Recently, From Software dropped their newest masterpiece: Elden Ring. The development company has been quite active in recent years, with Demon’s Souls Remastered launching in 2020, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice in 2019 and three separate games having been released in the three years prior to that. Elden Ring has been their first crack at delivering an open world experience, different from their previous approach of having separate, unique maps in each game prior. So, how did it go?
Needless to say, it has gone immaculately. Let’s discuss some specifics, starting off with what the game has done well.
There is a boatload of content in this game
Right as the player emerges from the Stranded Graveyard and sees the sunlight, they truly will have no idea just how much surrounds them. The map is so enormous that there isn’t a good word to describe just how vast it is. Think what would happen if Red Dead Redemption meshed with Skyrim — there is a lot of ground to cover.
The player could begin by beelining it straight for the Stormveil Castle, where the main story begins with Margit the Fell Omen as the game’s first real boss. However, they could venture to the south of the map and tour Castle Morne, meeting a familiar face along the way. If they’re up for a challenge, they could head East into Caelid to travel upon scarlet-rotted grounds which give way to terrible monstrosities to slay. If they need a breather at any point, there are plenty of Sites of Grace to recuperate at; these also serve as checkpoints, and can freely be teleported to anytime the player is not actively in combat. This also makes it so that a large map doesn’t saddle the player with the drawback of consistently tedious and lengthy downtime spent traveling.
The weapon catalogue is truly astounding
From Software has consistently pushed creative, cool-looking and functional weapons into their games. Elden Ring is no exception. This time, From Software’s creative genius extends towards weaponizing an anchor, healing resources which can cause the player character to explode and deal large amounts of damage to anyone near them, a weapon which causes the character’s hand to turn into a dragon head, and even a shield with a face on it that breathes fire. On top of that, we see the return of old-but-gold goodies such as the Moonlight Greatsword, the Ghiza’s Wheel bearing a stark resemblance to the Whirligig Saw from Bloodborne, and more.
From Software nailed it in the weapons department, giving players of all types of ‘build’ and taste something to wield with pleasure.
The Quality of Life in this game is amazing
There are some big-time QoL enhancements coming over from other From Software games. The first would be the introduction of the spectral horse Torrent; with a map as large as this, having the option to ride a horse for speedy travel can come in handy. Additionally, when the player is out of combat, they do not consume stamina — this will allow them to not have to worry about micromanaging their stamina in a moment when it wouldn’t really matter apart from being an annoyance that isn’t necessary. Finally, the weapon durability system has been totally abolished; weapons will never ever break, so the player doesn’t have to worry about that at all. Simply put, trimming the fat of useless, unnecessary hindrances makes Elden Ring far more accessible to the general player base than it otherwise would have been.
New features introduced in Elden Ring enhance gameplay significantly
The player’s spectral horse Torrent was briefly talked about, but this isn’t the only positive change found in this game. While it may seem absurd to relish on a game in 2022 introducing jumping and crouching, Elden Ring is the first From Software game to do this. Crouching allows the player to move stealthily throughout the map, enabling them to use bushes and other obstacles to hide and take an alternate approach to combating a group of enemies that may be just a bit too strong to rush into. The ability to freely jump and jump high, without needing to break into a sprint first, has also clearly opened up the game from a map design standpoint and has added an element of parkour to the game, which was unexpected.
Player-versus-Player combat is both thrilling and well regulated
In Dark Souls 3, there were numerous areas where PvP was incredibly common, to the point where a player looking to just enjoy the game by themselves were being hindered and forced to potentially play offline entirely. In Demon’s Souls Remastered, this remained the case. The twist, though, was that players were allowed to immediately quit out of the menu and then head back into gameplay, which could frustrate people who wanted PvP gameplay.
Elden Ring has struck a perfect balance. If you are playing alone, by default, you will not encounter PvP. For people who might enjoy PvP, there is an in-game item and mechanic which essentially functions as an ‘opt in’, enabling those who want PvP to readily receive it. It is only when the player joins forces with a friend in which PvP is ‘forced’. The existence of a second person, though, means that this trade-off serves to add an edge to co-op play which has historically not been terribly challenging.
As a result, those who want to PvP may still do so as always. Those who do not want to PvP can go about their merry way without being forced into such an environment. It’s such a simple system, but it definitely works.
The game is consistently engaging and challenging
In the midst of combat, there is never a dull moment — no boss or mini boss fight is particularly easy. The game has so much content that the player always has something to look ahead to as well, minimizing the downtime and allowing players to go at their own pace. As a result, if you’re looking for a game to pass time, it always flies by when you’re having fun.
Elden Ring is a truly wonderful game. Right now, it has no particular cons that are holding the game back. That said, there is one thing to note about it that you should heed if you’re on the fence about buying the game.
The game is not a particularly casual-friendly experience
This is uniform across From Software games. If you’re the type who tends to find free time after a long day at work, and you want to play with a cold beer in one hand and a controller in the other, you may find difficulty enjoying this game. This game is designed to be far more challenging than the average game. Mechanics are somewhat unforgiving, and players are expected to die dozens of times in an ordinary playthrough.
If you’re not particularly adept at gaming, you don’t need to avoid this game. Do bear in mind, though, that the learning curve to ‘getting good’ is higher than in most games, generally speaking, so if you decide to invest yourself in the path to becoming skilled, there will be some bumps in the road.
For all that this game tries to go for, it absolutely nails it in every sense. If it was possible for a game to be graded even higher than an S+, this one would be a contender. As such, I’m going to give this one an S+. The year is 2022, early in the decade, but don’t be surprised if we look back at it as having been majorly influential on gaming as a whole for years to come, and that it gets viewed as a top game of the 2020s era. The level of passion and expression put into this is amazing. If you’re up for a challenge, don’t look elsewhere; the game’s regular price tag of $60 sells itself short. It would still be worth it even if an extra zero got added to it.
Considering it is almost definitely getting DLC at some point, the good times are bound to last for years. This could easily go down as one of the greatest games of all time.