Are you wondering whether Elden Ring is harder or easier than Dark Souls, Demon’s Souls, Bloodborne and Sekiro?
The answer: It’s the hardest FromSoftware game so far, harder than Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls, Bloodborne and Sekiro – if you play it legit without abusing exploits/cheese methods. There are bigger level-jumps between main bosses so it will require a lot more grinding for level-ups between areas. The difficulty spikes up more noticeably from one main boss to the next, often requiring hours of grinding level-ups to stand a chance. None of the other Souls games required farming this much to survive more than 1 hit. For example, between the first region and the second region, enemies have about twice the health and twice the damage. Endgame bosses are also mixed in with early game areas (such as dragons), you will have to backtrack a lot more. The game being non-linear makes it less obvious where to go and in what order to best approach bosses. You get killed in 1-2 hits frequently. Other Souls games were more linear, in Elden Ring you can easily feel lost without looking up guides or walkthroughs.
On the other hand, due to the game being more open world oriented you can go to other regions right away to collect flask upgrades (Golden Seeds & Sacred Tears) and get better gear to make it easier. If you set it up the right way and explore first and spend a few hours grinding to Level 100+ it’s not too difficult, at least until you reach the endgame bosses. So it also depends a bit on how you set it up. Guides for fast XP farming and gear locations are linked at the end of the guide below.
Playing as a mage lets you fight most bosses from safe distance without needing to be good at melee combat. You can also summon NPCs and Ashen Remains to fight alongside you in battle. Overall there is a lot of freedom with how you want to play, and you even have a mount that you can ride in open world boss fights to evade incoming attacks easily. All that said, the difficulty spikes between areas are definitely more noticeable than any other FromSoftware game, even some early game bosses can feel impossible if you are underleveled or don’t have enough flasks. The last FromSoftware release, Sekiro, didn’t have a stamina bar and you had infinite stamina. In Elden Ring you again are limited to just a few attacks and blocks until your stamina bar is depleted, like the Souls games. This alone makes it harder because you can’t dodge infinitely. Most bosses have quite extensive move sets and can deal damage at long range, or deal AOE damage that’s hard to dodge with a melee character. If playing a melee character in singleplayer, without the help of online players, this is the hardest FromSoftware game so far. Playing the Astrologer (mage) is easiest for newcomers and lets you brute force most bosses if sufficiently leveled. But even a mage build has its limits, several bosses have high resistance to magic so you can’t just spam the same spell for every boss.
In conclusion: if you set it up the right way it is quite manageable and you can always spend a few hours farming runes to overlevel, but if you wanted to just rush from one boss to the next using a melee build it is extremely punishing. Without abusing cheese methods or exploitable attacks it’s more challenging than any other FromSoftware game.
Below we will break down in more detail what makes Elden Ring harder and easier and compared to Dark Souls, Demon’s Souls, Bloodborne, Sekiro.
What makes Elden Ring harder:
- Much bigger difficulty spikes between areas and main bosses, requiring hours of farming level-ups to stand a chance.
- Frequently getting 1-hitted by bosses and even normal mobs, wearing light or medium armor at 20+ points Vigor (health stat). Be prepared to pump a lot of points into Vigor, especially after the first main bosses and then again in late-game areas when the difficulty starts to spike up. In the late game I even got one-hitted by some bosses with 50 Vigor wearing Medium Armor.
- Enemies/Bosses have more resistances than previous games. For example, some have high resistance to magic (e.g. dragons), requiring you to mix up your playstyle when playing a mage, otherwise you deal hardly any damage against some bosses. Likewise there are bosses that are resistant to physical melee damage.
- Some bosses have a lot more health than the average Souls bosses in the past. You will frequently feel like you’re hardly doing any damage, or in the case of playing a mage run out of mana before you can down a boss (even if allocating all flasks to mana).
- Bosses use more long-range attacks than previous games and throw more stuff at you. When you want to use a health flask to restore health, bosses will punish you hard and immediately attack or throw something at you, so while you drink your health flask you will already get hit by the next thing.
- Some bosses have insane hitboxes and player tracking, making instant turns in the middle of their attacks to refocus on you, or homing in on you. Overall more unpredictable and erratic move sets than most bosses in previous games.
- Bosses deal more damage in general. Even blocking with a 100% physical resistance shield will make you run out of Stamina immediately when bosses land more than 1 hit on you.
- There are a lot more bosses and enemy types overall, meaning more fights to deal with, more move sets to learn (however, most bosses are optional).
- The game is by far the longest and biggest FromSoftware game so far. Only truly dedicated players will make it to the end.
