Elden Ring

This post contains full spoilers for Elden Ring, as well as minor spoilers for Dark Souls, Bloodborne and Sekiro. Thanks for reading!

I think any proper review of Elden Ring has to take into account, at least in some way, the writer’s relationship to the previous games of FromSoftware. This is because, as I will hopefully convince you of by the end of this post, Elden Ring plays kind of like a compilation of all the games in the series that have come before it. It is, in a way, “The Very Best of Hidetaka Miyazaki and his Band”. As such, what you take from the game may very well be what you brought into it.

So, I should explain to you what I look for the most in a “Souls” type game. Of the classic RPG style games, my favourite remains Bloodborne – probably because the game simply has the best atmosphere and story of all of the games in the series. Yarnham as a city feels cohesive and mysterious in a way that other games haven’t tried to replicate, and the twist that comes in the centre of the game is a perfect way of keeping the world fresh and interesting, while deepening the themes of its narrative. Most importantly, the action is fast but is built around its speed – instead of waiting for enemies to attack, it’s important to always be on the front foot in Bloodborne, and mechanics such as the rallying system and the lack of a shield compliment this kind of gameplay.

My second favourite, if I were to rank them, would be Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, although of course that game lacks the RPG elements that define a traditional Souls game, and is more comparable to other action games. But there are elements that it shares in common with the other games directed by Miyazaki, including Elden Ring, and Sekiro definitely has the best combat system out of all of the games Miyazaki has directed. The parry and posture mechanics make its swordplay feel unlike any other, and the whole thing is incredibly finely tuned to deliver what often feels like the mechanically tightest iteration of the Souls formula. Bosses in particular benefit from this combat focus, and many of the best bosses in the series come from this game, which forces players into constant direct interaction with all but a few of the game’s major boss encounters.

So then, let’s come to the latest in the series; Elden Ring. First announced in 2019, the game is directed by Hidetaka Miyazaki and Yui Tanimura, supposedly based on an idea written by Game of Thrones creator George R.R. Martin. The game opens much the same way as other games in the series; you’re greeted by an introductory cutscene which makes no sense out of context, then are thrust into a boss fight you’re supposed to lose at before the game itself starts and the player character is put into the starting area; Limgrave.

Elden Ring arguably opens better than any other previous Miyazaki game. Despite the strangeness of the opening cutscene, which makes far less sense than any prior one and serves as a lackluster introduction to the story of Elden Ring, the opening couple of hours up until the player beats Godrick the Grafted, is pretty much perfect. In Limgrave, the player sees first-hand the full potential of a game like Elden Ring, and in a way the success of this first biome makes the rest of the game seem to pale in comparison.

So much has been written about Limgrave that writing about it now feels like treading on worn-out ground. So instead of going about with direct praise of this area, I’m instead going to contrast the ways Limgrave works so well with how the rest of the game often feels like it squanders the promise of this area.

The first is, of course, the open world; this is the thing that makes Elden Ring stand out from its most obvious comparison point, Dark Souls 3. The original Dark Souls has what might be described as an open world, but it clearly isn’t the kind of open-world that most people think of (where are the towers!?). Elden Ring takes a mixed approach – the world isn’t as open as something like Breath of the Wild, where you start in the centre of a circle and can make your way out in any direction. Instead, you follow a series of biomes that follow logically on from each other in terms of difficulty and story progression (with the one exception of Caelid). There is the option to skip the intended progression order, like by following the path around Stormveil Castle to reach Liurnia, but you always have to at least pass through Liurnia and Limgrave to reach Atlus Plateau. However, each of those biomes is incredibly open, with a variety of activities you can do in any order.

Like all open-world games, Limgrave has an automatic advantage in Elden Ring because everything you do there is new; all the bosses and dungeons will be things you haven’t seen before. As you progress, you’ll realise the activities which seemed dense and limitless in Limgrave mostly all repeat themselves. Even in the next area, Liurnia of the Lakes, very few new activities are introduced. By the time you get to the third major area, the Atlus Plateau, you will have seen most of the major types of content that you are going to be doing; in total the game contains for five or six major areas.

