Elden Ring is certainly a tough game, but after defeating Margit, the Fell Omen in Stormveil Castle, I was feeling pretty good about myself. I had done it in under a dozen tries; I was rocking a sweet halberd from the Tree Sentinel, and I felt like I had this whole “FromSoftware game” thing down. My hubris led to an immediate, inevitable fall at the hands of Stormveil’s other enemies. What made it really sting was that my new nemeses weren’t bosses — or even minibosses. Instead, I have been continually thwarted by Elden Ring’s tiniest foes, like wolves and birds — and it’s become clear to me these little guys are some of Elden Ring’s toughest enemies.
The first time I died to a bird in Stormveil Castle, I chuckled sensibly and shook my head in chagrin. “You certainly got me there,” I told Elden Ring. The second time, I frowned. Someone — I don’t know who, but I’m not happy about it — made the executive decision to give these large birds explosive barrels that they hucked at me from the skies. Not great!
The game is clearly cheeky about it, too. After downing the first three birds with explosive barrels, I was back to feeling pretty good about myself. I assumed my past death, at their claws, was just a momentary hiccup. Then, I spotted the distinctive glow of treasure nestled amongst barrels and ran for it, only for a fourth bird to come out of nowhere and detonate the whole mess of explosives, disintegrating my armored Tarnished and causing me to gnash my teeth and rend my garments.
Image: FromSoftware via Polygon
This is a continual pattern with Elden Ring, and it makes me feel less like a legendary hero and more like Wile E. Coyote. I am continually thwarted by the smallest enemies in these games, like dogs and birds. I look online and it seems like everyone else is asking for help with the larger bosses. They’ll say things like: “Hmm, I’m having a lot of problem with the Forgotten King-Lord of the Star Realms thanks to the poison aura he applied in phase 3,” while I’m stuck here lamenting, “I don’t like it when birds pelt me with explosive barrels.”
At this point, I have certainly died to this one rude avian more than I have to Margit, which is pretty impressive considering the size difference. Even Austen Goslin, my colleague, confided in me that at level 160 he was swarmed by a pack of sixteen wild dogs and murdered. It truly is tough out here on this bitch of the Lands Between.
Ultimately, while I may get salty in the moment, I really appreciate FromSoftware for making every enemy, even a big dog, a challenge. There’s a comedic tone that the struggle adds to everything; I can’t take myself or the game too seriously when I see a bird with knives surrounded by bloodstains. The experience continually serves up humble pie, and as a result, I’m always on edge. Is it fun? No, not necessarily, especially after I’ve lost a whole lot of runes to this silly stuff. But it’s engaging, and every victory tastes so much sweeter as a result. I think I’m on my way to becoming a real legend — just don’t ask about the scorch marks on my armor.
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