Oh yes, Elden Ring is here, and you must play it. That’s the review! No, I’m kidding, but I’ll say this. Elden Ring has replaced every Soulsborne game I once loved and adored. There is only room for one, and Elden Ring has occupied all the space.
Yes, it’s that damned good, and yes, you must play it. Or it would be best if you played it.
Game Name: Elden Ring Platform(s): PC (reviewed), PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S Publisher(s): Bandai Namco Developer(s): Fromsoftware Release Date: February 25, 2022
Before jumping into this review, I want to thank Bandai Namco for providing ample time to review Elden Ring. This is a game that I had been looking forward to for the past two years, and having more than a few days to play through this eagerly anticipated title has been a blessing. I’ll be upfront about it — I did not finish the game. I’ve got 97 hours of gameplay, and I’m near the end but not finished. That’s due to the sheer amount of stuff crammed into the game. I’ll follow up on this review once I finish, but I doubt this will change my opinion of the game. Not unless something super-dee-duper drastic happens.
If you have played either of the Dark Souls, Demon’s Souls, or Bloodborne games, then the Elden Ring combat will be familiar. Significantly the combat system hasn’t changed throughout Fromsoftware‘s previous games, but it has been improved. Little things here and there, but the underlying combat systems haven’t changed. Thankfully. You have access to a standard and strong attack and the ability to backstep, dodge, and dodge roll. However, the ability to jump is new; it took me some time to get used to it. Being able to jump ensures that you’re backed into something that you can quickly jump over or onto when needed. I’ve been in plenty of fights with enemies and bosses, where a nicely timed jump made the difference between defeat and death.
Stealth is a fun addition to the game, and veterans of Sekiro will be right at home with the ability. Now, you can sneak up on unsuspecting enemies and get in an easy backstab. For those ranged types, getting in a first strike will reward you with extra damage. Being stealthy is also great for sneaking past enemies, even if they’re looking right at you. It never gets old, sneaking around a camp of enemies, eliminating the weaker ones before challenging the tougher guys. It can really affect the way a fight plays out, helping you avoid sticky situations. Don’t panic, though, because stealth doesn’t always work. There are some instances where enemies will know you’re coming, and oh boy, will they be ready for you.
Then there’s the guard counter, and I’ve been abusing the hell out of this mechanic. Just like it sounds, you are able to wait for something to strike your shield, then quickly follow up with an attack. Using shields in a game like this was never my style, but after a few battles using the guard counter, I don’t leave home without one.
We can’t talk about mechanics without mentioning crafting. Initially, I thought crafting would be a simple mechanic and wouldn’t be worth the hassle, and I’m glad I was wrong. Crafting is a wondering addition and another reason I feel Fromsoftware has spoiled me. Instead of hoping to find a buffing item, or purchasing one, you can make your own. All you need to do is pick some flowers, do some mining, or kill a few animals, and boom! You got yourself some nifty and helpful items. For those looking forward to partaking in the game’s multiplayer, crafting is essential. Seriously though, if you decide to jump into Elden Ring, make use of the crafting system.
Then there’s our lovely mount, our pal, Torrent. He’s not for downloading but for riding. He not only makes travel faster, but combat more enjoyable as well. Mounted combat, especially against a boss, is a blast. It’s quite fun to ride him around during battles, and he’s a godsend when you are trying to get away from a pack of crazed enemies or a random boss fight that you weren’t prepared for. His double jump is also useful for reaching areas you couldn’t get on your own. Torrent can, however, die, so treat him right, craft him some food, and keep him safe. If he dies, you can revive him with one of your healing flasks. With that being said, I love him, and I want to see him in every Fromsoftware game.
The character creation tool is even better than that of Bluepoint’sDemon’s Souls Remake. We no longer have to deal with those odd-looking characters and now have ones that look human. Everything can be adjusted and tweaked as well, from skin tones, hairstyles and colors, facial structures, body type, and more. I literally spent 30 minutes trying out the tool and what I was able to create. Though I do have a complaint, and that is there are NO hairstyles for Persons of Color males. There’s not even the tiresome cornrows hairstyle. I am so tired of POCs being ignored in games, and this is just more of the same crap. Get with it Fromsoftware, we play your games, at the very least, you can give us a damned hairstyle that fits us.
