Elden Ring combat guide: Vanquish the monstrosities of the Lands Between

Elden Ring
(Image credit: FromSoftware)
Survive the Lands Between with these Elden Ring guides

Elden Ring storyteller

(Image credit: FromSoftware)

Elden Ring guide: Conquer the Lands Between
Elden Ring bosses: How to beat them
Elden Ring dungeons: How to defeat them
Elden Ring paintings: Solutions and locations
Elden Ring map fragments: Reveal the world

At the core of FromSoftware games, there is a combat system you'll need to get to grips with. It's an essential part of the experience and you'll need to make sure you're making the most of everything available to you so you can beat your foes. You're going to get your ass handed to you a fair number of times, don't get me wrong, but that's part of the fun isn't it?

Depending on which of the Elden Ring classes you pick, your experience of the game is going to be very different. I, for example, picked the Samurai class which immediately gives you a katana and bow. Whereas if you were to pick Astrologer you'd have more stats siphoned into casting sorceries. It all depends on your style. 

This Elden Ring combat guide will break down the various forms of battling the game will offer and how to use them efficiently. 

Elden Ring combat guide: Should you use a controller or mouse and keyboard? 

I'm going to join the chorus of people telling you that controllers are the way to play FromSoftware's games here. I'm a mouse and keyboard player the entire way, through and through, but even I have to admit that the controls for the keyboard are far less intuitive than using a controller of choice. If you have the option you're going to get to grips with the combat far quicker on a controller, but it's definitely possible to be good at the game on keyboard if you choose.  


I found out after hours of Dark Souls struggling, that locking on is a FromSoftware speciality. Lock onto pretty much everything you attack, though there are exceptions to this rule. Lock on by pressing Q or R3 on a controller. You can also flick between targets using your mouse or by flicking your right stick on a controller. Q will stop your lock, too. Trust me when I say this is essential. The only time you shouldn't be locked on is if you're running away, or in the case you're fighting something so big that you need to see more of your enemy than will fit on your screen. 

(Image credit: Tyler C. / FromSoftware)

Sneaking and backstabs 

Sneaking is an added bonus of Elden Ring's combat systems. Though you're going to have plenty of time to fight enemies, sometimes you're going to prefer to sneak past them, especially if you've fought them before. Sneaking can also be used to backstab enemies to potentially take them out in one fell-swoop or at least take a decent chunk of their health. The amount of damage you deal in these animations is partly affected by your weapon's crit stat, and the same goes for those Bloodborne-style visceral attacks we'll explain a little further down. 

 Dodging and rolling

Unless you've got the poise of an elephant wearing a suit of gold, you're going to need to learn to dodge attacks. This is going to be essential when facing enemies that are doing more damage than your shield and endurance can withstand, or if you're not using a shield in the first place. 

The best way to dodge is by experimenting at first. You're going to come across a lot of different enemies while playing Elden Ring and they're all going to fight a little differently. Make sure to pay attention to attack timing, patterns, and what you can bait enemies into. For example, I learned that with Margit the Fell Omen, you can roll towards him when he does a launch attack and avoid an otherwise devastating attack. 

Timing is everything and if you don't get it right first time, try, try again. Your equip load will also affect your dodging speed, with light being the fastest, and heavy giving you a slow roll.


While Elden Ring allows backstabs, it also encourages Bloodborne's style of visceral attacks. Staggering enemies can be done through using your charged and jumping attacks on them. It may not work immediately, but a combination of light and heavy hits successfully landing on your target may stagger them. There will be a drum-like sound effect at which they will become vulnerable for a short period of time. Run towards the glowing part of them and use a light attack to activate a visceral attack animation, which will look kind of like a backstab.  

 Ashes of War 

Ashes of War are add-on abilities for your weapons, similar to weapon arts from Dark Souls 3, and can be performed using the left trigger It's like adding just a touch of magic to your sword or staff, or gaining the ability to set your axe on fire. Ashes of War are important because they not only add a skill and damage type to your weapon, but also affect its scaling (the amount of damage your stats will cause the weapon to deal). Take a look at our Ashes of War guide if you want a list of the affinities and how they affect scaling, as well as a list of known Ashes of War and their locations.  


This is going to be the go-to form of combat for many players, especially newbies to the series. It's fast, efficient, and doesn't use all that much endurance. Honestly if you feel overwhelmed by all the systems and combat mechanics of the game, getting comfortable with a one-handed sword and a shield is the way to go. Light attacks are accessible with a left click or right-trigger. Charged attacks are accessible with right click or right-trigger. Though be sure to time your charged attacks since, as you'd guess, they often have a slow charge up which you can hold longer to increase damage.  

(Image credit: From Software)


To use a weapon two-handed in Elden Ring, you need to hold E and tap left-click. On a controller it's (X on Xbox, Y on Switch Pro) and right-trigger. Two-handed will have its advantages, especially in some boss fights. It'll give you the ability to hit heavier with quite some speed. 

