Available on Playstation 5, Playstation 4, Xbox Series X and S, Xbox One, and PC.
PC Version used for Calvin and Elliot’s review, Playstation 5 version used for Reece’s review.
Now this triple review is going to be very interesting, because it’s going to come from three different perspectives. If you want the perspective of the long-time huge fan of Dark Souls, you should read Elliot’s review. If you want the perspective of someone who is new to the Dark Souls franchise and gameplay style, read Reece’s review. If you want the moderate player, but not someone who would call themselves a massive fan or devotes an incredible amount of time to the franchise, read my review.
Now Elden Ring has had a huge development hype. It was revealed in 2019 as FromSoftware’s newest intellectual property which they had collabed with Game of Thrones creator George R R Martin. They also now said that they were going for a world inspired by Norse mythology. The biggest difference is the fact that this time we are having a FromSoftware game that is open world. My concern going into the game was ‘would open world design really affect the basic concept of the Dark Souls game type?’, and yes, this is very much in the same vein as FromSoftware’s previous titles (the Dark Souls trilogy, Bloodborne, and most recently Sekiro). Not much is really different this time, bar a few new elements added.
Personally, I was quite glad that this was going to be a more traditional game. As much as I think Sekiro is a very good achievement (and it did win Game of the Year back in 2019) I did find that the timing aspect to it often made fights a little more frustrating than need be, but that’s a personal matter on my part – I’m not normally a fan of timing mechanics. That being said, my favourite games prior to this were Bloodborne and I also have a special place in my heart for the Demon Souls remake that was done by Blue Point for the PlayStation 5. Though I will say, since doing that review I have kind of noted that while the game is great it does suffer from the fact that it’s just recreating the first one of these kinds of games and as a result it imports some things that haven’t exactly aged well and were taken out of the franchise for good reason.
So how does Elden Ring stack up from this lot?
- The open world
My fears that an open world would compromise a ‘souls’ experience which is known for having very excellent level design that rewards exploration as well as knowledge of the environments has been transferred very well into an open world. There are a few areas such as caves and castles that more resemble a Bloodborne or Dark Souls experience, so it’s not as if you’re going to be completely removed from that. And of course, there is a hub location with various vendors, side quests, and NPCs to interact with. This time it’s known as ‘the round table’, and in all honesty this might be my favourite save location in any of these games! There’s a ton of personality to it and it feels great the more it opens up as the game goes on. True, it’s not exactly unique to this game when compared to the developers’ previous track record, but personally I am a fan of this. There’s just something about this one that I really like. The great thing about the open world is not only do we get those great locations, but you’re also not limited to them. For example, I was following the beaten path until you get to the first boss in the game (or at least the first one that was mandatory) I was pretty much unable to defeat said boss, and usually this would mean that I would have to go through the beaten path again, grind for ages to increase some of my stats so that I would stand a better chance against the boss, but this one was particularly hard! The great thing was that I had a whole open world to explore – I could find a whole bunch of easier bosses to take down and explore lots of other areas, I actually got to have fun getting ready to fight a hard boss. This is something that is primary throughout the game, there’s very few times where you feel ‘boxed in’ which is not something I could say about the rest of the series.
What’s more, the world is fantastically designed. It feels like all of these areas flow into one another but they all have very distinctive area types so you can identify where you are. They’re usually emphasised by the colour palette of the area. I just loved exploring it! Granted, it’s quite hard when you don’t pick up a map, but map fragments are easy to find once you figure out what the particular space on the blank version of the map looks like, so I would recommend picking them up. This game has one of the best maps for an open world that I’ve ever seen, it really does an excellent job highlighting odd areas that are worth exploring, and I found a whole bunch of the best locations in the game just by putting a pin in a certain area and going off to explore it.
Bottom line: No, the experience is not compromised, if anything it’s actually truly enhanced this game and there are virtually no dull areas to explore. Although I had trouble with one particular area that has been meme’d, as much as I was having trouble there I still enjoyed exploring it. And wow, is this a beautiful world to explore, in a dark, gothic, mediaeval way.
- Character creation
This is a very small point, but I think the character creator this time around is better than ever. I’ve seen some excellent character creations online and I was really impressed with just how well you can work with it. It’s kind of pointless in the end because you’ll be picking up elaborate armour which covers up most of the design you’ve worked on, but it’s very much appreciated. Plus, if you pick a certain class at the start of the game, you’re going to be seeing your character’s face for quite a bit.
