Allow these words to linger in your mind, as they may be the only thing that’ll keep you going. “What doesn’t kill you will make you stronger.” I, however, call shenanigans on this statement, as the only thing that’s guaranteed is death. Elden Ring is the latest Soulsborne game that guarantees frustration, dark imagery, and rewarding gameplay.
Developed by FromSoftware Inc. and published by Bandai Namco, this is a hardcore RPG adventure title. It has been developed by the same team behind Dark Souls, Bloodborne, and Sekiro, so you are guaranteed a fine pedigree. It utilises some familiar mechanics but has broken the mould with the inclusion of a vast and terrifying open world.
Elden Ring is full of lore and a dramatic tale.
Like all the great RPGs of the past, Elden Ring has a phenomenal and dramatic tale. The story revolves around the titular Elden Ring and a tussle for power. In the lands between, ruled by Queen Marika the Eternal, the Elden Ring, the source of the Erdtree has been shattered. Her offspring, demigods all, claimed the shards of the ring known as the Great Runes. The new power divided the family and a devastating war known as The Shattering began. A fight to become the Elden Lord unfolds and The Tarnished must begin an arduous journey to prove their worth.
As I said, all great RPGs have an epic story to tell, and this is no different. Alongside this great tale is a dark world infused with lore and evil creatures. There is a distinct undertone of distrust and as one of The Tarnished, you are forever viewed as an outsider. This negative environment forces your hero into conflict at every turn. This harsh reality tests your patience, skills, and wisdom. Moreover, not every situation has to evolve, so you must choose wisely between fighting or running away.
If you’ve played every Soulsborne title, you will know what to expect. There is a distinct familiarity surrounding your hero selection and the way the fundamentals are introduced. Furthermore, there are key mechanics that form the staple elements of the gameplay. So, let’s begin with the heroes.
The class selection is vast but follows an expected pattern. You may choose from Vagabond, Warrior, Hero, Bandit, and so forth. Each has a specific set of skills, attributes, and abilities that support a unique approach. I choose to be a prophet, not because of its skills, but instead, I liked the customisation options. I knew no matter who I started with, the outcome would be the same. Therefore, I may as well look weird as hell while dying at the same time.
Attributes can be improved throughout and you must balance Vigor, Mind, Strength, and so forth. By killing enemies, you’ll earn XP in the form of Runes. These can then be spent on each stat to improve your hero. Your character starts off weak as hell, but with some patience, luck, and grinding, you quickly become powerful. Consequently, you’ll soon be a force to be reckoned with. However, no matter your strengths or weaknesses, you must master the field of combat if you wish to succeed.
The core principle of any Soulsborne title is combat, and Elden Ring takes the best elements. Like its peers, this one relies on strategy, aggression, and defence. Specifically, you must understand the finesse of Dark Souls, the aggression of Bloodborne and the defensive qualities of Code Vein or Sekiro. It’s the perfect balancing act of brute force and guile and will be attractive to many players.
Once you understand the fundamentals, you are free to take on whoever or whatever you wish. But this comes with a warning, as everything will kick your ass. You’ll stumble across an array of enemies that require a unique approach if you wish to be victorious. However, any minor mistakes will cost you your life and all your Runes. Subsequently, it’s a harsh lesson that haunts you at every opportunity. Yet, once you master it, you’ll experience some of the most rewarding and fulfilling gameplay around. Defeating a boss or its underlings is both euphoric and a relief, and this is what makes Elden Ring oh so moreish.
Phantoms, messages, and Sites of Grace.
More similarities are seen with the phantoms and “helpful” messages. You’ll see ghostly apparitions of other gamers as they attempt to defeat monsters in their world. It was always fascinating to observe other players’ styles. Moreover, you may pick up hints that’ll help you to progress. Other tips are seen in the messages left by other players. These often not so helpful clues allow people to troll you and usually lead to your demise. The annoying words are a key element to the gameplay and leave you questioning people’s true intentions. I loved the mischievous nature of every note, and it wouldn’t be the same without them.
Bonfires, lamps and sculptures are the checkpoints we’ve all become familiar with. However, in Elden Ring, you’ll visit Sites of Grace. These safe areas allow you to respawn when you die, and let you level up when you have collected enough runes. Alongside the Sites of Grace are the Stakes of Mariska. These handy locations allow you to respawn but lack the ability to rest. Therefore, they are only helpful when battling epic bosses, as you’ll want to return to the fore as quickly as possible. Whenever you catch 40 winks, it refills your flasks to ensure you are ready for any future fights. Sadly, however, it also respawns every monster you’ve vanquished. Subsequently, you must decide whether the short term gain is worth the inevitable long term pain. Choices, choices, arghhh oh how I hate the cruel developers of Elden Ring.
Enough of the old and in with the new.
We have lingered in the past for too long. Yes, it’s nice to know where we’ve come from, but what makes this different? There is an array of new features that have a small impact, but the key change is found in the mind-boggling open world. No longer are you restricted to a semi-linear approach. Instead, you are free to explore as you wish. Thankfully, the frustration of facing the same boss a million times in order to progress is a thing of the past. Instead, players can come and go freely and tackle the monsters when they are ready.
