It genuinely feels like I’ve been waiting forever for the release of Elden Ring, so I think it’s perfectly acceptable that I breezed through over 80 hours of gaming time once I got my hands on it.
More than any other type of game, I love FPS titles. Story-led campaign player games aren’t usually my cup of my tea…with one exception; the Soulsborne series. I absolutely love playing (and replaying) these FromSoftware games, and have played them all except for Demon’s Souls.
I jumped at the chance when I was offered to put an Elden Ring review together, so here it is.
And don’t worry, there are no spoilers.
Straight off the bat, I’ll say you’re unlikely to be blown away by the graphics of Elden Ring, but that’s more due to the fact that there are so many gorgeous-looking games out there nowadays that even visually solid games are beginning to look mediocre in comparison.
For one, you’re pretty much restricted to 60fps which honestly is good enough, but people that have invested in the best graphics card for their PC may feel like they’re underutilizing their setup.
Don’t get me wrong, the game still looks great, especially when you set all those sliders to the max. I’m just saying, if you’re a serial gamer with many titles under your belt, chances are you’ve seen better.
Where many other games focus on improving the detail in textures and other minute details, Elden Ring relies on art direction. That in itself has its own perks, so it really is going to come down to what you’re looking for personally.
So, this is both a disclaimer and a cry for help. 80 hours of gaming flew by quickly, but I still never really got into the story of Elden Ring. If you understand it, and you could sit me down and explain as you would to a baby, that’d be fantastic.
Seriously though, I think it will take a few more tries before I fully understand and am able to follow the story here. What I do know at the moment is that there were enough situations that were engaging enough to keep me immersed even without fully understanding the story.
For the record, I completed the game in 70 hours, but I’ve still got some optional bosses to beat so I’ll go back for them. It’s a nice little way to keep gamers coming back even after they’ve completed the game because there’s still stuff to do.
If you’re the type to grind, then you’re probably not going to want to do that here because there’s honestly just so much to do that, you’ll reach a point where it feels like you’re just going through the motions.
Personally, I think it’s cool that fromSoft Games have tried to pack as much content in Elden Ring to last a long while, but there’s a certain repetitiveness after a while that sort of defeats the purpose for me.
For instance, the fact that some minor bosses are repeated in some areas, and also the fact that when you complete an area, there’s almost always a new area to unlock, usually a bigger one!
I know, I hear you saying “What’s the problem here”, but I found myself walking past what felt like the same group of castles in various areas, and it was tiresome.
The best approach, I think, is to break down your gaming time into batches. Don’t try to complete it at once (not that you can). Don’t spend too long stretches on it at a time or you’ll get worn out.
So, this is where the real meat of my Elden Ring review lies. Solid graphics are fine, and a slightly difficult-to-follow storyline is forgivable, but poor gameplay? Might as well throw the game in the bin. Thankfully, Elden Ring does not disappoint.
I’ll start from the very top, the point where you’re building your character. Obviously, I was not going to try to build an in-game character that looks like me, not after all the late-night snacks and telltale signs of aging across my hairline.
I built a character that reflected a version of me that had only made positive, healthy decisions all his life. I did spend a lot of time playing around with the various facial and other physical features, but then I eventually got around to the game itself.
My first impression was that there was so much to do. The open world is massive, and each area feels like it is its own separate world. From encounters with the undead to battles with strange beasts, each area is unique in its own way – at least in the earlier stages. It gets a bit repetitive later on, but not in a lazy manner.
It’s sort of like how we have the universe, and there are multiple planets in the universe, some of which are supposedly home to unique sets of species – human or not. I mean, I’m not saying I believe in aliens, but I’m not saying I don’t either. Sue me.
A quick look at the map will give you some idea of just what you need to prepare yourself for. There are so many points of interest, and each one sounds or looks like something important is just sitting and waiting for you to discover it in there.
The keyword here is “important”, sometimes it’s good news, sometimes it’s bad, but it’s usually important.
Away from the open world, there is still so much to do. The size of each zone varies, so the time you spend exploring each one largely depends on what you find in there.
If you step into a large zone with massive castles and fortresses, then you can expect to encounter someone – or something – in there. Sometimes you’ll be fine, and other times, you’ll be sent back to the last “Site of Grace” that you rested at. That’s what a checkpoint is called in Elden Ring, in case you didn’t know.
If you’ve played Sekiro, then you should be familiar with the jumping technology that basically allows you to move around a lot more easily and quickly.