Combat has always been good in these games, but I think it’s actually really good this time around and it might actually be the best they’ve ever made. It’s your usual style of slow but precise combat, you’re looking to figure out an enemy’s weakness and take advantage of it, you dodge, block, and choose between light attacks and heavy attacks with your chosen weapon- or if you’re a magic class you can choose certain spells. Plus, you have a dodge roll which is based on light, medium, or heavy based on your equipment mode and the type of things you’re carrying. Sidenote: you really don’t want to get the heavy roll, some of the bosses will kill you outright if you have it.
If you’ve played any Souls-like game before, it’s fairly evident what you’re getting in for. There are some new features added to this game, most notably, the game contains special abilities tied to weapons called Ashens of War as well as the new summonings where if you’re not currently in a multiplayer session, you can pay a bit of your FP (your magic cost) or in one case your health to summon a companion. This is usually based on certain enemies in the game. For example, a couple you get early on is the wolves one, as well as the jellyfish. Here’s a tip: that’s a good one to use early on. It’s a tank that can make mincemeat from some of those early bosses, but if you get any that you like do not forget to power them up at the round table. Look up a guide on how to get that shop opened up, you will need that for the later game.
I’ve heard people say that summonings only really exist to be aggro for bosses, but they can actually be really useful! At one point I had one that was so excellent that it was winning boss fights for me- until FromSoftware weakened it in a patch.. Thanks complainers, you just made that harder for me! But trust me, if you can power them up, they can be your greatest ally in some of these fights, though you will be limited, like increasing your weapon stats with the blacksmith, you will be also required resources as well as runes, which is the equivalent of what souls were in Dark Souls or blood echoes were in Bloodborne.
The Ashens of War on the other hand are combat tricks that are tied to a certain weapon, and they often will come with special attacks that you use by hitting the left back trigger- aka L2 if you’re on a PlayStation 4 or 5. Some of these are excellent, for example I got one that caused a blood loss build-up which is great for certain bosses when tied with the katana (yes, you guessed it, I chose a Samurai for my starting class), but I also could have given it a poison ability, which meant sacrificing some of my weapons attack power but it caused a massive poison build-up which meant that I could have more time away from bosses whilst they still took damage. You really want to read through this, since it means that you don’t necessarily have to trade out weapons to deal with boss weaknesses.
Between these two additions, they really refined the combat excellently, but what also does the job brilliantly, is that the game adds jump buttons. Initially when I started this out this felt really wrong, you shouldn’t be able to jump in a Souls game! But man, this addition works and even adds a new jump attack to deal very serious damage.
The other major addition is the mountain combat, since this is an open world game they give you a horse to ride, and you’re going to do some boss fights as well as some traversal combats on horseback. This took a bit of getting used to for me, but I did end up getting the hang of it. When you get the hang of it, it’s incredibly fun to do.
- Multiplayer functionality with friends
The multiplayer functionality definitely has major issues within this game when you’re trying to play with random people (I’ll vent my frustrations on that later) but if I wanted to play with friends it was very well done. The major benefit is you can enter what is known as a ‘friend password’ which means when you go to a certain area you’ll only see summon signs from the people that have entered that specific password and vice versa. It works really well, I actually just tested it out with a few of my friends for some player vs player combat as well as cooperative play and it functioned really well!
As a whole, it functions really well – I wasn’t really noticing many performance issues during multiplayer. That being said, I of course have some complaints with the multiplayer, but I’ll save those for later. The fact that they added the password system really benefits as it makes sure that you can team up with your friends, even if they don’t want to help out because they don’t want to be spoiled in a boss fight.
- Graphics and art style
Okay, I’ll get it out there now: Elden Ring does not look as good as BluePoint’s Demon Souls remake, but that doesn’t stop it from being one of the best looking souls games to date. I think it’s the art style that helps in a big way, but it does feel like the team looked at the engine they have been using in Sekiro and thinking about how they can get the most out of it. As a result, this game looks stunning! I genuinely think that out of all the FromSoftware titles that this is their best looking game to date. There’s very little popping in the open world as well, and when it was occurring I only spotted it a couple of times which to me suggests that I probably missed it a couple of times.
Bosses are where the make or break happens in these types of games, and Elden Ring has some amazing ones- particularly the unique. I’ll be discussing my issues with the mini bosses later. As for the main bosses, they’ve got a lot of excellent designs, excellent introductions, and I’m certain that the more I look into it the more interesting backstories there will be as well. Now, because of Elden Ring’s open world making it one of the more accessible of these types of games, I do believe that the bosses are going to take some effort. You’re really going to have to learn their patterns and you may need to go and do some additional tasks in the meantime before you can really make another attempt on them. But I would say, don’t be discouraged. As I learnt with one exception you don’t really have to resort to too much shenanigans in order to beat the bosses. Do not be afraid to look up a guide if you’re having trouble, they will have some good tips. But be forewarned, make sure that their ideas match your playstyle- this is especially dependent on if you’ve made a more magic focused fighter or a more strength-focused fighter, or even if you’ve made a dexterity-focused fighter!
