Can it still be called early if you’re over forty hours into the game?
Elden Ring was one of the most highly anticipated games we’ve seen in a long time. There are reasons abound for it. From Software has developed a highly respected reputation over the last decade, so just about anything they release has hype behind it. On top of that, legendary fantasy author George R.R. Martin’s name was attached to the project. Slap a promise of a big open world on top of the regular Souls gameplay and you had a recipe for excitement.
So, did it live up to the hype? Is Elden Ring yet another triumph for From? Or is it yet another triple-A game disaster?
You know the answer to that already, I’d bet. This game isn’t just good. It’s a god damn masterpiece!
Now, to be clear: this isn’t a full review. I still haven’t finished the game yet, so I can’t rightfully call it that. And I likely won’t be finishing it for a loooooong time. Even after all the hours I’ve put into it, the end still feels like a distant thing. I doubt I’ll ever write a full review for this game; it would likely just be a repeat of what I say here, unless the game really drops the ball at some point. Which I highly doubt will happen.
Elden Ring truly feels like the culmination of everything From Software has learned over the years. It’s a masterful blend of all the best elements of every Souls game leading up to this one, from Demon’s Souls to the Dark Souls trilogy to Bloodborne and Sekiro. At the same time, it manages to carve out its own identity, changing the core gameplay of the series in massive ways, from the combat to the level design. It is a truly spectacular game that was well worth the wait!
The biggest draw is, of course, the open world. Not only is the map absolutely enormous, it’s as dense as a black hole! You can find something in just about every corner of the world, from the largest castle to the most inconspicuous dot of land! From dungeons reminiscent of the Chalice Dungeons from Bloodborne to wandering boss fights or just an NPC chilling out and doing their thing, there is always something to find! As such, it is super easy to find yourself wandering about, riding upon your mount to wherever the wind will take you, main story be damned!
You’ll find plenty of little side stories to occupy you, if you’re interested. In my wanderings, I discovered an evil mansion that hired me as an assassin, a witch who sent me on a hunt for a lost city, a girl who wanted me to save her father from a falling castle, and much more! Unfortunately, as cool as these quests are, actually keeping track of them is practically impossible, as there is no in-game journal or quest tracker to speak of. If you miss an important line of dialogue, or you don’t know where to meet an NPC, too bad. So either pay attention and write stuff down or just be prepared to swallow your guide and look up where to go next on your quest. Because some of these are really convoluted and they require you to hop all around the world.
Why is that a problem, when the previous From Software games did it? Well, the previous games weren’t, uh, fucking gigantic!! You don’t need to mark it on my map (which this game will sometimes do), just give me a little journal where I can keep track of information in-game.
Combat is at its most deep and enjoyable in Elden Ring out of any other Souls game. The core of it all is still the same as it was in Dark Souls 1: dodge and hit. However, all the other options have been made much more fun and viable. I actually ended up making a Strength/Faith build and it turned out to be fun! From what I’ve seen, magic is actually cool this time around! Some builds definitely make for more of a challenge than others, given the extreme speed of the game, but all of them are perfectly viable.
Even if there is currently some really OP cheese strategies. Like bleed builds. Nothing quite like watching an enemy’s HP suddenly vanish.
Horse combat is also a thing. It’s… fine. It’s cool that you can attack on horseback, either with a melee weapon or with magic. And it definitely makes certain encounters easier. But it doesn’t have all that much depth. The two right attack buttons let you swing on the right, the two left let you swing on the left. That’s about it.
But the horse is pretty cool in general. I mean, come on! It can double jump! The horse!
In terms of boss fights, Elden Ring has some of the best. I’ve lost track of the number of times I shouted, “Yo, what the fuck?” in pure delight. So far, they’ve earned a place alongside the legends of the past games. That said, some of them are made laughably easy if you miss them for long enough. Or you’ll wander into a fight that will tank your attacks without even flinching as it flattens you in one blow.
Doing these bosses in co-op is a ton of fun. My buddies and I did a full-on LAN party when the game launched, so we had plenty of time to share our adventures. And it ran surprisingly smoothly for a From Software game at launch, although that was likely because the two of us were right next to each other; the game grew noticeably choppier when we connected to another player at a greater distance.
On the subject of performance, let’s talk about the graphics and framerate. Yes, the graphics aren’t technically impressive, but the style more than makes up for it! I’ve lost track of the number of stunning vistas I wandered across in my playthrough thus far.
In terms of frames, the game does dip occasionally on the PS5. From what I’ve heard, it isn’t quite as bad as the PC version. That, and it does have plenty of pop-in. Still, it hasn’t been unbearable so far.
Although I’m quite tolerable towards From Software’s frame issues. After Blighttown, I can handle anything.
Thus far, Elden Ring has most definitely lived up to the hype. It’s brutal, it’s beautiful, and it is a ton of fun to play! The damn game is addictive! I haven’t gotten this lost into a game since Breath of the Wild!
Only I knew what I was doing in that game. I still don’t know what’s going on in Elden Ring.
I’m gonna need some lore videos, and soon…