This expansive approach removes that feeling of funnelling and claustrophobia. The large spaces allow you to run, dodge, and avoid any opponents you face. However, the action falls into familiar territory when you enter the many underground tunnels or dungeons throughout. This wonderful blend of tight and open areas gives you the best of both worlds. Moreover, it allows you to streamline your style without the harsh downsides of its peers.
Ethereal horses, weapon upgrades, and a gentle learning curve.
I can imagine that purists are frothing at the mouth while screaming as they read this! The glorious and hardcore club that is Soulsborne is changing and evolving for the better. Therefore, no longer will they be able to scream “get gud” as you try, and fail repeatedly. Instead, FromSoftware Inc. has turned to a more gentle learning curve that rewards patience and an eye for detail. Every boss and creature you face has a weak point that can and must be exploited. Once you highlight this Achilles heel, they are putty in your hands. This doesn’t mean that they will be easy to defeat. No, instead, it’s less daunting, and it evolves past the brutality of the past.
Other Soulsborne titles have unduly focused on every element of equipment to add layers of confusion and depth. Fortunately, Elden Ring concentrates solely on improving your weapons. Two main methods have been incorporated to add skills and attributes to your equipment. First, you can use Smithing Stones that are located in dungeons and other dangerous locations. These allow you to improve your items at a forge and are frankly self-explanatory. The second is Ashes of War. This is reminiscent of Dark Souls 3’s Weapon Arts and by applying these charms, you’ll change the property, style, and feel of any tool.
The final major changes (a sweeping statement, I know) was the introduction of fast travel at any time and unlimited stamina (as long as you are not in combat). Also, if you wish to explore and not skip from Sites of Grace to Sites of Grace, you can call upon your Ethereal horse, Torrent! This agile and speedy companion allows you to eat up the vast and bewildering landscape. To top it off, you can use your equine friend to ride towards your foes like a hot knife through butter. The inclusion of a mount is both invigorating and liberating. It would have been easy to be overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of the surrounding world, but the developers were clever in their approach. The combination of fast travel, no stamina drain and a rapid horse made the world appear undeniably smaller.
Elden Ring is a thing of beauty.
I don’t need good graphics to make a game, but damn, Elden Ring is incredible. Its attention to detail, grandiose architecture, variety of bosses and monsters, and beautiful landscapes are spectacular. The developers have pulled out all the stops to make this a jaw-dropping title that is undeniably striking, dark, eerie, and awe-inspiring. In short, it’s special! Rarely does a game live up to its hype, but this has exceeded every possible expectation I or its community could hope for. With buttery smooth movement, no bugs or glitches, excellent frame rate, and quick loading times, this is everything you’ll want from a modern title.
Alongside the amazing graphics is a touching, dramatic, and heart-wrenching audio that’ll get to the hardiest of players. You’d have to be a callous and cold monster to not appreciate the blend of songs that complement the expansive landscapes you explore. Additionally, the combination of aggressive songs and hard-hitting sound effects transport you to every nail-biting moment that you face.
Precision is key.
Rushing in without finesse or a plan is unwise. Luckily, the action opens with a thorough tutorial that explains the fundamentals in a matter-of-fact manner. However, if you choose to pay attention is another thing altogether. Players that wish to ignore the essential advice will find that they die unnecessarily. They will then realise that precision is key and the basics are essential to progress. Though the button layout is different from its peers, the ideas and execution are similar. For that reason, experienced players will enjoy the familiarity Elden Ring offers.
No matter which way you look at it, this has bags of replay value. It’s not a case of longevity, or value for money, instead, it’s the enjoyment you get out of the brutality. With many classes to select, attributes to improve, and a large world to explore, the possibilities are almost endless. If you wish, you could lose yourself forevermore in this daunting and challenging title.
For gamers who wish to go it alone, then Elden Ring has your back. Thankfully, though, for everyone else, the usual cooperative or competitive multiplayer options are also available. Summoning allows you to request help from strangers using the Furlcalling Finger Remedy. Up to 4 players can work together to overcome monsters and clear dungeons. This familiar Soulsborne mechanic makes a welcome return and God knows, I needed the help! Sadly, however, a lack of cross-play reduces the usefulness of this option. In an era of multi-platform gaming, this was a must-have that never materialised.
Elden Ring shows that evolution is beautiful.
Sadomasochism shouldn’t be a reason to play a game. Yes, there is a reward in pleasure vs pain, but to what end? Is the temptation to smash your controller worth it? Probably not! But Elden Ring proves that evolution is a beautiful thing. It retains the brilliance and difficulty of its peers while moving the genre towards a new era. Purists may despise the new direction, but I think it retains the best mechanics while offering so much more. I adored its brutality and I recommend you to buy it here! The world views you as an outsider, and this will not do. Can you complete your arduous journey, destroy every foul beast you face, and become the Elden Lord?