The unique bosses have excellent designs and move sets, only a couple of times will you be running around in the open world and just run into them, that’s more saved for the mini bosses. The fights are great and are some of the most memorable ones to date! I won’t spoil too many of them, but I think the highlight comes at the end of the last optional areas in North of the map- they’re probably the toughest boss in any of these games but man do they feel like an achievement once you’ve beaten them. But for the love of god- do NOT fight this boss alone! It is near impossible, bring a friend or two or even get some randoms to help you out.. There’s no shame in it!
- Mini bosses
The problem that I have with the mini bosses is that there’s so many repeats.. This applies a bit to the unique bosses, but at least they were further apart and they often were a lot more difficult the second time around. That’s not really the case with the mini bosses, they tend to feel very samey. There’s about a hundred bosses in the game if you count the mini bosses, but a few designs and concepts repeat each other a bit too much. This will probably come up in Elliot’s review and I think he will talk about it a bit more there since he really highlighted this issue to me, but I did notice this a bit more especially in the latter half of the game.
I really like the soundtrack, especially considering that there is way less silence this time around, there are a lot more atmospheric songs put in the game, and I actually think that having more music does more good than harm to this game. What’s even better is some of the boss themes, which are excellent. The downside is a lot of the songs repeat themselves quite a bit, so as a result, a lot of the soundtrack doesn’t stand out as much as the one in Bloodborne, for example.
That being said, the soundtrack itself is great!
- Calculating fall damage
This game does have fall damage when you fall from too great of a height, but because of the open world design it is a lot more forgiving than usual. As a result, though, I did often find it difficult to figure out how high I could fall from. I definitely got better as the game went on, and I’m not willing to put it in the con section because you can buy items to alleviate your issues with this. Overall, it’s not too major of an issue, but I did feel as though I should point it out.
- Multiplayer functionality with random people
The multiplayer functionality hasn’t been optimal at this time with Elden Ring. I experienced this quite early on, there were a good number of times where it was impossible to get multiplayer sessions going where you were the host. There was only one area where I could consistently get cooperative multiplayer help from random people, which was the area before the boss which I told you that you should bring friends to if you’re going to fight it, which was probably the most thankful I was for support, because they practically beat the boss for me and made up for my weaknesses. I know that Reece also required help to beat this boss as well, so I’m glad it worked at this point consistently, but we both ran into issues almost constantly. I know the Xbox version has particular issues and what’s worse is the fact that more times than ever we had to see ‘Unable to summon co-operator’ and seeing that sign is just draining. I think this is mainly because there are a lot of people playing at once so they’re getting snapped up pretty quickly, but I stand by that I think the servers could be better to handle this and to make sure that people summon signs that are impossible to be summoned aren’t around too much.
- The Godskin Duo
This is the only boss name I’m going to point out because, wow, this is the worst boss fight in this series’ history. It’s not bad in a hard way, it’s bad in just being completely bad design and it’s just so frustrating to do. There is nothing about the design of this boss that feels fair. I think that a new patch needs to curve this a little bit. When you see that name on the health bar, you are not ready. You either need to bring help or have an excellent summon to back you up, especially if you are a strength class. They were, without a doubt, the worst boss that I had to deal with in the entire game and possibly the worst boss in the series – I hated fighting them that much! I wouldn’t mind so much, except that they are a mandatory boss fight, you cannot get to the end of the game without beating them. I don’t know if Reece will bring it up in his review, but he had to change his entire fighting style and class mid-game just to beat these bosses.
It stands to another point that I want to make about this game, which is I feel like the game favours you being a magic based fighter rather or a strength or even a dexterity based fighter, because you really noticed by the end game that they have a massive advantage, and this fight is no exception. I think a pure strength build cannot beat this boss, especially with some of the best Ashens of War and summons for that class receiving a downgrade in the most recent patch while some of the best magic in the game which is already doing well got a buff?! It almost felt like the developers were saying we want you to play this game this way, and we’re going to punish you for playing it another.
It didn’t ruin the experience entirely for me, I was able to find the correct combination to really make the fight doable and I eventually did it, and probably should apologise to my neighbours considering how exuberant I was after I defeated it, but man, it was just a chore.
