Review: Elden Ring – From’s Ring to Rule Them All
Elden Ring is FromSoftware’s latest addition to it’s prestigious gaming catalogue. From Software’s ambitious new take on the “Soulsborne” genre has helped make Elden Ring 2022’s most anticipated game. With such a dramatic change from a mostly linear narrative to an open world structure does Elden Ring hold up to any of the previous Souls games?
To put it simply: Hell yes it does. Elden Ring is without a doubt one of the biggest gaming achievements of this generation. Much like how FromSoftware made an impact with the extremely difficult Demon’s Souls on PS3 they have continued tradition with another game that will change the industry forever. It takes the hardcore nature of the souls genre and applies to it an incredibly vast and diverse open world. The two genres are blended together beautifully to make something greater than the sum of it’s parts.
Unrivaled World Building
Once FromSoftware announced that they were working on a new IP their many fans lost their minds. When they then stated that the game development was being overseen by Hidetaka Miyazaki and written collectively by both Miyazaki and George RR Martin the entire industry went nuts. Sure games have had stories written by famous authors before but this seemed like a match made in heaven. Miyazaki has been known in the gaming realm for years for being a masochist by creating some of the hardest games ever made just as George RR Martin has been labeled as the same by making such heart wrenching stories in his Song of Ice and Fire series (or what has come to be known as Game of Thrones). Both of these men thrive on their incredibly detailed fantasy worlds and have an unrivaled knack for the genre.
After completing Elden Ring I struggle to find exactly where George RR Martins influence was within the game (apart from a few convoluted story-lines that involve possible incest). It seems that Miyazaki was truly in charge of the storyboard here as most of the games lore can be found within item descriptions and seemingly minor lines of dialogue. Despite that just knowing that Miyazki and George RR Martin got together to create even one part of this game together is mind blowing.
I also struggle to describe what exactly the story was in this game. After putting in over 100 hours of gameplay I can barely tell you any names of the characters in the game or what their motivations were. This is not a complaint, as with most of FromSoftwares previous masterpieces, it is the gameplay and world building that truly shine.
The Many-Faced Tarnished
Like most fantasy RPGs you have several different starting classes to choose from. These classes are important in the early hours of the game but won’t matter for long as if you start off as a mage and realize sword play is more your play style you just have to level your character accordingly instead of starting over from scratch.
Once you choose your starting class you can be as simple or complex with the actual creation tools as you’d like. You can choose one of the premade character models or go crazy with the customization options. Although your face (and body) will be covered for most of the game I have seen some pretty crazy models both in game and on reddit. From Ninja Turtles to Thanos to Vin Diesel you can really role play whoever you want in this game if you are willing to put in the time to create something ridiculous.
From Foul Tarnished to Lord
After the opening video you will awaken in the world, almost immediately face a boss and you will die. Following this death you will reawaken and after some dialogue, and an easily miss-able tutorial area, you will die again. FromSoftware is not afraid to kick you when you are down. This game will teach you it’s rules quickly and without bias. One of the biggest allures of the Souls franchise is that your character is nothing and comes from nothing and somehow manages to kill demons and gods alike. Elden Ring is no different with this concept. You can’t even level-up your character right off the bat, you need to earn that right. The game will force you to become a better player before your character can become more powerful.
With Elden Ring being open-world the game is much more accessible than its predecessors. Most “soulsborne” players are used to hitting a wall and fighting the same boss dozens (if not hundreds) of times before progressing to the next area. When you encounter the first major boss in Elden Ring you will not be ready to beat them. Being a long time fan of this genre of games I fought that boss roughly 25 times before remembering that I did not have to continue on this path and could go and explore the rest of the world. After roughly 15 hours of leveling, fighting other bosses, and some pretty hilarious deaths I came back to that first boss and kicked his teeth in on my first try.
This will become a familiar pattern throughout your experience. As the game branches out the paths will start to vary more; instead of being directed to one of the main bosses you can choose one of several to go after next. Even then you will likely be more inclined to go check out that dungeon you saw five hours ago. Maybe you’re finally brave enough to see whats going on with that fiery red hellscape you were randomly transported to after opening a chest that promised to house another precious item.
