Developed by From Software and published by Bandai Namco Entertainment, Elden Ring continues the renowned legacy of it's creator Hidetaka Miyazaki, but this time in partnership with George R.R. Martin. At this point, you've likely seen a lot of praise about the game as it's become a cultural phenomenon. However, despite that, does it live up to the hype? Let's dive in!

    To begin, let's start off by discussing a negative of Elden Ring, how it's narrative is presented. In it's most simple description, the story of Elden Ring is that you're a Maidenless Tarnished in a fictional place called the Lands Between, you meet a ring maiden that offers her services, and she sets you off on a quest to visit the Erdtree,  home of the Elden Ring. The Lands Between, previously ruled by Queen Marika, fell into chaos after an event called the Shattering, resulting in Marika's demigod children warring over pieces of the Elden Ring. Depending on what type of player you are, the plot may sound interesting, but it's delivery could leave you wanting more. If you're one who does everything a game has to offer, this is likely not as much of a con and maybe even a positive for you. If you're someone who just does main line content and some extras, the weight of this con will be more present in your playthrough. The fact of the matter is, if you just peruse the great runes through the main line content and do a bit of extras, the narrative will feel sufficient, but not brilliant. However, if you go the extra mile, there's plenty of stories spread across the world that will enhance your view of the narrative significantly. This is ultimately why some state that Elden Ring isn't a narrative based game because you have to hunt for it to a degree that many will be unwilling to do, especially with high production value recaps so readily available on YouTube. This could be aided by more cut scenes to tie things together within the main line narrative, while keeping the extra flavor as something you'd have to hunt for. What's clear by the reception of the narrative is that it's delivery method is polarizing. If From Software just added a bit more cut scenes throughout the main line as I suggested, I firmly believe that more roots of intrigue would have sprouted to further bind people to the world of Elden Ring. 

    That said, one aspect of the game that sprouts tons of roots is the games presentation. Graphically speaking, it's not the most gorgeous game I played in 2022, that award goes to A Plague Tale: Requiem which I reviewed here. However, paired with it's scale, Elden Ring's presentation drew out a feeling of exploration I haven't felt since I was a kid. It's world is fascinating and around every corner is a new journey for you to embark on. Just when you think you've seen it all, you get wowed once again. On top of that, sound design is on point. Every action grounds you in it's world and it's soundtrack is spectacular. Additionally, the bosses have detailed designs as well. Despite some repeats, you'll come across many interesting designs, some of which are even terrifying. 

    Speaking of bosses, From Software is most known for their gameplay as the pioneers of the souls genre, so how does it fare within Elden Ring? As one would expect, it fares well and is a big step forward for the genre they created. In my prior post about Elden Ring which can be read here, I described the game as the jump between the Witcher 2 to the Witcher 3. With more money in their coffers after the success of Sekiro and with more advanced technology, they were able to push the scale of their world to a new level, a level which I believe matches the endgame vision of the souls genre. Gone is the more linear layout of the past and in comes an open world filled to the brim with tons of pathways for you to explore. 

    While the main goal in Elden Ring is to obtain great runes on your quest to become Elden Lord, the way you go about it is up to you. The souls genre is about one thing, survival. Every game within the genre has a grueling landscape, full of ways to kill you at every turn. In past titles, when hitting a wall in your adventure, you'd have to grind on content you've already done to obtain more levels or keep dying over and over until you succeed. With Elden Ring, there's so many pathways for you to take that if you hit a wall, you are able to go explore and learn how to climb it. While learning how to climb it, you may encounter more narrative elements, new equipment, maybe a new boss or even an entirely new zone. Hitting a wall in this title isn't like souls games of the past, it doesn't feel like a punishment, it feels like a pointer telling you to take a different path in the interim. This is part of the reason why I believe Elden Ring became so mainstream. The near infinite ways to tackle the main line allows for those less skilled to find a pathway that works for them. It makes the game more accessible without the need of an easy mode. 

    The bosses you encounter range from massive behemoths, to dragons, to smaller more agile enemies. To be frank, I died less to bosses than I did to the environment and lesser enemies throughout my adventure. That doesn't mean the bosses are easy, it just means that the world of Elden Ring can sometimes feel more cruel. Some bosses in the game are quite easy though and sometimes just feel like scaled up versions of smaller mobs. However, out of the over 200 bosses in Elden Ring, you're going to encounter many that are better than any other games last boss fight. The scale and complexity of these particular fights is immense and you'll likely die quite a bit. Personally, there were bosses where I died 20+ times and other bosses where I didn't die at all. Particularly, the later part of the game contains very difficult and mechanically complex boss fights, a cherry on top after the journey prior. This range of difficulty reinforces the point I made earlier, every pathway can open a door for you as the adventurer, you just have to find and explore it.

    Equipment wise, there's plenty of build diversity within Elden Ring. You can do anything from wield whips as a tribute to the Belmonts and even wield massive great swords in your cosplay of Guts from Berserk. There's also plenty of magical elements available as well, such as spirits and incantations which open the door to a more magical approach to Elden Ring. Additionally, there's plenty of crafting recipes in the game which allow you to plug up some weaknesses and enhance your strengths. Talismans also provide the player more flexibility within their build. Having 4 slots at the end of the game, I was able to buff my stamina regeneration, jump attacks, frequency of attacks, and general stats. I was able to create the character that I aimed too, which is a testament to how good From Software executed build diversity within Elden Ring. 

    Performance wise, I somewhat have to rely on community opinion, as I did mod my experience. One of the more annoying aspects of the default build of Elden Ring is being unable to uncap your frame rate. In order to do so, you need to rely on a mod, which was released shortly after the game launched. Aka, it was a choice and a puzzling one made by From Software to exclude the feature. On top of that, I did play the game completely coop through the seamless coop mod and did have some de-sync issues along with crashes, both of which I heard were common issues with the default build as well. The other mods I utilized were to remove the camera auto re-centering, as the default camera was giving me a headache and I also implemented a reshade profile to enhance the graphics. Prior to doing so, the game ran sufficiently, but not as well as I'd expect. At max settings with an RTX 3080, Ryzen 3900x, 32GB RAM, and on a M.2 SSD, my frame rate ranged from 45 to 70, with an average of 57 at 4k resolution. This is sufficient, but by no means optimal considering the games presentation being what it is. 

    In the end, I could go on for quite a while discussing Elden Ring, as it was an extremely enjoyable experience. It's presentation drew out intrigue I haven't felt since I was a kid, it's narrative was interesting enough to give meaning to my adventure, the level design was intricate, and the combat felt deep and rewarding. Unlike other open world games where you drown in a sea of content that's a glorified checklist, drowning in Elden Ring teleports you to an underground land full of intrigue. This vast open world never leaves you overwhelmed, it leaves you overwhelmingly intrigued. Intriguing is how I'd describe the game, as I was intrigued the entire time playing it. I never felt it dragged, I only felt that it persisted, as did I surviving in it's world. Becoming Elden Lord was one of my favorite achievements in gaming and playing Elden Ring was one of the best gaming experiences I've ever had. The only other way I'd describe the game besides intriguing, is that it's a masterpiece that you should definitely check out!

Rating: 9.6/10


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