I Played - Elden Ring - As a Souls Game Veteran

The scene must be set...

A blend of darkness, the mystique of the void and the frailty of the spirit and soul.

Elements that have been successfully hinted at in all Souls games to date. With each telling a compelling story through subtle hints, speeches, item descriptions and cut scenes. Elden Ring is the latest creation of Miyazaki Hidetaka, who by his own admission, never intended for his approach to gameplay, one centered around the art of dying to become normalized. Yet that’s exactly what’s happened in the years since Demons’ Souls was first brought upon us. Many games since its inception have used its template of difficulty as a crutch, often times mirroring even its darker tones. Miyazaki helped to birth an entire Genre of games being dubbed ‘Souls Like’ and, now, he has brought us Elden Ring.

Elden Ring shows how gaming has changed since Demon’s Souls.

Elden Ring’s now has a dedicated jump button which, if you’ve played other Souls games, feels like a gift from the gaming gods. New enhancements include Spirit Ashes, a new type of ethereal summon to help against overbearing bosses, and a spectral steed, Torrent, invaluable for traversing and exploring the world as well as for fighting Dragons, Tree Sentinels and StarScourge Radahn.

The traditional elements of Souls games are all here, just slightly disguised. Souls are now Runes, Estus Flasks now Crimson Tears, bonfires are gone replaced with sites of grace, all changes that help adjust to the story being told. And just what is that story? A story of betrayal by those tasked with maintaining the balance of a realm known as the Lands Between. Forsaking their duty The Demigods, ruled by Queen Marika the Eternal, shattered the Elden Ring while warring for power, allowing the world and its people to fall into unending chaos for all eternity. In this time of neglect, one adventurer could reforge the Ring to become Elden Lord and overthrow them all to remake the world, or destroy it.

Having George RR Martin on board for Elden Ring shows in how the game does an excellent job of cramming a lot of lore into scattered elements.

Elden Ring is a gorgeous game. As you traverse the world the glowing golden leaves of the Erdtrees are always on the horizon. It has a memorable art style similar to that of Dark Souls 3 and Bloodborne, with diverse enemy designs and striking buildings littered over the map. With such a huge world to explore there exist only subtle hints as to where one should go next, This is my only gripe on this front as the path to your objectives is anything but easy, especially if you haven’t thoroughly combed though the surrounding areas. Sites of Grace have been designed with a mechanic where they emit a light trail leading you to your next major checkpoint, though they are not linear in this regard and will have you lost at some point.

Regardless, from the get go Elden Ring will have you riding through beautiful green fields with little wooden shacks and marching soldier regiments in view whilst titanic Sentinels lurch about. Later on you will find yourself in Leyndell Royal capital, a dead city of Imperious imposing stone architecture patrolled by Golden Knights and next all the way to Siofra River, a beautiful hidden area underground. With fauna and lush terrain blessed with perpetual illusory starlight guarded by primal hordes of brawny ancestral tribesmen. All the game areas are stuffed to the top with diverse enemies, secrets, scenic plateaus, hidden treasures, and, the trademark, a plethora of quick ways to die.

Yet true Dark Souls veterans know what they’re in for, beneath the beauty of the design of it there exist brutal mechanics to master and perfect.

Like all the other games in the ‘Souls’ series, Elden Ring is a sobering experience. Not just the technical aspect of rolling, parrying and timing your hits but also the aspect of stat distribution. Every point you allocate matters, and mis-allocation hurts the most against powerful bosses where every last bit of damage, hp, poise and mana matters. Many enemies can kill you in a few hits and bosses not to be outdone, will promptly insta kill you. Just as the game is now Open world so have the enemies evolved to come at you from all directions; from the front in swarms, from behind to back-stab you, out of the ground under your feet, or plunging down from above, no where is safe.

Elden Ring is tailored to accommodate and suit multiple different play styles. If your reflexes aren’t built for frame perfect dodges and parries whilst infighting, create a ranged build and obliterate enemies from a distance, or create a High HP monolith and slowly grind your enemies down.

Elden Ring actually caters to a broad spectrum of players.

The Creativity it offers does not end on the character customization screen, but continues into armour choices, weapon choices, spell choices and the way all these can be combined. It truly allows you to engage in combat in any way you see fit as there exist multitudes of ways to take down bosses. And believe me, you will have to be creative to take down bosses.

A video game empire built on what is aptly called ‘Git Gud’ Culture will have you screaming in rage.

In Souls games failure is not punitive. One is always meant to feel under powered. From the first boss Margit the Fell Omen, you are taught through a trail by fire that failure will be part and parcel of your journey as you frolic about the Lands Between, but failure against Margit is there to teach you that in the Lands Between lies adventure, and the possibility to improve. It doesn’t matter how you defeat him, because no matter how you do, you will have defeated him. “Getting gud” is a culmination of what progress in any souls game looks like and Elden Ring is no different. No matter the boss and obstacles in front of the player, you must improve to take them down as it is about rewarding intrepidness and creativity. Over the course of the game you will improve. Such that when you face DRAGONLORD PLACIDUSAX who sits in the decaying yet beautiful Crumbling Farum Azula at the heart of the storm beyond time, you are not daunted by the enormity of your task.

As Souls players, you are not daunted by the enormity of your task. Nay, you relish it.

And later still when you choose the fate of the Lands Between, you truly will be an Elden Lord, having conquered all to stand at the summit.

written by

Tinashe "TinMan" Zulu

Played on a PC

Ryzen 7 1700, 16gb, GTX1070ti

Played: 100+ hrs

Completion: Once

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