Purists will disagree, but Elden Ring is at its absolute best with stealth and magic. These were my words barely a week after FromSoftware’s latest action-RPG hit our screens, and, one month on from its arrival, I stand by them. My Elden Ring sorcery prowess is now so OP that I rarely need to lurk in the long grass these days, to be fair, but that’s only made the latter half of my sentiment all the more enjoyable. I can summon the actual moon in the heat battle now, for goodness sake, which is a move up there with the most satisfying video game attacks I’ve ever had at my disposal, in any game I’ve ever played.
Seriously, it’s difficult to put into words the excitement I derive from winding up a Rennala’s Full Moon sorcery spell, watching the huge spherical moon float through the air, before bursting upon impact and slicing a sizeable chunk of health from an enemy who otherwise bats away standard magic. Granted, it took me a while to hit the level-70 Intelligence stat requirement to wield this wonderful incantation – but that’s something I owe to perseverance, an early-game Rune-farming spot, and the fact that grinding in Elden Ring is such a joy because the rewards at the other end are totally worth it.
Shoot for the moon
In my quest to hit 70 Intelligence, my Elden Ring Rune farming spot of choice was Farum Greatbridge and the surrounding area – situated in Greyoll’s Dragonbarrow in northeastern Caelid. It’s worth noting that if you fancy copying this routine yourself, you can’t cast the all-conquering moon spell until you’ve killed Rennala, Queen of the Full Moon, who lives in the Academy of Raya Lucaria in Liurnia of the Lakes. Assuming you’ve already done that, though, you should be in good shape to visit Farum via the portal just north of the Third Church of Marika, tucked behind some bushes at the dead end of a river. Once transported to Greyoll’s Dragonbarrow, you’ll want to avoid all the imposing enemies knocking around, head south to the site of grace north of the bridge, and then target the smaller waist-height soldiers dressed in all black. These dudes look like pushovers, and while they’re easy enough to steamroll, they can one-shot players who leave themselves exposed.
There are loads of these wee guys roving around the place, but there are four in close proximity west of the site of grace that can be easily slaughtered in quick succession. I was hitting each one for 1094 runes, meaning every shuttle run in turn accrued 4,376 runes total. Given these enemies are susceptible to blunt damage, I preferred sprinting to each one on foot, dropping to a crouch just before aggro-range, and stealth-attacking from behind with a Morning Star hammer – but I’ve also seen sorcery builds casting Glintstone Cometshard and/or Carian Greatsword from atop their mount. It’s whatever feels comfortable for you, really, because, like any stretch of video game grind, it isn’t the journey but the destination that matters. I literally shot for the moon, but, equally, if you’re looking to ascertain other high level stats in order to equip powerful weapons, armour, shields, whatever, the same routine applies.
This routine saw me sticking on the TV and absentmindedly dividing my attention between Elden Ring and The Godfather Part One and Two in the background. Through Vito’s demise, Michael’s rise, Mo Green’s eyes, and Fredo’s lies, I farmed and farmed, and farmed and farmed some more. Besides the fact that the weightiness of backstabs in Elden Ring feels so satisfying, part of what makes the process of farming in the Lands Between so exciting is its sense of risk versus reward. In Skyrim, for example, obtaining the best magic spells in the game becomes a convoluted search and retrieve quest with riddles and plot holes; and by the time you’ve got the chops to actually cast the master-level spells you learn – at a cost of 600 magika-a-piece, no less – you’re easily the most OP person, creature, or beast in all of Tamriel.
In Elden Ring, however, everything and anything can kill you, no matter your level or skill. The fact that these little soldiers best used for farming can off you with one hit speaks volumes for the challenge of the process, and, even by the time you’re able to use Rennala’s Full Moon, victory is hardly guaranteed. The spell itself takes an age to cast, for example, meaning timing is everything when facing stronger foes. The spell homes in on its target to a degree, but it does so at such a slow pace meaning if you’re up against a nimble foe, you might wind up missing altogether. And at such a heavy drain on your FP, your Mind stat really needs to be right up there too, or, at the very least, your Flask of Herculean Tears needs to be upgraded a few times over.
Among the stars
It’s a lot to juggle at once, but the thrill of landing an OP moonshot is second to none. The wind up, the release, the anticipation, the frantic dodge as a boss makes a determined lunge, before recoiling as a third of its vigour slips from its health bar. And then it’s a quick chug of Herculean Tears and you’re good to go again – the hairs on the back of my neck are standing up just thinking about it.
It’s in these moments that I reckon the significance of Elden Ring’s grind comes to the fore. The moments when you’ve just offed a major pain in the ass boss after goodness knows how many unsuccessful attempts. The moments where you’re stood shoulder-to-shoulder with your +2 Lhutel the Headless summon, and have emptied an impressive nine FP-relenishing flask, you’ve upset the tide given the number of times you’ve called on the moon, and are finally reading “GREAT ENEMY FELLED” aloud in your living room as your girlfriend and two young children draw you dirty looks. Suddenly all those Dragonbarrow shuttle runs don’t feel so arduous and monotonous at all.
Grinding in RPGs is a progression method as old as the genre itself, but the reward for doing so in Elden Ring is, for me, as good as it’s ever felt. Unlike Skyrim, World of Warcraft, and even the Dark Souls series, this is partly down to the fluidity of classes and class structure. I may have started out as a sorcery-specific Astrologer in Elden Ring, but I’m now on the road to upping my strength and dexterity in order to wield the Starscourge Greatsword that I prised from the cold dead hands of Starscourge Radhan, a solid but optional boss who once resided in Caleid’s Redmane Castle. Once I’ve got that in my toolkit, I’ll be a force to be reckoned with. And then I’ll be back on the grind for my next OP reward.
Struggling in Elden Ring? Struggle no more! Elden Ring guide: beat bosses, master weapons and collect runes in the Lands Between