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The real hardest boss in Elden Ring? Platforming and control layout

No matter how good I get at every other aspect of Elden Ring, the platforming is still an absolute nightmare.

I’m getting to the point now where I’m considering myself more and more of an Elden Ring expert. I’ve immersed myself in it. One play-through on PC, plus two speed-run New Game Plus runs in order to see a few of the game’s various endings. Then, on Xbox, an all-new file, with an all-new build. I’ve spent a disgraceful amount of my time when not playing the game indulging my newfound Soulsborne lore goblin tendencies, too – scrutinizing wikis, Twitter, Youtube, and message boards to piece together the less obvious bits of the lore. I’m deep into it.

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A lot of this has enhanced my experience of the game. Being well into the lore has made those rare pre-boss cutscenes and practically every item description more fascinating, for instance.

My favorite has been doing an all-new save file after finishing the game a couple of times already. As well as switching to a magical-focused build – a completely different direction to my main file – the biggest difference is the knowledge that’s pre-loaded into your brain. It transforms the game, in fact. It’s still hard, but those panicked early runs at a boss where you die just to learn its attack patterns are gone. So is the relatively random chance of exploration; you know where things are, and plot a path through The Lands Between that suits your planned character build.

Some of this might sound like it trivializes the game, but it’s a testament to Elden Ring’s design that it doesn’t. It comes back to the same sort of vibe FromSoftware carefully crafted that allowed hefty content reuse without shattering immersion; somehow, even the fourth time through, Elden Ring finds new ways to impress and wow. And when you find a new piece of the world that you hadn’t discovered before, that’s even more magical still.

The greatest thing is that power fantasy of being even more all-knowing than Sir Gideon Ofnir, though. You’re not powering through bosses like Margit, Radahn, Godfrey, or all those other lads and ladies with George R. R. Martin’s initials because you’re level 120, like on NG+. You’re doing it at an appropriate level, or below, winning through your knowledge. It’s like a reward for all the hours invested. It feels great.

One aspect of the Elden Ring experience doesn’t get any bloody easier, though, you know? That’s the platforming, and in relation, the button configuration. They’re the true final boss. I’ve still not mastered them.

Hundreds of hours later, and here I am making rookie mistakes. On my new Xbox save file, last night I began the trek down to Nokron (if you know, you know), and found myself wanting to make a difficult platforming jump on the way to pick up some items scattered across corpses.

I had a narrow platform to jump from, so I lined up the jump carefully, pressed the B button to be ready to sprint a short distance then jump… forgetting that B is also assigned to the backstep. I backstepped off my tiny plinth and to my death. Worse, when I got back down there, I forgot the button assignment and did it again. Twice in a row!

Now, you might be thinking: 'Alex, you’re thick, just pay attention and get over it'. But, hear me out a second. These occurrences are indicative of a wider thing in Elden Ring, which is that… parts of the button configuration just sort-of suck. Plus, honestly, the movement in this game isn’t built for platforming: any time it asks for precise jumping, even though it’s only ever to reach an optional piece of loot, I groan.

At launch, a lot of people seemed to zero in on the fact that the button to open the in-game map inexplicably is different to the button that closes the map – which, yes, is a weird choice. The backstep/sprint thing is a similar issue, and I think it’s pretty telling that – hundreds of hours into Elden Ring, and with tons of Soulsborne experience under my belt – I still accidentally backstep and kill myself with a loose regularity.

That whole Elden Ring ‘UX’ debate at launch got ugly and silly quickly. If you missed it (lucky you) the game’s success needled at a bunch of developers who tweeted sweeping statements about reviewers “not giving a s**t” about game UX because Elden Ring scored high despite being pretty deficient in places. A meme image of ‘what Elden Ring would look like as a Ubisoft game’ – a screen covered in markers and prompts to redeem freebies from the ‘Elden Shop’ – was quickly fired back, and a rubbish discourse raged. But let’s be clear for a second: some elements of Elden Ring’s UX absolutely suck. It’s one of the best games of the last 20 years, too. These two things are not mutually exclusive.

Generally speaking, FromSoftware has done well to ignore a lot of the cries over the years to standardize elements of their games. The kooky, weird ways in which their worlds and designs differentiate is a huge part of what made Elden Ring so great. But, y’know… maybe they should study the non-combat button config in a few other games. And good platforming. That’d be nice.

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