Open World Games have been among the most popular for some time, but I think a lot of them are limited to the classic design by which you follow the set paths for progress and have structured missions. It’s all fun, of course, but I think there’s a side to open-world games that gives the impression of untapped potential.
I miss more games that require players to discover the world naturally. I miss more surprises and moments when I don’t know what to expect from the next corner.
I'm happy to tell you that Elden Ring, the latest title from the creators of Dark Souls, is exactly the kind of open-world game we rarely see. The From Software team has created an ambitious title that continues to build on the principles set by Zelda: Breath of the Wild, without abandoning its Souls roots. In short, I think this will be a game that many will remember far in the future.
The main premise of the game is that you are Tarnished or Tainted who have returned to the devastated world of The Lands Between. You are here to restore the power of the Elden Ring, a ring that has been torn to pieces. Most of these fragments are now in the possession of the uneducated children of the former queen. So your task is to find parts of the Elden Ring and thus become the new Elden Lord.
This is roughly how I expected a cryptic and grandiose story from a title like this. Still, this is not a simple action whose strings are easy to grasp, and the way of narration is not for everyone's taste. I don't think this detracts from the game's overall quality because it doesn't impose too much on you, and Souls games have already established a reputation for their unique storytelling approach.
Personally, at Souls Games, I mostly respected the imagination and ambition
that are present when it comes to building a fictional world. I am happy that
I can recognize such positive things in the Elden Ring. Legendary Kings and
queens, great wars, and otherworldly forces are all part of The Lands of
Between's fascinating past.
In various interviews, we have been told that George R.R. Martin, author of the novel The Song of Ice and Fire. Martin is a guy who likes to leave his soul on paper, especially when it comes to writing history for the fictional world. I am glad that such dedication and passion can be seen in the Elden Ring as well.
I mean, would you immediately recognize that this is Martin’s work if it
wasn’t written like that in absolutely every trailer? I probably wouldn’t, but
maybe that’s a sign that he and Elden Ring’s creative director, Hidetaka
Miyazaki, are just similar minds who value fantasy. I have noticed that they
both like to deconstruct legendary figures in their works.
I was surprised that I mostly liked the quiet moments here where you just chat with some character.
Some comic adventurers lead their lives in The Lands Between, and there are
also tragic stories about the loss of loved ones. I think things like this can
help players connect better with the story - they remind us that this is not
all about magic trees, runes, and lords.
Perhaps Elden Ring’s story is better represented in the adventures you can create yourself during your research. Of course, you have the game's core objectives, and particular visuals can assist you in finding new and fascinating ways to accomplish them. You have, however, been released from the chain nearly from the outset and are free to explore as you like.
That freedom is one of the key things that allow the Elden Ring to be unique in a sea of open-world games. There are no classic missions or clues here that tell you exactly what’s on the map. You don't even have a map at the beginning. You need to collect map fragments to discover individual regions. It’s a subtle but ingenious move because it allows you to enter every area with a sense of curiosity.
This lack of hand guidance creates an adventurous feeling that is present in
almost all Souls games but multiplied by 100 because you have a lot more to
explore here. Regularly in the Elden Ring, I would just take a look at the
map, see the part of the topography that seemed interesting to me, and just go
see what is there.
It was even better for me to see something in the distance and say to myself: "Well, that seems to me to be an ideal place for fun and a lot of dying!" Because of such moments, the Elden Ring has a special quality. The Lands Between is a dangerous and unfamiliar place, but I still wanted to see what it has to discover.
Of course, none of this would have value if the game didn’t reward you for your curiosity. I remember when I accidentally realized that two towers could be seen behind a hill. I was intrigued by this magnificent architecture so I immediately went to check out what it was all about. I was expecting maybe some slapping with weaker enemies or a fight with a mini-boss, but in the end, I fell into an epic adventure that occupied me for the next few hours. I broke into the castle, found secrets, fought the knights, and regularly wondered how I got out alive.
That adventure was my decision, not something that is part of the main quest
or anything like that. I am the one who tailored this story through my
research. Elements like this make the Elden Ring one of those games that are
ideal for discussion among players.
No one will discover locations the same way, and no one’s story will be the same. The conversations about the Elden Ring remind me of those moments in fantasy stories when a group of adventurers is found, and everyone talks about their experience in the world.
It is crucial to mention that The Lands Between is huge. I was shocked by how
much the team has to see in this game. Every time I discovered a new fragment
of the map, I would think Elden Ring was done with surprises. A few hours
later the From Software team would give me an epic shower in the form of a
new, huge region to explore.
I can’t praise the developers enough for all the effort they put into creating all of these environments. The miracle is that they hid certain parts of the map that would probably be among the better segments of some other games.
One of the most memorable moments in my playing Elden Ring was when I came across a building that I thought would be irrelevant. I activated the elevator that took me the way down and thought I was probably getting into one of the many dungeons in the game.
I try to describe moments like this without spoiling anything because they
form the core of this game. Surprises and unexpected stories are the things
that will make the memories of playing Elden Ring clear in my head.
One very important novelty for the series that is related to research is horseback riding. This adds a dimension of mobility that the Souls series did not have before. But I liked that the developers didn’t stop there. You can also make a double jump, and there are points on the map that will send you to great heights. Fights while riding are a bit windy, but in general, this is an addition that makes things more practical.
I have to say that The Lands Between probably won’t impress those looking for
the next-gen quality graphics. Elden Ring is not a powerful game when it comes
to texture or lighting. Elements of the environment such as trees, grass, or
stones may look like they belong in a much older game. I would even say that
textures look “most washed out” when you are in open fields. As soon as you
enter a castle or dungeon, everything is graphically much finer.
