Arise Tarnished, and begin your journey through this in-depth review of FromSoftware’s Elden Ring. This game was published by Bandai Namco in February 2022. The game received very positive reviews from sites like IGN, which gave it a 10/10, and boasts a 96-critic score on Metacritic. Today, we’ll be seeing how that rating holds up, and providing more insight on everything the game holds.
Elden Ring is an open-world dark fantasy RPG that puts players in a brutal and often unforgiving world. FromSoft is known for creating challenging and punishing games, notably the Dark Souls series. Elden Ring fits right in with its predecessors by providing an updated and polished Souls-Borne experience. If you are still on the fence about grabbing this game, this review will provide everything that you need to know about Elden Ring.
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As with nearly all Fromsoft games, Elden Ring’s story is told through world-building, some dialogue and experiences, and item descriptions. The little information that you can string together without a VaatiVidya video is fed to you in a way that souls-vets can piece together quickly, but newcomers to the franchise may be a little confused. Let’s break down the setup for the world.
You begin the game as a newly risen Tarnished, which is an exiled group of people who have been brought back to the Lands Between to restore balance in the broken ‘Lands Between’. The Elden Ring is a physical representation of order, so it being shattered is, well, the opposite of order: chaos. Your quest is to hunt down each fragment of the Elden Ring and rip it from the dying hands of whoever holds them. Once you’ve reclaimed each fragment, you will take on the role as the new Elden Lord, which in theory should balance things out.
While you may think that it’s a pretty standard ‘chosen one’ story, things are never as they seem with the way FromSoft writes a game. Players can expect to question their own motivations while they progress through the game. This is often due to conflicting information given to the player by NPCs and item descriptions.
Several factions exist in the Lands Between who all have their own motives. Some, like the Golden Order, bought into the tale that you were told at the start of the game. Others, like the folks at Volcano Manor, choose to fight and slay other Tarnished in an attempt to grow their own strength, albeit at the cost of one’s morality.
While playing through Elden Ring, you’ll often be asked to make decisions that can ultimately change the fate of the world. You may decide to side with certain factions or choose none at all. The player has quite a bit of control of the narrative.
That being said, if you just want to run around an open world and kill stuff with cool weapons, that’s totally doable as well. Overall, the story and lore of the game is very interesting and definitely worth spending extra time in-game if you ever want to know what’s actually going on.
Elden Ring follows a gameplay loop similar to most FromSoftware games. Players can expect to be spending their time either exploring vast regions or engaging in combat with a wide variety of foes. Aside from that, you can find yourself helping some interesting characters in the world with some moderately vague quests. If you can figure out how to complete them, you can get great rewards that vary from finding new locations and bosses to unlocking a unique ending for the game.
Elden Ring rewards players who explore every nook and cranny with weapons, spells, quest items, and even secret areas chock full of visual eye candy (and enemies). If you can overcome the learning curve of the game’s combat, you’ll have a great time exploring the Lands In-Between.
Exploration & Level Design
The Lands Between are massive and vast. Compared to open-world games before, Elden Ring’s world is actually filled with content that hardly gets stale. Sure, you may come across similar mechanics like dungeons and mines using the same assets, but the variety is enough to not get boring. You won’t be running 120 painfully similar shrines like BotW, but you may face different variations of the same boss type here and there.
The checkpoints in Elden Ring are arguably the most forgiving out of all of FromSoft’s prior games. Graces are safe points where you can heal at the downside of refreshing all of the enemies you’ve slain (save for those that don’t respawn, like bosses and special enemies). These points are pretty close together compared to past Souls games, but take account for players who will miss them, or for newcomers to the series who may struggle with large packs with limited supplies and souls-like experience.
Most points of Grace hang near boss rooms or in between a few packs of enemies. While this does make it accessible for most players and playstyles, the position of Grace locations ends up trivializing most of the difficulty since safety is never too far away. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it alleviates frustrating runbacks, but it breaks heavily away from what most souls players are used to. That’s not to say that all points of grace are fairly simple to get to. There are quite a few spots present where you’ll be putting in some work to reach safety.
