Elden Ring is one of the most hotly-anticipated games of 2022, and for good reason. FromSoftware has made a name for itself over time as that of the “Souls” developer. The developer’s challenging, austere titles in the Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls series have countless fans around the world. It also spawned new IPs like Bloodborne and Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. Creator Hidetaka Miyazaki’s boundless fountain of ideas has yielded some of the most intriguing moments in gaming and some of the most difficult ones as well. This cemented his name as one that players have flocked to over the years.
Now, with Elden Ring, Miyazaki went above and beyond to make something inherently memorable. Written in tandem with Game of Thrones‘ George R.R. Martin, Elden Ring is a fantastical journey that highlights the best of what modern fantasy can do. If you’ve been waiting for your next phenomenal sojourn through an inscrutable, magic-infused land, this is it.
- Expansive world full of areas to explore
- Challenging yet satisfying combat
- Gorgeous visuals and inventive character design
- Haunting melodies and excellent voice work
- Can be obtuse at times
Elden Ring Review: Story
One of Elden Ring’s greatest strengths is its complex and often obtuse narrative. It’s very much a game where you’ll need to explore the massive map, collect items, and read between the lines. That’s if you want to glean all the lore you possibly can. Broadly, we have a tale of high fantasy and, at times, bizarre situations that feels as though it’s teeming with life.
Once upon a time, Queen Marika and King Consort, the Elden Lord Godwyn the Golden, ruled the Lands Between. Thanks to the Elden Ring and the powerful Erdtree, the pair ruled over a massive kingdom in peace. However, once malevolent forces stole the Elden Ring’s Death Rune, the Ring shattered. Now in six Great Runes, each one found its way into the hands of the six leaders of the Lands Between.
The leaders twisted into deformed, mindless Demigods who engaged in countless fights. Their warring tore the Lands Between apart, killing almost everyone who lived across the land. But without the Death Rune, these unfortunate souls don’t receive the sweet solace that death brings. Instead, these miserable souls come back to life and serve the Demigods who tore the land asunder.
You aren’t one of the unfortunate souls left to suffer under the Demigods, though. You’re a Tarnished, or someone who lost the “grace” of the powerful Erdtree. You need that grace, or the power that the Erdtree imbues, to gather all of the Great Runes. Only then can the Elden Ring be forged once more. If successful, you’ll become the new Elden Lord and bring peace to the realms once more.
It sounds as though it was ripped straight from the pages of your favorite fantasy novel. But that’s part of what makes it so brilliant. Every unsettling creature, villager that acts strangely, and hideous creature comes together to make an engaging adventure. It may not always make sense to you immediately, but Elden Ring is full of reasons to keep digging away at its story. It’s pleasingly dark, exceedingly strange, and creative beyond belief.
Elden Ring Review: Gameplay
Elden Ring’s narrative and wealth of areas to explore won’t be news to anyone who’s played a Souls game in the past. But this game has a distinct flavor to it. It retains the difficulty that’s always expected from Souls games. In fact, it can be downright frustrating. The open world is punishing and unforgiving. Everything is out to kill you, whether that’s a living flower or a massive, towering rock creature with a building on its back.
There’s also a dizzying amount of places to explore. If you can see a hill teeming with strange landscaping in the distance, you can go there and check it out. While there is something of a path you can carve out to propel you through the game, most of the fun lies within figuring out where to go next. While most of the Souls games are quite linear, Elden Ring is a much more free-flowing adventure. There’s a dizzying amount of things to do and people to meet. Expect upward of 50 hours of gameplay (or more) if you’re looking to get a decent amount of content out of your experience.
Much of your time will be spent exploring, too. The world isn’t full of empty space devoid of things to do. You’ll constantly find new puzzles to solve, new weapons to test, and new and seemingly impossible enemies to face. In fact, as great as everything is in the game, the sheer magnitude of feeling lost and unsure of where to go next may be Elden Ring’s only real downfall. Though NPCs do their best to point you in the general direction of what’s to come, there will come a time when you simply don’t know where you should be going. And it can take a long time to decipher your next best move.
All of it boils down to this: a fantasy world that truly makes you feel powerless at times, and on top of the world at others.
Elden Ring Review: Combat
If we’re being honest, Elden Ring’s combat isn’t too far removed from the rest of the Souls brethren. It does tend to borrow bits from the games before it, but that’s all for the better. Think of it as a refined mixture of the games that helped Elden Ring get here today. You have a wide variety of different weapons to choose from, for one thing: swords, one- and two-handed melee weapons, shields, bows, staves, magic armor, helmets, chainmail, and whatever else you can think of. If you don’t find it, you can also craft much of it as well, such as knives and arrows from materials like Thin Animal Bones.
You’ll need to learn how to break enemy stances to do adequate amounts of damage. You’ll also want to deploy sneaking mechanics any time you can to help you get the jump on enemies. But if you can’t do it all alone, there are a few new additions to combat to help you do so. You do have a horse to summon. It may be the most nimble creature you’ll have ever seen in a Souls game. You can also summon other players (NPCs in the case of my game) and other spirits to come to your aid. With how difficult some of the encounters can be, you’re absolutely going to need them.
Elden Ring Review: Graphics and Sound
The narrative plays out across a massive, gorgeous expanse. The landscape is teeming with life (and the undead). There are a wide variety of different biomes to explore, in addition to every type of locale you could imagine. It’s all dark and gnarled, but there are some exceedingly stunning, eye-popping areas as well. It’s absolutely beautiful in 4K on PC, and even without DLSS or RTX features, it manages to paint a breathtaking picture. You truly do feel as though you’re in a foreign land. It’s mesmerizing as well just how large the entirety of the map is. The sheer scope of the areas stretching out before you is impressive in ways the rest of the Souls series haven’t quite caught up with yet. And that’s saying something, given their expert art direction.
In terms of music and overall audio, Elden Ring is unique as well. Each strange individual you come across has their own unique voice that fits them quite well. But beyond this, the game is chock full of strange, haunting melodies as well as operatic singing and instrumental tunes. In some instances, such as boss encounters, strange singing engulfs the arena. Orchestral swells swirl around you when you discover a new area. It’s scintillating and awe-inspiring in the best of ways.
Elden Ring Review: Verdict
Elden Ring is an exemplary title from a studio and creators who knew exactly what they wanted out their vision for the game. Not only is it huge, but it’s teeming with content instead of empty environments. It’s teeming with secrets, strange characters, and so much lore that it’ll make your head spin. It’s frequently difficult and even more so frustrating, but when you progress you feel like you’re on top of the world. Sometimes, when fans hype up a game this much there’s little reason behind their excitement. With Elden Ring, every bit of the hype is well-deserved. This is a modern classic that’s only going to get better with time.