Elden Ring director, Hidetaka Miyazaki, has discussed the game's difficulty ahead of its February release date and has some sound advice for new players when it comes to selecting a starting class.
Speaking in an interview with the official PlayStation Blog (opens in new tab), Miyazaki touched on the notorious difficulty level of previous FromSoftware titles and how Elden Ring slots into that.
“I feel like our approach to these games, not just Elden Ring, is to design them to encourage the player to overcome adversity," said Miyazaki. "We don’t try to force difficulty or make things hard for the sake of it. We want players to use their cunning, study the game, memorize what’s happening, and learn from their mistakes. We don’t want players to feel like the game is unfairly punishing, but rather that there’s a chance to win a difficult encounter and make progress.”
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When it comes to Elden Ring specifically, Miyazaki said that the studio hasn’t “intentionally tried to lower the game’s difficulty” but did add, “I think more players will finish it this time“, citing increased player freedom, agency and multiplayer as reasons he thinks the “overall clear rate will go up” this time around.
Asked if he had any tips for newcomers with regards to a starting class or playstyle, Miyazaki said that in terms of playstyle he’d “like new players to feel unpressured and that they can approach the game at their pace”, pointing out that in Elden Ring there are “many options at the player’s disposal to confront challenging situations and use their cunning to outsmart enemies and bosses“, including simply leaving a challenge and coming back to it at their own pace.
As for choosing a class, he said, “It’s entirely up to the player. It’s an RPG, and they can approach it however they like and choose whichever looks the coolest to them.”
However, he did add, “but I would recommend against choosing the naked one (known as the Wretch). As before, it’s probably the most difficult starting class!”
Players of Bloodborne and Dark Souls will be familiar with this kind of class, also known as 'Waste of Skin' or 'Deprived'. Being a pretty blank slate, it could present a challenging beginning with a steeper learning curve for complete newcomers. But, hey, if you’re actually looking for more of a challenge, then you know exactly which class to go for when you pick up the game for yourself.
Analysis: The difficulty question
Difficulty is a topic that comes up quite a lot around FromSoftware’s games, with Miyazaki himself stating in this interview that it’s a “valid discussion”, adding, “we understand that Souls-like games are regularly associated with impossible levels of difficulty with high barriers to entry. But we try to design the games to make the cycle of repeatedly trying to overcome these challenges enjoyable in itself.”
This comes only a few days after producer Yasuhiro Kitao explained that elements of the Elden Ring have been developed to actively keep player stress levels low.
“With the game's world being so large, that can produce real depth and breadth of enjoyment, but it can also lead to unnecessary stress for some players,” said Kitao. “The dev team has been very careful to avoid that where possible.”
A lot of focus, for instance, has gone into making traversal of the game world less punishing for players, with things like fast travel and horses.
In his interview with PlayStationBlog, Miyazaki also referenced taking the player’s overall visual experience of Elden Ring's open world into consideration when selecting a color palette, saying that “to have it be dark all the time would be too oppressive” and so players will find a balance between “these brighter, more colorful moments” and “darker, more intense situations from previous FromSoftware titles.”
Elden Ring is due to release on February 25 2022 on Xbox One, PS4, PS5, Xbox Series X/S and PC.