Nitpicking aside, let’s take a look at the Elden Ring’s open world. Most prior games from FromSoftware offer moderately linear worlds to explore, so it’s a big deal that this game has a massive map to explore. The world is broken into several large sections that act as open ‘levels’. It’s actually done pretty well to the point where each region fits the game in all aspects: Lore, enemy scaling, and geological sense.
Each region features a few POIs that contribute heavily to making each region feel special and unique. In some areas, you can find Walking Mausoleums, which absolutely terrified me and intrigued me at the same time. In Liurnia of the Lakes, there’s a major focus on the magical academy that’s sitting in the distance and isolated on its own while also being surrounded by swampy woods to explore. No matter where you venture in the Lands Between, there’s always something bigger and better to draw your attention to.
Having a natural draw to these locations is excellent game design, as many of them contain weapons, spells, key items, or something that will reward a player’s curiosity. Elden Ring does a lot to reward players who go out of their way to find something, but often not without being challenged first. For each point of interest you come across, you can expect to face some new or powerful enemies or bosses.
Overall, the level design present in Elden Ring is the most accommodating of all of Fromsoft’s games. Prior releases often blocked progress until the player could overcome difficult bosses. This still is present in Elden Ring, but often you’ll have many options and areas to explore before you get ‘stuck’. Can’t kill a boss? No one said you had to go through the castle; try walking around it and coming back later.
A Massive Arsenal to Experiment With
Elden Ring features a ton of options to use in combat and nearly all of them feel really good to play with. You can cast offensive and defensive spells, use consumable items to apply buffs or deal damage from a distance, and pummel your foes with massive weaponry.
There’s a huge load of player choice when it comes to the combat and it feels like FromSoft wanted to appease players of all skill and build preference. Here’s an in-depth breakdown of what you can use to murder some gods and abominations:
Weapons and Ashes of War
You can find weapons that vary from small daggers that cause bleeding to massive ‘colossal’ weapons meant to be carried by giants. These weapons are either scattered around the world or can be traded if you give a certain merchant the souls of powerful bosses that you’ve slain. That’s a pretty good deal if you are looking for weapons that the gods themselves would use.
Players can find a few ranged weapons like bows and crossbows. Alongside using these ranged weapons, you also have access to a wide variety of different augmented arrows that you can craft or find in the world. Elden Ring offers loads of variety in the ranged department.
To defend yourself, if you prefer the classic sword and board approach, the game features shields and great shields to keep yourself from getting smashed… most of the time. While shields don’t add too much more to the game that’s been established in prior souls games, there is one element to weaponry that makes all the difference: Ashes of War.
In Dark Souls 3, players could use unique stances and abilities that were specific to weapons. In Elden Ring, this mechanic is back but now with even crazier abilities. Most importantly, these abilities can be now changed at the player’s discretion, as long as the weapon type can handle the Art in question.
The weapons and Ashes of War alone add a lot of variety to accommodate for tons of different playstyles. If you get stuck on certain bosses, odds are, there’s a very powerful combination of affinities and arts you can apply to your weapon to make your life easier.
Sorceries and Incantations
Elden Ring has some of the most fun and powerful spells available to find in the world. They come in different flavors which are Sorceries and Incantations. Not only will you be able to play with different weapons and ashes of war, but tossing magic in the mix makes for some fun and complex builds.
Sorceries mostly scale with the Intelligence stat and are very powerful. Most sorceries are cast using a catalyst like a rod or staff-like weapon. Some of the weaker sorceries can cast some very long-range spells to deal damage from afar. If you push into stronger sorceries, you can end up casting some insanely powerful spells that can absolutely wreck your foes. You can also cast buffs to add some extra magic resistance or damage to your armaments as well with certain spells.
Incantations are great for players who want a bit more variety that focuses more on utility than heavy offensive-based spells. That’s not to say that incantations are weaker than sorceries; some incantations with the right seals can be extremely powerful. Incantations also offer defensive spells like AoE heals and buffs.
Even with sorceries and incantations, there are still other magical options to be found, like dragon-based breath attacks. Regardless of what build you are going for, Elden Ring makes casting magic much more accessible for nearly any play style.
