Elden Ring is the hot topic right now, and that of course means I got wrapped-up in the hype and wanted to give it a blast.
From the creators of Dark Souls, Bloodborne and Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. From Software have gone open-world in their typical dark fantasy kinda way.
I’m sceptical about the rave reviews of Elden Ring if I’m honest. What with the die-hard fans seeming to be the same people reviewing the game here. But here I am anyway and after only a few short hours, I think I have an idea of what I’m in for, and honestly I feel lost and confused, but weirdly motivated to see what’s going on.
Elden Ring is not a game for a “Quick Look” piece, nor is it something I’m likely to finish and review properly. But I don’t want my time to be wasted, and whilst I try to be a critical outlet of some kind, I feel that it’s ripe for some discussion.
I’ve done just shy of 10 hours, hitting various brick walls with my head. Only to find that I could just go around the wall, or the wall wasn’t actually a wall at all. Elden Ring doesn’t care to tell you where to go or what to do. You have to respect that it isn’t babying you to every next location. Similar to Breath of the Wild in that regard.
My time never feels wasted, though. I’ve never had a session and felt like I haven’t improved somehow. Elden Ring gives you nothing, so everything you learn, everything you earn, is a reward and you feel like you’re genuinely progressing, even if it’s just “I know what this does now”.
Tying that sense of progression to the even bigger endorphin rushes of actually killing a boss, or getting where you need to be is what Elden Ring does masterfully. You generally leave a play session with a little bit of progress, or a big wave of victory. Either way, you’re moving forwards.
All that is to say I’m still in the beginning area “Limgrave”. I actually thought I had to get to being strong enough to kill the giant at the gatehouse. So I’ve been doing dungeons and getting items from areas. Elden Ring encourages a grind, and it certainly won’t be wasted. But it turns out, most people just run past that guy……
I thought I was done
Before I started to write this, I had opted to stop playing. I didn’t think I was going anywhere quick and just figured whilst an alright game, Elden Ring wasn’t for me. I can still write critically enough about it for an opinion, but I had accepted that I wasn’t the target audience.
Literally hours later, I was reading-up on tactics, other dungeons to explore and possible grind-out a little. I was subconsciously carrying-on with my development of knowledge and planning my next foray into the world as a tarnished Samurai.
So, I’m not done, but I know it’s ultimately not going to get completed. Elden Ring is a really strange one for me. I haven’t felt so compelled at a personal level to continue playing a game I know I’m unlikely to finish. It should be easy to just give up, but I actually don’t want to.
That’s a pretty telling metric as to how good this game is. The combat is tight, hit-box porn. The variety of approaches to most situations, the openness of the world, the mountains and mountains of context to learn and understand. Everything is a mystery and the curtain gets pulled back a little each time you play. You’re yearning for that little bit more, and always getting it.
When was the last time you played a game and had an actual “need” to keep going, even when it’s a slog? Elden Ring is never going to be a game of the year for me, but I can certainly see why it might be for some.
Removing that fanboy rave reviews. I have a good idea what it’s all about and I can see why people go so hard into these games.
I have no idea when I’ll be done. I read more than is healthy, I watch videos and guides. I’m part of this world of constant information and improved understanding.
Elden Ring is special, that much is true.
My hope is to at least done the first major boss, and to get to some of the places people talk of frequently. I may even have inadvertently hit a level where I can do it now, without worrying about a further grind.
Grinding doesn’t feel like grinding, either. That’s what hits me the most. The constant learning and breadcrumbs of progress make it feel like every minute is worthwhile. I can’t think of many other games like that.
But is it good?
Elden Ring is good, yes. But I don’t know that it’s for everyone. More confusingly, I’m still not sure if it’s for me…..
Still playing through Horizon Forbidden West helps me see the stark contrast in which both of these open-world games approach the gameplay. One gives you markers, a busy HUD and a never-ending stream of what to do and where to go. The other gives nothing and makes it somehow more engaging.
I actually really like Horizon Forbidden West, but it feels like sensory overload when coming back from Elden Ring.
Elden Ring could make some things a little clearer in the menus, and the controls are sometimes frustrating. But you’re just you, left to it. Like we would be in real life.
The dark fantasy setting isn’t my bag, but it suitably fits the tone of the game. The world is out to get you, you need to learn and earn your way through and it’s incredibly rewarding to do so. I’ve not had a great time throughout, yet I’ve had a good time when I take a step back and think about it.
As with all things, mileage may vary. Elden Ring and other From Software games just might not be your thing. I know I’ve tried Dark Souls before and not “got” it. I enjoy Sekiro, and this is making me want to go back for more of that, feeling like I might understand it a little better now.
All told, Elden Ring is probably a great introduction to the Soulsborne genre. Open, challenging, rewarding and somehow a little addictive.
I can see why people wouldn’t get on with it. Hell, that tree sentinel is goading me, I can hear him. Stupid horse-riding prick. I’ll be back for him, and I’ll be back for the gate dude, too. If all else fails, Elden Ring has given me some grudges and an appreciation for a genre that I wasn’t able to gel with previously.
Should I buy it?
If you haven’t got Elden Ring yet, you’re likely the same as me and hesitant to try it. If so, there’s no harm in waiting for the price to drop. It’s a tough sell at £45 when you’re not sure if you’re going to enjoy it.
Of course, it might just click for you and you’ll be on your merry way. I can’t tell you that. Elden Ring is great, and I’m really pleased to have gotten into the From Software world of gaming. Will I be a ride-or-die fan? Probably not, but I appreciate the hands-off approach and the elation of getting past a boss.
If you’re just not interested in Dark Souls games, or bounced off them very hard. Perhaps the open-world might be a game changer for you, but as far as I can tell. Systems-wise, it’s similar, just much much bigger.
Elden Ring may be the game for you, and if you’re on the fence, purely because you don’t know much about it. You’re in luck. The world and their dog have been creating wiki’s, guides, videos and everything else. Go get a feel for it, and see where you land then.
I hope, if anything, people get to experience it, even if it’s just for a handful of hours. It isn’t immediately accessible, and I think we need that back in gaming. Earn your way into it and love it more because of that.
Not everything should hold your hand all of the time. Just go and explore and deal with whatever comes your way. It’s pretty refreshing to be honest!
Quick note: Play online where you can! Being able to randomly help others, and to have people help you, can make it more fun. It reminds me a lot of SOS flares in Monster Hunter.