There are those games where you count down every day until release. Watching as more and more promotional material is released showing off more of the game.
And with every screenshot, trailer, and interview that confirms your wildest beliefs, it feels like the game will never come out. I’ve had this experience a lot as a kid with Halo games, Fallout 3, the BioShock series, and more recently The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
It’s become much rarer as I have become older and my experience with games has left me jaded and cynical. That’s why it comes as such a relief that Elden Ring blew my expectations out of the water and I haven’t thought of anything else for days. It truly is everything I love about single-player games.
I don’t even want to write this review – I’d rather be playing Elden Ring. So if you’d like to hear about the tale of a lone Tarnished who braved the beasts of the Lands Between, have a seat at a Site of Grace and listen as I regale the events that led me here today.
In Elden Ring, you play as a being known as Tarnished who are people that lost the Erdtree blessing after the Elden Ring was broken apart. This allows the Tarnished (you) to come back to the Lands Between and begin to bring the Elden Ring back together because, at the moment, the world has fallen to ruin and people are unable to die.
You must set out to reclaim the shards of the Elden Ring from the children of Marika and reunite them once more but this is easier said than done.
Elden Ring is a FromSoftware game after all and that brings with it challenging foes and Elden Ring has some of the best that I have seen from the studio. You choose from one of ten classes but don’t let this narrow your thinking. You don’t necessarily need to stick to the route that your class is.
You can change it up entirely and go from a warrior to a straight-up mage. It’s all up to you and if you realize that you made a few bad moves early on, there is a way to respec your build after defeating the final big boss at the academy. But you’ll need to make it that far first.
While the open world is magnificent and has me overjoyed to participate in it, you do need to keep in mind that it’s a Souls game through and through. Sites of Grace will act as the bonfires for this game as well as points to fast travel to.
You are free to choose your own build even after the start but you’ll need to keep in mind how that might affect your combat until you catch a few of your stats up. I wanted to try something a little different from my recent Dark Souls 3 playthrough so I chose to be a duel-wielding warrior dexterity build. I roll a lot and I’m very aggressive because of this.
There have definitely been moments where I regretted my decision but as I have said, there are always other ways to improve yourself. Every failure was just a lesson and made me rethink my approach to my character, exploration, or combat strategy. These lessons start from the moment the game begins too.
Right from the start, you are confronted by the Graft Scion. While this boss is possible to defeat, any new player with minimal gear and no flasks is most likely going to be defeated here. It’s supposed to be that way. By waking up in another location, it’s like the game is telling you that by going somewhere else, you can get better at the game. You don’t need to keep throwing yourself at the same wall over and over again.
After you’re defeated, you’ll wake up and briefly meet Melina before you get up and head on your way through the tutorial dungeon.
I decided to play through the entire dungeon just to ensure I didn’t miss any little updates but as it turned out, I was pretty well prepared for the basics of everything.
When I emerged from the caves, I was immediately struck by the beauty of the giant Erdtree, the color of the landscape, and the sheer scope of the world. It was baffling and I could have spent an hour just looking at the vista, but there was a game to play.
The World Is Intoxicating
If you have been following my blog for a while now, you’ll know that a good world is what defines a great game to me. My favorite games like BioShock and Hollow Knight, usually have imaginative worlds that pulled me in and refused to let me think about other things.
Elden Ring does this perfectly. From the lush greenery of Limgrave to the rotting world of Caelid, there is so much to stop and just gaze at. Exploring every crevice for clues as to how these events came to pass is a thrill just as adrenaline-inducing as fighting a boss.
It’s rare in a game where I’ll stop everything I’m doing just to look at the horizon but in Elden Ring, it feels earned as these views are often locked behind challenging bosses or dungeons. It makes me feel like I should be grateful for the respite and view. You need to survive the fire and the flames before you are going to be rewarded with a beautiful sight to pause at though.
It’s these moments of intensity followed by moments of peace that create a wonderful balance in Elden Ring.
Even if there is a challenging dungeon with little to no Sites of Grace to give you a checkpoint before a boss, you can bet that the boss is a little weaker than the others you were able to walk straight up to.
You can almost hear the developers at FormSoftware watching, taking notes, and tuning the game to ensure that it never feels unfair or gruelingly tedious.
There were even times when I was bouncing between a few known bosses on my map because I wanted to explore those particular directions only.
I wanted to see more of the world and I wasn’t going to let a few pesky bosses stop me – even if they kept crushing my poor Tarnished body into the dirt.
It’s the Little Moments That Stick With You
Like many, I hit my first wall when I tried to breach Stormveil Castle and was confronted by Margit the Fell Omen. I gave it a few tries before I was like, “This isn’t working. Let’s go try something else.”
This has always been a response people could make in Souls game but they were usually limited in their choices as those games were much more linear in comparison to Elden Ring.
In Elden Ring, it’s almost guaranteed that if you are barely doing damage against a foe who is one-shotting you, that there are some other challenges that you can do much easier instead. In fact, there’s even an item to help make your fight with Margit easier if you explored enough and found the character that sold it.
When I couldn’t beat Margit, I went south and found a lord who claimed he was the rightful heir to Fort Haight. He asked me to go reclaim it for him and I was more than happy to oblige as I needed to train.
The next few hours saw my just sneaking around the fort trying to eliminate as many of the armored foes as possible before I took on a berserk pumpkin head.
While I was laying siege to the fort, I heard whispers about a castle in the south that had been overrun, so I pocketed the information for later.
Eventually, I took the fort and returned to the lord who rewarded me with a dagger but I didn’t think I learned enough. I decided to head toward that castle that I heard about further south. On the road to the castle, I ran into a blind woman who asked me to take a letter to her father who stayed to try to defend the castle.
I promised her I would, pocketed her letter, and rode toward the castle. Just when the giant silhouette of Castle Morne came into view, a massive arrow ran straight through my mount causing me to fall on my face.
I rolled behind a ruin and peaked out to see a giant with a bow lying in wait before the entrance to the castle. Sprinting at the giant, I started slashing at his ankles until he fell and I could progress through the castle.
I snuck by a bunch of cult-like misbegotten and a pumpkin head and started clambering across the cliffs in the back of the castle. Eventually, I found myself face to face against a new foe, Leonine Misbegotten.
The wolf-like monster was fast but he was easy to dodge and a great warm-up against Margit. By the time I defeated Leonine, I was confident in my ability to take down Margit but first I needed to deliver a letter.
I wandered the ramparts of the castle while casually taking out misbegotten who got in my way. At the top of a tower, I found a man sitting alone who turned out to be the father of the blind woman. He accepted the letter and was overjoyed at Leonine being defeated.
He was excited to reunite with the girl, so before I went to finish off Margit, I went to go tell the girl the good news. When I arrived though, the woman was lying in a pool of her own blood with a giant cleaver sticking out of the dirt next to her. I took a few moments to pay my respects and promised to beat the living hell out of Margit for her.
This was all within the first few hours of playing and it all felt so organic. I wasn’t following checkpoints or working through a list in my quest log. I was actively paying attention to the world and using the information I gleaned to get better and experience it.
This happens all the time throughout Elden Ring and it’s what makes it such a special game and one that everyone should give a try as long as they are willing to persevere.
Elden Ring is now my favorite Souls game. I love the dark beauty of the world, iconic characters, and monstrous bosses. I never ran into any technical issues during my 60+ hours of playtime and while I haven’t beat the entire game (I’m going for 100 percent first), I truly believe this game belongs in the upper echelons of gaming legends. If you can, give it a chance and remember to be patient with yourself. You won’t regret it. 10/10