When playing many open-world games, it’s easy to get cynical about their tried-and-true tropes, but luckily Elden Ring is here to bring some joy back to your gaming experience and put that cynicism to the curb.
There has been talk in the gaming world about the “Ubisoft formula” that has been mastered on several open-world games in the Assassin’s Creed and Far Cry franchises (many other developers have come to rely on these same familiar tools, sure, but Ubisoft seems like the easiest target).
While the trappings may change with each new entry in many open-world franchises, players can generally expect a sizeable map with plenty of obvious points of interest to investigate, objectives to complete, and collections to assemble. . There are question marks on the map, and if that’s your idea of fun, you’ll go around and tick them all off. If you’ve played an open-world game recently, sometimes you feel like you’ve played them all.
But as you know if you’ve ever started playing it, few of us have experienced anything like Elden Ring before. Its FromSoftware developers have created a world that’s bigger, better, dumber, and far more mysterious than any other you’ve been able to explore in recent memory.
After a very brief tutorial that introduces you to the basic combat mechanics, Elden Ring launches you into The Lands Between, a vast and varied landscape for which Game of Thrones’ George RR Martin helped write the backstory. And if you were wondering, that lore is just as deranged and fiendishly dense as you’d expect from a collaboration between Martin and the team behind the Dark Souls franchise.
While players in some franchises might expect a minimap with a very obvious objective marker telling them what to do, Elden Ring only gives you the most vague suggestion of which direction you should head. , and nothing prevents you from completely ignoring this pointer. In fact, thinking outside the box is encouraged, and you’ll be rewarded for your curiosity at almost every turn.
You may have heard that FromSoftware games are extremely difficult, but let’s set the record straight here – although the boss fights in Elden Ring are tough and even smaller enemies will kill you if you don’t. be warned, the game goes to great lengths to make you feel supported and safe as you explore The Lands Between.
If a combat encounter is too much for you, you can almost always run or quickly get away from it and do something else. And it’s in the “do something else” part where the game really shines. It feels like there are surprises waiting around every corner. And while some of those surprises are big monsters that want to kill you, other in-game surprises include beautiful landscapes, epic weapons, and completely unexpected treats.
Unwinding many of these surprises will spoil your fun, but let’s just say there are portals that will take you to weird and wonderful places. There are extremely strange characters to meet, oddly designed creatures to admire, and entire questlines you might have totally missed if your curiosity hadn’t gotten the better of you.
It’s not just the incredibly well-designed world and the fact that you can avoid much of the combat that makes this game incredibly welcoming to those who didn’t like FromSoftware’s previous titles. A special shoutout also has to go to the brilliant multiplayer system that runs through the very heart of the game.
Once you’ve unlocked the ability to do so, you’ll be able to summon other players to your world if you want a helping hand in a sticky situation. You’ll also be able to see messages on the ground that other players have left behind, some of which might help you avoid traps or find hidden treasures you might have otherwise missed.
In this reviewer’s experience, the gaming community that currently inhabits Elden Ring seems to be very supportive for the most part, and it’s a joy to play with them – and online play isn’t always our favorite , so that means something. A few times we needed the help of randoms to overcome boss fights, and receiving that help felt very healthy and rewarding to the overall experience. It felt like a community coming together in the best way.
This game is joyful in so many ways, and the healthy feeling of bringing in more experienced players to lend a hand is just one of them.
Not only are the graphics great and the controls perfect (whether you’re swinging swords, shooting arrows, or casting spells), there’s just something special on how it all adds up.
The orchestral music score is brilliantly atmospheric. Your character’s upgrade systems are easier to understand than you might think, and it’s very rewarding to watch your stats and abilities grow over time.
The joy of discovering something new and unexpected is especially fresh, especially compared to some of the more stereotypical games, and there’s nothing quite like that sense of accomplishment that erupts within when you finally see a massive boss give up the ghost after dozens of attempts.
To put it simply, we’d be very surprised if it didn’t end up at the top of almost every “game of the year” list in December. So don’t let the so-called difficulty put you off. Give Elden Ring a shot if you haven’t already, keep an open mind and we promise you won’t regret it.
Elden Ring is available now on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S. We reviewed on Xbox Series X.
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