Released on: February 25 2022
Available Platforms: Playstation 4, Playstation 5, XBOX One, XBOX Series X/S, PC
Price: $79.99 CAD ($59.99 US)
Those who’ve followed my reviews for a while know that I like Soulsbourne (or Soulslikes) games (games like Dark Souls and Sekiro). A few months after Sekiro’s release, the developers of Dark Souls, Bloodborne, and Sekiro announced a new game that promised to be the biggest game from the company at E3 2019. The developers collaborated with famous author George R.R. Martin (of Game of Thrones fame). At the announcement, we barely saw anything relating to it other than the name: Elden Ring.
Being a fan of the Soulsbourne genre, I had my eye on Elden Ring ever since they announced it at E3. When the release date drew closer, they elaborated that it would be a more open game than the other Soulsbornes. I remember thinking that an open-world Soulsborne could work very well, but I had to see it myself. At first, I felt that I was going to wait a bit before diving in, but the reviews of the game were so good from the onset that it was hard for me to resist diving in. Is it worth exploring the Lands Between of Elden Ring?
War has run through the desolate lands of the Lands Between. With the previous Elden Ring destroyed, its shards now scattered across the land as Great Runes. The demigods now rule the Lands Between and keep a Great Rune each. Awakening from their prison of death, the player takes control of a being known only as the Tarnished. They soon find themselves in a cruel world with very few friendly faces. Some of those friendlies let the player know that their ultimate goal is to reassemble the Elden Ring and become the new Elden Lord. Whether or not these people are trustworthy remains to be seen.
Elden Ring’s world is as bleak and desolate as one would expect from the Soulsborne games. The game’s basic premise isn’t too hard to follow, but when one dives into the lore, suddenly they uncover a rabbit hole that keeps getting increasingly captivating. I’m usually not one for lore, but when the story is intriguing, I suddenly find myself consuming the extra stuff and being completely wowed by it.
To say that Elden Ring is phenomenal visually would be underselling it. I lost count of how many times I’ve gasped at the sheer majesty of the scenery, the landscapes, and the graphical quality. The designs of the monsters are mindboggling. Some so many bosses would fit the description of “eldritch horror.”
Those who’ve played Dark Souls or Sekiro will be familiar with Elden Ring’s gameplay. For those who haven’t, Elden Ring, at first glance, plays like a typical action RPG, but very quickly, the player will realize that to succeed, they must approach every encounter with care. Soulsbourne games have a reputation for being difficult, and Elden Ring is no exception. Players have access to many weapons, shields, spells, and armor to conquer the World In-Between… eventually. Realistically speaking, the player’s main focus would be to mitigate death as much as possible. Those who’ve played any Soulsborne games before will tell you that it is tough not to die, especially if you are new. In this action RPG, pattern recognition and timing are crucial to surviving.
Where Elden Ring tends to throw the player a few bones would be in its design. Being an open-world game means that if the player feels they aren’t powerful enough to defeat a particular boss, they can always go to another area to get more Runes (Elden Ring’s equivalent to Souls) or find better gear. Each Soulsborne game has a philosophy that a player must pick up on to succeed, and I feel like Elden Ring rewards exploration the most out of any Soulsborne game I’ve played.
Bosses in Elden Ring are where the game shines. Many of them feel like larger versions of regular enemies, but the true bosses are out of this world. Doing a cursory glance at Elden Ring’s social media posts, people will trade stories about fighting Margit, The Fell Omen, who is the game’s first boss, for example. In my case, it took me a week to beat him. When I finally bested him, it felt amazing. It opened up a whole new section of the game, previously cut off from me, which made me want to play the game even more.
Speaking of areas unlocking, one thing that amazes me about Elden Ring is how vast it is. While the total size of the map is smaller than, say, something like Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, the amount of stuff in it is insane. A friend who plays Elden Ring regularly has hundreds of hours into the game and still finds new things in a nook they somehow missed. There’s even content after beating the game. The player can restart the game from the beginning, but they get to keep all their gear and levels, but the enemies get much more difficult (known as New Game +).
While I like a challenge, I always want to warn my readers when a game is potentially daunting. Elden Ring is one such game. I mentioned earlier that it took me roughly a week to beat the game’s first real boss, and I got frustrated to the point where I had to step back from the game for a bit. If a boss is too much for the moment, the player can always go back and explore areas they might have missed. This will make the boss much more bearable. It is worth noting that Elden Ring can be a little too much for some players.
In 3D games (3D platformers, open-world games, action RPGs, etc.), when the player falls from a significant height, some games will damage the player when they land (even to the point of killing them). In most games, the height of which the player will take damage when they hit the ground becomes evident the more they play the game. Elden Ring manages to be unclear whether or not landing from a great height will kill the player. It always feels like a gamble when I’m jumping down from a ledge, and it’s always horrifying when the floor collapses from beneath me as it could lead to my death, or I might walk away from it unscathed; it is not always clear which one will happen once I hit the ground.
The last thing I will mention with Elden Ring is that its map has very little data regarding essential locations. Elden Ring did apply updates to mark important NPCs, but nothing else is on the map besides them and Grace Sites. People who play many open-world games might notice this, making things a bit more confusing for them. I like that the map is not as cluttered as other games since it makes it less of a visual mess to look at when I open the world map. On the other hand, other players might be dissatisfied with the lack of data on the map.
To say that Elden Ring is an incredible game is an understatement. It has so much content that the game never feels wholly done, the gameplay is just as satisfying as the Soulsbourne games that came before it, and exploring new areas is always a treat. If the player can get over the difficulty and the lack of pins on the map, Elden Ring is a phenomenal experience for diehard Soulsbourne/Soulslike fans and those curious.