That same skill is available in Elden Ring and is most useful when trying to make your way around the bigger castles. Be careful though, you just might land on something that’ll rudely end your life, and I’m speaking from personal experience.
Speaking of the massive castles, exploring them can be a real pain. Just when you think you’ve combed through everything, you discover an underground area that leads you to another section of the castle. I spent a painfully long time exploring one of such sections, and I can’t really say it was worth it.
There are two sides to these types of situations. On one hand, it’s nice to have the feeling that you can never really fully explore the massive world that fromSoft has created in Elden Ring, so there’ll always be something new to see.
On the other hand, it can be very frustrating when you spend a lot of time in a particular area with nothing tangible to show for it. You’re just going into different castles and caves, willfully offering yourself up as a sacrifice to the bosses you’re bound to encounter.
Speaking of bosses, they’re one of my favorite things about this game, and fromSoft games in general really. I’d like to meet the people that sit down and think up the disturbing characters that play bosses in Elden Ring just so I can congratulate them for creating something so spectacularly distressing to look at.
You’re not just going to be staring them down though, you’re going to be fighting them, and I’ll tell you for free right now that you’re not ready for it.
Even for my brute force playstyle, the fights were sometimes so difficult that when I died for the 723rd time fighting a particular boss, I just sat there and thought about the life choices I’d made leading up to that moment.
In hindsight, maybe brute force isn’t always the best way to go? I tested that theory by properly strategizing before my fight with a particular boss that was being extra villainy, and I beat him more easily than I did when I was using brute force. You would think I’d learned my lesson going forward, but I’m a stubborn man.
Anyway, if you’re more tactical than an aggressive fighter, you should find success quicker in certain situations. Of course, reading guides from players that have already beaten these bosses would also make things so much easier. For instance, this guide on How to Defeat Margit in Elden Ring could be useful.
It also helps that there are small waypoints that sort of act like checkpoints right before some boss fights, so you can reenter fights straight away instead of going all the way back to a Site of Grace.
If it all becomes too much for you to handle alone, you can cover a lot of ground on your horse, Torrent. It’ll save you some time, especially when you need to get to a Site of Grace.
While I’m talking about boss fights, I think the choice of weapons could be adjusted to be more versatile for the types of bosses that you will face in the game.
In some situations, I found myself simply staring dumbly at a boss during a fight because they were out of reach of the damage range of my weapon, and I had to wait for them to get back within reach before I could cause any real problems.
Meanwhile, that time spent staring dumbly involved trying to evade attacks from the temporarily-invincible boss. It was a lot of running back and forth, which was a little tiring. Thankfully, this only happens occasionally with a couple of bosses.
There’s this neat feature called “Ashes of War” that adds a bit of extra, customized flavor to combat too.
This can be triggered by resting at a Site of Grace, selecting the “Ashes of War” menu to manage all your owned Ashes, and then applying the ones you want to compatible gear in your possession to create a “move set”. You can do this at any time.
When you apply that move set, you can then use it in combat. If it’s heavy enough, you could even use it as a sort of finishing move.
Ashes of War in Elden Ring can be used for defense too. In this case, your combo will be a dodge/evade one, and you can use it to get out of sticky situations mid-combat if it’s efficient enough.
Here’s some advice: Your weapon of choice is one of the most important decisions that you’ll make, so be sure to choose something that you’re certainly very comfortable with.
Secondly, take advantage of summons as often as you can. Don’t try to do everything by yourself, because you won’t get very far very quickly. These “ghosts” that you can summon have different qualities, and each one has its best use case in fights against the bosses.
Identifying which one is perfect for each scenario will go a long way to helping you finish the bosses off quicker. Even if all they do is take hits from the boss without giving anything back, those are hits that would have been aimed at you instead, so the distraction alone can be helpful.
Summarily, I thoroughly enjoyed Elden Ring. It was worth the wait, and I would easily recommend it to anyone.
I mentioned that the graphics are not the absolute best, but the art direction is actually quite imaginative in itself. It really exudes that “fantasy world” feel, and everything looks well-constructed to fit the tone and mood of each area. Even the choice of music is fantastic.
Like I suggested earlier, take it easy and don’t try to finish in a rush. Allow yourself to explore as much as you can, and treat it as a marathon instead of a sprint. It may get tiring at times, but the rewards that you get at other times make it worth the effort and time.
I’d go as far as saying that this game will be in gaming conversations for a while, and if you’re already familiar with fromSoft games, then you’ll enjoy Elden Ring even more.