How can I sum up the experience of playing the sprawling, wonderfully challenging, epic adventure known as Elden Ring in one world? Perfect.
Wait, an Elden Ring review on a horror website? Well, let me ask you, have you met Godrick The Grafted, the self-proclaimed lord of the land who boasts somewhere in the vicinity of a billion arms and wields the head of a dragon? How about Rykard, Lord of Blasphemy? I mean, the name alone sounds like a Metal album.
In case you haven’t had the pleasure of meeting these wonderful fellows yet, then you’ll have to take my word for it when I say Elden Ring IS horror.
Well, in parts, anyway.
Horror is subjective, but if you count grotesque beasts, jump-scares, and deep dark settings as horror, then Elden Ring has it. It’s horror and so much more.
The critically and commercially acclaimed ELDEN RING, released by the mastermind Hidetaka Miyazaki and George R. R. Martin (Yes, that GRRM) lives up to the hype and so much more.
I don’t mean to jump the gun here, but after well over 160 hours into the game (it’s been out less than a month at the time of writing this), I can safely say that this game is bar none the best video game ever to have graced console or PC.
Bold statement, I know.
You have the classics like Super Mario or any number of Zelda games, but honestly, nothing holds up to this, and even more than anything before.
I believe Elden Ring will change the landscape of open-world/ RPG/ Action-adventure games forever.
In the world of entertainment, very few things can change the rules this late into the game.
Most people assume what we have is the status quo; the formula will never be messed with. Then something like Elden Ring comes along and laughs in the face of all those people.
I can’t think of many game-changers in media, but I can in sports — which, I know, is a bit odd here, but bear with me. When Wayne Gretzky came onto the scene, the NHL had to change some rules to keep up with him. He was so good that the governing body needed to change the rules to make it fair for the rest of the league.
Twenty years later, a goalie named Martin Brodeur forced the league to change the rules again to make it fair for the rest of the league.
Simply put, other game developers will absolutely have to change the way they make games to keep up with the pace and standard that Elden Ring and From Software (the developer) have set.
If you’re not into games and the such, it could easily be forgiven that you’ve never heard of From Software — or From Soft — before. However, they’ve produced some of the best and most beloved games of the past decade or so.
While From Soft has been around for quite some time, arguably, it wasn’t until 2009’s Demon’s Soul that put them on the map.
I remember picking that game up on a complete whim one day after work. I was blown away at how hard it was, how insane and different it was. And I remember hating it.
Today, I can see it as a masterpiece and have gone back to play it since it was remastered last year. But at the time, it was like nothing I’d ever played. When I say it was hard, that’s an understatement. The game gives you nothing, and I mean nothing. No instructions, no options, no quest log, and no direction. It was literally: Here’s a swamp; go.
I’d never seen that before, and I was confused. I stumbled my way out of the tutorial and into the main game and died. And died again. And for good measure died about a million more times. On the first level. On one of the first enemies.
Yeah, so I scrapped it simply because my tiny brain couldn’t comprehend what it was trying to do. It was trying to test me; it was saying: You’re a gamer; use that big ol’ brain of yours and figure it out. In reality, the game gave me everything I needed to succeed, I just ignored it.
Fast forward 13 odd years, and three Soul’s titles — among others — later, they give us Elden Ring and almost nothing has changed.
You create your character, a cursed Tarnished, and then you’re thrown into the game. You pick up the first glowy thing you see, walk down some stairs, across a bridge, and guess what? You’re met with the first boss of the game. You have no healing items, just your trash-starting weapon. Then you die.
But that’s just the game teaching you something: Prepare to die.
You will die… A lot. Like, a lot, a lot.
After that sequence, you wake up and have the ability to enter this massive, sprawling open world. Once you do, you talk to a guy who gives you simple and clear yet muddy and confusing instructions. Then you meet your first field boss ten seconds later, and he kills you. But this time, you can fight him again, unlike that tutorial boss. So you do it again. And within seconds, he kills you. This happens an infinite amount of times. I’d imagine this is where the average consumer puts the controller down and prays they can still get a refund.
