To say that there was hype for the release of Elden Ring is an understatement, but the question is – does the game deliver? Typically, the first few hours of any game can make or break it, either reeling you in to see it through to the end or leaving you disinterested so the game ends up collecting dust on a shelf. Going into playing Elden Ring, I’d avoided all gameplay footage, spoilers and player discussions surrounding the game, and only watched the cinematic trailers. Therefore, after playing approximately ten hours of FromSoftware’s latest ambitious release, I can safely say that it delivers on the hype but not necessarily in the way I expected.
What I’ve loved so far about Elden Ring is that everyone’s experience will be different. In the first ten hours, you can take a completely different route to someone else. You may be reading this and thinking ‘hey this doesn’t ring a bell’ and I may be completely missing something you’ve found or learnt. Therefore, in this impression, I’m going to avoid talking about specific bosses and areas so I don’t end up spoiling it for anyone who has yet to encounter the area. That being said, I will talk about some general story elements I’ve seen so far.
Going into playing Elden Ring I was expecting an open-world Dark Souls, but I hadn’t really thought enough about what that would actually look like in practice. To an extent, it is an open-world Dark Souls. However, FromSoftware completely injected Elden Ring with its own premise and style so that it doesn’t feel like ‘just another Dark Souls‘ like many people speculated. Don’t get me wrong, the mechanics, difficulty, and gameplay absolutely mirror the Souls games we know and love, but there’s something different and it feels fresh. This is naturally largely down to the open-world game style, which again feels unique compared to other open-world RPGs. That being said, the game feels nostalgic to elements of Skyrim, from the tranquil green landscapes to enemies around every corner to the wildlife hopping around as creatures go about their everyday life. I truly love how immersive the gaming experience feels.
Speaking of which, the visuals and overall grandeur are astonishing. The game is so beautiful, you’ll be having a field day with screenshots. This does lead to a minor criticism, in that I wish there was a photo mode to take advantage of this fully. Each area presents a new atmosphere and tone that makes it distinctive from one to the other. I’ve felt that this flows throughout all of my FromSoftware game experiences, most areas offer something unique, for better or worse. Likewise, the overall graphics are brilliant with extensive customisation options available when creating your character. That being said, I have encountered some minor glitches with enemies or NPCs taking a moment to load in as I approach them as well as lags if I’m fighting numerous enemies out in the field. It’s no big deal as I have yet to experience any crashes or major issues and the game is brand new so I won’t fault it there.
Onto gameplay and mechanics, I could have cried tears of joy when I saw that you can jump! Dark Souls‘ lack of this feature was the centre of many memes, so I’m glad to see this is now an option. It feels so much more grounded and natural which is even more important given the open-world format. Likewise, you can completely see the Sekiro elements sneaking their way in, literally. You can crouch and go for stealth attacks on unsuspecting enemies, which again makes Elden Ring feel like its own game and not ‘Dark Souls 4’. Jumping and crouching make the gaming experience feel more varied and great for suiting different enemies, player strengths and gamer play styles.
An essential feature of Elden Ring is the map, so you can see exactly where you are, where you can fast travel to and where you should be heading. This is especially key given the open-world style which gives the player their chance to let loose and explore. There are also light guides that point you in the direction of progressing to key sites of grace. In all honesty, after 10 hours of gameplay, I feel like I haven’t progressed too far through the story at all and have instead become engrossed in exploring the landscape. This leads me onto something I didn’t expect with Elden Ring. I feel like I can both become engrossed in playing the game for hours but also can happily call it a day knowing I can come back tomorrow to continue my adventure – ideal for when you’ve got work the following day!
There has been some debate leading up to the release on how difficult Elden Ring ranks in comparison to Dark Souls and other FromSoftware games. From my experience so far, it is tough to make a definitive judgement. But what I will say is that the difficulty of the boss fights varies greatly, some I have found to be a piece of cake, others I have found challenging. What I feel makes the bosses easier compared to others from FromSoftware is that you are given options on where you would like to respawn. Often you have a site of grace located in very close proximity to the boss arena with little to no enemies, which to me, greatly reduces the at times tedious feel when you spend 5 minutes just getting to the boss in other games. Adding to this is that as mentioned, you can have multiple options on where to spawn as you can load in at a Stake of Marika which are normally also right by the boss.
As with other FromSoftware games, you have options to summon players, be summoned, invade, summon NPCs and newly, summon ashes from enemies you’ve encountered before. A huge addition to Elden Ring in my view is your horse Torrent, again reminding me of Skyrim. Not only is Torrent absolutely adorable, but he is incredibly useful in allowing you to quickly travel across the landscape. Plus, he can be especially helpful against large enemies and in certain boss fights. Torrent can also jump and dodge, making this noble stead a very valuable asset. Something I wanted to point out is that I have found that there are excellent nostalgic elements and nods to other games and folklore, namely with the Roundtable which serves as a Firelink Shrine of sorts and, of course, has heavy nods to the Round Table from Arthurian legend, which is something I personally appreciated.
From my experience so far, I have found Elden Ring to be a unique addition to FromSoftware’s collection. In summary, the visuals are quite frankly breathtaking, it’s such a picturesque game. The controls are very similar to Dark Souls, so I didn’t find myself having a hard time trying to adjust to new moves. The inclusion of jumping, sneaking and the goodest boy, Torrent, was met with open arms. The open-world element is handled extremely well, giving players the flexibility to basically do what they want. At times, the game feels a little easy in the sense that you already have access to fast travelling from anywhere and you don’t have long runs to boss fights, but this is to be expected for an open-world game. I feel like the areas are varied and distinctive and the bosses so far have been enjoyable, but not always highly memorable, mostly as you can sometimes just stumble upon them on your travels. However, it is safe to say that I cannot wait to continue my adventure.
Sticking with Elden Ring, previously, George R. R. Martin said that working on the game “Was Too Exciting To Refuse”
Elden Ring is available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, and PC.