“Elden Ring” lives up to the hype and shows what a $60 gaming experience looks like5 min read

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“Elden Ring” is an action role-playing game released in Feb. 2022. (Courtesy of Bandai Namco)

Michael Davis, Editor Emeritus

The newest addition to the “Souls” series, “Elden Ring,” surpassed all expectations and was well worth the almost three years wait.

Developed by FromSoftware, developer of the Dark Souls franchise, in collaboration with George R. R. Martin, creator of the “Game of Thrones” book series, the game takes place in the fictional Lands Between. The Elden Ring, the symbol for order and power in the world, has shattered, leaving the Shardbearers, those who hold fragments of the broken ring, to fight for power over the land.

Players start as one of the Tarnished, a group of people banished from the Lands Between, called upon as a last-ditch effort to restore the Elden Ring.

The story is slightly complicated to understand, much like the other “Souls” games before it. However, the world is intricately crafted, with the smallest of item descriptions giving more background which makes everything fit together like a puzzle should players want to dive into the lore.

Unlike FromSoftware’s past work, however, “Elden Ring” is now host to a massive open world. Compared to other AAA games in the genre, this is a stunning and amazing first attempt.

The world feels populated and alive. From characters in the world with their own questlines, dungeons and caves, enemy camps and caravans, field bosses and more, the game never becomes a bore to traverse. There is no menu to keep track of all this however, which means it is the player’s responsibility to use their map, mark places of interest to explore and hop on their horse companion, Torrent, to travel in the right direction with the in-game compass.

For new players, the vast world of the Lands Between can seem a bit daunting at first, but for those willing to stick with it and learn to use their map, having the ability to do whatever you want, when you want to, becomes very freeing and enjoyable.

This kind of freedom of choice also translates into the gameplay of “Elden Ring,” which is a culmination of all the work FromSoftware has done in the past, while also adding some new spice into the mix.

Besides the typical dodge rolling and unforgiving difficulty the series has always had, the dedicated jump button from “Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice” has returned, making the awkward platforming segments the Souls games are known for a little more bearable. 

The ability to dual wield two of the same weapon type, called Power Stancing, has also been added in a new and improved form from “Dark Souls II,” switching to the new move set with the press of a button and allowing players more variety in their builds and playstyle.

From a great sword that causes pillars of fire to erupt from the ground, to a large spear that transforms into a lightning bolt to throw at an enemy, “Elden Ring” has no shortage of weapons to choose from. This choice goes even further with the new Ashes of War system, where players can equip some of these special abilities to certain weapons to fit the warrior they want to be.

Having no weapon and just using magic is now a valid, albeit, challenging, option, as players can pick from an exhaustive list of sorceries and incantations to use, each one unique from the last.

To use these weapons or spells, players must level up their stats, such as strength and dexterity for certain weapons, and intelligence and faith for certain spells. Early in the game, leveling up can feel like a chore.

However, once you get more into the mid to late game, runes, the game’s currency, come more naturally to you, allowing you to level up more frequently into the build you desire.

“Elden Ring” also introduces new allies called Spirit Ashes, which are enemies-turned-friends that can be summoned by the player in certain areas to help fight, heal or take focus away from the player when fighting a challenging opponent. Horseback combat is also another addition to the game that while simple in design, is effective at dealing with groups of enemies in the field.

Quality of life improvements have also been added to adapt the Souls gameplay formula to an open world, such as being able to craft items from cookbooks found throughout the world and the amount of spells one can hold being dictated by the amount of pendants one finds rather than leveling up into the game’s magic stat.

All these additions and changes have made “Elden Ring” one of the most accessible Souls games for new players to jump into and exciting for veterans to explore how they can use the new game mechanics to their advantage.

The graphics for “Elden Ring” are also stunning. From golden leaves of the giant Erdtree in the center of the world fluttering throughout the night, the shadows casted by the grass on a sunny day, to dark dreary caves lit only by torch light, the art style for the game enhances the Norse inspired open world.

On PC however, the game does have some issues. The game is poorly optimized for even the highest end gaming PCs, has plenty of bugs, such as when mounting Torrent, the player begins to levitate and die a few second later, and has many times where it crashes in multiplayer or single player.

FromSoftware is working on fixing these issues, with as recent as March 16, sending out a large patch to fix some of the bugs and even adding additional parts to some characters’ questlines that did not make the initial release.

Despite some of the glaring issues, all of that is eclipsed by the amount of polish “Elden Ring” has, living up to all the hype before launch. For $60, you get hundreds of hours of gameplay in just one playthrough, which is more than most games can claim. This game is a natural progression in the Souls series and is well worth the time of old and new players, despite the multiple poison swamps added this time around to the delight of director Hidetaka Miyazaki.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars