“Elden Ring” re-establishes what video games can achieve (Seth Martin | @seth.mart)
“Elden Ring” re-establishes what video games can achieve

Seth Martin | @seth.mart

“Elden Ring” re-establishes what video games can achieve

April 25, 2022

In the summer of 2019, at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), developer FromSoftware announced what would eventually become one of the most anticipated games of all time, “Elden Ring.” 

The game immediately enticed fans, as it would be partially written by the legendary author George R. R. Martin, most known for writing the fantasy series “A Song of Ice and Fire,” also known as “Game of Thrones.”

The game seemed to be a return to the fantasy genre for the developer, which made the inclusion of Martin even more exciting. FromSoftware’s most popular and well-known games, the “Dark Souls” series, are also based in a fantasy setting. “Elden Ring” would mark the first time the developer would be returning to the fantasy genre since the release of “Dark Souls III” in 2016. 

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The excitement for the game was an amalgamation of many contributing factors. The game boasted a completely open world, which was a relatively new territory for FromSoftware. Early trailers and descriptions of the game also detailed an insane level of customization and versatility, even in comparison with the developers’ previous efforts which were similarly dense. The game’s scale seemed impossible at the time, although it ended up being even larger than anyone had anticipated. 

FromSoftware has become synonymous with a high standard of quality when it comes to their games in the last decade. Each game it released, including “Dark Souls,” “Bloodborne” and “Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice” only improved on the previous one, setting a gold standard for the developer. 

As someone who plays a lot of new games every year, big and small, at least three of FromSoftware’s titles have easily earned their place as what I consider some of the greatest games of all time. This track record raised the hype for “Elden Ring” even further in the time between development and release. 

The game saw numerous delays in development due to its scale and the COVID-19 pandemic. But after nearly 5 years of development, “Elden Ring” was finally released on February 25. It saw immediate, immense success, receiving perfect scores from many reviewers as well as selling 12 million copies worldwide within the first three weeks of release: a success that reached far beyond anything FromSoftware had seen before. 

The game itself, as well as many of the developers’ previous games, generally has a laissez-faire approach when it comes to gameplay and design. It often does not give the player a direct path or guide to traverse through the world or the game mechanics. It often will give the player the tools required to succeed but allows you to figure out how to use them yourself.

This approach, as well as the game being quite difficult (especially for newcomers), is a source of division among many. While this style of gameplay is a breath of fresh air in its originality, it can alienate some in the early hours of the game. But if you give the time and effort to adapt to FromSoftware’s difficult and eccentric mechanics, the result is extremely rewarding in my experience. 

Really, in most every corner of the game, whether it’s the story, gameplay, world design, or even its User Interface (UI), it consistently delivered an original and unique spin that cannot be found from any other developer in the games industry. So often, major triple A titles, like Ubisoft’s “Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla” or CD Projekt RED’s “Cyberpunk 2077”, do very little to push forward their genres in any significant way.

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The level of polish that is present in “Elden Ring” also puts other developers to shame. For a game as massive as it is, I personally experienced no significant bugs or technical issues. Although there were some players reporting that, at launch, there were issues including enemies appearing invisible and occasional game crashes, most were resolved in a patch that was released a few weeks later. But even so, a game this polished is becoming increasingly uncommon, as many developers are perfectly fine with selling $60 titles that are unfinished and full of bugs.

When it comes to the game’s world, it was totally mesmerizing. While playing I often found myself having to stop and bask in how truly massive it was. There were often areas in the game that were completely optional and were big enough to be their own standalone game. 

The game took me nearly 100 hours to complete, which is actually in the lower end of the timeframe that can be spent in the game. As someone with a lot of prior experience with FromSoftware’s games, I spent far less time having to learn the mechanics than some other players might experience. 

This time never felt overwhelming or pointless. Every moment of the game was completely engrossing and meaningful. Often with modern open-world games, it is very apparent when the game’s size is artificial. Games like “Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla” may take a similar amount of time to fully complete, but that time is made up of repetitive tasks and grinding to check something off a list and increase a counter from 99 out of 100, to 100 out of 100. No such thing is present in “Elden Ring.” 

The game was so engrossing in fact, that just on the first night of me playing, I ended up doing so until 5 a.m. without even realizing. This would become a common trend during my journey in finishing “Elden Ring.” I find it to be a very rare and special experience when a game can capture me so completely and where I forget to think about anything else. Some might call this unhealthy, but I call it a job well done on the part of FromSoftware. “Elden Ring” never let up the gas, which in turn had me never forgetting how well crafted and special it was. With every new area, boss, or mechanic its mastery was clear.

The gameplay will be familiar to those who have played FromSoftware’s previous works, but it is far more varied. With each new weapon or ability you gain, it can completely change your playstyle, which keeps the combat consistently feeling fresh and never boring or repetitive. 

“Elden Ring” offers one of the most rewarding and immersive experiences a modern video game can achieve. It serves as one of the few truly “open” open-world games and treats each minuscule area or character with the same care and polish as the ones at the forefront. It holds the possibility of endless hours of gameplay and is some of the best value you can get for your $60 in terms of entertainment. It’s a game that I would implore anyone with an interest in gaming to give a shot, as it is easily one the best games I have ever played. 

Staff reporter Zaden Dennis can be reached at [email protected] and you can find his other reviews at letterboxd.com/Zadenator. To stay up to date with all your Southern Illinois news follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.

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