Elden Ring Colosseum PvP is a fun but dishonorable free-for-all that rips up the rule book

Elden Ring
(Image credit: FromSoftware)

The first rule of Elden Ring fight club is… well, if you've sampled PvP since the Elden Ring Colosseum update launched earlier today (December 7, 2022), you'll know that there pretty much are none. Now that Elden Ring's fabled colosseums are finally real, it seems honor and glory in organized ritual combat have been thrust into the back seat faster than a fumbling Revenant. It's early days yet, granted, but it's the wild west out there – with Flasks of Crimson Tears being chugged like there's no tomorrow, and umpteen OP spells and projectiles being tossed around more often than Frazier's salad. 

Perhaps I'm just sour because I keep getting my arse kicked within the hallowed concrete forums of Limgrave, Caelid and Leyndell, but from what I've played so far, this form of PvP operates well outside the unspoken decorum of FromSoftware games past. Call me a grump, but I'm a product of the Dark Souls fight clubs of old, and this is a different beast entirely.

Put 'em up

Elden Ring Colosseum Update

(Image credit: Bandai Namco)

In the build-up to the latest PvP update, Elden Ring players feared a Colosseum meta dominated by Rivers of Blood – a devastating katana attack that can be dual-wielded if the player in possession is strong enough. Not long after Elden Ring's launch back in February, players unanimously condemned the Rivers of Blood katana as overpowered, and yet it is indeed currently running amok on the crimson-stained floors of the Colosseums, at least in my experience. 

The game does govern this to an extent by granting different rules across each of the Colosseums themselves. In Limgrave, for example, players can fight in team battles (which now support up to six players instead of four) or free-for-alls, but not in straight-up 'Duels'. Here, Spirit Ashes are banned in battle – but can be used in Caelid, which, when dueling alongside a friendly Lone Wolf Ash, can give PvP a bit of a Pokemon feel. Caelid is hands-down the biggest deviation from old-school Soulsborne fight clubs, and going free-for-all in a six-player battle royale is fast and furious. Once I got used to how frantic these forays unfold – and, likewise, once I got over myself – I actually had great fun here, although I struggled to get matched up with a full complement of six players with any degree of consistency.

Elden Ring

(Image credit: FromSoftware)

"If they go toe-to-toe, so do I. If they chug a health flask, I do too. If they whip out the big-hitting magic spells, I drown 'em with a burst of Rennala's Full Moon."

Lastly, the Royal Colosseum in Leyndell is a duel-only arena, where the rules pay deference to the best and most honorable combatants. Spirit Ashes are banned, for example, as are health flasks. But magic-replenishing Flasks of Cerulean Tears are allowed, meaning a few of my bouts here saw me being dominated by OP sorcerers picking me off from range. When you do get someone who wants to go hard and heavy in close-quarters melee, a la old school Dark Souls fight clubs, these scuffles are a total joy, ruined only for me by the fact ping appeared to be at its worst here for reasons I can't be sure of. 

All told, what I've found to be the most enjoyable approach to the Elden Ring Colosseum update so far is to match the style of my opponents – especially if we're locking horns in 1v1. If they go toe-to-toe, so do I. If they chug a health flask, I do too. If they whip out the big-hitting magic spells, I drown 'em with a burst of Rennala's Full Moon. I might never get over the fact that fight clubs as we once knew them in FromSoftware games are all but gone now here Elden Ring – but that's only more incentive to Git Gud among the ranks of the grizzled vets knocking at the door of the Royal Colosseum. Perhaps I'll see you in there. Just lose the magic flask, yeah? 

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Joe Donnelly
Features Editor, GamesRadar+

Joe is a Features Editor at GamesRadar+. With over seven years of experience working in specialist print and online journalism, Joe has written for a number of gaming, sport and entertainment publications including PC Gamer, Edge, Play and FourFourTwo. He is well-versed in all things Grand Theft Auto and spends much of his spare time swapping real-world Glasgow for GTA Online’s Los Santos. Joe is also a mental health advocate and has written a book about video games, mental health and their complex intersections. He is a regular expert contributor on both subjects for BBC radio. Many moons ago, he was a fully-qualified plumber which basically makes him Super Mario.