- PC Version Issues
I will say that this is more because if I don’t mention it it’s going to be very hypocritical because it’s not as if I don’t know they exist and I haven’t seen them. I will state that I think my PC must be better than I thought, because I was not running into a lot of the issues that other people were having. The game had a pretty good framerate for me, even when I had it at the highest resolution possible for the game. I did try turning down the resolution from 4K to 1440p to see if I would get a better framerate, but it was about the same so I decided to go with the better resolution. Though, I will say, I have heard from other PC users that turning down the resolution has aided the framerate which, believe me, you want this game to run at mostly 60 frames per second for most of it. The correct timed attack or dodge is going to make all of the difference.
That being said, the PC version appears to be the most inconsistent in terms of performance; certain PCs are running into issues with performance and the game straight up freezing or crashing. Fortunately for me, I only had two crashes and one freeze did eventually heal itself. What’s more, I only ran into the falling mounted combat glitch once, it cost me a lot of runes but it only happened one time.
Bottom line, if you only have a PC and you think that you have a very good one, it’s fine to experience it now, but you might want to wait for that version to get a few more patches.
So how does Elden Ring stand up? Well, despite some of the issues with it seeming to have more of a preference towards magic fighters or strength fighters (which I have been informed seems to be prevalent in other games of the series, but it feels slightly more prevalent and unusual this time around) I think I can safely say that Elden Ring is my favourite in the series. I loved the exploration, I loved the combat, I loved the world design, I love the fast travel that makes it really easy to explore the world and means that we get more rest locations than ever, I loved the characters, the world settings, the boss fights, it’s all excellent.
If the multiplayer functionality was better and there was less performance issues across the board, I would have no problem scoring this game even higher if I didn’t feel like the second half did more damage than good, I think that the second part really felt more unfair than the first half in many parts towards my style of gameplay.
But as a whole, I did really like this game, and considering I could have possibly beaten this game before the new patch came in, I thought it wasn’t entirely fair to mark it down on that basis.
If you love these kinds of games, I think this is one that you should really pick up. And as for newcomers, while I do think if you don’t like Souls games already this might not be the one for you, this is definitely the one that has the most accessibility options and the one that has the most balanced challenge.
This game is fantastic, and I have no trouble highly recommending it.
My experience with Elden Ring is that I have beaten the game and have begun “Journey 2” aka New Game + I also have every trophy on the PS5 version except 3 (Get 2 specific endings and the 3rd is the Platinum Trophy itself)
I played the entire game on the PlayStation 5 so I have no other experience with the other game versions aside from that, so all pro’s and con’s in this review are just from the PS5 version and do not reflect other consoles or PC versions.
Elden Ring is the latest game in the “Soulsborne” genre spun out of the “Souls” series created by FromSoftware and game director Hidetaka Miyazaki.
Elden Ring is an 3rd Person Action Roleplaying game as sees players traversing a vast open world on a quest to restore the Shattered Elden Ring and overcome any obstacle in your way to get to that goal and become the new Elden Lord of the Lands Between.
Elden Ring is currently released on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X and Windows for PC.
Being an action game first and foremost I’m glad to say that Elden Ring has fantastic weapon variety and combat options as they player is free to create their character in any way the want from melee, archery, sorcery and incantations.
For melee fighters plays can use a wide variety of swords, spears, axes, claws, hammers, scythes and whips. This also doesn’t take into account all the subdivisions meaning that melee fighters have multiple options at all time so they will never get board as the different categories of melee weapons all have a varied move set to use.
Then ranged fighters have the different range of bow types and Staves for Sorceries (Intelligence Magic) and Incantations (Faith Magic). Bows use a wide variety of arrow types from haemorrhage, poison and Scarlet Rot so you can pick off your enemy from great distances before they have a chance to get close to you.
The real fun for range fighters in my opinion is with Sorceries and Incantations. As with Sorceries you use more traditional magic that you would see in fantasy films with brightly coloured bolts of energy flying through the air all the way up to throwing a small moon at your opponents.
While Incantations use more Holy themed magic and fire magic, and focuses more on buffing the player character and their stats then using more creative spells with lighting and fire that feel very distinct from Sorcery builds, so if you have a friend who focuses on Sorcery then you will play very differently to them if you use Incantations.
So no matter how you build your character you will always have multiple combat options and even if you don’t have the correct stats to wield a new weapon or spell then you can level up or respect your character which is easily done from the midgame onwards.
A great new system for Elden Ring is the new weapon skill mechanic using the Ashes of War to apply new skills to basic weapons while special weapons have fixed weapon skills.
