As as a child I would peruse the fantasy books in paperback and imagine. I was not old enough to enjoy these stories of violence and sexual sex and sex, but those beautiful covers filled with dragons, swords , and ruins from the past, promised adventures that captured my attention. This was a dream I chased as I embarked to my own adventures in games that date back to the first Legend of Zelda. There aren’t many games that meet my paperback-inspired fantasies and are often too linear or restrictive to give me that feeling of liberation I sought. No one has come as close to that in the same way as Elden Ring.
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The latest release by Bloodborne as well as Sekiro creator FromSoftware, Elden Ring is the simplest attempt to combine the unique action-RPG formula of the studio with an open, expansive world. Imagine it as Dark Souls meets Breath of the Wild and you’re almost there. It’s a bold premise and yet it’s an Elden Ring that more than meets expectations. It’s everything you’d want from the designer that you’d expect from the developer — deep and difficult combat, intricate systems, and a story that’s both tragic and beautiful — and then it combines it with an enormous world is yours to explore in any way you would like.
Elden Ring‘s premise is admittedly initially a bit generic. The story takes place in a dark and spooky fantasy realm called The Lands Between, a place that is held together by a strong goth queen and a ring. The ring has been broken and the queen missing the place has sunk into chaos, being ravaged by ghouls, monsters, and negative vibes. You assume the role of Tarnished or undead who is determined to set the record straight. (The original concept for the world was developed through Game of Thrones writer George R.R. Martin however, even if it was not an integral part that game’s advertising strategy, I’m not sure if I would have been aware of Martin’s involvement.)
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As with all the top open-world titles, this premise is what gives the game its basic design — you’ll need to traverse through the Lands Between to restore the Elden Ring — but it’s not about following a narrative. There’s a golden path that provides some direction to the next event or boss (it’s something like the wind that guides you from the the Ghost of Tsushima), that you can skip if you desire to. There are some roadblocks to progress and my favorite part about Elden Ring is how wide it is.
There was a point in the beginning when this was evident to me. When you begin the game the guiding light guides to a castle that, once you’ve killed some guards, will lead you to your first major boss. The boss is a massive swordmaster, deformed and with horns that grow from his head and the appearance of a scorpion tail. I’ve been killed numerous times. Whatever strategy I employed, I could not get even a little bit of huge guy’s health. In most games, even previous titles from FromSoftware it is a huge problem. I’d find myself on my back against the wall to move forward.
However, eventually I came to the conclusion… It was possible to go off and accomplish something else. I decided to ignore the direction and began my own journey. I took off on my ghostly horse and ventured into new territories. After ten hours I came back more enlightened and stronger and beat the boss. But the thing is I wasn’t working to improve my experience and gear. I was on myself adventures of my own. I swam through a rotting swamp and onto savage beaches. I snuck into other castles, and made to the underground mines and catacombs. I killed a dragon. The process helped my character become more powerful and, most importantly, it enabled me to comprehend the game sufficiently to feel more confident in the infernal boss battle.
What makes it all work is the universe that FromSoftware has built. It’s massive and packed with things to do and sights to see. It may seem a bit large initially and has an area that covers the entire globe however, it gradually uncovers its entire, amazing scope the more you play. It’s more than just huge however, the Lands Between is full of fascinating things to see including the numerous mini-bosses scurrying about to the wide variety of scenery. Then, you’re in an area of burning with a blood-red skythen the next moment you’re deep in the city’s sunken structure with mysterious stars in the sky. It’s awe-inspiring such as when a shower of golden leaves falls during a dark , dark night. It’s become a cliché in the present but Elden Ring really is a game that you can see something fascinating behind you — like a castle rising from into the night, or a gold tree as big as the height of a skyscraper, and a huge skull that has been carved into a mountain and If you’re dedicated enough, you can figure out the best way to get there.
The size never seemed overwhelming to me. At first you won’t have an accurate sense of magnitude right away. It is only when you begin looking around and discovering maps that you realize how vast the globe is, and gives you time to get used to. It’s also fairly straightforward to travel around. There’s a spirit horse-like creature you can summon any time that will not only allow you to get more quickly, but also allows you to stay clear of fights if you’re cautious. It’s true that the Lands Between are also filled with “sites that are graced,” which are basically points that double as fast-travel destinations to allow you to travel back and forth between areas that you’ve already visited. I spent the majority of time cruising around looking for these to make the journey an easier task If I ran into difficulties, I’d be aware that there was a nearby spot to find my way.
There is an entire world filled with tragic tales that FromSoftware is famous for, which makes exploration a an important part of the story. The handful of people who actually speak to you are all tragic characters providing small tasks to tell a devastating tale in a short. My favorite is the one who promises to offer you a hug anytime you’d like, to feel the warmth of your body. Even monsters can be terrible. I came across a beast who was always angry because it was inside a helmet made of metal when I discovered an entire beach of bones that I later believed were survivors of an accident that caused a shipwreck.
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The game can also be a bit wacky at times as well. I spent an entire time trying to solve the problem of the talking tree. My favorite spirits to invoke was a massive floating jellyfish. I’m currently carrying a bag filled with ovaries that I gathered from the remains of an octopus from the ocean. In one instance, there’s an adventure that requires taking skulls off of creature’s feet.
What’s great with a more flexible system is it won’t try to get away from the elements that make FromSoftware games so popular. It actually enhances it. The battles are still intense and thrilling The bosses are still huge and intimidating. Even after 40 hoursof play, I’m still learning about how magic, crafting as well as other systems in game. Although it’s great to be free however, there’s still the pounding and tense feeling as you go throughout the many different dungeons catacombs, and castes. I’ve been through a lot and yet there’s always to be some new animal or area that I’m just not yet ready for and that’s the reason I keep coming back.
All of this is to say that, even though it’s probably one of the easiest games the studio has created however, it’s still extremely demanding. It’s not easy however, now you have more options to handle the difficult moments. Not only does it require your attention and focus like few others do. But since it’s so big and demanding, it takes up a lot of your time. After nearly 40 hours of playing I’m not even near to finishing the game. At times it seems like I’m only beginning. Elden Ring isn’t an online game that you play for an hour or so every night. It’s an experience that consumes you. For me, it’s become an ongoing thing that I think about every time I sit down with the controller.