The open world itself is strikingly beautiful. Unlike Dark Souls or Bloodborne, which have worlds that can only be described as oppressively grim, Elden Ring is liberal with its use of bright colours, giving the various areas hues and palettes that makes stepping into a new one a breath-taking experience. Limgrave is full of lush greens, Liurnia is made up of vibrant blues and stepping into Atlus for the first time is jaw-dropping. Even the areas that seem uglier, like Caelid, stun in other ways, such as the odd and creative enemy design. Elden Ring is never at a loss of things to show the player and playing the game for nothing more than the intrinsic rewards of seeing the landscapes and scenery it has to offer would be well worth it. One of the great sadnesses I already feel having beaten the game is that I won’t ever be able to experience it in this way again. As a piece of virtual tourism, I don’t think I’ve ever played a game quite like it. FromSoftware’s ability to create imaginative worlds has managed to translate to open spaces in a way that I wouldn’t have thought possible.  

I’m going to compare the game at various points to Breath of the Wild, for a couple of reasons, but mainly because it’s the open-world game that I’ve had the most experience with, and certainly the one that comes closest in quality to Elden Ring. The comparison is only occasionally a helpful one, but hopefully it can prove enlightening. Much like Elden Ring, Breath of the Wild shows players the majority of the content early on. Once you’ve done your first Divine Beast, you’ll get a sense of all the different types of activity you can do in the open world of Hyrule. However, the difference between the two games, and the one that means Breath of the Wild can, in some regards, retain a sense of freshness further on into the game, is that Elden Ring’s activities are all so specifically combat focussed.

In Breath of the Wild combat is a main activity, but it isn’t the main activity – it’s one of many. Even seeing an enemy out in the world doesn’t mean you need to use combat to dispose of them; a creative player can manipulate the various physics systems in play to kill enemies creatively. On top of that, the minor dungeons you find scattered around the world are focussed on puzzles over combat. These too, end up a little repetitive if you aim to find and complete them all, but because Breath of the Wild is not a combat game, it opens itself up to more variety in the way you approach challenges. There are puzzles in Elden Ring, both in dungeons and in the environments, but these are generally few and far between – almost every scenario you find yourself in while exploring is a combat scenario, because Elden Ring is a combat game first and foremost.

Luckily, Elden Ring has a pretty detailed, varied and flexible combat system. This too, gets worse after Limgrave, but we’ll get back to that. First, you have two main ways to approach a battle; ranged and melee. Ranged battle can be either using magic or a bow and arrow, and melee players have a huge option of varied swords, hammers, axes etc to try out. You can do what I did and adopt a split magic/melee build, you can go full Faith or even try and beat the whole game using just a shield. Each melee weapon is then further customisable with an “Ash of War”, which are found throughout the game and bestow a special move to any weapon, that is typically flashy and powerful, but uses up the player’s magic. There are also items that buff weapons, consumable items that damage the enemy, a shield counter, a parry and of course spirits that can be summoned to help the player in tough combat encounters.

In Limgrave, and continuing into Liurnia, this provides an almost daunting amount of options to the player; there’s so much to do that each new enemy encounter becomes interesting and exciting; a large enemy variety helps with this. The first hints of a problem come with the first major boss; Margit the Fell Omen. Margit is incredibly tough if you run straight to him, cleverly informing players they need to explore the open world and level up first. It’s perfect level design on this front, communicating the game’s expectations to the player in a diegetic way.

However, when you do eventually get to fighting Margit at an appropriate level, the way he’s designed stresses the way you’re going to be approaching bosses, and eventually all enemies, from now on. Put simply, Margit is fast and has long combos. Want to use your powerful shield counter on him? You can’t – he’s too fast and will interrupt the animation before you have a chance to hit back. Don’t want to use powerful Ashes of War on him? Totally possible, but your chances of dying just went way up. The point isn’t that Margit is difficult without throwing a spirit at him and using Ashes of War – the point is more that there are such optimal ways of defeating him that trying anything other than sending out a spirit and rolling around his attacks rather than defending is just creating extra work for yourself.

As the game continues, various combat options are taken away from you, rather than added. Sure, you get more Ashes of War and weapons to try out, and after defeating Rennala you get the option to respec your stats, but in general you will find the right strategy for dealing with tough enemies quickly and find little reason to divert from it; that strategy is using spirits as a distraction and getting large hits in when possible. Rolling is your main option for defence – shields can be used, but enemies and bosses towards the end of the game are far too fast for shield counters, and riposting often only works after multiple successful parries, making that an option that’s too risky for low reward. Why learn the timing of a parry when it’s so much easier to learn the timing for a roll?