These new skills allows players great freedom in how to use their favourite basic weapons as some basic weapons already have built in status builds up like some weapons generate haemorrhage on hit but you could put another weapon skill on it to also inflict Scarlet Rot or poison on your skill to create a funny hybrid weapon to inflict enemies with multiple status effects at once.
The only downside is that special weapons have fixed weapon skills that cannot be changed with Ashes of War, but to make up for this the special weapons all have great unique weapon skills that are always fun. The one i used since the beginning of the game till the start of the late game was the Grafted Blade Greatsword as its weapon skill is “Oath of Vengeance” which gave a boost to stats for a limited time which helped me clear out enemies.
Spirit Ashes are a new feature in Elden Ring where for the cost of your FP you can temporarily summon an NPC to help you out in combat.
These range from great early game summons with the Jellyfish who can tank with high HP and occasionally poison the enemy (Which you get outside of the first castle) to later game summons where you can summon powerful knights and assassins to help you out in combat.
These are great for new players who can’t get another player to summon in with the current state of multiplayer summoning is with randoms online, as they give the player enough breathing room to drink a health or FP flask while your summon draws aggro for you from the boss.
I would definitely recommend players to find as many as they can as they are very useful and most early game summons can still be useful in the midgame when levelled up with the special plants that you can find in the catacombs with the Grave Gloveworts being used to upgrade basic summons and Ghost Gloveworts being used to upgrade the special summons.
Elden Ring has an extremely vast open world that harkens back to the days of Skyrim where instead of modern day open world creations that are mostly barren and empty, instead Elden Ring is filled with dungeons, jails and environments.
So that the player is never board as there is always something optional to do in the early and mid-game until you are funnelled into the late game and more focused in your objective.
The player is also always rewarded for exploring the world with new weapons, armours and Ashes so if they feel stuck in the current area then they can explore other parts of the map to get better equipment or grind more runes to level up and increase their base stats.
Bosses Elden Ring has over 100 bosses in the game with at least 70 being unique, so players will almost always face a new unique threat every time they go into a boss fight and never really be sure of what to expect.
There is also a great variety in the different shapes and sizes of the bosses from regular sized humans all the way up to giant monsters that have more in common with Bloodborne.
All bosses also have varying weaknesses and strengths to keep players on their toes, as bosses can be immune or resistant to player builds like a boss could be immune to Haemorrhage aka Bleed/Blood loss which is the main build for Dex melee builds, so players cannot always use the same strategies against every boss or they will quickly be defeated.
Early in the game the player gets access to Torrent who is the mount for the game and by using Torrent it allows players to quickly traverse the map and gives players greater freedom through the use of a double jump.
The double jump is a great way to bypass some platforming challenges as instead of going round and slowly climbing an area you can use Torrent to jump up through terrain that shouldn’t normally be climbed on, so players can speed up traversal using Torrent and I wish more open world games had a mount as fast as Torrent.
Music Elden Ring has a fantastic OST with amazing songs in every situation from exploring deep dark catacombs to facing off against gigantic bosses.
I found myself going to the options just increase the music slider just to hear the boss themes louder as every main shard bearer boss has a great theme song that I never tired of hearing.
Con:Graphics Texture pop-in was a real issue with the PS5 port as riding around on Torrent with grass and foliage constantly popping in right in front of my character was very jarring and difficult to play with.
Individual assets in game also have low quality textures and are blurry on the PS5 in Graphics mode and are really noticeable in Performance Mode, as even the map would glitch out when scrolling in and out as the map unloads so it goes back to its brown fog setting of before you find any map pieces.
It also is a major downgrade from the recent remake of Demon’s Souls, as not only are the textures more blurry, but it also lacks the brighter colour palette of the previous games and feels quite dull and dreary.
In both Performance and Graphics mode Elden Ring could not hold steady in its frame rate, as even in Graphics mode which is supposed to aim for 30fps (Frames per Second) I frequently found it dipping below even under 20fps at time which made the game practically unplayable so most of the time I had to play in Performance mode but even then that dropped from 60fps a lot to around 40fps.
The game just seems very unoptimised for PS5 and both of its modes, and apparently this was an issue in the old games as they also had poor framerates so hopefully this can be patched in the future to make the game more enjoyable.
For the final secret boss I spent over 2 hours continuously trying to summon in other players for assistance only for the message “Unable to summon co-operators” to keep appearing even after closing the game down and reopening it.
Collectively I clicked on over 400 gold summoning signs in that time and after all of that I only had 2 players able to connect (Although they still instantly died to the boss so that was redundant).
When I did a series of invasions as part of a side quest all of them were riddled with lag, so much so they the enemy players I were invaded were glitching around the screen and all instantly backstabbed me.
