Ashes of War and Spirits Are New Players’ Best Friends in Elden Ring

Elden Ring is a fantastic game for several reasons. Its world is both vast and dense, its enemies are more fearsome and relentless than before, and it makes for a darn good time whether playing alone or with friends. For those new to the game though, dealing with the former two qualities can feel overwhelming, especially when playing solo. When one can’t play Elden Ring with a friend, it can become a much more difficult game. It doesn’t have to, though; there exist two important features in Elden Ring that make solo play a much-less daunting experience: Ashes of War and Spirit Ashes. Both of these grant solo players much more versatility in combat, making the whole experience much less punishing.

In past Soulsborne series entries, weapons were static things. Each one had its strengths, weaknesses and special abilities, and players couldn’t change styles without first changing to another weapon. Some of this is still true, but Elden Ring differentiates itself from past games by mostly de-coupling abilities from individual weapons. Instead, it has the “Ashes of War,” which are free-floating special abilities that can be applied to most weapons. Players naturally collect Ashes as they journey around The Lands Between, and it doesn’t take long to gather a small arsenal of them. As for what the Ashes do specifically, they give players alternative means of attack. Some apply damage and/or status buffs, while others grant special dodges, disruptions or even powerful AoE attacks.

Elden Ring - Ash of War Frost Stomp
If a player is having trouble with a certain enemy or even a boss, all they have to do to turn the tide is unleash their Ash of War. It’ll give them more chances to attack, heal or apply some other effect in the hope of achieving victory. The best part is that if one Ash turns out to be ineffective, players simply  have to apply another one at a Site of Grace and try again. Eventually, one should be able to find something that complements their playstyle well enough to make most encounters manageable. If that’s not enough, then Elden Ring’s other major addition to combat should make it so.

With so much focus being put on the player’s own stats, abilities and equipment, it can be very easy to forget about Spirit Ashes. They tend to cost a lot of FP, and many don’t provide the same kind of quick result one tends to look for while in the heat of battle. That said, disregarding spirits is a big mistake. From average enemies to boss encounters, Spirits can absolutely the tide of battle just as much as a powerful Ash of War. What’s more, one doesn’t even have to find a rare Spirit Ash in order to get the full effect. It’s all about getting them out early and using the right one for the job.

One particularly versatile Spirit Ash is the Lone Wolf Ashes, which always summons three ethereal wolves. Players receive this one early on in the game from a certain NPC and are thus difficult to miss. From early game to late, these spirit wolves do two things well: crowd management and running interference. For the former, the wolves basically act as a sort of smart trap by individually seeking out and tying down enemies while the player takes care of their own. In other words, they can help one avoid getting swarmed. In the case of bosses, the wolves make for a good distraction. They fearlessly keep pressure on the enemy, often preventing it from chasing the player and making follow-up attacks. Sometimes they’ll even put in a fair amount of damage themselves depending on their level and the bosses defense rating. Seriously, even some of the nastiest bosses have a hard time dealing with the pack!

Elden Ring - Spirit Ashes Lone Wolves
Real magic can happen when players combine their Spirits and Ashes of War in an attack. For example, use a spirit to run interference and then unleash a powerful AoE attack while it can’t get away. One could also use it to apply pressure from the front so that they can get behind the enemy for a powerful backstab. Depending on the spirit, one could just summon it and then sit back while it does all the work. There are all sorts of possibilities here, meaning players have plenty of options to try while looking for one that meets their needs. Perhaps experienced players won’t need this as much, but new players and those who just have difficulty with can find a lot of value here when trying to play solo. The combat sandbox in Elden Ring is massive, so everyone should be able to find a comfortable spot in it.

Elden Ring grants players many more paths to success than its predecessors did. Ashes of War provides handy abilities that can both complement one’s playstyle and make up for deficiencies. Spirit Ashes do something similar, but they’re more about taking combat pressure off of the player in different ways. Elden Ring can still be hard even if one is making proper use of these features, but at least parries, backstabs and well-timed dodge-rolls aren’t the sum-total of “gitting gud” anymore. Some purists might not like it, but who cares? These systems are in the game to be used, so why not take full advantage and all the fun one can with them?