The Vast Lands Between
For those familiar with FromSoftwares work you will find similar locations found in previous games. Elden Ring takes these ideas and designs and brings them to a new level. Apart from the fact that you will still find many dilapidated castles and, of course, a poison swamp (or two) these locales hold many secrets and some seem to go on forever. Plus Elden Ring adds two new mechanics not found in any of FromSoftwares earlier works. These are having a mythical horse that can appear from the ether at the press of a button and a world map.
Your horse named Torrent becomes a great companion in your journey across the Lands Between (the world in which Elden Ring takes place). Torrent is a character in itself and is helpful for traversing the vast landscapes, mounted combat and platforming. There are also parts of the map that are only accessible via Torrent in which you can travel up wisps of air to reach new heights. Not only can you jump incredibly high with these points but you can also use them to safely travel down if you are on a cliffside and see one on the ground below you.
I was a bit concerned when I heard Elden Ring was getting a world map. Getting lost in the world and seeing how seemlessly parts of the game overlap and connect to each other is essential to the soulsborne experience. Not only that but I felt I would be more “boxed in” by knowing what the boundaries of the world are. I couldn’t have been more wrong. You start with very little of the map visible and have to find items to expand on what you can see on your map screen. I remember being roughly 30 hours in and thinking I was getting to the northern most part of the map only to find another piece and then realizing that I was basically at the midpoint. Not only that but there are also several under ground locations that have entirely new maps dedicated to themselves.
Elden Ring is easily FromSoftwares most accessible game. FromSoftware seems to have found the perfect balance between try-hard gameplay and open world design. The new additions of fast traveling from the start, the world map and Torrent are just a few things made to help you in your journey to become the Elden Lord. The ability to hit a wall turn while fighting a seemingly impossible foe and turn around and go wherever else you would like is a huge plus as well.
In most of FromSoftwares games you can summon a friend or two to help you against a tough boss or area if you get stuck. Elden Ring is no exception with this and actually strongly encourages you to play with others be them real players or NPC’s you find throughout your adventure. Even though when you do this the difficulty does rise by giving all enemies larger health bars and opens the door to being invaded by other players. One thing Elden Ring does very differently is give you access to summoning creatures to help you along. These creatures are extremely diverse and most are basic enemies you have already fought. From wolves to black night assassins to a blob that will grow into an exact replica of your character there will be a summon that you prefer (if you don’t want to use another player’s help).
You also have the ability to craft items with materials found throughout the world to help you on your journey. At the start you are only able to make a dozen or so different items such as throwing darts or exploding pots. After finding cookbooks during your adventure you will eventually be able to make other items that could help alleviate different status effects, arrows that poison your enemies, healing items or even a grease that you can coat your sword or bowstring with to set them on fire and turn your targets into ash.
Despite all of the new mechanics that FromSoftware has put into Elden Ring this is still an extremely difficult game. I have played all of the souls games that FromSoftware has put out in the last 15 years and beat all but two of them. Being a veteran player I was able to help out friends and newcomers in this game in terms of mechanics and how the game play/level design would be. Even with this knowledge and understanding of the genre I managed to roll credits at 98 hours in with my Samurai at level 136 and had accumulated 442 deaths in total.
The first 50 hours or so were pretty straightforward and relatively “easy” at around hour 50 I barely had 100 deaths in total. The endgame is a very different story. One optional boss cost me just over 60 deaths herself and the final boss just under 50. Even though I was taking advantage of the new summoning mechanics the game still managed to knock me down a few pegs and remind me what FromSoftware is capable of.
Elden Ring was 2022’s most anticipated game for millions of gamers out there. People will be discussing this masterpiece for years to come. At the time of writing Elden Ring is by far my game of the year for 2022 and has jumped onto the list of my favorite games of all time. I have recommended this game to every gamer I know and will continue to do so. At least until FromSoftware and Hidetaka Miyazaki come out with their next game that will continue to push the games industry forward.