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Review | Elden Ring

"The most ambitious From Software game up to this date and the game that set the bar in the open-world genre. Gaming will never be the same again, that's for sure! Dive into one of the most addicting and rewarding game experiences of the decade! "

by Foggy, 02-04-2022, Edited by: Jim

It's been a while… This game consumed me, eat me and spit me out – but all in the best way possible! I want to (or at least try) to picture what happened with one of the best open-world game of all times. Yes, I loved it and I will talk about it for as long as this genre lives, which is probably forever.

The first thing I was wondering after spending 150h with Elden Ring was when the hell they had the time to develop a game as big as this one, and how?! So, the development started in 2017th after Dark Souls 3: The Ringed City DLC, alongside with Sekiro (their previous entry). 5 years, really? They managed to create one of the most perspective, promising game of a decade in only 5 years? I’m still beyond words, which is funny as I need to write this review.

First things first – Elden Ring was developed by FromSoftware and published by Bandai Namco Entertainment. The game was directed by one and only Hidetaka Miyazaki in collaboration with fantasy novelist George R. R. Martin, who provided material for the game's setting. It was released for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S on February 25, 2022. I will remember this day when open-world genre received new benchmarks that future games can try to beat. I dare them, I really do.

Greetings, you just entered one of the best open-world experiences you can think of. Or the worst one, you choose.

Welcome Tarnished, open-world madness starts here and now

You remember Dark Souls, right? My theory is that this is Dark Souls 4, not Elden Ring. This is, by all means, a typical Dark Souls game, just placed under an open-world roof, bigger than ever – not just when it comes to the world, but the skillsets, armour sets, weapons… Everything is on steroids here, which is funny because that is all we ever wanted.

If you’re just starting with From games; know that storytelling is not the focus one might expect. This is not a story-driven game, this is player-driven game and you are your own storyteller who uses what the game offers. On your way of becoming an Elden Lord you will meet many NPC’s – both good and bad. There are even giant turtles and suspicious serpents, twin head merchants, hugging ladies, dung eaters... You name it. It’s on you if you want to follow their questlines and learn more about the ever-damned world of Elden Ring and its inhabitants, or just cut in half what you see (remember, if it moves, it will try to kill you!).

I hated their approach to storytelling at first, but after 7 titles I’m really enjoying my roleplaying journey. I create my own path, I soak up the atmosphere and stories being told – needless to say, it is where I fell in love, combining the other aspects of gameplay in one, almost perfect journey.

When you get your horse you will not walk without him anymore. He is also great in fights against dragon and other enemies on their horse. And he can double jump!

From more linear experience we find ourselves in an open-world one, as big as it can get, not knowing where the hell we need to go. We talk to other Tarnished, we learn that we need to follow the light of graces and that we should hunt for Great Runes – which grant strength, but of course, the power corrupts and the holders needs to be defeated before these Lands Between becomes and endless nothing in the desert of corruption, death and all other beautiful dark fantasies.

On our way Melania appears. She is our maiden, our guide and our silent whisperer. Our will to go on. More importantly, she can turn runes into strength under the condition that the Tarnished bring her to the base of the Erdtree where she can fulfil her purpose. Sounds fair? Sure, why not! Especially when Melania rewards you with a horse mount Torrent - our friend and our ally with double jump ability suitable of being a perfect ride.

I don't want to spoil much scenery with my screenshots, but look at the beauty of the world. Also, multiplayer component is present, but this review is not about that part, although I did play few PVE matches online.

The scenery follows. Huge trees and endless possibilities. There is a castle in the distance. We love castles, right? Sneak peek inside, and all we got is an arrow to the knee. Right, let’s go around. 6 hours in, we are still inside the castle, some big dog is ripping our guts out, and 6 common warriors with their crossbows aren’t making it any easier. Oh, a site of grace! We love our bonefires, we just love levelling up and activating checkpoints – we die every 5 minutes, we need them! Finally, we are one step closer to the first rune-bearer, and after just 48 tries we are the holder of a great rune. We will make it, we know it.

Where the hell should I go now?

