Ride through vast fields, explore the crumbling ruins of a dying realm, and reclaim a once-great power. Elden Ring, the latest game helmed by iconic creator Hidetaka Miyazaki and straight out of FromSoftware is out now. To truly succeed its progenitors, this follow-up to the genre-defining Souls series will need more than jsut a new set of weapons in its inventory.
Elden Ring’s introduction to the world during E3 2019 teased a grandiose adventure. A fantasy realm built on the words of George R.R. Martin and the exquisite eye of Miyazaki would, no doubt, be breathtaking, bizarre, and brutal in equal measure. From the outset, we’ve always known Elden Ring is out to impress.
If nothing else, the visuals do astound. Rendered in glorious detail, the opening moments of this dark fantasy take a step into Demon Souls territory, melding grassy lands and dank dungeons with mysterious crypts and towering medieval castles, all of which feel distinctly broken. There’s barely an NPC in sight to warn you of your impending fate when you set out on this journey. Just like many Souls style titles, Elden Ring opens by unceremoniously sticking a weapon in your hand and killing you for good measure. As an undying Tarnished, you will rise from this initial outing. Blessed by Grace and venturing forth to rebuild a shattered world, there is one overarching goal in this adventure. Explore the world, fight some powerful bosses, and reclaim the lost pieces of the legendary Elden Ring. First, you’ll need to choose your weapon.
Class & Character
Anybody leaping from the Souls archive into this new iteration will recognize more than a few other elements outside of their own rage. the opening moments and character classes bear a striking familiarity with the Souls legacy. A total of 10 classes are available for a player to pick from, each with their own stats and weapon set. There are some very obvious parallels to familiar classes for veterans of the Dark Souls Series. Elden Ring’s Warrior doesn’t jsut wield the same set of twin swords that served Mercenaries so well, but the base stats are practically a copy-paste affair. This isn’t the only port, but if it isn’t broken then FromSoftware isn’t going to try to fix it. Much like the class system, the default layout for the character creator is solid enough if left untouched, but Elden Ring provides enough depth that characters, even the Wretches, can look unique without breaking the grim aesthetic of this outing.
The result is a character creator and class system provides a level of depth to Elden Ring that seems to hint at a natural evolution on the previous Souls games. While we still get the same melee experience, the Prophets and Samurai are a particularly nice twist, with the Samurai mixing melee combat with longer range precision archery that opens up a bunch of possibilities early in the game.
It’s A Weird World
While George R.R. martin’s narrative input has stolen many headlines in the W, it’s Miyazaki’s imagination that leads to an incredible land peppered with beautiful moments and deadly encounters. Mystical creatures scour the hills and alleyways looking for prey, while most of the population of this once perfect land seem set on putting a rusty sword through your hide. Giant deformed creatures crash through stone archways, Lovecraftian monstrosities writhe their way across open beaches, huge demigods skulk in their hideaways, and the soon to be dead servants of a now tainted house patrol a world that seems dreich even in the bright glare of noon. Beyond the cliches of dark knights and feral beasts, Elden Ring adds a veneer of Japanese horror, with NPCs and monsters made of many heads, oddly crooked movement, and a design that scratches at the edge of your nerves.
This ingenuity doesn’t jsut extend to the unusual physical attributes of this land either. While a giant golden tree might hang overhead and towns draped in gorgeous colors are still to come, the battles that accompany this journey from Tarnished to Elden Lord are a high-stakes lesson on the appropriate use of force. Early adversaries are a lesson on how to hack and slash without getting making simple mistakes, a simple reintroduction to the classic dodge roll, and a reminder that FromSoftware is still setting the difficulty bar by Dark Souls 3. Things really start to shift when encountering bigger and more complex obstacles.
Giants might start by simply trying to smash through your ability to block, deviating to different tactics as the fight progresses. Other enemies can pull a poison out of their arsenal while chaining together seemingly endless combos that will break any stamina bar. I even noticed subtly different behaviors based on which hill I chose to die on. There are a bewildering array of opportunities to experience the “You Died” screen. Whether it’s simply trying to destroy you in one swipe or overwhelm you with an ambush, the problems you’ll face are varied and challenging.
Thankfully, the weapons in your own arsenal have evolved. While the basic combat experience is relatively intuitive, FromSoftware has included a block and parry system, a lunge attack, and a jumping attack among other small tweaks. While this all means that the same counterpoints of elation and utter vestigial rage that Dark Souls brought to my door are still present, my overall impression of Elden Ring’s combat is that is an evolution on Dark Souls. This familiar but improved system provides a solid base for later customization. When combined with the various weapon and crafting systems, this allows players to take on each challenge in any number of ways. What might feel like a manic dash for survival at first, slowly turns into a considered and methodical breakdown of your enemies as you unpick the nuance of each attack pattern and utilize whatever weapons or magic you have to hand to avoid yet another resurrection.
This rinse and repeat algorithm isn’t exactly new to us all. With nothing more than new skins, the odd tweak, and enhanced combat, Elden Ring isn’t going to be worth the hype. Thankfully, that’s not all this title has to offer. Veer off the path between the current owners of the shattered Elden Ring and you’ll find a rich and diverse world waiting for you to explore. If a road seems desolate then there’s probably a reason and jumping on your horse Torrent and heading out to explore is both essential and rewarding. I’ve already gushed about the gorgeous graphics and inventive use of this visual medium to craft something that strikes as a dark Ghibli tainted horror merged with Breath of the Wild. Yes, that’s the punch line I’ve been holding off using until now. This is Dark Souls meets Breath of the Wild. Dashing off into the wilderness to find out more about an abandoned village or why there are so many bloodstains littering the way won’t jsut unlock more arduous combat. There are genuine moments of incredulity when you find an unexpected event or tumble down a dark crypt to find a little bit of lore about the world around you. You won’t miss too much of the central story f you ignore the huge world around you, but Elden Ring is a world best experienced, and FromSoftware has gifted Elden Ring with a realm worth losing yourself in.
In another very welcome move, this exploration provides more than a simple prospect to gather herbs and sample flavor text. It also functions as an obvious aid to character progression. rather than take a linear path and jsut keep grinding the same torrid treadmill for new gear and runes, this non-linear approach is an opportunity for players to pick their challenges or take down a random boss encounter. There are plenty of low-level bandits waiting to drop loot, giving up their gear, providing access to new weapons, and you will need to collect materials for potions before going back and hacking down a bit more of that bloody Demi God’s extensive HP bar. Not only does this dovetail with the rest of the game to give it a grand stage, but it also alleviates the incessant and demoralizing dirge of death that can make a great game unplayable. This leg up is further enhanced by the option to bring in other players, co-operate, or watch the actions of other dead tarnished as ghosts in your own realm. Sure, allowing other anonymous players into your game is risky, but with plenty of nuanced options like group passwords and a co-operative mode, Elden Ring has made the whole experience much more accessible.
With some of the most ingenious visual designs I’ve seen in a long time, a play-your-way open world, and a combat system that is more considered than soul-crushing, Elden Ring is everything we hoped it would be and the perfect starter for anybody who got stuck at level 12 in Dark Souls 3.. Buy it, die, go explore, and experience an enthralling adventure for yourself. Find out how and where to get Elden Ring on the official website.