In general, there is a much greater focus on artistic style here. There were many moments when I was fascinated by Elden Ring’s visual creativity. For example, there are more situations similar to the first look I threw at The Great Plateau in Breath of the Wild. Then it would seem to me that I am just a small part of this puzzle called The Lands Between.
Developers in some regions have gone in totally crazy directions but in a good way. The big reason why I was so willing to explore is that I could hardly wait to see what crazy enemy concepts and designs await me.
I will agree that the Elden Ring is not the best indicator of the new
generation of consoles and that the visual details are not at the level of
high-budget titles. However, I can’t say I wasn’t happy with the fairytale,
ambitious and grotesque style of play. I can make more remarks when it comes
to the technical side of the Elden Ring. What bothered me the most were the
various pop-in cases. It would simply hurt the atmosphere to see the textures
in the distance look like dry mud rather than beautiful greenery.
I don't have too many words of praise for the frame rate in the PlayStation 5 version either. Note that I played in performance mode almost constantly. The fact that the frame rate is limited to 60 FPS on a PC is a specific thing that is not clear to me.
I believe that for many Elden Ring will be the first Souls game. That’s good in my opinion because this is in many ways the most affordable game of its kind. Maybe that seems contradictory because this is by far the most ambitious From Software game. However, the design of the game and combat system offers so many options that there is something for everyone here. You choose your class at first, but you can change your approach later. I initially chose the path of the classic knight.
In the Elden Ring battles, you are offered similar freedom as in exploring the
world. I am generally pleased with how the combat system in the Elden Ring was
designed. I think the pace here is ideal. Slapping with enemies isn’t
aggressive like it was in Bloodborne, but I don’t think it’s too slow
Elements such as guard counters (a counterattack that you can perform after a successful defense) and breaking an opponent's fighting stance lead to interesting duels. There are also Ashes of War, special powers you can give to weapons. There are more modest powers here, but there are also some that changing your approach. I think this mechanics is crucial because it adds that spice needed to make the fights in the Elden Ring even more exciting.
Another option you have on the table is stealth, which was not very present in other Souls games except Ax. Sneaking in the Elden Ring is not too complex, but it is functional and represents an affordable way to eliminate individual enemies.
One of the newer mechanics that didn’t fascinate me was crafting. Maybe I’m
just lazy, but maneuvering through menus and checking the ingredients I have
to find isn’t something I didn’t want to do in the Elden Ring. I think Breath
of the Wild did a much better job in a similar segment i.e. it made the
process of creating items more exciting.
Now that I’ve mentioned maneuvering through menus, I have to say that the user interface can be a problem for some players. The Elden Ring offers you some spells, tools, weapons, and potions, and D-pad arrows are mostly used to use them. I’m not sure how it works on the keyboard, but this minimalist system on the console has given me a lot of trouble.
Even with pouch mechanics (which allow you to use essential tools faster), I've had too many experiences where holding stuff is a difficult task - especially while battling a formidable enemy. It doesn't help that Elden Ring doesn't spend too much time explaining things like this to you, so I often got lost in the menus.
When it comes to your opponents in the Elden Ring, nothing is missing -
dragons, plants that poison you, wizards with strange helmets… Probably my
favorite enemies were guys called Demi-humans. They move in groups and often
try to ambush you as you explore. The trick is that they are so clumsy that I
don't remember any of their ambushes being successful. I would burst out
laughing every time I saw them because they would fly out with so much pride,
and then they all died. Here, add Elden Ring to the group of humorous
But boss battles are probably the enemies you will remember the most. There are a lot of side bosses present, and I have to admit that most of them didn’t give me too much trouble. The real challenge of the game is the main bosses, who at certain moments forced me to keep something close to me that I was allowed to break into pieces. It’s nothing too unfair here, but these opponents tested every skill I picked up in The Lands Between.
What makes this segment more accessible is the structure of the game. If you
can't defeat a boss, you can just go explore to upgrade your character or find
a better weapon.
I have to praise the design of the bosses in the Elden Ring. These are among the most epic and exciting boss battles Ever has ever devised. I can't even count how many times I said to myself against these bosses: "This is impossible". I can't count how many times I thought I was on my way to victory, and then the stench of the boss entered the second phase… However, after enough effort, I would feel like the king of the world when I finally defeated these titans. This is one of the key elements of Souls games that is phenomenally presented here.
I have to mention that there is PvP multiplayer in the Elden Ring, but I honestly didn't go into that mode too much. It has never been my cup of tea, but I believe many will find pleasure here.
I think Elden Ring met, and in some respects, exceeded my expectations. What
surprised me the most was how much the developers raised the bar for the Souls
formula in general. They took all the lessons they learned in those games, all
the principles by which they made them - and around that, they built one of
the richest and most memorable worlds in the games.
The Lands Between won’t make you go down the right path, it just puts a mountain of options in front of you and tells you to put your own story together. Almost every part of the game looks back on it. Even the combat system allows you to choose exactly what type of adventurer you want to be.
Elden Ring is not a perfect game. There are technical issues here, and this is still not the kind of title that will be to everyone's taste. Anyway, I adore this game because it’s a breath of fresh air when it comes to designing modern open-world games.
- your curiosity is constantly rewarded with interesting discoveries
- the structure of the open world allows for a high level of freedom
- numerous options in the combat system make things more fun
- phenomenally designed boss battles
- The Lands Between is full of creative visuals and a variety of enemies
- technical difficulties leave a bit of a stain on excellent research
- parts of the user interface could have been more cleverly designed