Anyone who cares about video games knows that Elden Ring’s received excellent reviews across the board on account of its life-changing combat, challenging bosses, and dense open world. As From Software’s had lots of practice churning out masterpieces for the past decade, its first open-world game is, perhaps surprisingly, its most accessible to newcomers and Souls veterans alike.
A Harder Game That Provides Better Tools
Elden Ring’s initial taunt is to place excessively difficult bosses near the tutorial area and to leave weak bosses several leagues away, hinting at players to take responsibility for paving a bearable path through The Lands Between. Due to the non-linear nature of open-world games, Elden Ring presents more ways to make a boss easier than any other From Software game before it.
Friendly faces for veterans include leveling up, upgrading equipment, and investigating builds online. But Elden Ring also presents consumable crafting, a customizable status effect potion that replenishes at checkpoints, and a more autonomous summoning mechanic within which one may upgrade one’s minions to carry half a boss fight. Summoning automated minions exists alongside the usual player-to-player interactions of other From Software games, from peripheral items, like messaging and bloodstains, to central multiplayer mechanics, like PVP and cooperation.
From Software veterans often quarrel facetiously about which games are best, and the opposing party’s always an idiot, a fascist, or a Bloodborne fan who loves games that run at 30 frames per second. Veterans may agree with me when I say that From Software’s games rest not only on a spectrum of quality but also on a spectrum of bullshit, to which I will refer more conservatively as complexity.
One From Software game may be more complex than another without being better or worse than another. For example, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, my favorite (I apologize if this is offensive), isn’t complex: it’s strictly a Metroidvania whose sole RPG elements are a skill tree and the ability to increase attack power. Dark Souls, which is also one of my favorite games, is as complex as more strategy-oriented RPGs: There are myriad weapons, and one constantly risks investing in the wrong stats or employing the wrong elemental attacks against resistant foes.
With its vast open world, Elden Ring exhibits the most complexity, but it’s definitely one of the best, rivaling Sekiro. “Complexity” is, of course, in reference to items beside sheer reflexes. The more complexity there is, the more one must invest in research and exploration, but the more steps one can take to make the game easier.
A Different Challenge
If you can’t kill something, you can look for that cheap little staff in that stupid little cave and hold that staff in front of yourself for 90 seconds while the boss loses an entire health bar. Part of the challenge is finding the cheap little staff, gathering resources to strengthen it, and buying the right spells to complement it. I enjoy the experience of memorizing movesets and parrying a dude the size of a building. Still, investing more than usual in gear and minions didn’t take away my enjoyment because, while I couldn’t kill all bosses through manual dexterity, I won through my accomplishments.
I went online. I fought through the cave and found the staff. I found the resources with which to upgrade the staff. I strategized with potions, talismans, gear, and stat reallocation. Even if these tasks hadn’t felt as rewarding as they did, a quarter of Elden Ring’s bosses were just as bad as Ornstein and Smough (for laymen: this duo’s the hardest boss in Dark Souls), so no boon was a godsend.
Typically, if online research is necessary to play a game, then I’m not here for it because the bottom line is that I shouldn’t have to do research to play an ARPG. If you’re an adult with obligations, you’ll need the internet’s help to beat this game. You aren’t going to unravel the enigmas by yourself. That’s just a warning.
Some people have no problem with looking things up, and I became more amenable to research after needing to do it a few times. I would have preferred to be able to figure the game out myself without spending more than the 126 hours I needed to beat my first playthrough though. Ultimately, whether you’re a newcomer with a solid internet connection or a veteran, you’ll enjoy Elden Ring as much as the critics say you will. How frustrated you become is up to you.
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