After what seems like an eternity, Elden Ring has finally arrived. And, let me tell you, it is massive. So massive in fact that there is no way I could finish the game in the 9 days that I’ve had with the game. As a result, this review of Elden Ring is based on 40 hours of gameplay.
Ever since the announcement of the collaboration, at E3 2019, between FromSoftware and George R.R. Martin, fans of the punishing Souls Game series’ have been waiting for an epic story to be coupled with the true form of painstakingly difficult gameplay a Souls game brings. Was the wait worth it? Are fans going to truly feel like an Elden Lord? Let’s dive into the Lands In Between and find out.
Elden Ring Details
Platform(s): PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One and PC
Reviewed on: PS5
Publisher: Bandai Namco Entertainment
Genre: Action role-playing
Modes: Single-player, multiplayer
ESRB Rating: M (Mature 17+)
A world full of mystery
For those wondering, this review in progress is completely spoiler free. So you don’t have to worry about your experience with the game being spoiled. The story starts off as most fantasy stories begin. There’s a legendary thing, in this case the Elden Ring. Everyone wants it for power, fame and fortune. Sadly, the Elden Ring is Shattered in war and all those who descended from this event are known as the Tarnished.
Marika’s Children all gather the shards and find strength in them and the story is told through key art and detailed paintings that resemble the Renaissance era. As the Tarnished, your task is to gather the shards, restore the Ring, and become the Elden Lord to bring peace back to the realm.
Fans who have been waiting will be happy to know that it’s very clear that George R. R. Martin helped create this lore. The atmosphere of the game feels straight out of a Game of Thrones novel. There is a definite inspiration from other books about rings that you may be familiar with. Death is essential in this game and that’s shown to players as literally off the top of the story. There’s a reason for repeats and the choice to collaborate with George R. R. Martin is so natural for this game series.
A drive to progress and dive deeper into the game world
Elden Ring’s gameplay is punishing, yet rewarding. It drives you to progress and dive deeper into the game world. You are given a clear narrative reward here to uncover the mysteries of then Elden Ring. Is it enough for new players of the brutal Souls formula who like George R. R. Martin to take a step into the Elden Ring? Depends on how hard you like your games.
Make no mistake, Elden Ring is hard and there is no difficulty level. Right off the top of the narrative, a boss is presented to players. Death triggers another cutscene, so FromSoftware makes it clear that dying is essential in this game. That being said, the story doesn’t all unfold through cutscenes. It’s uncovered by talking to NPCs and taking in the surroundings.
Essentially though, it’s very easy for players of all types to dive into the story. In short, and an easy summary, someone stole a ring and shattered it, many have the pieces and it’s up to you to gather the shards. Finding sites of grace is key to keeping the progression going in Elden Ring. These are resting points that heal players and essentially act as spawning points when you perish; and perish you will.
Overall the story is meaty, and worth reading and exploring through. The story encourages players to chase the lost grace. Sites of Grace also act as a pathway throughout the game to keep players on the right track. Speaking of staying on the right track, let’s dive into Gameplay.
Gameplay that is soul searching
FromSoftware has taken a page right out of the “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it” gameplay book. Essentially, if you’ve played previous Souls games, you’ll know exactly what you’re getting into. A difficult and oftentimes frustrating experience, but an overall rewarding one. That is of course if you stick with it.
The main draw of this game is overcoming a variety of seemingly insurmountable challenges. While Elden Ring isn’t any less difficult to play than previous iterations, this game does have some new features that can help give Souls newbies a fighting chance.
Choose your own adventure
Firstly, the open world setting allows you to “choose your own adventure.” If a particular section of the map is too difficult; you can just jump on your horse and ride to a new area. I spent countless hours just riding around the world, discovering new Sites of Grace (resting points like campfires you can fast travel to) while sizing up which area might be the next I want to tackle. The amount and locations of these spawn points were generous as well, which helps you jump right back into the action when you (inevitably) die.
Elden Ring introduces Spirit Ashes early on, which is an in game spirit companion you can summon in certain sections of the map. I found this addition to be extremely helpful in difficult situations.
For example, instead of trying to take on a tough boss alone, I would summon a few wolves to help out and take some of the pressure off. I might accidentally run into a situation where I was outnumbered, but could summon a companion to give me a fighting chance.