One time I was even stood behind an enemy while they stood still and when I was in the start of the backstab animation they teleported behind me and backstabbed me instead cancelling out my animation and taking out most of my health in the process.
Endgame common enemies balancing
Towards to the end of the game when you get to the area after the snow area (No spoilers) where common enemies are now very bloated health bars so they take a lot longer to kill but the Runes they pay out are still miniscule so I found it better to just keep running past them and go from boss to boss at the end of the game.
Platforming FromSoftware games have already had bad platforming due to its physics engine and control scheme, making player characters have similar controls to older more rigid action games from the PS2.
What makes this worse is that the finicky platforming is needed to get the Platinum Trophy of the game as you need to do a lot of platforming to get to secret areas as well as for the secret endings.
This also ties into the problem I had with depth perception in the game as fall damage is extremely severe as I either dropped a large distance and took no damage or instantly died and while there are Rainbow Stones in the game you can pick up or you can instead craft them, but that only adds to the tediousness of having to keep a stock of them every time you want to drop a small distance or craft more.
Even using the double jump from Torrent does not seem to alleviate fall damage from the same distance or even when I had landed on a ledge halfway down a drop and then went to the floor I still instantly died even though it was a short drop.
Ambiguous item descriptions
For a game that focuses on stats and how to increase them with various items and talismans, the game is weirdly ambiguous on how they affect stats.
For instance, the Graven-Mass Talisman has in its item description “Greatly raises potency of sorceries.” This is extremely unhelpful as instead of saying it increases your damage by 8% it instead is just a riddle with no clear answer unless you spend a large quantity of time working out the effect of each talisman and start number crunching.
In-game weapon upgrade economy.
There are 2 kinds of upgrade materials needed for weapons, these being the standard Smithing Stones for basic weapons for +25 and Somber Smithing Stones for special weapons for +10.
Basic weapons go up to +24 with enough Smithing Stones that can be bought from shops and special weapons only go to +9 with Somber Smithing Stones bought from shops when the proper ball bearing has been given to the shopkeeper.
The economy has been worked out for between them and to upgrade a basic weapon to +24 you will need 482,400 Runes to buy the 96 Smithing Stones and you will only need 9 Somber Smithing Stones for 97,000 Runes.
This means that the game is very unbalanced as you can easily power level the boss weapons to +9 for roughly 1/5 the cost of upgrading a standard weapon to +24. Whereas the boss weapons should be more difficult to level up and cost more.
Conclusion:I am glad to of picked this as my first Soulsborne game as it is still very enjoyable for a Soulsborne open world game with a lot to do and I spent 70 hours on my first playthrough, so it’s definitely worth the price of admission in my opinion.
The best part of the game is definitely the early and midgame before the game balancing goes downhill, but if you have experience with previous entries from FromSoftware in the past then I’m sure you will love this new entry in the series.
Anime Amigo and Nerd Consultant
(WARNING: may contain minor spoilers)
(At this point in time I have not beaten Elden Ring, mostly due to changes in my real life that have affected my chances to play it, so apologies if I get anything wrong or miss anything out.)
If you know me at all, you’d know by now just how much I adore the Dark Souls series and other Souls-Likes. It’s my favourite series of all time, Bloodborne was what got me into platinum trophy hunting, and despite the brutal difficulty I always have a ton of fun playing each of them (yes, even Dark Souls 2). So as you’d expect, I was really excited for Elden Ring since I heard the first rumour about it, hell when we got the first release date I was jumping and screaming like a child who got a PlayStation 5 for Christmas for about fifteen minutes. Elden Ring was developed by FromSoftware and was released on the 25th February 2022 for PlayStation 4 & 5, Xbox One & Series X and PC.
Within The Lands Between, the Elden Ring has been shattered. The offspring of Queen Marika the Eternal have now claimed a shard of the Elden Ring, which have been named the Great Runes. This led to a war known as the Shattering, leading to the events of the game. You play as a Tarnished, a being that was originally banished by the grace of the Erd Tree, now returned to The Lands Between to restore the Elden Ring and become the Elden Lord. Elden Ring follows in the same footsteps as most Souls-Likes when it comes to story. Rather than having a straightforward story out in the open, it instead relies on the world itself, item descriptions and character dialog to hint at the story that the players will then figure out for themselves (or they will learn it by watching Vaatividya). I have always said that I liked this in the Dark Souls series and it’s no different here, the environments and characters really make me interested in learning how the world works and what was like before the game’s events. It especially helps that this game’s lore was written by A Song of Ice and Fire author George R.R. Martin.
