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Elden Ring's brilliance transcends the Soulsborne legacy

FromSoftware's Elden Ring is so much more than just another game for Soulsborne fans to enjoy.

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I was moderately looking forward to Elden Ring, just as a person who works in this space and closely follows gaming culture. That said, I wasn’t really expecting it to be my thing, and was mainly going to play it just to be a part of the conversation. As someone who played a combined total of two hours of Demon’s Souls (2020) and Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, and never touched a Dark Souls game, I was surprised with how hard Elden Ring grabbed me. I’m fully obsessed.

An expertly crafted open-world

Elden Ring is a master class in open-world video game design. At every corner, there’s something fascinating to discover. It was a key point in Sam Chandler’s glowing review of the game. As a newcomer, I found that the world design eased combat difficulty frustrations. When you’re up against a boss in a video game that you just can’t beat, it’s easy to feel like you hit a wall. Like there’s no way through except head-on. In Elden Ring, there’s seemingly always eight different directions to go in, both literally and strategically.

I stumbled into a temple area that I was clearly too under-leveled for. The disturbing spider-like hand creatures that called the temple home made quick work of me and after a while, I decided to just head off and see what else the world had to offer. I stumbled upon a dragon den, discovered a vast underground cavern, and found a cookbook that let me craft better arrows for my bows. Six hours of play time later, I was able to return to the temple and slay the creatures that originally deterred me.

Elden Ring is jam-packed with fun stories like that. I was chatting with a longtime friend of mine, who had roughly around the same play time as me, and we spent about an hour just sharing unique stories about the crazy things that happened to us during our time in the Lands Between. The best part is our stories pretty much never overlapped. With how much I had experienced, talking with him made me feel like I’d only scratched the surface.

Combat adjustments

There’s a strong learning curve with combat, as I essentially felt like a sitting duck in every combat scenario for my first several hours with the game. After a while, I began to see combat as more of a rhythm game, a dance if you will. Slower movements, more calculated attacks. I initially felt like I needed to spam attacks and get in as much damage as possible before an enemy could retaliate, but I eventually learned that was a recipe for disaster.

Properly using dodge, jump, and ability like Quick Step, there would be long stretches of combat that I didn’t even take a swing at my opponent, and I felt like a badass doing it. There’s an overwhelming feeling of satisfaction and achievement that comes when you finally beat that boss that you never beat, it’s euphoric. I literally jumped out of my seat when I finally beat Godrick.

Though I’m not super familiar with FromSoftware games, I know a major turnoff has been the way that those games can just relentlessly beat you down. Essentially telling you to get better or get lost. Elden Ring is still incredibly challenging, but I also feel rewarded when I turn away from a boss that I can’t crack and go in the other direction. There was always something that felt just as rewarding at every turn.

The game’s co-op feature also helped ease these frustrations. Though I would typically try to beat a boss along or with an NPC summon initially, I would eventually call on another player when push came to shove. It was always exciting to rush into a boss room with another player by my side, and I got into the habit of taking screencaps to document our adventures together. I had one guy that helped me clear half of Stormveil Castle, and I felt so bad when he finally died at the hand of a swarm of enemies I wasn’t able to get to in time.

You've got a fan in me

Elden Ring quite literally turned me into a FromSoftware fan. Not that I ever had doubts about the team’s capabilities, their game’s just never really drew me in. That’s changed. I’m sure I’ll spend dozens of more hours in Elden Ring, and I’ll probably go back for seconds with a new character build after my initial run is wrapped up. But after that, I’m gonna look to check out the past Soulsborne games and see what I’ve been missing.

News Editor

Donovan is a young journalist from Maryland, who likes to game. His oldest gaming memory is playing Pajama Sam on his mom's desktop during weekends. Pokémon Emerald, Halo 2, and the original Star Wars Battlefront 2 were some of the most influential titles in awakening his love for video games. After interning for Shacknews throughout college, Donovan graduated from Bowie State University in 2020 with a major in broadcast journalism and joined the team full-time. He is a huge Star Wars nerd and film fanatic that will talk with you about movies and games all day. You can follow him on twitter @Donimals_

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