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Joe Donnelly

After almost 400 hours with Elden Ring, I've found the action RPG's hardest enemy – an innocuous, random teleporting knight who you might have missed entirely

Elden Ring.

In Elden Ring, I've beaten the best of the best. I've defeated Dragonlord Placidusax, slaughtered Starscourge Rahdan, battered the Elden Beast, and murdered Malenia, Blade of Miquella. Over multiple playthroughs and a handful of profiles, I've spent close to 400 hours roving The Lands Between – from its highest peaks to its Blighttown-like bowels – combing the corners of its sprawling overworld, conversing with its whimsical NPCs, and laying waste to the wicked creatures that stalk its grasslands and garrisons alike.

Not to toot my own Envoy's Horn too loudly, but with a very meticulous sorcery routine and my +17 Cold Morning Star spiked mace in-hand, I'm a bit of a badass. A badass, admittedly, who is not above an absolute humbling. Just ask the random banished knight in Castle Sol who kicked my ass with more force than the Fire Giant's cauldron lid slam. Major bosses aside, I don't think I've come across a tougher melee opponent in all of my time with Elden Ring so far – one that I'm yet to defeat without turning my hand to ranged magic.

Expect the unexpected 

(Image credit: FromSoftware)

For me, this discovery is a blessing and a curse. The curse part is stating the obvious: this faceless banished knight is a total nightmare who at this point has served me the You Died screen more times than I've had hot dinners. I cannot beat it in close-quarters combat, no matter how many times I duck and roll and strike, its moveset only offers the tiniest window to advance, and so far I've failed to build any sort of momentum. During one particularly close-fought foray, I was able to force some distance between us, before performing heavy jump attacks – but after one or two successful attempts, I discovered the bastard can teleport, instantly negating the open space in the blink of an eye. 

As noted above, this banished knight, for anyone who fancies giving it a run themselves, is located in Castle Sol, to the north of the map in the Mountaintops of the Giants. In order to access the menace, you'll need to have defeated the zone's Commander Niall, whose 15,541 HP, 117 defense and 90 stance stats are nothing to be sniffed at. I've spotted various commentators over time describing this optional Great Boss as one of the toughest, but my sorcery-infused approach cut him down to size pretty quickly – chugging a Flask of Wondrous Physik mixed with a Hidden Cerulean Tear and a regular Cerulean Tear; casting Terra Magica; and blasting the hell out of Comet Azur. Niall is strong but slow, and so the set-up for this routine works well if engaged as soon as you enter the boss arena. 

Once you've nixed Niall, save at the Church of the Eclipse Site of Grace, head through the red-carpeted church itself, turn left at the altar, turn right before a set of stone stairs and follow the shape of the building until you reach a ladder. Climb that, kill two banished knight archers, follow the shape of the castle rampart until you reach another downward ladder, and, behold, the blight of my current Elden Ring playthroughs stands with his back to you until aggro'd. The red eyes, the impossible swordplay, the strength, the teleporting, the You Died again and again (and again). It's just too much. 

(Image credit: FromSoftware)

"And so if all of that is the curse, what's the blessing?"

And so if all of that is the curse, what's the blessing? The very fact that one of Elden Ring's most unlikely, most innocuous, and most solid enemy encounters is tucked away in a northern portion of the map after an optional boss fight that you may never discover at all. That's the beauty of Elden Ring, and one of its most endearing traits – that I can have clocked almost 400 hours with FromSoftware's abiding action-RPG, having seemingly seen everything it has to offer, and yet here's a totally random, faceless world enemy that's harder than a Nokron coffin nail. There's almost certainly lore that underpins the placement of this knight and/or why the encounter is so challenging, but even assuming that's the case, I still love the fact that it can be missed altogether.  

It's little discoveries like this one that keep me playing Elden Ring. I'm as desperate to hear and see more of its long-awaited Shadow of the Erdtree DLC – which is surely coming at some point this year, right? – but in the meantime, the very fact that there are still some facets of the base game I'm yet to discover isn't just exciting, but thrilling too. How many more brutally-overpowered banished knights or similar are hiding in the Lands Between that I've yet to stumble upon? And if they're built anything like this particular foe, do I even want to meet them?

The answer to that is: of course I do. I also want to beat this banished knight in one-on-one melee combat, but given I'm struggling so much, I'm not above melting his ass with magic. Now you died, random red-eyed baddie. Now you died. 

Here are some games like Elden Ring to play while you wait for its Shadow of the Erdtree DLC 

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