This game is chock full of items, weapons, gear, and spells, but the game doesn’t just drop them every time you kill something. They’re strategically placed in locations as rewards, so you’ll have to seek them out. Others will come from chance encounters, with NPCs and enemies. While Ashes of War, which can amplify a weapon with various abilities and also use your FP, can be acquired the same or purchased via several merchants in the wild. I did notice that I’d find more Ashes of War than anything else in the world. Adding to this, Fromsoftware added a nice change to the inventory system, that being your weapons are placed into specific slots. While there were always games that had specific classes for weapons, now they’re inventoried as such. It makes finding weapons in your inventory that much easier.
While Fromsoftware has been known to create games that are notoriously hard, Elden Ring sits somewhere in the middle. At least, initially, it does. The starting areas are quite tame and will allow both newcomers and veterans to ease themselves into the game. But once you start getting to the mid-game content, it definitely ramps up the challenge. While the end game is quite the challenge, especially if you are under-leveled and unprepared. I learned that you don’t want to rush through this game for that reason alone. Depending on what class you roll with also will dictate just how much you’ll need to prepare and grind to get some progress in.
The bosses in Elden Ring are a nice evolution of that from Dark Souls 3. Every major boss has multiple phases that must be mastered if you are to defeat them. Some were quite easy. Others had me beating my head and controller against my desk. I do feel that some fights were overturned and should be adjusted. Then again, it could be that I rolled a caster class, and unlike Dark Souls or Demon’s Souls, casters in Elden Ring are not as powerful. Due to this, I had to change my tactics and incorporate a sword and mace at times to get past fights. Oh, and if you thought the Ornstein and Smough boss fight was a pain, get ready for more pain. There are several boss encounters with paired combatants, and they are merciless.
Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls, and even Bloodborne all suffered from one common thing – the story. Sure, they could piece together a story, but if you wanted to go deeper, you had to get onto the internet and follow the countless lore and story articles and videos. In Elden Ring, things have changed for the better. The story is not only laid out plain as day but it’s reinforced with key characters explaining what exactly is happening. Not just crucial characters, but even a chance upon a random NPC will talk to you about something happening. Like that they lost their family and friends, or telling you where to go to find some secret stuff in the world. Just about everything is woven together and interconnected. Even the smaller quests that eventually tie into the main story.
I’d love to go more into it, but we’d be in spoiler territory, and we aren’t about to go there. Let’s say, if you had any features of the story being so-so, don’t worry, as it isn’t.
The visuals and sounds are damned good. I mean, I was at a loss for words when I stepped into the game. Visually, this puts the other Fromsoftware titles to shame. Everything, from the landscapes, the characters, everything looks amazingly detailed and animated. From the skybox to the trees blowing in the wind or rain and lightning as it hits the ground. The same can be said for the audio, with Fromsoftware‘s signature orchestrated musical score leading the way. It’s like an orgy for my earlobes, and yes, I blatantly stole that from Scott Pilgrim the movie. Why? Because it fits so well. The sound effects are the cherry on top. Lots of ambient sounds, and audio cues, such as when a boss is about to attack, or a bear that’s making his way up the mountain, or the cry of soldiers as they march towards you.
The world of Elden Ring is vast. I mean, VAST! When starting the game, the world map is darkened, but as you start to progress and wander, it opens up. Eventually, you’ll see just how massive this world is, even with having access to a mount, our lovely buddy Torrent. It isn’t enough, and thus fast travel was added. I really wish I could show the completed game map, but you’ll have to wait until you see it for yourself. All you have to do is find and activate a Site of Grace, and you’ll activate fast travel. I know some of my fellow Dark Souls brethren aren’t fans of fast travel, but believe it, you’ll need it.