Presentation wise, this is without a doubt the best looking FromSoftware game to date with the exception of Bluepoint’s jaw droppingly stunning Demon’s Souls. The environments and character models are incredibly detailed and look distinct from one another. Each major area you explore looks very distinct from one another, from the expansive meadows and forests of Limgrave, to the twisted and haunting swamps of Caelid, to the star-filled sky of Siofra River, you won’t find yourself mistaking one area from another.
Now you’ve likely heard horror stories of the performance issues of Elden Ring’s PC version, and while I personally haven’t found it as bad as other people have, I can confirm that it has left much to be desired. The framerate is very inconsistent and ended up lagging for a few seconds on multiple occasions. Luckily it plays a lot better on PlayStation 5, and after restarting my playthrough on that a few days ago, I can confirm that I am not turning back. Definitely not unplayable, but there are much better options out there.
You’ll notice that in recent years a number of Souls-Likes have been adding more sombre music to their world rather than just the boss fights, FromSoftware decided to add on to this with Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice and have continued to do so with it in this game. The music focuses on ambience and setting the mood for the environment and does a really good job at it, Limgrave’s music, for example, sounds very grand but at the same time somewhat sombre and depressing, meanwhile Caelid’s would fit right in a horror game, it’s incredibly haunting and dread inducing, really adding to the absurdity of the area. Of course, the main spectacle with the music is in boss fights, and holy hell are they amazing. The music makes the fights go from a challenging skirmish to an epic clash between enemies. The grandness and extravagance of the music leads to what is, in my opinion, one of the best soundtracks of any souls-like.
The game is what you’d expect from any other souls-like. You traverse sections of the world, encountering troublesome foes and dying a lot. Once again, FromSoftware has designed the game to be a strenuous but fair challenge to all players to pick it up, and once again it has a great balance between the two. While encounters in this game are difficult for their own reasons, I never felt like it was a flaw in the game and it normally felt like my own fault for not fully knowing how to take on the challenge or just me getting greedy at the worst times. I always felt that I had a chance to defeat everything that came my way, all it would take was time, patience, practice and stubbornness (more often than not stubbornness).
There are a number of differences with this game compared to other Souls-Likes, both major and minor. Minor ones mostly consist of names getting changed, souls are now runes, bonfires are now sites of grace, estus flasks are now flasks of crimson tears and so on.
Though the major changes really add to the game, and for the better in my opinion.
One of the main changes is the world itself. I tend to call games in the Dark Souls series semi-open world, as while you are able to explore to your heart’s content and take on certain areas in any order, the game is still pretty linear and you’re mostly limited to what areas you can explore depending on how far you are in the game. With Elden Ring you have no restrictions, immediately from leaving the tutorial area you have complete freedom to go wherever you want. The game does hint you in where to go by a stream of light from the sites of grace pointing you in the general direction of the nearest Great Rune, but if you wish you can ignore them and go to wherever you want. In fact the game encourages that you do so, not only by having the fights in the “main” areas be a bit too difficult for you to fight straight away, but by also rewarding your expeditions with mini-bosses to fight or fortes and catacombs to explore. The best comparison I can make to this is The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, as that game also requires and encourages you to travel to different places and explore to your heart’s content before taking on the games primary objections. Exploring is probably my favourite part of this game. I have a ton of fun looking on the map, finding something that looks cool on there and heading towards it, most often I’ll find something fun to do or, more likely, something that’ll repeatedly kill me about a dozen times.
The game provides you with a few things to help make travelling the world a bit easier. For starters, it seems to have taken a few mechanics from Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, most notably that you actually have a jump button now (a fact which I’m still not fully used to saying), meaning that, yes, there are some minor platforming sections. To go with that, you may have noticed that when you drop from certain heights you don’t take any fall damage, which does make the ordeal a lot easier. That being said though, while I personally didn’t have any major problems with the platforming or dropping from heights – most of my deaths from that were either mistiming my jumps or not noticing a ledge in time whilst in a battle – I will admit that it’s not the best. The platforming is quite clunky and it’s not always easy to control. As for the fall damage, it’s not always the easiest to tell if you’ll die from a fall or not, especially seeing as you will take more fall damage if an enemy is nearby, so it’s just a lot of inconsistency there. And while you could argue that the platforming is Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice worked well so it makes no sense not to here, that game does also have a grappling hook mechanic which made it a lot easier, a luxury that this game unfortunately doesn’t have. The game has also brought back the stealth mechanic, which actually works a little too well. If you’re crouching and walking behind an enemy, even if you’re practically touching them, they won’t notice you.
