Painstakingly difficult yet iconic bosses, intricate world building, incredibly detailed set pieces – these are all the signature makings of a game by From Software that was once an acquired taste and then fully evolving into something genre-defining. Elden Ring carries the very same DNA but further improves upon it with its vast open world setting in the Lands Between crafted in partnership with A Song of Ice of Fire novelist George R. R. Martin.
Elden Ring begins with your journey as a Tarnished – an individual who lost the grace and blessing of the Erdtree and was banished from the Lands Between. Conquer your foes in this painstakingly difficult title by From Software and reap its rewards in the form of satisfying victories after long and arduous battles.
The story has already run its course, and you’re left there to pick up what’s left and piece them together. How it progresses throughout the conclusion however ultimately hinges on your actions. The NPCs you encounter will provide you with quests, and the ones you pick up sometimes come with dire sequences, hence multiple playthroughs are available to you if you want to see things through.
There’s very little guidance or where to go that you’d initially feel lost on what to do or where to go as you start your journey. But take note, it’s not the lack of handholding makes the game tedious. Rather, think of it differently and best make it work to your advantage. Unlike previous Souls games where it’s kind of a zonal progression with intricately connected locations altogether, Elden Ring’s open world setting will open a lot of opportunities for you – a myriad of places to explore and equipment to discover to help you in your journey across The Lands Between. There’s no singular way to play it.
From Software also achieved a technical feat in bringing a new light to its games through Elden Ring’s open world setting. Performance hiccups on PC aside, its vast open world is a marvel to look at – the Erdtree towering over the Lands Between, rich, green foliage over the horizon, the dilapidated structures and ruins, foreboding castles that you brave through during your gameplay. Side contents like catacombs and dungeons scattered across its world map don’t feel like padding to expand your game time. Even stumbling upon a whole city underground by accident even feels so much rewarding with how well designed it is, even making the game’s open world more massive than it already is at first glance.
It’s all about the details – From Software doesn’t rely on heavy narratives like the typical RPG chockful of dialogues and eventful sequences. Rather, Elden Ring’s storytelling lives in its world implications. From objects and enemy locations in specific places to lore items that tells backstories, Elden Ring’s world then starts to form.
Similar to Dark Souls’ Firelink Shrine, the Roundtable Hold functions as a hub of sorts where you will be communicating with several NPCs and upgrading your equipment. There are some anti-frustration features and quality of life improvements over past titles including leveling up on Site of Graces, which are the equivalent of Bonfires as well. No need to return to the hub every now and then just to allocate points to your stats. There’s also a new world map you can access, and you can fast travel to Sites of Graces you’ve found throughout your journey.
The journey on the other hand across the vast lands of Elden Ring is simply arduous especially on foot, and as a solution to this, Torrent, your spirit steed will make the trek much easier. Further, another additional mechanic to the game are summon spirits that will help distract and/or fight bosses to give you some breathing room when you need to recover. This is only available during such instances, though.
From Software knows how to make the most memorable, iconic bosses, and the same case applies with Elden Ring. To avoid mid to late game spoilers, Margit the Fell Omen serves as an instructive initiation to Elden Ring’s pace, which experienced Dark Souls players will find a tad slower compared to previous From Software titles. Some bosses have longer wind ups, so knowing when to take advantage of this can be key to success. That does come with some exceptions to change things up a bit, but to put it simply, your mistakes and panic rolls will be easily punished. Take it as a challenge – learning boss telegraphs are so rewarding and satisfying when you come victorious. Simply, persevere.
After your first playthrough, you’ll start to realize that its initial 80-hour campaign only scratches the surface. Elden Ring is a monumental game with how much it has to offer. And with its rudimentary narrative, reading up on lore items is essential to make sense of what it has to offer – because you’ll have more questions than answers by the end of it. The lore implications they provide give more insightful, interesting bits about its world building and characters.
After 100 hours of gameplay at the time of writing and exploring a plethora of content on Reddit and YouTube, it feels like we’re just at the tip of the iceberg. There’s still so many secrets to discover and stories to be told. It’s been over a month after the influx of 10/10 of reviews came pouring in, and that has given me just enough time to make a conclusion. To put it simply, perfection is perception. Elden Ring is a massive undertaking that would give anyone willing to invest their time a rewarding experience that can go on for a long time. It’s a treasure trove that awaits a myriad of discoveries. Immerse yourself in its astronomical scale. And when you’re done with your playthrough, there’s no end to it with its healthy community that will speak and discuss about it through the years even outside the game. For longtime fans of Dark Souls, Elden Ring is an evolutionary treatment to the formula, and to those being initiated to the genre with this, you’re eased in through its difficulty through the new mechanics implemented to the game. Everyone is welcome.
As a tip for newcomers being introduced in the punishingly difficult games of From Software, don’t give up. It’s not a hack and slash game where you trade blows with enemies and heal afterwards. It’s a heavily mechanic game that relies on reading boss movements or telegraph so you know when to punish their openings. You may have seen YouTube videos doing level 1 no damage runs. While they looks flawless, you also have to imagine the time they spent in learning what to do and when to do it.
Here’s another one – if you find your progression walled by a strong boss even after countless of attempts, Elden Ring’s open world setting opens up a lot of equipment to help you find the right tool for the job, which you can also upgrade for efficiency through Smithing Master Hewg. And while you’re at it, level up your vigor. At times, it’s a war of attrition and having even a sliver of health can mean the difference between life and death.
If you’re having difficulties with a boss, going jolly cooperation sometimes isn’t the best solution as player summons scale their HP up. Experiment with spirit ashes and see which one is the most effective against that specific boss.
Lastly, to make a point that there’s no one singular way to play Elden Ring, you don’t have to be stuck with a single build. You’ll be able to respec your stats midway, so there’s no reason for you to start a new game simply because what you’re currently working with isn’t effective. Go ham with magic, wield dual great swords, or go agile with knives. It’s all up to you.
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