Familiar gameplay mechanics
FromSoftware has also taken advantage of its gameplay catalogue to make a mish mash of mechanics of previous games. You can jump and stun enemies with posture damage, similar to Sekiro. You also get Ashes of War modifications, like the Weapon Arts of Dark Souls 3 (Ashes of War are collectable items that you can assign to your weapons or shields that give unique attacks or abilities).
Additionally, you get a horse companion, Torrent, that helps you ride around the open world. Not only can you use the horse to get around quickly, you can actually engage in combat on the horse. I did find that I could exploit this mechanic in a few encounters. I even ended up beating a boss by galloping in a circle and poking them non stop (I have no shame).
Soulsborne learning curve
While Elden Ring is a lot more accessible than other Souls games, there is still a familiar Soulsborne learning curve to tackle. I found myself having a hard time working out the huge variety of items and mechanics. For example, the simple action of summoning Spirit Ashes. For the longest time I was not able to summon a companion and couldn’t figure out why. I received a spirit ash item and assigned it to a quick action slot.
The item would never work when I tried to use it. It wasn’t until a few hours later that I was given a “Spirit Bell” that finally let me summon these spirit ashes. There was no in game prompt or help to let me know I was missing a key item. Newcomers should be ready and willing to watch or read guides fairly regularly just to make sure they can keep their head about the waters.
Overall, Elden Ring delivers a satisfying gameplay loop that is deep and rewarding. If you’ve enjoyed any FromSoftware game, you will be in for a treat of all their finest work culminating in an open world playground.
Beautiful open world with not so next gen visuals
After Elden Ring’s tutorial section ended and I opened the doors into the open world for the first time, my jaw dropped. The bright colours popped and the landmarks in the distance loomed large. This game’s presentation is wonderful. Like all memorable open world games, you can’t help but go exploring.
However, while the presentation is top notch, the game’s graphics don’t exactly scream next gen. You don’t play FromSoftware games to ogle at the ripple effects of the water, but I never really felt like I was looking at a graphical marvel. The game engine also comes with its fair share of awkward animations. Jumping with the horse can look a bit odd, and I was killed a few times from behind a wall.
The in-game HUD is a nice touch, when you click the “pause” button two menus pop up on either side of the screen and are relatively easy to navigate through. While the game doesn’t have a pause function, the action always continues; it was nice to have an easy to navigate through menu. There are also quick menus to access during gameplay so that the pacing doesn’t stop. Once you get the hang of it, it begins to feel natural and rather than limits players, enhances the gameplay.
Elden Ring is not for everyone but it is exactly what fans have been asking and waiting for
Elden Ring truly lives up to the masterpiece that was promised to fans of Soulsborne titles. However, Elden Ring is not a game that has a board appeal. In fact, I’d go as far as to say it’s made specifically for fans of the Soulsborne games. If you are hoping to enjoy a nice story and breeze through some gameplay, listen to a Game of Thrones audiobook.
Elden Ring definitely belongs in the FromSoftware library of challenging games. There is no denying that this game is extremely difficult, teetering between too hard and just hard enough. I died 15-20 times trying to beat the first main story boss—hair pulling frustration was starting to creep in around the 10th attempt.
If that scenario doesn’t sound appealing to you, Elden Ring IS NOT FOR YOU. Yes, there are new mechanics at your disposal to help make things easier, but the game doesn’t shy away from what it really is. A challenge to be conquered. The foray into the open world is a great growth of the Soulsborne genre and felt like a natural progression.
Many of the new tools introduced helped me feel more in control of the grueling experience and helped take the bite off some of the more frustrating parts of previous iterations. Collecting ring fragments will make players fall to pieces in frustration, but capturing the whole Ring will truly make them feel like they’ve earned the epic title of Elden Lord.
+ Open world is a nice way to add accessibility to the game
+ Rewarding boss fights
+ Easy to navigate menus
+ Story, Lore and world are fantastic
– Extremely difficult game
– Minor bugs
– Graphics are occasionally bland
OVERALL ASSESSMENT OF ELDENG RING
Lasting Appeal/Replayability: 4.5/5