- Includes hardest bosses in the Soulsborne franchise – if you fight them legit without abusing exploits/cheese methods. Particularly: Malenia, Fire Giant, Radagon/Elden Beast are at the top of the difficulty scale that players have the most trouble with.
- A whole bunch of double bosses, fighting 2 or more bosses simultaneously. There is even a triple boss, fighting 3 bosses simultaneously. However, majority of these are optional.
- In case you played the alpha network test, you may remember the Prophet had an attack called Beast Claw that was very powerful, but this is no longer a starting item so can no longer be exploited. The Astrologer is the next-best thing to cast spells.
What makes Elden Ring easier:
- A lot of the open world is accessible from the start. If you focus on uncovering the map and exploring for items before going for main bosses, you can reduce the difficulty a bit. The game is geared much more towards exploration than any of the previous Souls games.
- Particularly the fact that you can get a lot of flasks early on helps a lot with main bosses. You need Golden Seeds to increase the number of flasks and Sacred Tears to make the flasks restore more health/mana. See Golden Seed Locations & Sacred Tear Locations.
- There are some fantastic rune farming spots (XP farming) early on. There are locations open from the start that can get you 300,000+ runes per hour, with this you can reach Level 100 in a few hours of farming. See Best Rune Farming Methods.
- You can now respawn from your place of death instead of having to run all the way back from the nearest save point. After dying choose to respawn from the last stake of Marika and you’ll respawn right in front of a boss. The save points (sites of grace) are also much closer to bosses this time. This means you can retry bosses faster without so much running around, thus taking out a lot of the frustration. Loading times are also much shorter on current-gen systems PS5 / Xbox Series, thus making deaths a little less loading-screen-intensive.
- The ability to summon Ashen Remains (spirits) to fight alongside you and distract enemies. This can make some bosses trivial, especially when you’ve level up those Ashes. They draw the attention of the enemy so you can attack from behind without the boss attacking you. Some bosses are easily exploited with this, but it doesn’t work against all of them.
- Even playing solo offline you can summon NPC helpers before main bosses (orange markings on ground before boss gates). These should easily survive the first half of the boss fight, during that time the NPC helper will attack the boss and draw all the attention. Then you can attack safely from behind. In combination with summoning Ashen Remains this makes the first half of every boss fight quite trivial.
- You have a mount, which is useful for open world bosses, especially dragons. The mount allows you to get around quickly and evade boss attacks, then go in for a few quick hits or cast spells from a safe distance. However, for the most difficult bosses you are usually locked indoors and can’t use the horse so it’s of limited use.
- Cheese methods (exploits) for all difficult bosses. You can exploit basically all bosses the following way – as a Mage you can one-shot most bosses using Comet Azur + Cerulean Hidden Tear (against fast bosses that jump out of the way, Meteorite Staff + Rock Sling is an easy strategy). For melee characters, the skill Hoarfrost Stomp is very effective against small-medium sized bosses. However, the same is true for other Souls games, if you really wanted to cheese them and use exploits you could. But in no other Souls game did I ever feel myself drawn to using such methods due to difficulty or unfairness of bosses. Especially Malenia and some other endgame bosses are borderline unfair if you don’t vastly overlevel or resort to exploits. A single combo will kill you even at 99 max Vigor and wearing the heaviest armor in the game and the best protective Talismans – meaning cheese methods have their limits and you still need at least a little bit of skill.
The above is based on 200h of gameplay and also having unlocked the platinum trophy. These are the combined findings of 5 of our staff members, all of whom played previous Souls games to 100% completion.
What is your difficulty rating of Elden Ring after having beaten it? Which bosses did you find the hardest? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
- Elden Ring Wiki & Strategy Guide
- Elden Ring – Walkthrough
- Elden Ring – Boss Guide (All Bosses)
- Elden Ring – All Sites of Grace Locations
- Elden Ring – All Spells Locations
- Elden Ring – All Weapon Locations
- Elden Ring – All Armor Locations
- Elden Ring – All Talisman Locations
- Elden Ring – All Golden Seed Locations (Flask Amount Upgrades)
- Elden Ring – All Sacred Tear Locations (Flask Strength Upgrades)
- Elden Ring – All Ashen Remains Locations (Spirit Summons)
- Elden Ring – All Ashes of War Locations (Weapon Skills)
- Elden Ring – How to Use & Equip Skills
- Elden RIng – How to Summon Ashes
- Elden Ring – Where to Bring Great Runes
- Elden Ring – Best Starting Class Guide
- Elden Ring – Best Starting Keepsake
- Elden Ring – Infinite Runes Farming Exploit