Gamers can’t seem to stop talking about Elden Ring, and who can blame them? FromSoftware’s latest masterpiece has taken the gaming world by storm, quickly becoming the best-selling game this year (so far). Whether it’s newcomers looking to see what the hype is all about, or seasoned FromSoft veterans returning to rise above the immense challenge, everyone is more or less in agreement that Elden Ring is already a historical achievement in video games. Having recently finished the game ourselves, we’d love to explore what makes the game so important, and discuss some of the most common misunderstandings surrounding it.
Based on a fantasy story by Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin, the game takes place in a realm called The Lands Between. Your character is a chosen “Tarnished,” given the task of recovering mystical relics from all across the world map and assembling the Elden Ring once more in order to become the next Elden Lord. A family of demigods stand in your way of collecting all of the pieces of the ring, or “Great Runes” as they’re referred to in the game. Like other Souls games, the lore in this game is rather abstract and unbound. At the same time, the lore is far more developed than appearances would suggest, and those interested in learning more about the backstory are provided ample supplementary story content throughout the game.
The actual gameplay mirrors that of other FromSoftware titles: the player progresses through various sections of the map defeating enemies and bosses, while collecting runes to spend on leveling up their characters. The tougher the enemy, the greater the reward, but in the beginning every enemy encounter will seem beyond difficult. This is a very deliberate and expertly-crafted game mechanic which intends to teach the player a valuable lesson: dying is knowledge, and knowledge is power! With each death (and there will be many), you learn a little bit more about how to approach each enemy encounter, and which areas are too treacherous for your current character stats. As it is in creative pursuits, failure is your friend in these games, and the only way to truly enjoy them is to be at peace with that fact. I firmly believe anyone can play FromSoftware games, no matter how green you are to gaming—you just have to have the patience and drive required to push yourself through the most difficult challenges.
Yes, there is no difficulty setting for Elden Ring or for any other FromSoft game for that matter. Instead, there’s a cleverly-constructed built-in difficulty, which scales appropriately with your stats. The stronger you become, the easier enemies will be to defeat, and the key to making things easier for yourself is simply to level up. What sets Elden Ring apart from other FromSoft titles is that it’s the first game from the developer to be open world. This enables the player to explore the map as they choose, which makes the rigorous gameplay far more digestible. If one finds themselves unable to progress forward with one dungeon, they can simply travel elsewhere and explore another. This has never been an option in previous FromSoft games, and I truly believe this is largely the reason for Elden Ring’s undeniable mainstream success and popularity. Beyond that, it’s just an undeniably brilliant game.
Fans of the Dark Souls trilogy will find a lot of crossover, and even a familiar face or two. The gameplay also shares a lot in common with previous FromSoft titles, and yet feels far more refined and polished than ever before. Spirit summons as well as player summons are carried over to offer a multiplayer experience, and other characters can invade your game world as well for PVP. The multiplayer factor is yet another way that FromSoft throws players a proverbial bone, by giving them the option to call upon friends and strangers for help. If you find yourself stuck on a particularly difficult boss simply summon an NPC or a co-op buddy to help you out. While these games may seem intimidating, there are plenty of tools at your disposal to make them much easier. On top of these mechanics are a large variety of buffers and consumables that can be strategically implemented to help you take down any enemy that gets in your way.
At the risk of inciting outrage, I truly do believe that most criticism of FromSoftware’s games stems from an apathetic, inherent laziness that pervades modern gaming. So many major releases bend over backwards to hold the players’ hand and guide them through the game on a track like an amusement park ride. Well I’m tired of that, and I’m happy to be presented with an unrelenting journey that challenges me to be something more than just a jaded gamer. If given the chance, Elden Ring will shake you from the depths of your lethargy and push you to become something greater than human—something far beyond flesh and blood: an Elden fucking Lord. For us here at Couch Bandits, this game is already an iconic classic. No need for time to run its course—this game has already proven itself. Like Skyrim, or Breath of the Wild before it, Elden Ring is a game that we’ll always wish we could experience for the first time once more. Games like this are a work of divine art, and they come along so rarely that it’s important to recognize them when they do arrive. Now, fair Tarnished, take up your controller and become what you were born to be: the god-slayer.