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Elden Ring: How To Backstab

Since the inception of the Soulsborne genre, the backstab has served as a key element of the signature combat formula. It rewards player precision by offering the upper hand in encounters that might otherwise prove much more difficult or even impossible to survive, while the risk of being backstabbed provides tangible discouragement to using powerful but slow maneuvers at inopportune times. Though the specific requirements of a backstab have shifted with each iteration, the core mechanic has remained the same: Press the attack button from directly behind an enemy to deal massive damage, possibly killing the target outright.

What sounds like a simple enough feature is actually quite difficult to execute — especially for newcomers who often don't know the various technical criteria and checks involved. Nearly every Soulsborne game has a plethora of user-compiled tips and guides for properly pulling off a backstab, and "Elden Ring" is no exception. The game itself provides no more than basic instructions, making it hard to tell what you're doing wrong. For those trying to figure out how to use this key gameplay feature — or even just how to tighten their technique for more reliable executions — here's a full rundown on how to backstab in "Elden Ring."

How Elden Ring confirms a backstab attempt

As with the majority of "Soulsborne" games, the basic way to backstab in "Elden Ring" is to press the light attack button while standing behind an enemy — this is the right shoulder button on controllers and the left mouse click on PC. You must be within arm's length of the enemy hitbox, at a maximum angle of roughly 45 degrees from the center of its back, attacking in the general direction of the enemy. You also can't press any inputs other than the light attack, including movement, any usage of your secondary weapon, and even dodging right before attempting the backstab. If other inputs are detected, your character will perform the corresponding variation on a light attack instead, such as a forward attack, a dodge combo, and so on.

Contrary to popular belief, the enemy doesn't have to be unaware of your presence for a backstab to register, nor do you need to be locked on. This handy video courtesy of YouTuber user Winston Wolfe provides a great visual guide of how big the backstab "window" actually is, as well as many examples of backstabs executed with and without locking onto an enemy. With a bit of practice, you should be pulling off backstabs at a reliable rate.

What to watch out for when backstabbing in PvP

It's worth noting that the backstab requirements for PvP interactions in "Elden Ring" are much stricter, as they must account for fairness within a variable online setting with latency mismatches and player screen differences. Longtime Soulsborne player Amir made a video on the history of how FromSoftware has handled backstabs in PvP and how the formula changed for "Elden Ring."

According to Amir's analysis, the tweaks made to ensure that backstabs are as fair as possible — eliminating ways in which a backstab animation might completely override any attempts by the target player to evade the attack — has actually made it nearly impossible to perform in regular encounters. Multiple players have corroborated these findings, including this video in which two players attempt to land backstabs on one another for over 14 minutes.

It's important note to note that these videos were made based on the closed beta test released months before the official "Elden Ring" release. While the 1.05 update in June 2022 claimed to have "fixed a bug that prevented a critical hit from behind from hitting in hostile multiplayer" (per the Bandai Namco website), the general player consensus seems mixed as to whether these issues were truly resolved. For now, it seems best to steer away from backstab attempts in multiplayer unless you're absolutely sure you'll land the hit.