The Eldenest of Rings

I ignored Elden Ring when it launched a few months ago, in favour of a different crazy-hard action-RPG. While it was the most hype game on the internet for a while, I really wasn’t especially interested; I didn’t follow any of the pre-release news or marketing, and I haven’t played any of the Soulsborne games aside from Dark Souls.

And then I started watching a let’s play series. A few videos in, I started thinking to myself: “This game looks like a lot of fun. Why am I watching this instead of playing it myself?” And then I bought Elden Ring.

The answer to my question is, of course, “Because I’m terrible at these crazy-hard action-RPGs.”

That is not to say that I’m not having fun with Elden Ring. Quite the contrary! It’s just… I think the frustration might outweigh the fun? I spent the first couple dozen hours running away from every boss that I met, with the exception of two. One of them was just a special version of a regular enemy, and thus not that hard. The other one was the first major boss, and I recruited the help of my brother (who had long since finished the game) to defeat him. I would like to note that as I’m writing this, after probably 40 or 50 hours of play, I’ve gotten significantly stronger and gone back to win every fight I ran from before. Progress!

The thing that I really dislike about Elden Ring, though, is one of the same problems I have with Dark Souls: the weapons I want to use are just kind of there, and less than ideal if you want to have a truly powerful character. In Dark Souls, it was the whips. I wanted to play the game as if it were a 3D Castlevania, but there are (I think) two whips in the game, and neither of them are very good. In Elden Ring, it’s the claws. Who wouldn’t want to run around tearing guys apart like Wolverine? But as cool as they are, none of the four available pairs of claws are very strong. And of course, I’m stubbornly sticking with my claws, because I refuse to play with a basic-ass sword or spear.

To offset the shortcomings of the claws, I decided to build my character with a focus on magic. Sorceries, to be specific. This gave me a nice selection of ranged attacks, which in addition to making up for the claws’ very short range, also allows me to play as a sniper since I’m woefully lacking in the reflexes necessary to engage in combat as intended (I need a dodge roll with significantly more i-frames). I had also heard that there are some vastly overpowered spells to be found, but that some had already been nerfed by balancing patches. Luckily, I’ve found a pretty nice loadout of magic that allows me to stay safely out of harm’s way (most of the time), which doesn’t feel totally in the proper spirit of the game, but if there’s a way to sit back and nuke bosses, I’m absolutely here for it.

But while combat is kind of the heart of any Soulsborne game, Elden Ring’s appeal to me should be obvious if you know anything about my gaming habits: exploration. The Lands Between is a pretty massive open world (but not so big as to feel overwhelming), with plenty of caves and dungeons and castles to explore, teleporters that throw you into who-knows-where, and even a fairly large subterranean world. I’ve been having a grand old time just riding my horse around the world, looking for treasure and cool landmarks and scenic vistas. Enemies encountered along the way are really more of a nuisance to my exploration than a series of challenges to overcome. That said, fighting can certainly be fun: last night I rode back and forth through enemy camps in Altus Plateau, slaying anything that moved and shouting “No survivors!” at the TV repeatedly. I’m not a violent person by nature, but every once in a while…

At the end of the day, deciding to buckle down and actually play Elden Ring instead of watching someone else play Elden Ring was the right call. It’s been a lot of fun, and while it does have some hair-pullingly difficult moments, it’s not the hardest game I’ve played this year (at least so far). In fact, I think that I like Elden Ring just enough that I’m going to go for 100% trophy completion. Most of them are for defeating optional bosses and collecting special treasures, which I’ve been doing naturally anyway, so it seems like a pretty reasonable goal. Also, apparently 44% of Playstation players have the platinum trophy, which seems like a really high percentage? How bad could it be?

Final words: Play this video game. It is very good and fun!

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