No Shields No Problem – An Elden Ring Story

Thumbnail - No Shields No Problem – An Elden Ring Story
Essays | Patrick DiPersio | December 13, 2022
Header - First UP

For the past couple of months now, we’ve been deep into what we like to affectionately call – the Soulsborne rhythm. Which basically means we’ve been playing a whole bunch of games in the Soulsborne pantheon, back to back. For those who aren’t quite familiar with that term, it boils down to any game that has been developed by FromSoftware and features similarities to the game(s) that started it all – Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls. 

The main character stands looking at a sun covered by clouds. She is holding a large blade and a flamethrower.

Anyways, after finishing up Dark Souls 3, our thirst for more wasn’t quenched. We needed more of that high stakes action RPG nectar, which could only be sated by diving back into the Soulsborne pool. Now, if you joined us on our last journey into the realm of deprivation in our retelling of our experiences in [Dark Souls 3](, you may have noticed that before we landed on that game as an option we were also debating jumping into Bloodborne. Well, to make a long story short, that’s what we decided to play next. The visceral, haunting, and horrific spin on an already dark, foreboding, and enigmatic series of games. An equation we were excited to re-experience the product of.

Header - To Sum It UP
The main character is holding a large blade and a flamethrower. She is wearing a wide brimmed witch hat in front of a red sun and purple cloudy sky.

Ok, I know that in the title we mentioned Elden Ring, and I promise we’ll get there, but I guarantee (loosely) that where I’m headed has a point! So, with Bloodborne now firmly in our line of sight, we dove in, taking the experiences we gained from playing Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls 3 with us. The benefit of this was, we had a lot more confidence in our excursions through the dank streets of Yahrnam, both from a combat perspective and from a general “I know what to expect in a Souls game” kind of way. However, what we forgot was that more than just the setting had changed in Bloodborne. That one of the biggest differences between Bloodborne and say Dark Souls 3, was that the combat moved from a slower paced, and deliberate cadence to a much more aggressive and fast-paced one. For example, instead of coaxing out enemy attacks, bopping them a few times, then jumping back out to wait for the next opening, you’ll find that it’s much more beneficial for you to always be on top of an enemy attacking and counter attacking. For one, because they’ll do the same to you, and secondly because following up with an attack after you’ve taken damage will reward you with getting some of your health back. A feature that definitely took some time to get used to, especially because being so aggressive or “greedy” in Dark Souls will usually turn the tide against you. Dark Souls is nothing if not ready and willing to punish you for being impatient. Though I will say, the increased aggression of enemies and bosses in Dark Souls 3 compared to its predecessors, definitely helped us during our Bloodborne orientation.

A many tentacled beast is floating in front of a huge red moon.

The other difference, and this is where I build the bridge between where we’re at in the story, and where my point lies, was that it has no shields. Well, there is one, but you’re better off not using it. Now this, by itself, was a shock to the system. I say that because shields were our crutch in the previous two games we played. Whether we were slinging spells at a giant fire flinging spider in Demon’s Souls, or pummeling the Ashen Ones in Dark Souls III with oversized swords, our shield was always there to save our hide if, or should I say WHEN, we fudged up a dodge. In Bloodborne there is no luxury 95.5% of the time, so you have to get good at recognizing enemy attacks and their tells, and of course dodging them, period. There is also the parry mechanic, but I’ll skirt by that since it goes against the point I’m trying to make.

A doll woman is holding a strange sluglike creature and looking concerned.

With all of that information now in your head, you may be asking what this has to do with Elden Ring? Well, during our adventures through Bloodborne’s desolate and grotesque environments, we got better and better at not needing a shield. We were dodging and weaving around attacks, following up with devastating combos, and speeding through the game at a faster pace than we expected. Constantly saying to ourselves that we always remembered specific places, bosses, or situations, being much harder when we first played the game. Which is partially due to the skills and confidence we brought with us from the previous two games, but also because we had a focused approach to how we were building and leveling up our character. It turns out that spreading your points across a few different attributes so you can be a jack of all trades, is usually a recipe for disaster.

The main character is holding a jeweled staff and looking out over a clifftop at a shrouded castle in the distance.

The biggest revelation we had though, was that playing without a shield was kind of freeing. And it made encounters that much more exciting because you had to pay that much more attention to where attacks were coming from so you could get out of the way in time. You know, instead of just letting it pong off our shield. It was actually kind of similar to our earlier experiences with Dark Souls 3 and playing as the deprived class. Only instead of it just being during the first few hours, it was throughout the whole game. What it meant was that without needing that big hunk of metal weighing down your left hand and taking up space, we were able to experiment with some of the other mechanics, like magic or the special hunter’s tools, in Bloodborne’s case. Or, experimenting with dual wielding and becoming a “glass cannon” in Elden Ring. Which is what we jumped right into after finishing Bloodborne.

Header - Wrapping It UP
A woman in a moon shaped hat is holding a glowing blue orb. She is standing in front of a very large moon in the middle of a body of water.

You see, running through a game like Elden Ring as a squishy little wizard that can unleash devastating spells that’ll melt even the toughest of enemies (i.e. a glass cannon), always seemed like an exciting concept. The problem was, I never had the confidence that I could complete the game like that. I mean to build a character like that, you’d have to pour all of your experience into the one stat that would make you offensively stronger, and completely ignore everything else, including your HP and defenses. Oh, and because you don’t have an ounce of strength or endurance outside of your mental fortitude, you wouldn’t be able to carry a shield strong enough that would save you from being decimated by any enemy or boss that happened to be able to land a hit. However, after previously facing similar challenges in Bloodborne, our confidence in being able to tackle such a playstyle was more than bolstered! We were getting pretty good at this dodging thing after all. So that’s what we did, we built a glass cannon in Elden Ring. 

A body with it's arms up in the air is on fire.

It was fun because it allowed us to experience a game that we literally just finished playing through a few months ago in a completely different way. We were finding challenges in different places than we had before, and breezing through areas that gave us more grief in the past than we care to admit. It also prompted us to explore late game areas earlier than is intended so we could get significantly stronger, that much earlier in the game. The enemies may have still been difficult, if not more so since they could typically take us out in one or two hits, but we were able to survive long enough that the battle of attrition usually ended in our favor. At least after a few attempts. Plus, no longer requiring a shield as our crutch for survival, meant we could supplement our long range magical abilities with fun melee weapons in our off hand. Giving us the best of both worlds.

A woman stands favoring her right arm among some water with many orange flowers in it. She has impressive wings that are made of flowers and butterflies.

What I found fascinating about our time in the Soulsborne rhythm, was that each time we played through one game, it informed how we approached the next. In Demon’s Souls it taught us that magic is powerful, so we always made sure we had access to at least one spell. In Dark Souls 3, its aggressive enemies taught us how to spot openings and to not get too greedy when attacking. In Bloodborne, it taught us that we didn’t need to rely on a shield to survive, and that we just needed confidence in our dodging abilities. And finally our time so far in Elden Ring has taught us that it’s the perfect amalgamation of each of the games we played before it, and no matter your playstyle or the level of challenge you’re seeking, there’s always fun to be had.