Lahftel gives his final thoughts on FromSoftware's latest title in our Elden Ring Review.
I know I know, I'm late. But Elden Ring turned out to be quite the feast of a game. Took me around 90 hours to finish, so let me regale you with my very important opinion about it.
Now is Elden Ring good? Yes, you can go now if you don't want me to ramble on and on why that is the case. And even though numerous crashes and performance issues, that title had me hooked from start to finish. Now, I don't know when this started, but Bloodborne is the title when FromSoftware really came into their own. Yes, Demon's Souls and its Remake Dark Souls already did the cryptic story telling, take it or leave its gameplay and hostile yet beautiful world. This weird way of telling stories, by just leaving items in specific places or an NPC saying just enough to spark the imagination. Compared to Bloodborne, Demon's Souls and Dark Souls and its sequel had been pretty blunt. But from Bloodborne onwards, you got a puzzle. With all the pieces slowly coming to together as you explore.
Now Elden Ring, at least setting wise is what you'd expect from the guy that made medieval fantasy mainstream, and the guy that made being a fly in a once mighty world. Its typical fantasy, well that FromSoftware fantasy that's kind of gross and full of Berserk references. But within that is an interesting tale, with many characters having their own spin on things. That's why the game has so many endings, you as the player gets to decide who has the right of it.
Now, I was initially scared when Elden Ring proudly announced it would go open world. It was scary to think that the FromSoftware game would finally buckle and give into modern design trends. But there was nothing to worry about here. Elden Ring drops you into its world with just enough to get you started. It's a beautiful hostile place that begs to be deciphered and picked apart. And its map is designed in a way, that you are always looking up or down on something. Things are framed against a background and you always have your next destination in sight. And everything you see in the distance, is a place you can visit. That's amazing! I could not stop myself from picking some distant landmark, only to get distracted for hours on the way there.
Despite what others may think about it, the lack of clear direction really makes this work. It speaks volumes about the confidence there is in this world, that you can entirely miss NPC's. Hell, when I went back to check, the critical path only requires you to visit maybe a third of what the game has to offer. But while you make your way through the lands between, you'll learn about other lords the game doesn't send you after. They are all out there and it's up to you to seek them out. I'd even go as far to claim that some of the games best content is hidden away off the beaten path.
Coils of Light
While playing through Elden Ring, I was reminded of a love long forgotten; Capcom's big action RPG that released maybe half a year after Dark Souls, Dragons Dogma. The game everyone has consigned to oblivion. To this day, I wake up in cold sweat, weeping for a sequel to that game. Elden Ring comes very close to being a spiritual sequel to it. A world that feels dangerous, bazillion options for combat against mighty foe's and that feeling of distance between places. It's weird that Elden Ring is able to pull that off, even if you can fast travel pretty much from the get go. But there is this subconscious desire to explore, because maybe on your track back. By taking a different route you might find something worth your while.
And Elden Ring solves the issue, of being showered with stuff all the time. Tombs and little dungeons offer unique rewards and upgrade materials. And even if they looked similar, they always came with their own little spin on things. Now, I haven't counted how many bosses there are in Elden Ring. But there's a fair number of them, and eventually you'll end up fighting a few over and over again. But even the repeat bosses come with their own twists and turns, nothing substantial, but enough to keep them interesting. It's only when you go back to earlier area's that you can absolutely steamroll them.
The Dark Souls of Dark Souls Games
If we talk about ‘The FromSoftware Game' because lets be honest here there is only one. The argument always goes to what from the previous installment got chopped and what new elements are ruining the gameplay now. And FromSoftware has a history of fixing an issue in one installment, only to reintroduce it in a latter title. I'm happy to report then, that Elden Ring seems like a FromSoftware's greatest hits in the gameplay department. Even stuff from Sekiro, like the freer movement the ability to break an enemies stance are here. Together with my favorite mechanic ‘Powerstance' from Dark Souls 2. Which allows you to use two weapons of the same type for special combinations.
And while I would've loved to see the return of Bloodborne's trick weapons and Bloodgems. Runes are back, Dark Souls 3's magic system and a ton of weapons. And despite there being plenty of weapons of one type, they usually come with their own twist. Be it a status effect they apply, or an Art of War to play around with. I think the Art of War's are possibly Elden Ring's greatest strength when it comes to combat. They existed in Dark Soul's 3 as well but ranged from ‘meh' to ‘wow this is broken'. Now all of them are kinda broken, if you are willing to toy around with them. A patch release today, trying to reign in some, but I'm certain there are still many weapons of mass destruction hidden there. Magic's got some real gems hidden too.
Engaging in Jolly Cooperation and Tomfoolery
I had the pleasure of playing through Elden Ring with a friend. Some of the more hardcore crowd might call me a casual now, but I don't care. Given, exploring the open world without the horse is a little slow and progress isn't shared either. So we kept it for exploring dungeons. It was quite fun to come up with broken weapon combinations to fend of invaders, or to get back at the games bullshit. And even outside of that, we compared progress with each other quite a lot. And noticed the two of us were on completely different adventures. So imagine my shock when I tried to catch up to my friend, only to run on the same way he took into a boss he had never seen. And I still don't know why that dragon popped up there.
Of course, I had to obey my darker instincts. Especially after getting invaded, I decided to return the favor. It's one of the little things that makes these games so unique. That you can add to a players misery with just an item and some broken magic. Just getting the jump on someone is quite boring, especially when you have a one hit kill set up. But there are many unique ways to mess with someone. Be it by activating traps or abusing enemy placement. I prefer to be a nuisance instead of a killer. And Elden Ring has the tools for it, be it while hiding as part of the scenery or just kicking people down ladders.
Drawing some Conclusions
Now I've been gushing over Elden Ring all this time, and I can't really bring myself to complain about it. Besides the issues I had on PC. But it only speaks for the quality of the game that I put up with them in the first place. I'm already on my second play through, trying to catch anything I might've missed. There are like seven builds I want to try out and the prospect of more PvP on the horizon makes me giddy. My only complaint about Elden Ring is that it isn't Dragons Dogma 2. It's definitely the final stage of ‘The FromSoftware Game', unless we get Elden Ring 2 soon.
And FromSoftware is one of the few studios that have really understood how to tell a story with a game. Without having to rely on overproduced cut scenes and Oscar-bait narratives. Instead you get an enchanting world, soaked in mystery and dread. The story of Elden Ring is really what you want to take from it, if you want to overcome a difficult challenge. Becoming Elden Lord is a pretty tough one. But if you want to understand what is going on, it's all out there. I feel like I've reached a decent understanding of what's going on. Until some off hand remark by a NPC threw me for a spin.
If you're thinking about giving Elden Ring a try, go have at it. These games are not actually as hard as the internet likes to make them out to be. They are all about making you realize how much stronger you actually are. I'll give Elden Ring a 9.5/10.