After almost 20 hours of playtime, I can safely say that “Elden Ring” lives up to the cult-like response it’s receiving.
A couple of days before the game’s highly anticipated release, all I saw were perfect and near-perfect review scores. Now, I wouldn’t say that I didn’t believe the ratings, but as always, I needed to see for myself if the hype was real – which it absolutely is. FromSoftware’s latest game is shaping up to be one of gaming’s newest masterworks.
“Elden Ring” takes place in the Lands Between after the events of the Shattering, a war between armies in which no side arose victorious. The Shattering began when the land’s demigods were corrupted by fragments of the titular Elden Ring. Players and other characters are resurrected as beings called the tarnished, who are tasked with defeating the demigods, taking their fragments of the Elden Ring and becoming the Elden Lord.
As intriguing as the plot sounds, the story takes a backseat to savory gameplay. Combat with 12th-century-inspired greatswords, polearms, daggers and elemental magic straight from “The Book of Merlin” take center stage.
I’m completely enamored with “Elden Ring” and its gameplay. I couldn’t recommend this game to everyone, though, as the challenging gameplay will deter unexpecting players.
If you’re not aware of FromSoftware, the company is most commonly recognized for the Dark Souls series. These games are defined by their oppressively challenging gameplay, by which I mean you will die – a lot. But similarly to your risen tarnished, you must defy death, persevere and become stronger.
FromSoftware’s prior experience with similar games clearly paid off when creating “Elden Ring.” The developers carefully picked all the good parts of their past games and built upon them while also introducing new elements, making this the best entry point for new players. This amalgamation of old and new proves that they’ve perfected their craft.
“Elden Ring” reminds me a lot of “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild,” a game that I didn’t fully appreciate when it was released in 2017. Whether it was my dinky joy-con controller, the frustrating mechanics or the completely barren world, I couldn’t get into it for the life of me.
However, the time I spent with “Breath of the Wild” showed me why the game left such a substantial impact on the video game industry: it redefined what it means for a game to be a truly open world experience. Five years later, I’m proud to say that “Elden Ring” is my “Breath of the Wild” moment.
Everything that you see in the Lands Between can be fully explored to your heart’s content. Whether it’s a war-torn castle in the near distance, a treacherous-snowy mountain as far away as the eye can see or anything in between – and there’s a massive amount in between – everything that’s visible is somewhere new to traverse.
To the average player, this may seem like a given, that open world games are just as they say: open world. However, that’s not always the case.
For comparison, another game I’ve played recently is “Horizon Forbidden West.” Guerrilla Games’ latest release flaunts its open world of robotic dinosaurs and lush landscapes, but this open world is merely a beautiful illusion. There’s an intended linear path the player must take to progress, which is much less appealing. “Horizon Forbidden West,” along with other self-proclaimed “open world” games, doesn’t compare to “Elden Ring” in the slightest.
Every three hours or so of playing “Elden Ring,” I want to put down my controller and do something productive, or contribute to my oh-so-packed senior year schedule. However, “Elden Ring” is like a siren song that keeps pulling me back. There’s always more areas to explore, enemies to fight, stats to increase, skills to learn, dungeons to conquer and secrets of the Lands Between that I need to unearth.
There’s a never-ending desire to play “Elden Ring” that I haven’t felt while playing a video game in a long time. That feeling comes from the freedom players have to trek their own journey at their own pace with their own style, allowing for a truly unique experience that no other player can replicate.
It’s way too early to say whether or not “Elden Ring” will end up being game of the year, but so far, the title has earned that award with grace.
“Elden Ring” is available on PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PS4 and PS5. This review was made using the PS5 version.