The bosses and enemies in the late game take far too much advantage of this, meaning that none of them are particularly interesting or memorable to fight. Again, this isn’t to say this is the only way to fight these bosses, or that none of them try and punish this playstyle. It’s more to say that I found this to be the optimal playstyle, and not enough pressure was put on me by the game to interact more with the bosses’ move sets beyond learning when to roll. People are occasionally negative about “gimmick” fights in the Souls series, but almost always the most interesting boss encounters in these games are the ones that present you with an unusual challenge or a specifically memorable moment.

Demon’s Souls, recently remade for the PS5, is the best example of this – almost every boss is a unique encounter; the most memorable include Maiden Astrea, who commits suicide when you reach her, but also False King Allant, who now seems like a typical Souls boss, but stands out in that game for being a challenging one-on-one sword fight. Even post Demon’s Souls, the most discussed bosses are often the ones that offer something new to the player; the way the Sif fight ends, the challenge of Ornstein and Smough, the shifting tone of Ludwig or the mad antics of Micolash. Sekiro feels slightly like an exception, because its best boss encounters are mainly built around one-on-one fights, but that game has such a tight and direct action system it feels silly to compare (although even then one of the most discussed, the Guardian Ape, is famous for its mid-fight twist).

In Elden Ring too, the most successful fights are the ones with an element that marks them out. Starscourge Radhan, Rennala and Rykard Lord of Blasphemy are among the best fights because they offer something the player won’t have come across before. Although I found him incredibly challenging, Radhan probably marks the peak of this game’s boss fight design. He comes complete with a charming backstory and a suitably epic idea of allowing you to attack alongside a gamut of NPCs from around the game, who come charging up the hill behind you to deliver a fitting death to one of Elden Ring’s most tragic characters.

In contrast, bosses such as Godrick, Godfrey, Maliketh and even Radagon are simply too fast and too reliant on large area of effect attacks to be interesting to fight. When I got to the final boss, Radagon of the Golden Order, after just having fought Godfrey, First Elden Lord, to see that some of Radagon’s attacks looked extremely similar and required the same approach I felt incredibly disappointed. Fast, aggressive humanoid bosses aren’t bad – they’re often a highlight. The hunter bosses in Bloodborne are some of the best parts of that game, so it makes sense that the final boss is another hunter, who shares some traits with other hunter fights. However, beforehand you will have fought Mergo’s Wet Nurse, a strange multi-handed monster. Bloodborne also gives you far better tools to adapt to fast bosses; it ditches the shield in favour of a parry that still works on the final boss and allows you to restore health by attacking fast enough. Elden Ring still works on the same basic mechanics as the first Dark Souls, and simply isn’t equipped to handle a boss that moves at the speeds of a Sekiro fight.

In essence, then, Elden Ring is a game focussed around combat, but where the appeal of that combat starts to drop off towards the end of the game. At the start, the promise of looking around Limgrave and finding new kinds of combat encounters is fun, but as the game continues, that prospect becomes less and less appealing as the game becomes more simplified with the kind of fight it’s able to offer. This isn’t to say that none of these fights are fun, or well designed. I loved the fight against Godfrey – in particular the wrestling style moves of his second phase are a welcome surprise and fun to try and avoid. It’s more the repetition of a certain kind of fight, of a certain kind of activity. It all strikes to an unavoidable truth about Elden Ring; it’s just too long.

At the start of this post, I said that this game has a bit of every Souls game inside it, like a nesting doll. This is true – it borrows the speed and a posture system from Sekiro, some imagery from Bloodborne and almost everything else from the Dark Souls games, specifically Dark Souls 3. But this often works against it – those games are typically around 30 hours long for a player who knows what they’re doing and who does only the most basic things. In taking ideas wholesale from a 30-hour game and putting them into an almost 120 hour game, some ideas break in transit.

Take, for example, NPCs. In the original Demon’s Souls, NPCs are few and far between in the actual levels, because each one represents a different ruined area of the world. Most of the NPCs hide out in the safety of the Nexus, but a few other travellers and merchants can be found in the outside. It creates the impression of an extremely barren world, something carried over into Dark Souls and its sequels. Often the scarcity of the world can seem puzzling, but in general the atmosphere of loneliness it creates is worth it. In Bloodborne the problem was recognised slightly and fixed by setting the game on the night of the hunt, with most NPCs assumed to be hiding in their houses. Thus, Yarnham felt real and lived in, despite a similar number of interactable characters and questlines. Finally, Sekiro, a game with a much more traditional narrative, feels completely lived in; all the enemies you fight are people like you; you can even hear them talk to each other about the events of the story.