The drawback is, of course, sacrificing your shield. It means that you can't tank some hits you would otherwise, so you're going to have to get your dodging perfect to avoid damage. Finding some more efficient armour is also going to help here, but nothing too heavy or you'll be slow rolling everywhere. Two-handing is also a good call in bosses that deal fire, lightning, magic, or any sort of damage that partially makes it through your shield, since dodging will instead let you avoid damage completely.


If you're playing a class like the Astrologer or the Prophet, you're going to have a staff and a sacred seal on top of your regular weapon. These casting weapons are usually used in your off-hand, and they can perform whatever spells you find and then memorize at a Site of Grace. You can gain further spell memory stones, such as the one that is rewarded by the Red Wolf of Radagon boss.

Press left-click while using a mouse or right bumper on a controller to cast a spell. Make sure to lock on to your target, too. Spells will cost you FP so make sure to have Flasks of Cerulean Tears at your disposal. 

Depending on the spell, there will be different tactics to use. Sometimes AoE spells will require you to be close to your target while others will have better sniping capabilities. Continue experimenting and keeping an eye on your FP throughout combat. It may prove useful to equip a sword or other weapon alongside your staff too. It's also worth considering the type of spell you're using and the staff or sacred seal you're casting it with. Some sacred seals, like the Clawmark Seal, boost a particular type of spell, so it's best you use them to cast those in order to get a power buff.

(Image credit: Bandai Namco / FromSoftware)

Shields and parrying 

Shields are great for blocking attacks and parrying. 

You're likely going to want to have two shields in mind during your adventures in the Lands Between. One with an Ashes of War ability, and then another without. Ashes of War can be applied to weapons and shields to give them extra functionality. However, if you're carrying something in your right hand, like the dagger Reduvia, you're going to need a shield without an Ash to make use of Reduvia's Blood Blade attack. To do this you'll need to press shift and right click. 

 Bows and crossbows 

Bows and crossbows are cheeky and fun. They're not going to be battlefield regulars, especially as the majority of enemies you're going to fight in Elden Ring are going to be able to close distances extremely quickly. The bows and crossbows are best deployed as a way to get a few shots in from far away, eliminating a few enemies you can spot in a camp. Even if you're not able to kill a soldier from that distance, they'll probably run towards you, drawing them away from the crowd, at which point you can switch out to a greatsword or something and finish them off. 

There are other enemies later in the game which will make more sense for the bow and crossbow, but I'll let you discover the horror of seeing a murder eagle for yourself. Even so, shoot from afar, before finishing it off with a blade or club. 

That being said, using a variety of arrows and bolts may be useful to inflict certain damage types on foes. Fire or poison may be effective against particular enemies, and don't hesitate to experiment.

(Image credit: From Software)

Weapon switching 

You can, if you like, use just one set of weapons throughout Elden Ring. If you're simply looking to use one sword and a shield, so be it. But weapon switching is useful to go between weapons with different damage types, ranges, and Ashes of War. Go into your equipment menu and you can assign up to three armaments on each hand. On a mouse and keyboard setup you can switch between weapons by pressing shift and scrolling up or down. On a controller, use the left and right arrow buttons. Beware, though, these weapons will also count towards your equip load.


Or should that be "giant goatback"? Anyway Torrent is going to be an essential part of your kit on your travels, not only as an exploration medium, but as a trusty steed in a fight. Though unfortunately you're not going to be able to trapple anything by old skulls on your mount, you have the ability to slice and dice. You can both hit on either side using the left and right shoulder buttons. You can also sprint to avoid attacks with the usual roll button, and even jump, which is great for avoiding the AoE attacks that the mounted enemies and dragons you'll face use. Remember that Torrent has health, too. If he dies, you'll be knocked to the ground and it'll take a while to recover, so be sure to feed me some Rowa Raisins to keep him healthy.

(Image credit: FromSoftware)

Spirit Summons 

Trust us, get the Elden Ring Spirit Summoning Bell. Once you've got your hands on it, it'll be invaluable for distracting enemies. In the Lands Between you can feel a little lonely as you traverse the wilderness by yourself, but when facing a large number of enemies or a massive boss, you're going to want help.

Assign Elden Ring Spirit Ashes to one of your pouch slots in your menu. When you can see the glowing gravestone on the left side of your screen you can summon. This will allow you to call in back up. The first Spirit Ashes you'll find in the game are the Lone Wolf Ashes or the Fanged Imp Ashes, which spawn a few creatures to harass enemies. They're great for distracting NPCs, especially when you got to something like Margit the Fell Omen. 

You should consider that these summons do cost FP, and even if you're not a magic build, you might want at least one Flask of Cerulean Tears equipped as back up.

You'll collect more of these Ashes on your journey so check your inventory often.

Imogen has been playing games for as long as she can remember but finally decided games were her passion when she got her hands on Portal 2. Ever since then she’s bounced between hero shooters, RPGs, and indies looking for her next fixation, searching for great puzzles or a sniper build to master. When she’s not working for PC Gamer, she’s entertaining her community live on Twitch, hosting an event like GDC, or in a field shooting her Olympic recurve bow.