FromSoftware’s history of tough-but-loved games has been a niche of sorts for many gamers. Elden Ring is different. Writer George RR Martin was involved this time. Coupling that with developer FromSoftware’s trademark gameplay, known for its high difficulty and risky combat, was enough to get fans excited. The wait is finally over, bringing the fabled Elden Ring into our hands.
The counterargument is that they don’t understand that Miyazaki titles demand a lot from players. These aren’t Nintendo platformers built solely for delight. Soulsborne titles, as they’re popularly known, are mountains to be conquered or James Joyce novels to be read. As challenging as they are, they’re equally rewarding as players scale the steep learning curve and uncover lessons about patience, perseverance, discipline and community.
Miyazaki and his team’s latest work, “Elden Ring,” is the most accessible.
Acclaimed author George R.R. Martin helped write Elden Ring’s backstory, and his influence on the game is clear. The Lands Between are a rich, nuanced fantasy realm, with a complicated cast of characters and a sense that the status quo is anything but immutable.
Story is a big part of these games, and in traditional FromSoftware style, it is not totally straightforward to figure out what is going on in Elden Ring. You play as a “tarnished” (AKA a hero/warrior adventurer type, from what I could glean) who slays menacing foes in search of the Elden Ring, venturing through a strange world called the Lands Between. With the scene set, Elden Ring is looking good; visually too. Now, with the best will in the world, Dark Souls titles haven’t really been lookers. The vibe they had was that of a world trembling on the edge of destruction, and so the graphics reflected that; all somber grays and browns. Elden Ring breaks with this tradition, with the world being a beautiful place to look at, green and verdant, with the glorious golden Erdtree overlooking everything. Never before in a Souls type game have I taken so many screenshots, unless it was when fighting a massive boss. The scenery here is just gorgeous.
The open world is vast and full of surprises to discover including hidden caves, random bosses and legacy dungeons to name but a few. This open-world can be both a blessing and a curse. To begin with, I found the open world intimidating and didn’t really know what to do or where to go. It took me hours to get over this feeling but now I find this freedom liberating and actually it helps with the pacing of the game. It’s nice to be able to simply ride around the world collecting resources in relative safety although I’ve still died plenty of times whilst doing this.
Navigating around the world has been made much easier in Elden Ring. Not only do you get access to your mount, Torrent, very early on but the placement of sites of grace, think bonfires, is also very generous. You can fast travel between any grace sites you’ve discovered as long as you’re not in combat and make it very easy to travel vast distances very quickly. You can also level up, charge your flasks and loads of other stuff at these sites.
Dying is the very nature of Elden Ring’s mechanics. Dying means you lose your runes (your currency and XP), and if you meet your demise again, well, those runes are gone. And it doesn’t help that pretty much any enemy in the game can kill you with a few hits, especially if you aren’t careful. But that’s all a part of the learning, no matter how frustrating it may be.
It seems that FromSoftware have made improvements in the Quality of Life in Elden Ring though. Sites of Grace, the game’s equivalent to checkpoints and the Souls Bonfire, seem to exist in higher numbers. Not only this, but they are frequently found before bosses making the game more approachable than ever. Bosses will still ruin your day, don’t fret, but it’s easier knowing that I don’t have to parade through swarms of enemies to get back my runes.
Combat, in general, also feels much better in Elden Ring than any FromSoftware title to date. Magic is incredibly fun to mess around with. Using Ashes of War and seeing the different effects is exciting, and finally, finally killing that boss or enemy who consistently ended your fun is as prideful and refreshing as it has ever been.
Bosses are the big draw for Elden Ring, and even from the first moment, you are put into combat with things that are almost completely overwhelming. There is, however, a kind of tutorial level this time around, but don’t think FromSoftware has gone soft: you may well get through the tutorial dungeon, but as soon as you step outside, there’s a big golden enemy on a horse who will mess you up if he sees you. It is very much business as usual. The actual bosses are so, so hard that practice is almost mandatory, as is asking for help from the wider player pool.
Character creation is a lot like Dark Souls with several classes to choose from. The choices for playstyle and character customisation are also vast. Broadly speaking you can play as either a caster, a heavy armour/weapon specialist or a light armour/weapon specialist. Each class gives you a unique starting boost. So, choose wisely. You can either tweak your character to be a melee master, backstabbing thief, spell-slinging wizard or something in between. The reality is vastly different and you can combine any and all of these basic traits to create your own unique playstyle. It is all about finding a style that helps you survive gigantic bosses that are agile and fearsome. Do a bit of research before you create your character. Also, do not hesitate to restart the game.
Unfortunately, I had run into various performance issues during my review on Xbox. Nothing major that has completely tainted my overall time with the game, but it’s good to be made aware of them. I’ve been hit with screen tearing, some enemies pop in and then the ever annoying frame rate dip. PC players seem to have it the worst, and it’s a shame to see. However, at least on console, Elden Ring is still one of the better open world games I’ve played at launch. And I don’t say that lightly and the team at FromSoft have released a number of patches that seem to have improved the issues.
Elden Ring, overall, is a superb open-world game that is best played on consoles right now, given the PC version is rough. FromSoftware draws the greatest strengths from past Souls games and serves it on a colossal platter, that is Elden Ring. Bringing all the signature elements that made Souls games great into an open world game is an accomplishment.
Elden Ring Pricing & Availability
Elden Ring is available for PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S (reviewed) starting from €69.99. Elden Ring was reviewed on a Xbox Series X with a review code supplied by Bandai Namco Entertainment.
REVIEW: Elden Ring
Review: Elden Ring - Embracing The Challenge
FromSoftware have struck gold yet again, so if you like Dark Souls, this is a no brainer, but even if you don’t then Elden Ring is still more than worth a try; if only as it is a tiny bit friendlier.