FromSoftware’s Souls games have a reputation for difficulty, but they are also fair and mechanically consistent (except for when it’s funny.) Which is why these games that usually see players finishing a playthrough at level 90–120 can be beaten without seeing the level-up screen once, and the “soul level one” run and its equivalents are a vaunted tradition in the Souls speed and challenge run community.
Two Soulsborne challenge runners, Ongbal and LobosJr, have progressed deep into Elden Ring at rune level one, defeating some of its toughest bosses like Malenia or the Godskin Duo with minimal health, endurance, and damage.
Ongbal uploads exclusively to YouTube and came into their own with some truly off-the-wall Sekiro challenges. Their build centers on the Wretch (the only class that starts at level one) and their default club, altered with the “cold” infusion for bonus frostbite damage.
Lobos has been a staple in the Souls challenge run community for years—I was introduced to him through his Dark Souls 2 all-bosses speedruns, but his no-weapon, no-HUD run of Bloodborne is a standout achievement for me. Lobos has experimented with numerous weapons in his level one run, but the Misericorde thrusting sword served him well against the mega-hard hidden boss, Malenia, and he seems to also be getting good mileage out of the extremely nasty Ringed Finger club. Both Lobos and Ongbal make extensive use of the Buckler shield’s generous parry window to set up critical strikes for most of their damage-dealing, as opposed to the typical Souls series dodge-and-attack rhythm.
In a different take on the level one run, long-time Souls and For Honor YouTuber Iron Pineapple has released a sort of “everyman’s guide” to the level one run, relying as much as possible on whatever strategies, advantages, and cheese available, no matter how ridiculous, to roll credits on Elden Ring.
Unfortunately, Iron Pineapple’s run relied on many of the same speedrunning strategies that were wiped out by the 1.03 patch. While other average joes won’t be able to replicate Iron Pineapple’s strategies exactly, he at least was able to make it to the end before the nerfs came through.
My favorite of the now-extinct exploits Iron Pineapple used was a technique involving the Erdtree Greatshield’s Golden Retaliation weapon skill. Iron Pineapple used an incantation with a self-damage effect to proc the Erdtree Greatshield’s magic reflecting ability at will, turning the shield into a veritable semi-auto magic cannon.
It’s only been a month, and players are already pushing Elden Ring’s combat system to its very limits and discovering the most ludicrous secrets buried in the Lands Between. This is likely only the tip of the iceberg for Elden Ring hijinks.