Elden Ring Review

FromSoftware has a history of making good video games, but Elden Ring is in a league of its own.  Elden Ring is the latest in line of a genre of video games called “souls-like” games, a genre pioneered by FromSoft and one that has become increasingly popular.  The Souls games are Demons Souls, Dark Souls, Dark Souls II, Bloodborne, and Dark Souls III, and each game is an action RPG (role playing game) with a nameless protagonist that the player can customize to their liking,  (known in each game respectively as the Slayer of Demons, the Chosen Undead, the Bearer of the Curse, the Hunter, and the Ashen One).  These characters can be customized with different weapons, armor, magic, and abilities, and can be molded into a character that fits the player’s playstyle, which makes the games more enjoyable and offers many different approaches to challenges.

Arguably the most notable thing about the Souls games is their difficulty.  The Souls games are intentionally hard, not unfairly hard, but challenging.  Even the weakest of enemies can kill players in a couple hits, so the player must constantly be vigilant and prepared, always ready to dodge or block any possible attack.  Careful timing is required to take on groups or stronger enemies, and one mistake can lead to a quick death.  However, the games are made even more challenging by the inclusion of dozens of bosses, each of which can easily decimate a player after a single slip-up.  These bosses make the game even harder, but even more satisfying when you finally manage to defeat one.

Elden Ring feels like a Souls game, but also feels like it has its own identity.  Unlike previous Souls games, where you’re just dropped in front of a bunch of enemies when you start and basically told “figure it out”, Elden Ring is a bit more forgiving.  Elden Ring has small tips on loading screens and in menus, and while this isn’t revolutionary for a game, it’s different for a Souls game, and feels like the game isn’t trying to make you fail just for the fun of it.  By no means does it hold your hand, but information is available if you choose to look for it.  I absolutely loved this, because it felt accessible to me if I decided I needed it, but didn’t feel like the game was babying me.  The story is also actually explained, which most Souls games don’t bother to do, excellent changes all topped by the first ever jump button in a Souls game (finally).  The game takes place in the Lands Between, after the titular Elden Ring is destroyed and scattered to demigods around the Lands. The player character (known as the Tarnished) is tasked with retaking these shards, restoring the Elden Ring, and becoming the new Elden Lord of the Lands Between, all while getting called maidenless by almost everyone they meet along the way.

The Lands Between itself is one of the best parts of the game.  The world, created in collaboration with fantasy writer George R. R. Martin (Game of Thrones) is as gorgeous and breathtaking as it is deadly.  There are sprawling vistas, gorgeous mountains, abandoned castles, and poison swamps (arguably too many poison swamps).  The world is beautiful.  Elden Ring makes unique use of this word in a way that other Souls games do not.  Each game before it is linear, with a set path you must follow to reach a clear end goal.  However, after a short, linear introduction and a boss you must fight, Elden Ring opens up the entirety of the Lands Between to the player, with the most freedom in a Souls game before.  This is revolutionary as it allows the player to pick and choose their challenges.  In previous games, when a player got stuck on a boss or a particularly hard section, the only thing that they could do was keep throwing themselves at the boss until they figured out exactly what to do to defeat it.  However, in Elden Ring, if you get frustrated, you can simply hop on your horse, go somewhere else, come back stronger, and absolutely annihilate the boss.  It’s a simple change, but it reduces frustration and allows people to make their own path, and find their own stories.  The side quests that you can discover from exploring are also great, and give real incentives to exploration.  My personal favorite is a quest in which you befriend a giant talking pot (his name is Alexander) and take him on adventures with you.  The world is so fleshed out and full of life, it’s amazing.

The bosses themselves are also incredible.  The main bosses are all unique and fresh and still manage to be incredibly challenging and unforgiving.  I still had a great time working my way through them, and it never felt like any of the bosses were truly unfair, just that I wasn’t yet strong enough, which I think is the perfect feeling for this game.  It leaves you wanting to explore more, wanting to get stronger, not wanting to quit because of some unfair attack.  All in all, the game is absolutely phenomenal, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who has played a Souls game, wants to play a Souls game, or is just looking for a good game in general.