Elden Ring impressions: A beautiful and punishing world
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Elden Ring is the most anticipated game of 2022 and, from the 40 hours I’ve dropped into it so far, I can say that it does not disappoint. Its open world is mesmerizing, enemy designs are disgusting enough to justify the constant grind of figuring out how to kill them, and the boundless exploration within the Lands Between is something no other FromSoftware game has come close to.

  • Game: Elden Ring
  • Developer: FromSoftware
  • Release Date: Feb. 25, 2022
  • Genre: Open world, Action

While FromSoftware games like Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice receive high praise from game industry outlets, it can be tough to know if you’ll enjoy an adventure that can be just as frustrating as it is fun. Elden Ring does have its differences from previous Souls games, but it still has the same rigorous core that makes these games as popular as they are. Let’s look at what makes Elden Ring stand out.

What’s good about Elden Ring?

Elden Ring takes everything from previous Souls games and plops it all within a gigantic open world. Exploring that world on the back of a spectral steed called Torrent is one of the most enjoyable things I’ve done in a game in years. The mount adds a whole other element to the usual slow and steady pace that FromSoftware is known for. You can now take some fights by charging an enemy camp on horseback. It lets you take big risks that have an even bigger payoff.

Elden Ring
Elden Ring offers a view of a beautiful horizon from nearly every corner of the map. | Provided by Bandai Namco

The Good:

  • Incredible set pieces and boss fights
  • Exploration that rivals every other open-world game
  • Deep customization with classes, armor, items and weapons
  • Forgiving checkpoint system

The world is full of hidden secrets and fights that can be found scattered across the map. Torrent’s double jump makes the majority of landmasses traversable. The level design gives you plenty of ways to find your way through elaborate castles and sprawling fields. Hopping from dilapidated bridge to crumbling rooftop in order to discover a boss at the edge of the map was an absolute delight.

Everything else that’s become a benchmark for FromSoftware is still here. Boss fights are still as harrowing as they’ve always been. You’ll bash your head against them over and over, but it’ll feel amazing once you come out as the victor. Progression is steady, with save points (Sites of Grace) scattered all over the map. Outside losing runes, the consequences of dying never feel that steep. You’ll always find your way back where you died within minutes.

Elden Ring
Elden Ring’s light platforming makes the Lands Between feel truly open. | Provided by Bandai Namco

What’s bad about Elden Ring?

Open world game design has become a balance between task management, AI design and exploration. Elden Ring doesn’t quite nail the AI design and interactivity within the scope of its open world. Enemies may be difficult to fight, but Elden Ring’s world feels somewhat repetitive.

In your time in the Lands Between you’ll run into undead military convoys and battlement-filled bridges that offer encounters similar to Breath of the Wild. There are plenty of ways you can approach them — from flying off horseback to crouch walking quietly until the last possible moment — but they usually devolve into the same sort of encounter. I was hoping I could get some enemies to chase me into other encampments, and have them fight each other and me. I wanted more interactive environments to use in fights.

All I want from Elden Ring is more, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s tough to add an open world to a franchise without changing some fundamental parts of that franchise in order to make that open world feel exciting for over a hundred hours. I can’t knock Elden Ring for not being 100% of the game that I want it to be, even though I wanted the excitement granted by Torrent to extend even further into the experience.

The Bad:

  • Open world design can feel repetitive
  • Some minor technical issues

A few technical issues, some frame drops and slowdown, hampered my play through. I hardly remember them in the grand scheme of my time playing the game, but the issues could hamper other console players’ experience.

There is very little that doesn’t live up to the hype in Elden Ring. Fans of the series will fall headfirst into a game that has hundreds of hours worth of fighting, exploration and customization. The question comes down to whether or not Elden Ring will draw in new fans.

Elden Ring
Torrent is by far my favorite addition to the FromSoftware catalogue of beasts. | Provided by Bandai Namco

Is it different compared to past FromSoftware games?

Elden Ring’s open world is a massive change compared to its predecessors. The core of the game is the same though. The major difference this time around is you get to choose which boss kicks your ass first. Some areas are gated away until you triumph over a certain enemy, but the Lands Between are mostly open to your exploration. The first thing I did, after unlocking Torrent, was ride as far North as possible. I discovered dozens of enemy types and locations in that ride alone and its the most fun I’ve had in a FromSoftware game.

You may not enjoy Elden Ring if you’ve fallen off of Sekiro and Bloodborne in the past. Elden Ring’s new open world mechanics don’t do much to change the core Souls experience, but it does a lot to add to it.

A guy who likes Fortnite and Animal Crossing.