's fine. I'll still finish the game (I would guess I'm like 60ish% done, maybe?), but I don't see myself making another character and having to go through it all again, even though some other builds seem interesting.

I'll see how my final impressions are once I'm done with it, but as of right now, this game is definitely the worst one in the series for me.

P.S.: The fact that you get instant invaded and chain invaded (cooldown seems to be five minutes) when you just want to run around in the open world with a friend is fucked, and it's even more fucked that people can just sprint away in one direction for ten minutes when they get in trouble and you have no way to catch them. Invasions should only be in the dungeons.

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Nodima

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I enjoy the basic push and pull of minor mob combat in these games and always have because when you fuck, you fuck and when you get fucked, you get fucked. It also feels great that encounters begin and end in nearly the same breath a lot of times.

While I enjoy the catharsis that comes from defeating a sticky wicket boss, they've never been the main appeal of these games for me. I "famously" loved Sekiro until I was beset on all sides by bosses I simply couldn't conquer. I "famously" spent 7 hours trying to clear Central Yharnam of every enemy before I was finally good enough at that section that I made it to a boss and realized that was what was gatekeeping me from leveling up and I didn't think that sucked at all.

But I've honestly never loved the boss fight design. My favorite bits from these games were the various A.I. hunters laid out across the world of Bloodborne because those felt like equal challenges, but for that same reason I feel like these games' boss battles peaked with Father Gascoigne and Lady Maria and are mostly some variation of nonsense otherwise.

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Humanity

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@ajamafalous: Largely agree with the boss criticism. The movesets designed to counter every attack the player can throw at the AI really means that you end up having to wait out very sparse openings and poking enemies rather than engaging in actual combat.

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Efesell

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@humanity: I do feel like this is offset a bit by giving most bosses surprisingly low Poise. You can force a lot of openings if you aggressively go in for those heavy hits.

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Deathpooky

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I feel like they've compensated for that by how much stamina you have now. I can viscerally recall when I had finally upgraded my endurance in Dark Souls 1 enough that I could now swing my sword four times instead of three before I ran out of stamina.

In Elden Ring I've barely touched my endurance and I almost never run out of stamina. I can get like ten sword swings in and roll like crazy without ever thinking about stamina. Makes crowd management and boss dodging a lot easier if you can just spam attacks or dodges without much consequence.

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noobsauce

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I understand the criticisms, especially since the game has seemingly adapted to previous Soulsbourne game players with some delayed attacks to time your assumed dodges. It might be hard for me to remove my bias but I do think this game retains the methodical approach of Dark Souls 1 but has sped it up some ala Bloodborune to hit a nice mid ground that Dark Souls 3 was close to but kind of missed the mark, leaning more into the quicker pace of BB. In that regard, I think Elden Ring is the open world successor to Dark Souls 1.

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Efesell

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#35  Edited By Efesell

The actual main complaint I'm coming around on in this games combat is that I've reached sort of end game areas and a frustrating number of enemies have just decided to stop flinching from attacks altogether.

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@efesell: Except THAT is then offset by the remarkably low damage those “visceral” attacks do to bosses as opposed to regular enemies. It sometimes really feels like just another charged hit.

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@lapsariangiraff: The bosses in Elden Ring are certainly surmountable, it's just that they felt more fun to fight when I was playing as Sekiro. Maybe one day somebody will mod him into Elden Ring, that would be interesting to play.