Combat, Enemies, and Bosses
The combat in Elden Ring is some of Fromsoft’s best work to date. Dark Souls 3 and Bloodborne featured fast and flowing combat which can be seen fully evolved in Elden Ring. Now, enemies attack less predictably, which forces players to focus more on their foe’s next move.
Prior SoulsBorne games featured feasibly telegraphed attacks from enemies that generally flowed uninterrupted (unless you broke their poise). In Elden Ring, you can expect enemies to cancel their moves and swap tactics based on how you play. Most enemies tend to get more aggressive if they detect you retreating to heal. Often, enemies have different attacks or spells to handle players who play melee or ranged.
One of the most prominent examples of this is during a few boss fights where your opponent will raise their weapon for a heavy attack and just… wait. For veterans of prior games, this may catch you off guard at first and will take a bit of time to adjust to. For newcomers to Fromsoft games, your reflexes will be tested heavily.
Speaking of bosses, Elden Ring features a TON of different boss enemies to face. The game gives you a taste of what’s to come by having you face a grotesque and disturbing creature that’ll probably rip you to shreds within the first few moments of playing. Classic FromSoft.
You can find yourself fighting literal gods in the flesh, massive creatures, and various monstrosities. Arguably, these boss fights are why prior FromSoft games are loved. Your skills and build will be tested against foes that can drop you in one or two single hits. If you find yourself stuck and unable to beat a boss, it’s due to a weakness in your stats, gear, or skill. A lot of the fun of Elden Ring is trying new things to get past difficult encounters, which often leads to exploring more areas if things are too difficult.
With so many powerful bosses to overcome, you’ll have a hard time getting too far in the Lands Between without an epic battle to the death.
It’s easy to see that Elden Ring is one of the best-looking games released by Fromsoft. The environments look amazing to explore and the world feels vast and alive. You can find yourself in fields of golden grass with shrubbery that can conceal foes or items. Some areas, like the eternal city, Nokron, are visually magical and they inspire you to keep exploring just to see more.
Models in the game are visually great, with loads of different designs to see. Options and customization during character creation are very detailed. There are plenty of sliders to mess around with. You can create some really heinous or amazing characters, so new players can expect to have lots of control over the appearance of their Tarnished.
The endgame for most Souls games is fashion, and Elden Ring does not hold back. There’s a broad variety of gear you can dress yourself with. For players who want a more serious look, there are loads of different medieval-style garments and armor to find. There is also quite a wide array of bizarre pieces of gear that can make for some goofy-looking Tarnished.
Regardless of how you dress your character, your Tarnished is going to look pretty smooth while fighting and exploring in the Lands Between. Swinging weapons, big or small, look and feel very solid during fights. When a weapon connects, enemies often react to your hits, and even more so if you’ve broken their poise.
The same can be said for your Tarnished if you get smashed by a giant’s hammer or turned into Swiss cheese by the academy mages. Elden Ring’s combat animations are some of the best by FromSoft and you’ll have a great time killing and getting killed without seeing much jankiness like in earlier FromSoft games. It’s a very smooth experience.
A last honorable mention is that some of the boss fights are visual set pieces that look like they were taken out of a movie. One moment that really stood out was a special attack by a certain boss where he flew towards me like a comet from the sky and exploded past me. The fights in Elden Ring can vary from a simple exchange of blows to an epic battle of extremes that blasts the environment while you duel with godlike beings.
Overall, if you are looking for a game to get lost in, Elden Ring is worth your time and money to check out.
To accompany some very intense art setpieces that you can find your Tarnished in, Elden Ring features some great BGM. Some of the epic battles you may find yourself in feel much more intense than the actual fight mechanics due to the emotionally heavy tracks that play. Even if you are absolutely crushing a boss fight, the music screams at you to believe that one mistake could be your demise.
Aside from very intense boss music, exploring the open world may often bring a feeling of peace and calmness. When you aren’t in combat, loads of environment background songs capture the feeling of what it’s like to occupy the region you are in.
