Try and imagine if the world was like an open-world game. An infinite expanse! Endless miles of space to run around in! Points of interest full of valuable prizes! Swords that break in two swings, leaving you scrounging for more! What a wonder it would be. That’s not the case in the real world, though, as there’s never as much space to run around in and points of interest tend to drain you of your loot more than offer you more. Sadly, we’ll have to content ourselves with open-world games.
After years of anticipation, Elden Ring, the latest high-difficulty adventure released by FromSoftware and developer Hidetaka Miyazaki, is the newest of the bunch and offers plenty for fans of the genre.
The world was at peace, or something like it, for ages…but that came to an end when the Elden Ring shattered. Powerful beings claimed portions of the Ring to take power for themselves, ruling over the ruined Lands Between. As a Tarnished warrior, you’re going to seek out the pieces of the Elden Ring. Retake them from the Shardbearers and you’ll have the chance to rule yourself as Elden Lord…but first, you’ll have to actually retake them, and don’t think for a second that will be easy. Did you know this plot had George R. R. Martin of Game of Thrones fame involved? It did! Let’s move on.
Elden Ring takes the usual open-world conceit that Breath of the Wild used to build a genre and puts a Souls-style spin on it. Points of interest exist, but they’re not marked out clearly until you find them – you’ll have to explore for that. Thankfully, you’ve got your trusty steed Torrent to carry you about, along with a dedicated jump button a la Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. That means there’s plenty of opportunities to explore the world on a vertical level as well, allowing you to search every nook and cranny of the Lands Between to plumb the depths for treasure and adventure.
Even when you do find something to check out, there’s no guarantee you’re going to survive what’s inside. This is still a Souls game through and through, so you’ll have to learn, die, practice, die and die some more to improve and make progress. Elden Ring is a lot more forgiving than most games in its genre when it comes to checkpoints, at least, but for the most part anyone concerned that this game would be easier than the norm will find their fears were unfounded. Elden Ring’s out for blood. It’s not uncommon for a boss to take you out in two or three hits at most.
Fortunately, you’ve got plenty of your own methods of going for the jugular. With enough Runes, Elden Ring’s leveling currency, you can put together the adventurer of your dreams. Want to be a speedy, claw-wielding assassin? Yup, that’s a thing. Giant, hulking knight with a massive sword? Go nuts. Wizard? Cleric? Any hybrid of the above? All of these are available and more. One of the best parts of Elden Ring is discovering new items as you explore that pique your interest and help you come up with new build ideas. There’s plenty of cool stuff to go around – including multiplayer battles that can put those builds to work.
Combat-wise, despite the new name, this is still a Souls game through and through. You’ll trade strikes, ripostes and dodges with formidable foes, keeping an eye on your ever-fluctuating Stamina meter all the while to ensure you don’t run out at a crucial moment. Elden Ring is all about learning enemies’ attack patterns and exploiting them to sneak in your own hits, knowing that you’re only a mistake or two away from danger and dancing with death all the while.
This kind of gameplay isn’t going to be for everyone. If you’re impatient, for instance, you might want to bow out. On the other hand, those willing to stick with Elden Ring are going to discover that there’s plenty to enjoy in overcoming a seemingly-impossible challenge.
Another seemingly-impossible challenge: playing Elden Ring on PC. This isn’t one of the better ports around, struggling even on the highest-spec machines available, and it might be best to wait for a patch if you’re going that direction. You’ll be far better served with one of Elden Ring’s console versions, particularly if you go with one of the current-gen consoles.
On the PS5 and Xbox Series X, the full glory of Elden Ring gets a chance to shine. There’s a balance between the usual grim nature of Souls games and a lovely bit of open-world spectacle. It’s a nice blend between the two. Don’t worry, your beloved ruined castles and creepy crypts are all still present and accounted for, they’re just topped off with some of the most lush and impressive vistas around. Remember the first time you saw Irithyll in Dark Souls 3? That’s all over the place here.
With a vast array of locations to explore, plenty of loot to find, a bevvy of bosses to battle and more, Elden Ring offers supreme value for its price at a level of quality unmatched by plenty of other games and all the sadomasochistic gameplay Souls-style fans crave. Yes, the PC version needs a little work before it can truly sing, but current-gen consoles are more than ready to scratch the itch of countless deaths. Elden Ring proves that the open-world trend hasn’t yet run its course – there’s still some wonder left to find.