With this next generation of video games, the landscape of games themselves is changing. The scope has grown larger across all platforms, not just the new major ones. IPs with a comparably small scope are becoming large, open world games like Pokemon Legends: Arceus. One of the largest and most anticipated changes of the decade has been with the Souls series pivoting away from dark, dingy dungeons into a large open world. While some might not be for the switch in scope, Elden Ring is a title that fully lives up to all the hype it has generated. Even as someone who is horrendous at Souls titles, Elden Ring has left me thoroughly impressed, and wanting to play more.
Originally, I had only a passing interest in Elden Ring. I’ve never been a fan of Souls games or combat, and every time I attempted it ended in not only frustrating failure but general distaste for the franchise in general. This is the experience I’ve seen many others have with the franchise as well, as it can be quite a bit of an acquired taste. The defining factors of Souls games have always been haunting environments and monstrous difficulty to the uninitiated. This doesn’t change in Elden Ring, but the open world brings with it a myriad of different ways to experience the game. Originally, finding bonfires was more a sign of linear progression marking your location in an area. A well earned respite for running or fighting through the area so far. Areas in older entries were not only semi-open and mostly linear, but with large potions mostly blocked off by falls to your death, or things of a similar nature. With the expansive open world and amount of checkpoints to find, Elden Ring doesn’t feel nearly as impossible. Certain additions to traversal (namely your magic horse/bull buddy) make the sprawling landscape manageable. Mounted combat is also possible, and either eases the difficulty of fighting waves of footsoldiers or turns other mounted combatants into equal fights. The way the checkpoints are structured makes fast traveling feel incredibly useful as well, and generally gives the player incentive to not only rush to new ones, but to utilize old ones for farming runes (the game’s currency). The combat is still equally as punishing if unprepared, but feels incredibly smooth once acclimated. As someone who is mostly used to musou and hack n’slash titles, the combat took some learning. Once I understood how to use certain weapons and break stances with power moves or weapon arts, the game felt so much better.
Once of the major parts of Elden Ring that I’ve seen spoken about is how beautiful it is, and that is not an understatement. On PC with high settings, this is easily one of the most beautiful games I’ve played. The setpieces marked with the glowing trees and contrast to the dreary environments are something to behold. While some areas can look completely desolate and infested with things that would give your trypophobia trypophobia, other areas are actually lush and green with small glowing bugs to collect and animals running around. The variety is actually something I wasn’t expecting going into this game, and was a very welcome change to what I normally expect from Fromsoft titles. The most defining experience for me was the same thing that many people remember fondly, which are the intense fights that you can’t seem to get over for dozens of times. Having started the game as the wretch, I had a particularly hard time not just killing enemies, but finding gear and getting past certain areas. I’ll never forget a single giant that jumped down from a cliff while I was getting shot with crossbow bolts, and how many attempts that took. Learning his attack patterns while beating him down slowly but surely with nothing but my loincloth and a wooden club. The respawn area was very close by, but it didn’t make it any more grueling. After almost an hour of trial and error, I finally beat it to only get about a thousand runes. That level of perseverance was what helped me get through the following areas, and eventually to the first boss. I won’t spoil it, but I’ll tell you it took me well over an hour and perhaps some tears to finally beat him.
Elden Ring as one of the most hyped games of the last decade certainly earns its spot. I can say with certainty that this is the game that might convert more people to the Souls format than any other entry. The level of sheer dopamine that comes through intense victories that aren’t even boss battles, on top of the exploration factor is otherworldly. There’s value to be found in even grueling experiences, but finding the willpower to push past and truthfully immerse yourself in the game with all its traps and difficulties is a very rewarding experience. I want other people to have that same “jump for joy” moment on beating a particularly hard enemy, and truthfully think this is the peak of Fromsoft’s titles so far.
Score: 10 out of 10
Reviewed on Windows PC