Elden Ring offers what is probably FromSoftware’s best ever introduction for new players, thanks to an optional tutorial dungeon located just before you enter the main world of The Lands Between.

The Souls studio has what could charitably be called a patchy history when it comes to teaching you how to play its games. A few messages on the ground to explain basic attacks, guards, and parries is pretty much all you usually get in its action-RPGs, with everything else taught through experimentation, failure, and usually a lot of help from other players.

Elden Ring’s tutorial dungeon is a different story. Called the Cave of Knowledge, this optional series of chambers introduces Elden Ring’s fundamental mechanics one by one. Starting with the use of Sites of Grace (similar to Souls’ Bonfires), it goes on to cover familiar things such as light/heavy attacks, weapon skills, and blocking, as well as new mechanics such as the Stakes of Marika checkpoint system, guard counters, and how to best use long grass and stealth to overcome your enemies. Each system is explained by a pop-up window that offers much much more transparent detail than FromSoftware has typically done in the past.

This tutorial culminates in a boss fight. However, unlike other FromSoft ‘tutorial’ bosses such as the Asylum Demon or Iudex Gundyr, this is not the actual first boss of the game; it’s essentially a generic training enemy to introduce you to the concept of big health bar boss fights. Completing the Cave of Knowledge will reward you with a new gesture, so there’s a small reward for even seasoned FromSoft veterans.

In execution, there are similarities to Dark Souls 2’s Things Betwixt, which offered a more comprehensive tutorial zone than other Souls games via its collection of optional training chambers. But the concept of Things Betwixt is combined with Sekiro’s more direct teaching approach with the use of pop-up directions, creating something that feels distinctly like a crash course for Elden Ring.

It’s the most new player-friendly introduction that FromSoftware has produced for a Soulslike game so far, and possibly a recognition that Elden Ring stands to be the company’s biggest hit with players from beyond the traditional Souls community. Plus, if you really want the old-school, no hand-holding approach, you can skip it entirely.

For more from Elden Ring, check out our glowing review. If you're concerned about surviving, you can always use the easier than ever co-op system to explore the game with friends. Our Elden Ring guide is already in progress, but will grow when the game is released, helping you across The Lands Between.

Matt Purslow is IGN's UK News and Entertainment Writer.

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