Good, cull the meek!
This is the game teaching you a more subtle lesson — go explore, for just beyond that boss, which you can literally walk past by going any other direction, is a trash enemy you could kill with your bare fists.
But that’s Elden Ring, and more importantly, that’s From Soft. They teach you via gameplay, not some annoying fairy that pops and says HEY! Go this way!
The long and short, this game isn’t for everybody.
In fact, most first-timers to the Souls games complained about just that thing. There’s no accessibility, and I, for one, find that a breath of fresh air. There are no difficulty sliders, there are no options in the heads-up display, there are no mini-maps, no quest logs, and there’s no pause button (though there is a workaround if you really need to pause).
The game was designed to be hard and almost unforgiving. But, having played all the SOULS games prior, ELDEN RING is far and away the most accessible game From Soft has ever created. There is so many quality of life changes, like fast travel, that didn’t exist in their older titles.
Elden Ring is about a handful of things, but the most important is to explore and get good.
It teaches you everything you need and gives you ample opportunity to topple hard bosses or to ignore said boss and move to a new area and come back when you’re better equipped.
The only thing telling you that you absolutely have to kill the Tree Sentinel is you. If you think that makes the game bad, then maybe you need to look inwards and reconsider.
But can we talk about the bosses for a second?
Now, From Soft is known for its bosses and the incredible difficulty they bring with them. For Souls players, beating a boss on your first try is the equivalent of getting an A on a math test that not only did you not study for but had never even heard of before. It’s an accomplishment like no other in video games. And Elden Ring is the same — mostly.
From what I’ve heard, there are 85 unique boss designs in the game and over 120 total boss encounters. Yeah, you read that right, 120 bosses. In most games, you’d be lucky to get 120 enemies.
That shows the scope of Elden Ring. It’s big, and everything in it is big.
The game also handles incredibly well. From blocking, countering, and dodging, it feels good to play — even if Torrent, your horse, decides that he doesn’t want to turn the right way, and you go tumbling off a cliff and lose 20 thousand runes.
Sure, some quirks make the game infuriating at times, but in 160 hours, I’ve experienced that fewer times than I can remember.
The combat is so polished that it’s hard to fault anything, and the game makes it so that almost any playstyle is viable.
In previous Souls games, after about a week, there were defined and comprehensive builds that were the absolute best. However, there are so many in Elden Ring that it feels like a true RPG. If you want to go deep into it and nerd out with your Tarnished and roleplay them as wandering Spellsword who can best anybody in sword combat AND launch a volley of spells, go for it. It will work.
The same goes for if you want to smash things with a big hammer; it’s just as viable.
What about the story, though?
Well, from what I understand, the entire world and backstory were created by George R. R. Martin, and the current events of the game were built off of that. So the story is good if you can follow along. It’s not great or groundbreaking, and it’s very similar to the previous Souls games. But that’s not what it’s about.
It’s about unraveling the lore. It’s about picking up a random spear from an enemy and reading the description, which mentions that it was used by soldiers who fought in a war long ago, and you go, well, why was that guy here then!? It’s the intricacies of the storytelling that are fascinating, kind of like the forest through the trees. Sure, the plot is simple: mend the Elden Ring. But it’s the why that gets you.
Why do you have to mend it? Do you even have to mend it? Why was it broken in the first place? And who are these demigods? What’s this secret I just found that totally flips everything on its head?
It’s layered but not in a pretentious way. Everything makes sense if you don’t find every last secret — of which there are many — but it’s enhanced if you do find it.
All in all, everything this game does is as close to perfect as you can get.
Addictive gameplay. No hand-holding.
Honestly, the no-quest log is the best thing about this game. I never realized how restricting having a laundry list of chores on the right of my screen felt until it was gone. If I missed something, then too bad; so sad. I was left to explore on my own without the feeling of having to do something.
It’s because of all its nuances that I have to give Elden Ring a perfect score. Even if you aren’t into extreme difficulty, I would recommend picking it up and at least trying it. It’s a game I think every gamer needs to try.
So, go, play, learn, and conquer!