Bloodborne and Sekiro realised that they were striving for different things than Dark Souls and so adapted the treatment of NPCs to match. However, Elden Ring, trying perhaps to look like a Dark Souls 4, retains an absolute scarcity of NPCs even in such a huge open world. To return to the comparison with Breath of the Wild; that game too was set in a vast post-apocalyptic landscape, but still stuffed itself with people to come across and towns that felt alive. Elden Ring does have an incredibly impressive looking city – but it’s really another dungeon, populated by silent enemies. Where are the other people in the Lands Between? The characters that are there are great, but each has their own unique questline. The game needs more people of little consequence to truly sell its open world. The NPC scarcity of Dark Souls works for Dark Souls in a way that it just doesn’t work for Elden Ring.

Speaking of the NPCs that are there, the game has also neglected to fix the way quests work. Once again, here’s something that worked in past games and simply doesn’t here. The oblique nature of side quests in previous games worked in a smaller game. Players might naturally stumble upon NPCs as they advanced through the games, and although it occasionally called for backtracking, normally NPCs would move to sensible locations after being spoken to a few times. When quest designers were especially cruel, the community could be called upon to help stuck players know where to find the next stage of a questline, or navigate a particularly tricky sidequest that might lead to an alternate ending.

Elden Ring has a couple of good sidequests, including Ranni’s, which leads to an alternate ending and the game’s instance of the Moonlight Greatsword. However, in a world as large as the Lands Between, you are likely not going to find most of the NPCs unless you know where to look. For a great example, From Software recently patched the game to make Boc the Seamster easier to find – players were simply missing him too often, because he’s disguised among the environment. Even when you do know where to find an NPC, it’s often extremely difficult to know how to advance their questline.

Let’s take an example of one of the quests I did; Sorceress Sellen. Sellen is a great, classic Souls style character. Initially kind, Sellen starts as a merchant who teaches spells. As you learn more about her, other characters warn you of her dangerous experiments which led to her being expelled from the Academy of Raya Lucaria. Although there are conflicting testimonies about this, eventually Sellen describes her ambition to overthrow the Carian Royal Family and claim a position at the head of the Academy. You find her a new body, recover spells from the bodies of her old masters and fight Jerrin to help her. At the end of her questline, she (presumably) mixes herself with her old masters and transforms into a huge ball as the result of the magic she herself has been experimenting with.

Sellen’s questline is a fine little sub-story inside the game; the perfect kind of mini-tragedy that reflects on the hubris of those who try to understand the unknowable combined with the unique body horror the games are known for.

However, completing it without a guide seems borderline impossible for the average player. It’s safe to assume that you will find Sellen and the body of Master Azur, which is needed to advance her quest, during normal play. However, by the point you find the Comet Azur spell, you likely won’t think to go back to Sellen – nothing indicates she would be interested in it. If you do, she tells you to look for the body of Master Lusat, in the Selia region of Caelid. This is already a sizable area of the map to look around, and even more so when the area Lusat is in is hidden by multiple fake walls. Even if you manage to work all that out, you then need to find another fake floor to transfer her soul into a new body, and then find her again in Raya Lucaria. This quest is a good example because it’s one of the more signposted ones in the game, and yet it still requires huge amounts of searching wide areas for hidden walls and warping around to places you might not even think to look.

Once again, it’s worth noting that I don’t have a problem with this kind of quest design – my problem is in how its applied to the open world. Making a game an open world is extremely difficult and often requires a complete rethinking of the conventions of your series. Elden Ring often takes huge strides in open world game design and creates areas that feel huge and dense with content, but at other times it’s weirdly afraid to take risks with the conventions of Dark Souls.

One place where the avoidance of risk really pays off is in the dungeons. In reinventing the Zelda formula, Breath of the Wild broke up its dungeons into smaller Shrines and Divine Beasts and scattered them around the map, robbing them of the cohesion that the larger dungeons had in earlier games. In Elden Ring, the game has “Legacy Dungeons”, basically equivalents of whole Dark Souls areas that are contained within the larger open world spaces. There are six main legacy dungeons, and with the exception of Brace of the Haligtree, all of them are unique and interesting (and the Haligtree itself is completely optional). Each of them, from the timeless ruins of Crumbling Farum Azula to the huge battlements in Stormveil Castle, has a unique identity. The standout is certainly Leyndell, the Royal Capital, which is both stunningly beautiful and features the concept of a royal city pushed far further than in Anor Londo, with actual avenues, streets, and rooftops to explore. The fact you can go to the rooftops shows just what freedoms the addition of a jump button has given to the level designers of this game, and it’s fantastic what great use they get out of it, to push the level design further than it’s been able to reach in earlier games.