Not everything is clear as it maybe sounds above. After exiting the first dungeon you are basically on your own. You can go east, south, north… What can go wrong? As much as the freedom is a welcomed ally, sometimes it feels a bit overwhelming. There isn’t a clear progression route other than trying to enter some area and strategically pulling back when seeing you’re the perfect target of getting 1-hit killed.

In that manner you can get overpowered for some upcoming areas, but it’s impossible to resist the exploration factor. The world is full of hidden caves and paths, and even though the dungeons are designed like chalice dungeons in Bloodborne and get very repetitive with time, they still grant unique rewards such as weapons or talismans you might really need. Everything is this game is rewarding your effort in the best way possible, and because of that I can’t really talk bad about all the repetitiveness that clearly this game has. If you spend 2 hours to kill some random mini-boss in some random dungeon you will still feel the satisfaction and never feel like you’ve wasted time when you overcome it. I have no idea how they did it, but they did again. Other games will have real issues with trying to accomplish something similar.

I also salute the fact that the game offers a map, but never tells you much. Instead, you can put your own markers and track your progress – this is the best approach as it droves you to explore, it never guides you and steals your experience and the learning curve, that’s on you. Also, good job on stamina bars not getting drained when outside of fights, and checkpoints near boss fights are good improvements that drains the frustrations from older titles.

Everything from these pictures is from optional dungeons. Wow, right? Well, the last one is a story boss, but the rest can be missed - which is something i'm strongly against. Do everything, at least the dungeons which have bosses.

Don’t be fooled by last-gen graphics and lack of details when you explore the opened areas. Even though the graphics can be disappointing, the artwork and the atmosphere is something that completely nullifies the graphics downside. Main dungeons, the unique optional castles are peak of satisfaction and the fact there is also an underground on top of the huge ass world is beyond any words I can think off. I really have no idea how they designed such a big and complicated, well-connected world, I just… Well bloody done. I felt like I was part of some LOTR sequel, and I love LOTR.

If you look carefully when you explore you will find all the small details you never knew you need in games, whether they come in a form of 2 giants pulling the carriage or just dragons flying around that rewards you with their hearts, which you then exchange for dragon arcane spells… Do you see where I’m going? There are endless possibilities of playing the game, and endless builds you can make during your playthrough, endless ways to enjoy this huge ass world. You just can’t get enough, you want to explore, you want to find the invisible walls in dungeons, you want to defeat all there is and get that 1% that will help you on your next objective, and you want/need everything! The game can drive you to a burn-out level if you do this for a long time, but just rest for few days and continue afterwards – I was fed up with such content monstrosity after first 80h of exploring every nook and cranny, so I just focused on main story and dungeons, and dosed myself with optional stuff whenever I felt like it. It’s completely normal that you feel this way.

The bigger issue that is present is how the game difficulty is unbalanced. You will struggle with some areas while some of them just don’t hold a chance against you. I guess this is the price of open-world games and it’s really hard to optimize the whole game, especially when there isn’t a clear path you can follow. I felt lack of challenge when going through the middle-game, and afterwards I experienced a huge spike in difficulty in the end-game. While this is a minus, I welcome the difficulty as it pushed me in direction of creating new builds, combining new weapons with skills and whatnot. For every downside I refer to, there is a positive solution.

Patches is back! Remember him from past From games? There are a lot of important and cool quests inside the Roundhouse Table, which serves as a game hub with many NPC connected tightly with the story.

What is new here?

Fighting styles are in between Dark Souls, Sekiro and Bloodborne. We can say that they combined all they had up to this point and used that here. You can dual-wield, you can be a mage, you can run naked and focus on dodge instead of using shields… Typical stuff, right? What I love here is that you can add skills (called Ash of War) on weapons. Not all weapons can have them – some come with a predefined special skill, and they cannot be modified. Skills can be found by defeating monsters or just when exploring. I solute this highly – it buffs the experience and the gameplay, making it unique and endless when it comes to fighting and builds you can come up with.

