[Happy Elden Ring day! I’m going to keep this intro as spoiler-lite as possible, although the further down you scroll, the more specific I’ll be. Everything described here can be reached in the first hour of gameplay — if you know where to go.]
From your very first step into the open world, there’s a ton of freedom to explore Elden Ring in every conceivable direction, and I would strongly encourage you to carve your own personal path forward. With that said, at a certain point in your journey, you might be, well, unsure of where to go next. I hesitate to say “lost,” as there’s always something gnawing away at the back of your mind in this sprawling game. But take it from me: you don’t necessarily want to spend several hours barking up the wrong (Erd)tree.
You know how in Dark Souls, some silly players (*glances nervously*) thought they were supposed to fight the hard-hitting skeletons outside of Firelink Shrine right away? They (*starts to sweat*) kept trying to take them on even though they were utterly outranked. What were they thinking?! Well, I maaay have done something similar in Elden Ring.
After I encountered the first main story boss and decided to save the fight for later, I started exploring a creepy region I wasn’t equipped to handle yet; I kept looking and looking, only to realize I missed something obvious. Suddenly, the foggy-by-default world map began to balloon. It was one of several mind-blowing moments in the game.
For folks who have kept up with Elden Ring coverage and trailers or even tried the Network Test build, you’ll know that one of the main points of interest early on is Stormveil Castle. That’s meant to be the first main Souls-style densely-packed Legacy Dungeon, complete with a fearsome critical-path boss. But technically, you don’t need to go there first.
This is an Elden Ring guide on where to go exploring after Stormveil Castle.
There’s a sneaky way around Stormveil
If, like me, you have the urge to uncover as much of the world map as possible, as early as possible, here’s an easily missed area of interest. If you’re done with Stormveil, or you’d rather circle back to it later and you just need a nudge on where to go next, come to this broken bridge with your trusty steed and look at this blue map marker for a hint.
It might take a moment of poking around to find the path forward, but yes, you can go north around Stormveil Castle — and a huge chunk of Elden Ring is thataway.
Feel free to bounce if that’s all the info you needed — you’ll have plenty to check out for the next several hours at least. Come back if you’re struggling with some magic seals.
Where to find the “second” main-story area
After Stormveil — or again, potentially before it if you’re bold — you can head north.
You’ll know you’re on the right track when the landscape suddenly opens up. This zone is Liurnia of the Lakes. If you’ve cleared Stormveil, you should be at a good level.
The next main critical-path stop is an academy towering above the gloomy wetlands.
You’ll likely gravitate toward this setpiece; it’s designed to draw your eye. The ramp leading up to the academy gate is falling apart, but you can leap on rooftops with your horse to get up there, and then hustle past the welcoming party to reach a huge glowing door. This is a seal, and you won’t be able to get through it without a key item.
How to get through those magic door seals
A clue is conveniently sitting on a corpse next to the magical barrier.
After snatching it up, you can examine the Meeting Place Map in your item inventory by tabbing over to the Info tab; otherwise, this screenshot tells you everything you need to know to proceed. You’ll need a Glintstone Key to enter the academy — and this drawing shows where to go next. You’re headed slightly west from your current location.
Specifically, you’re looking for this rock formation:
When you get here, don’t panic, but uh, there’s a dragon.
Thankfully, you don’t need to slay this particularly intimidating beast just yet, so you can save your dragon cleanup duties for later on. (This is the part where I tell you that Elden Ring has loads of dragons all across the Lands Between. It’s awesome.)
Where to find the Academy Glintstone Key
You can rush in and grab this key item with a purple aura, then book it out of there.
This is the fabled Academy Glintstone Key — your ticket into the Academy of Raya Lucaria, a main-story location teeming with sorcerers. Their bearded masks freak me out.
Getting into the Academy of Raya Lucaria
With the Glintstone Key, you can return to the academy entrance (there’s a convenient Site of Grace nearby) and you’ll have a prompt to warp through the magic seal.
That might sound straightforward when it’s laid out in a linear guide, but to be honest, it’s easy to get your wires crossed in Elden Ring, and potentially stumble onto scenarios out of order without knowing the full backstory. I personally love that sense of freedom.
At the same time, I made it to this area way later than I should’ve. I’ll admit, my mind was laser-focused elsewhere. My to-do list of “cool things” has spiraled out of control.
Elden Ring is the kind of game where it’s ideal to explore at your own pace, and only really seek pointers when your gut tells you you’re stumped, so I hope this guide was helpful.