Although Leyndell is far better and more accomplished than Anor Londo, the concept of a city of the gods has been done before by From Software, in both Dark Souls and Dark Souls 3. Likewise, an Academy of mad scholars brings to mind Byrgenwerth from Bloodborne and Crumbling Farum Azula looks a lot like the Dragon Sanctuary in Dark Souls 3. This isn’t to say Elden Ring has no unique ideas – the Volcano Manor is a fascinating and visually interesting location, as is the entirety of the underground, including the Siofra River, Nokron the Eternal City and Mohgwyn Palace. However, in both area design and narrative, From Software again often plays it safe.

Let’s talk for a little now about the story. Like all From Software games, the full details of the expansive lore of Elden Ring are still being discussed and found out, but the striking similarities to previous games are all there on the surface, like it or not.

Here’s the plot of Elden Ring, in its simplest form, to the best of my understanding. There was, at some point, an Age of Dragons, until a woman named Marika, having been given powers by an unknowable entity named The Greater Will, ended the age of dragons and became a Goddess like figure herself. Marika married Godfrey, who became First Elden Lord, but then banished him, making him the first “Tarnished”, who had lost favour with the Greater Will. The next Elden Lord was Radagon, who, despite being married to Marika, is himself a part of Marika. Eventually and for some reason, Marika fell out of love with the Greater Will and attempted to shatter the Elden Ring, the source of much of its power. Although Radagon tried to repair it, the two were one and the same body, so the Greater Will imprisoned Marika/Radagon inside the Erdtree. Marika’s children attempted to fight to become her successor, and next Elden Lord, but none were powerful enough. The war that ensued between Marika’s children meant that the Greater Will abandoned the land. Instead, it sought for the Tarnished to carry out its will and repair the Elden Ring and become Elden Lord.

That’s the basics of the story, and despite recruiting George RR Martin to write the outline, the games still fall back on the same themes that Miyazaki has been obsessed with for a while; there’s the morally grey and unknowable Gods from Bloodborne, the bickering nobility that you have to get under control from Dark Souls 3 and perhaps most importantly the decision the player character must make throughout the game – do you side with the current status quo or attempt to destroy it for something new? Do you link the fire, or begin the Age of Dark?

There’s nothing wrong with this kind of decision – it’s the kind of thing that works quite well for the tone of these games. You start off with one mission that sounds simple – say, link the fire or become the Elden Lord. As you progress, you see the state of the world and hear conflicting opinions about the moral value of your task. Eventually, you find characters who present alternate visions for the state of the world and decide whether to follow them. Elden Ring presents the player with more alternatives than ever – although some, like the Flame of Frenzy ending, disappoint by being less morally ambiguous than the best From Software choices. Still, after the success of the multiple endings of Bloodborne, which present a similar but more nuanced choice of choosing to be uninformed but happy or all-knowing but… a slug, it’s hard not to be slightly disappointed by the paths presented in Elden Ring. About half way through, you’re basically told that the Greater Will is evil, or at least not to be trusted, and at that point it basically comes down to whether you’ve found the NPC who can offer you a path to destroying the status quo (and whether it’s one you like).

This isn’t to say Elden Ring’s story isn’t interesting, but once again it feels slightly too stretched out for its own good. What I mean by this is that all the most interesting stuff is crammed near the start, and the later revelations, with one or two exceptions, never feel that vital. Limgrave is once again the peak example of storytelling in Elden Ring, particularly in how it handles the tale of Godrick the Grafted. Godrick is built up as the rule of Stormveil Castle – a particularly cruel Lord who rounds up Tarnished in order to graft them onto his body and become stronger. Talking to one character, Kenneth Haight, and another picture of Godrick is painted; one of an insecure weakling who has resorted to desperate measures to try and prove the worth of a distilled bloodline. It’s pretty perfect storytelling for a Souls game, and the battle against Godrick encapsulates his manic desperation. On top of that, the motif of grafting is particularly strange and scary, all of it making Godrick one of the best bosses in the game in terms of lore.

The Academy of Raya Lucaria, too, is a lovely bit of creepy storytelling, and Rennala, abandoned by her husband Radagon and obsessed with trying to bring her dead daughter Ranni back to life is a well-developed character. As you fight her, the failed attempts of her experiments with reincarnation swarm your feet. I need not mention Radhan, whose story is told to you before your fight with him and lends an enormous amount of pathos to the battle.