First time in From games there are Ashes – our lovely companions, allies that you can call once per a session (session being in between resting on sites of graces), but only inside the allowed areas if the game allows. Summoning them can help you a lot! Imagine calling 3 wolves or few soldiers during boss fights. They shift aggro on themselves, which opens a window of opportunity for you without having to worry about dodging for a few seconds. It’s a real game changer during some boss fights. You can still play without any summoning if you prefer it like that.

I also want to emphasise the best thing in the game – jumping! Maybe not the best one, but damn, you can jump and slash, and the jump really added new dimension when it comes to exploring and fighting. I can’t explain how good it feels when you jump above an enemy slash and finish with a strike on your own. It’s so satisfying!

When it comes to combat and the hit boxes, From is my favorite. They develop such a lovely and satisfying combat experience that both rewards and although simple - it consists of numerous little small details and mechanics that compile into one of the best experiences up to this date. I still prefer Sekiro when it comes to action, but in Dark Souls type of universe this is the best game they made.

Collecting is also present in a form of Golden Seeds that raises your Flask number (Flasks are used to heal either HP or FP), while collecting Sacred Seeds upgrades the flask’s healing power. What is new is that you can find ingredients for a Mixed Potion, which holds 1 use per session and it can grant you HP regeneration or whatever you combine using 2 Tear pieces meant for this flask. Although you can balance your Flasks between HP or FP ones, Mixed Flask is only 1 and you can’t do much about it. That is fine, it’s well done considering there are multiple mechanics that are part of the final equation when it comes to outputs such as attack or defence power. You can also craft stuff, collect bunch of items you will never use, find so much and forget that you have it…

You can also tailor some armours making them easier to carry, which can mean lowering the load, which then mean you can dodge and move faster in fights. Everything is that small % that makes a difference, and I don’t even mind the unbalanced things in the game when you think about how complicated it gets with so many possibilities (I can’t even explain them all in this review, I don’t want to take your focus for few hours). Just know that you can play in whatever manner you want. That’s the beauty here, you choose how to play and how to enjoy.

You see, it's important to explore! There are numerous hidden pathways and areas that are breath-taking, and you can easily miss them. Finding them and doing some tasks/quests will give you good rewards, so everything is worth your time.

Is this the whole package I need?

The things that impressed me the most are the locations (castles and dungeons connected to boss fights and some boss fights for sure), weapon variety and the atmosphere. I would say this is the highlight, plus the gameplay of course, combined with exploration factor.

The soundtrack is really atmospheric, it’s more to paint the feeling than is to intrude with some melodies. It feels right, but it's not something I would listen when I’m away from the game. Voice acting is also really good, and even though story is in the second plan, questlines are one of the best I experienced in From games.

For the downside I can also mention some technical issues such as FPS instability (although 60 FPS in performance mode on PS5 works good, but there are some stutters and drops often), unbalanced difficulty progress and content repetitiveness.

Remember this lady. She awaits.

Is this now a game that deserves 90+ grades? When you see pros and cons on a paper, maybe not, but what I want to explain here is that the pros in their games, especially here, are so damn above the minuses! They nullify them, taking all aggro on themselves; pros are the focus of your experience! When you add what they accomplished with the world and rewarding system at such a huge scale – this game reach for the stars and it feels so right grading it on that level. I’m really sad my first journey is over, but multiple quest paths and other endings awaits. After 150 hours (60-ish being enough to do the story only) I still have that addiction of can't letting the game go, which was present in 90% of my time played. The time just flies when you play Elden Ring!

I worry about the other games – for me, nothing is the same anymore. I can’t remember the game that offered more than Elden Ring. My friends, this game raised the bar so high and it’s finally clear that we have another Witcher 3 in the same, but a completely different category. For me, these 2 titles plus Breath of the Wild, and maybe Red Dead Redemption 2 are what represents the success of the open-world genre.

I love you Elden Ring, and I love you From Software; you gave me so much and your 7 titles starting from Demons Souls never, ever disappointed. Other games – beat this.

"When you think about all what could have been better - just reroute to positive stuff and the scale of satisfaction and well-though design this title brings. One of the best games in a decade."
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