The open fields of the Atlas Plateau are calm and you feel a sense of how ‘proud’ the literal environment feels. If you are in Liurnia of the Lakes, you’ll hear tracks that give the area an aura of mystery and curiosity; you can’t help but feel compelled to explore the wetlands deeper and discover what lies beyond the fog.
Regardless of where you may be, you will generally be accompanied by music that contributes heavily to giving you the emotions that your tarnished or your foes may be feeling. The music is either subtle and calm or unapologetically in your face; Elden Ring deals with extremes in the best possible way.
The sound effects of this game are amazing. Feedback from interacting with menus and selecting items feels magical and further establishes the dark fantasy theme. Combat sounds nasty, wet, and brutal when you cut your foes down. Spells are accompanied by audio that makes your casts feel mystical-yet-deadly.
Overall, Elden Ring features sounds and music that will relentlessly rip you from the real world and place you in a magical and threatening fantasy. If you care for a game that conveys emotions through its art and music, this game excels at it.
Elden Ring features multiplayer where players can work together or against each other. This is done with in-universe items and requires the player to be in specific zones that allow for the summoning of allies. While you may not be able to access all of the map in multiplayer, it still feels much better to play through the game with friends than earlier Fromsoft titles.
During Co-op, you can get invaded by another player who’s keen on ending your life in exchange for rewards. While you won’t be able to prevent this from happening while engaging in cooperation, you can get some extra help from nearby ‘hunter’ players who can get summoned in to help you, the host, survive. It makes for some organically tense situations in what could have been a PvE experience made a bit easier with a friend. It does add good balance to the game by preventing PvE from being too easy with multiple players.
Elden Ring supports multiplayer up to four players playing at once during a single session. There is also a coliseum that’s been implemented for a location where players can duel nearly anytime they have the itch for some PvP.
While roaming the world, you can come across messages left by players that can provide useful or harmful intel while you explore. Most players leave helpful hints, like a warning of an ambush in a dungeon or a hidden path to find. On the other hand, you may come across some nefarious messages that might leave you running off of a cliff in false hopes of finding a secret. Messages also reward their creator if you rate them, so it’s a great incentive to add your own helpful messages for others to see if you discover something!
Overall, Elden Ring offers very competitive and intense scenarios in its multiplayer. You’ll meet hundreds of players with good or bad intentions, which adds all the more excitement while traveling through the Lands Between.
Elden Ring is a beast of a game in nearly all aspects. The world is massive and rewarding to explore. Combat is extremely varied and it’s encouraged to constantly try new things in the scenarios you can find yourself in. All aspects of the game intertwine very well together to provide one of the best open-world experiences.
While the game is massive, it can be pretty daunting to replay if you are strapped for time, but with new-game plus, you can run through the game as many times as you like. If you like to explore, you can expect to dump a lot of hours picking through the Lands Between. There’s a ton of fresh content to explore for the price tag of the game, and you probably won’t find everything without using a guide or two (it’s a HUGE game).
The only drawback from a game this big, is that it can get a little repetitive towards the late-game. Most playthroughs can expect to take over fifty hours, according to HLTB. You may start to feel a little burnt out from exploring, dungeons, and bosses before you’ve completed your first run. It’s a marathon to take on if you want to see the game to it’s completion.
If you are a very casual player and are looking for a relaxed playing experience, you may have a hard time easing into the game due to its difficulty. While FromSoftware is known for creating extremely difficult games, this one is more on the easier side due to all of the ways to even the odds with your foes. That being said, if you are completely new to the genre or FromSoft games in general, you’ll have a lot to learn. As for anyone else who’s played a few RPGs and is generally patient, you’ll have a blast playing Elden Ring.
Overall, Elden Ring is one of the best RPGs on the market and still holds up to date. A DLC is coming soon for the game, which will definitely cause a resurgence of players, so there’s no time like the present to give the game a try if you haven’t. It’s definitely worth every dollar for its launch price; Elden Ring is a steal if you find it on sale.
- Massive World to Explore
- Challenging and Satisfying Combat
- The Multiplayer Experience is Great
- Tons of Content
- Can get a little repetitive towards the end-game