Elden Ring released on all platforms three days ago, and I’ve concluded that it is the adult equivalent to a kid being turned loose inside a massive toy emporium. There has been no cease in my oohs and aahs, gasps of surprise and pleasure, and just overall adoration of the world of Elden Ring. FromSoftware’s latest installment in the “SoulsBorne” family tree has garnered near perfect reviews and scores all around, and this unique collaboration with author George R. R. Martin is continuing to rack up accolades. Critical acclaim aside, it’s true that I have nothing but good words to say about Elden Ring.
I’ve sunk just over twenty hours into the game this past weekend, and I can safely say that I have barely scratched the surface. Am I progressing through the story and beating bosses to a pulp? Hardly. The game lives up to the notorious difficulty of its kin titles, and while some people may complain about the challenge, I find it all very delicious. I don’t mind the arduous mechanics of tougher enemies and toil of the overworld, because it inspires me to adapt my playstyle and improve my skills. There’s a certain amount of joy to be had while hunting sheep and then haphazardly running into a giant who is definitely not happy that it crossed paths with you. While I am not a stranger to Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls I, II, and III, Bloodborne, and Sekiro, I did have to knock off the rust as I rolled and parried my way through Limgrave, the beginning zone of Elden Ring.
I started the game as the Bandit class, opting for a more stealthy and ranged approach with my tiny blade, even tinier shield (I mean really, buckler, you may as well be a spoon) and short bow. While it is the second lowest class to start with stats-wise, it does give me plenty of room to develop my stats as I please. Needless to say, I’m better at sneaking around and stabbing many of the common enemies in the back rather than charging headfirst into a melee. Usually I try to allot my skill points in a balanced fashion, but with the implementation of gathering and crafting in this game, I admit that I have dumped many points into the Arcane stat. Why? Arcane ups Discovery, which means many more drops from killed enemies, which means I can craft alllll the arrows I want, baby!
Much of my twenty hours of gameplay has been filling out the map, gathering all the cool goodies that can be found in the world, and slowly collecting a cache of found weapons and crafted arrows of various types. I have waxed victorious over several bosses already, but my awe and terror only ever increase at the next encounter to be had.
Apart from the crafting and gathering (they’re just so darn zen), the implementation of weapon skills and mounted combat just solidifies how adaptive and dexterous anyone’s playstyle can be in the game. Different weapons utilize unique skills to enhance your fighting style and can definitely make battle a little more colorful. For example, my tiny starting blade had Quickstep as a special skill. I retired that for a flail, which had a neat spinning chain skill. My current weapon is an upgraded mace, its special skill being a powerful kick. I may or may not utter “This is Sparta!” under my breath with each successful kick. Mounted battle is something that just makes you feel cool as you play. Elden Ring’s mount, Torrent, is such a good boy. Traversing the vast open world of the game is much more convenient with our trusty ride, but he’s a boon in combat, to boot. Challenging larger enemies such as the big crabs, giants, and dragons actually feels possible astride your mighty steed, and it’s pretty satisfying to weave in, out, and around enemies as they try to land a hit on you. Torrent has his own health bar and can be healed with crafted raisins.
All in all, I am incredibly pleased with Elden Ring, and I haven’t even mentioned a fraction of its many marvelous elements that I’ve experienced. As for what I've not experienced yet, my plan is to lightly dabble in the game's magic, as well as experiment with the multiplayer function. I’ve had a blast so far just exploring the world, which, by the way, is just plain beautiful. Beauty does have a flipside, however. On one of my excursions, I happened across an unexpected trap that transported me to an ungodly part of the realm that I hadn’t been to before. Fast travel was not an option in that place, and I was freaking out because the enemies there were much tougher. I was in one-hit KO territory and I did not like it one bit. Fleeing for my life led me into a hellscape unlike anything I’d seen before and the horrors I witnessed there were assuredly nightmare fuel. I eventually ventured to a point where I could fast travel again, and I skedaddled. I will return to that land one day, and I will vanquish those baddies that dared to pick on me! In the meantime, I will keep moseying along at my comfortable pace, gaining levels as Torrent and I adventure across the land.