However, after these fights, the lore slips into an often-uninteresting convolution. There are parts which work really well, but other parts feel like taking the Souls games’ obsession with various factions and half-remembered events too far. Even when you get to the end of the game and find out that Radagon and Marika are one and the same, the twist lacks impact. Who are these people and what does it matter to me? In Dark Souls, getting to the end and seeing the husk of Gwyn is impactful; it tells you something about the character you’ve heard so much about, and about the world itself. In Bloodborne, you fight your mentor character, someone who you’ve been talking to throughout the whole game. In Elden Ring, you don’t even fight a character called Marika – instead you fight the guy you only really knew as the ex-husband of one of the earlier bosses. (Just a side note, but the fact that Marika isn’t the final boss just feels like a big missed opportunity to me.)

Too often towards the end of Elden Ring the player is transported to a place like Crumbling Farum Azula without much indication of its purpose, something especially frustrating in a game that had been otherwise clear in giving the player a definable goal to reach in the form of a giant glowing tree visible from the entire map. Discussing the lore in these games, especially this early on, is a slightly tricky prospect, because there’s much left to be uncovered, and almost certainly things I have missed. But as I played through the game, the storytelling never reached the height of Miyazaki’s best. Even though it initially shows promise by focussing on the personalities of the area bosses, by the end it gets bogged down – the big recontextualization that the Greater Will is not to be trusted is simply not engaging enough to anyone who has played one of these games before.

Once again then, we see a game that works best when being more constrained – it’s the smaller stories in Elden Ring that are the most effective for the player. Even Bloodborne, with its Eldritch spectacle, knew that the core of its narrative was about the hubris of the powerful and intellectual, and after the character focussed story of Sekiro it might have been assumed that Elden Ring would learn from it in some ways. This likely isn’t George RR Martin’s doing – based on the little I know of Game of Thrones, it can be imagined that the idea of the game’s squabbling shard-bearers was his. Elden Ring might have been wise to square in on this idea, in order to fully expose the almost pathetic dynamic of these character’s power struggles.

Way back in 2017, I reviewed a game called Persona 5. I wasn’t a particularly good writer back then, and I don’t want to think about rereading that post, but one criticism I levelled against that game was that it was simply too long for its own good. Persona 5 is an incredibly different game to Elden Ring, but I believe they might share that same crucial flaw.

Elden Ring deserves a lot of praise – firstly, it does all the things that a From Software game normally does. That alone is better than most of the games being released at the moment. Secondly, it creates, at least for the first 60 or so hours, an open-world that is better and more accomplished than 90% of the open worlds out there. It’s dense, interesting and addictive to explore. It has some of the best level design ever seen in a From Software game, which by extension means some of the best level design seen in a game. For all the negative comparisons I’ve drawn between it and Breath of the Wild, it manages to improve on a lot of the flaws of that game’s open world, which had previously set the high bar for the genre.

However, in being a Souls game stretched to fit an open world game, it opens itself up to a whole host of new problems. In a way, its worst crime isn’t being long – it’s being unadaptable. Fast combat works for a game with fast responses – Elden Ring hasn’t adapted its combat enough to match. Open world games need better signposting for side quests – Elden Ring hasn’t adapted its narrative design to match. Open world games require a larger variety of interactions with the world beyond just combat – Elden Ring hasn’t adapted enough to match.

Occasionally, these design choices are what give the game flavour – what helps it stand out. I’ve read a lot about From Software’s bucking of industry trends for signposts and perfect game balance being what makes their games memorable. To a certain extent, I agree. This is where the second part of my problem with Elden Ring comes in – the issue isn’t how Elden Ring doesn’t conform to the standards set by other games, it’s more how Elden Ring conforms too much to the traditions of Dark Souls. I don’t want to see an Elden Ring that looks like a Ubisoft game, but nor do I want to see a game that is just another Dark Souls in an open world. For games to go bigger, they need to rethink their core systems. Otherwise, they become like Elden Ring. It’s a masterful open world, attached to a really good combat system, some really good story, some interesting boss battles – they just don’t all fit together in the way that they should. In that way, you might say that Elden Ring itself has become shattered. (Sorry.)

Thanks for reading! I hope this review doesn’t come across as too negative – I loved Elden Ring and recommend anyone hesitating to play it as soon as possible. Whether it’s the greatest game of all time, however, might need a bit of ruminating on. As always, if you liked this, you can do me a huge solid and follow me on twitter or donate on patreon.

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