Over the course of my last three play sessions in Elden Ring, I’ve accomplished the following: I killed the Tree Sentinel, the golden armor-clad enemy that tests players at the game’s opening section. I also slew the dragons of Agheel and the Academy, both falling to my stick-and-move horseback tactics. Most recently Rennala, Queen of the Full Moon and her scholars felt the sharp edge of my greatsword, their defeat marking the second legacy dungeon I’ve cleared.
In my estimation, managing these feats as a first-time FromSoftware player is quite an achievement, and was done largely without walkthroughs or video guides. I’m 27 hours into Elden Ring and I feel like I’ve finally gotten the hang of the explore, die, boss, gameplay loop.
I think I’ve burnt out on it too.
Usually, burnout in games happens when I’m spoiled with choices of things to do. When I neared the end of Judgement on PS4, I prioritized completing as many side missions as I could, scouring each corner of Kamurocho for collectibles and equipment. Unsurprisingly, the game still sits unfinished on my shelf. (For this reason, I played minimal side missions during the course of the main story of Lost Judgement. I saw the ending of this game).
Occasionally, I’ll burn out on a game when, after hours of trying to agree with popular opinion, I relent and realize that I’m simply not interested in playing it. Horizon: Zero Dawn is a prime example of this. I generally despise stealth games and typically prefer melee characters to ranged ones. Aloy, however, thrives on stealth and almost exclusively wields weapons at a distance.
On rare occasions, replaying an RPG will induce prematurely dropping a play-through. When life gets busy it becomes harder to justify spending 80-plus hours on a Persona title only to replay it again a year or two later. It hurts to admit it, but I just don’t have the time that I used to for games.
Elden Ring however is a completely different beast. I’m nowhere near finished with the game’s side quests, nor have I even broken the 30-hour mark. And my confessor build prioritizes a big health pool with an even bigger sword, so I couldn’t ask for a better character match.
Rather, there’s no end in sight to this journey in the Lands Between and I think that’s burnt me out.
At its core, Elden Ring is a game about choice. Do you try to help as many people as you can or gun straight for the throats of the world’s demigods? Do you scavenge every inch of every hollowed-out mountain cave, or kill monsters to rack up runes and purchase gear at the Roundtable Hold? Every step of the way is driven by the player’s choosing, right down to beating bosses with less-than-honorable strategies. I dealt with Moongrum Carian Knight not by finishing him honorably, but by ushering him down the very elevator shaft he guards. Don’t knock it until you try it.
This much choice, however, is also responsible for my Elden Ring sessions getting shorter and shorter. It’s not possible for me to make meaningful progress in an hour-long session with this game anymore - inevitably I’ll find a cave filled with enemies too strong or a pathway blocked by a door, the key to which I don’t have. Pair with it the fact that I’m hard-pressed to know how to start most side quests without a guide - let alone finish them - and the slow burn of Elden Ring’s vast gameplay leaves me wondering whether I’ll ever see the credits roll.
And somehow, I’m not disappointed with my Elden Ring burnout. I’m envious of others, for sure - I’ve fallen out of the discourse on Reddit as folks chat less about their cool, first-time discoveries and more about the builds they’ll use for second and third playthroughs.
But unlike other games whose stories feel incomplete when I set the game aside for long stretches, I know that Elden Ring will be around whenever I choose to return.
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