In other Souls-Likes you have to be at least resting at a bonfire in order to fast travel from one area to another. That’s no longer a requirement now as you can travel to any site of grace straight from the map, provided that there are no enemies in the vicinity. Another thing that you’ll notice is that while there are no enemies around, you don’t lose any stamina when sprinting, this small addition to the game really makes wandering the world and running through dungeons much less of a headache.
One of the best new additions to the game is your noble steed Torrent. You get him very early on in the game and he makes exploring the world an absolute joy with how fast he runs, and he’s practically required for a number of mini-bosses – especially the dragon fights. That being said though, fighting while riding on top of him isn’t exactly the best. The side your sword swings on depends entirely on which of the shoulder buttons you use, and it’s pretty difficult to get an accurate hit when you and your opponent are constantly moving. Torrent also has his own health bar, if/when it’s depleted he’ll disappear and you will have to use up a flask of crimson tears to revive him, though you can restore his health by using a rowa raisin or using your flask of crimson tears while riding him. Though there have been numerous times when he will just disappear when he still has health, and I’ll be honest, I have no idea why, sometimes it’s because he took a lot of damage at one, sometimes it’s because he took too many hits in too little time, I’m honestly not sure.
Magic once again makes its return in Elden Ring, giving you a variety of spells and incantations to give you an advantage in battle… too much of an advantage. Yeah this game seems to have taken some hints from Demon’s Souls and made magic builds somewhat broken, not to the point where the game isn’t a challenge, but more to the point where the gap between magic and strength builds are quite monumental. Also to aid you in battle, new to this game, is summoning spirits. Sometimes when you defeat a more tricky encounter or boss or by exploring the world you’ll obtain an item called spirit ashes, these will allow you to summon warriors or creatures who have fallen in battle, and are very much a benefit to collect as they can deal damage to your opponent – at times even causing status ailments – and can draw enemy attacks away from you, allowing you to heal up and get in a couple extra hits. In some fights these are a slight advantage, while in others they will be your saving grace.
Dark Souls 3 introduced weapon skills, which were powerful attacks that you could use depending on what weapon you were wielding. Elden Ring once more brings that back with not only the weapon skills, but also with the ashes of war. Ashes of war are special attacks that you obtain throughout the game. By equipping these to a weapon of choice, you can replace whatever weapon skill the weapon currently has with a new ability to give you an edge in battle. These will include powerful attacks that will help to decimate your opponents, or a buff to your weapon, letting it deal more damage of add a status ailment to your attacks, what will build up with each strike.
That game also has a crafting system (*sighs* not another one), and I can’t help but feel mixed on it. On one hand it lets you get some very useful items without the need to explore, but on the other hand I can’t help but think that it’s somewhat unnecessary. It just feels like you can have these items be spread throughout the world or be sold by merchants rather than have to find the materials to craft them yourself. Especially seeing as because of this certain items that are commonplace in other Souls-Likes are a lot more difficult to find, for example fire pots.
Finally, the bosses. The bosses in any Souls-Likes are the game’s highlights, always being the biggest and most satisfying challenge that the player will have to overcome. And for the bosses of this game, I can’t help but be a little mixed. While, as I’ve admitted at the beginning of this review, at this point in time I still haven’t finished the game, and therefore likely have not fought its best bosses yet, I still find myself conflicted. On one hand, I found a decent number of these bosses to be an excellent challenge that I had an insane amount of fun fighting and dying against, I would even argue that some of them are highlights of the genre for me. But on the other hand, I found a number of them to be of little challenge, only taking me a couple of tries to slay, and those deaths were from me getting careless against a certain attack – don’t get me wrong I did have fun fighting them, I’m just a little disappointed is all. That goes for the mini-bosses as well, a decent number of them, I had a lot of fun fighting against, but there were a lot of repeats with one small gimmick to make the fight a bit more interesting. Even more disappointingly, a decent amount of mini-bosses were just regular enemies that had been given a slight health and damage increase, which I just find annoying and somewhat lazy.
While I have been giving a number of complaints about the game, don’t for a second think that means that I didn’t enjoy it. I thoroughly loved every moment that I spent wandering through The Lands Between, exploring ruins and castles and dying an ungodly amount of times. I can happily confirm that this has become one of my favourite FromSoftware games to date with the exception of Bloodborne, and I’m certain that my love for it will increase as I continue to play it over the next few months. I absolutely recommend you pick up this game and if you’re not a fan of Souls-Likes I encourage you to at least give it a try. I promise you won’t regret it.
Anime Amigo and Nerd Consultant
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