Elden Ring is From Software’s long-awaited open world action role-playing game, an evolution of the tried and true ‘souls’ formula made popular by the studio’s Dark Souls series. The basics are familiar: during the game, the player character is leveled up, with runes gotten from killed enemies, to gain more power and defeat increasingly difficult enemies in brutal combat. A variety of playstyles are available with melee and ranged options supported by hundreds of equipment pieces and spells to be found in the world.
The most notable difference from the souls formula is the traversal of an open world with the aid of a horse. I was surprised by how much time gets spent on horseback, but luckily the mounted combat is almost as smooth as it is on foot. Other additions include jumping and sneaking, both fun little tools to spice up the gameplay. In many ways, Elden Ring feels like the culmination of all that the developers have learned during the 13 years they’ve been making these games.
The fights are as satisfying and frantic as ever, and death comes quickly to the uninitiated. The difficulty is still relatively high: some of the toughest bosses required me to completely change my stats and equipment and use all the cheapest strategies to defeat them, despite hundreds of hours I’ve put into these games. Adapting to the game’s challenges helps to a certain extent. Enjoying the learning of enemy behavior and accepting that you’re going to die many times are important factors when playing the game.
While it is challenging, and still lacks difficulty modes, I also think Elden Ring may be the most approachable souls entry. This is thanks to the open world, where the player is free to pick a direction from the start. There is a lot of ground to cover, decreasing the pressure on the player’s shoulders: if they can’t get through a boss, they can go somewhere else to gain more resources or even find alternative routes. The number of choices in exploration can’t be overstated, and it was almost daunting to keep track of all the possible places I could visit.
The world is the highlight of the game, not only in terms of freedom but in other design areas as well. The locales are varied and gorgeous, and they constantly surprise the player. The exploration is organically motivated: instead of following a checklist of map markers, seeing something interesting in the distance makes you want to go there, as there are always some great rewards to be gained. Ironically, the best locations are not part of the overworld. They are intricately designed, tight but large structures filled with shortcuts and challenging enemies. Exploring these caused me to let out some audible ‘wow’s.
The worst problems of the game are technical. Regardless of your hardware, the PC version has suffered from stuttering during the launch, which can get you killed within the game. Also, there have been crashes to the desktop. Another problem is that not all content is equal: there are many mini-dungeons in the form of caves and catacombs that can feel a bit repetitive, with recycled interiors and bosses. Luckily, all of these are optional.
I honestly think that Elden Ring is a masterpiece. The satisfying combat is there, with more variety than ever in character building. The world is large and very fun to explore, offering many secrets to adventurers. Fans of these games are sure to love this entry, and everyone should be able to find something to appreciate.
Publisher: From Software, Bandai Namco Entertainment, Namco Bandai Games America Inc.
Developer: From Software
Platforms: PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PC
Release Date: February 25, 2022
Genres: Action, role-playing
Pictures: Screenshots from the game, taken by the author
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