Within this magical world, you’ll find yourself being compelled to explore every nook and cranny that you find. And you’ll be rewarded with the sheer amount of stuff you’ll find. Resources, weapons, armor, magical spells, and more await you. While the game’s dungeons will frustrate you while astounding you at the same time. Want to take some time off from the usual grind? Not to worry, there are lots of side quests, sights to see, and rare encounters to be found. At times, I found myself remembering the fun I had when World of Warcraft was first released. I spent hours exploring and looking for stuff. Elden Ring recreated that magic for me, and I can tell you there wasn’t a time when I wasn’t smiling while playing the game. Well, ok, outside of boss fights.
If you’ve played any of the Dark Souls or Sekiro on PC, then you already know what to expect. There are settings to change the button/key mappings, resolution, sounds, various gameplay options, and visual quality settings. You won’t find Nvidia’s DLSS or AMD’s FSR, so don’t go looking for them. I know some might argue that those are only needed if Ray Tracing is included, but I can’t entirely agree. Anytime there’s the ability to gain some performance while playing at high or maximum settings and playing beyond 1080p, it’s completely worth it. It’s not a dealbreaker by any means, but I do wish either of the two technologies had been included.
*As people have asked for clarification, the PC version DOES NOT support ultrawide screen resolutions. Instead, you’ll have a 16:9 ratio with black bars on the side. The framerate is also capped. There’s no way to enable/disable VSYNC at all. There’s also not much of a difference between high and maximum settings, so I’d use high settings for performance.*
Sadly, as far as accessibility options are concerned, there aren’t any. You’d think that despite the growth made in the industry where accessibility is concerned, Fromsoftware would at least incorporate features that would help disabled gamers.
My time with Elden Ring was at played 4K and 1440p. At both resolutions, I used high settings, and the performance was mostly stable. I say mostly, as from time to time, I would get micro-stutters, and my frame rate would tank. Sometimes it would happen during a boss fight, others during open-world gameplay. Heck, it even happens during some cutscenes. Other times I’d fire up the game, and the stuttering would be non-existent. It wasn’t the computer I used either, as it consisted of an AMD 5600x, RTX 3080 Ti, with the game installed on a Seagate FireCuda. Yes, it is a bit of overkill, and I don’t expect everyone to have the same hardware as I do.
I also tested the game out a more down-to-earth PC, which consists of an AMD Ryzen 2700x, GTX 1080, and 16GB of ram. Elden Ring ran just fine at high settings at 1080p and 1440p. I still noticed the micro-stutter on that PC as well. Ironically, this is the same issue that plagued the PC version of Dark Souls 3 when it was released for PC. Hopefully, this gets ironed out. Outside of the stuttering, the game played great. I didn’t notice any pop-up whatsoever, and everything loaded in a timely matter — for the most part. There were a few times when the game would just sit on the loading screen and eventually crash. It might be due to Easy Anti-Cheat that Fromsoftware has implemented, but I can’t say for sure. Either way, it’s not what you want to see when you’re gaming, and I hope this gets sorted out.
I know there were several concerns surrounding the Elden Ring PC version, and despite some of the sort points I mentioned, the PC version isn’t that bad. Stuttering aside, the game played well, and I’m sure Fromsoftware will iron out the issues. And if they don’t, I’m 100% sure that the PC modding community will make things right. They have a habit of doing so.
Here I go being honest again, but my time with multiplayer was limited. Kyle and I had a go at the online co-op, and it worked just like in Dark Souls, only this time, there’s one more step. Players that want to be summoned drop their signs and wait to be called upon. The summoning players use an item called the “Furlcalling Finger Remedy” to see these signs and can summon three additional players. After that, you’re free to do whatever, including killing the boss for that region. However, should one of you die, then it’s over, and all summoned participants go back home.
I hate that, and it’s the worst kind of online co-op out there. I wished that Fromsoftware would take a page from Remnant From the Ashes, and let players group up for as long as they want. To do this kind of co-op in this setting just doesn’t work. On the PVP end of things, I don’t get to do any. Since most that were playing the game were trying to get through as much as they could, no one had time for PVP. That and the servers were taken offline prior a few days before the official release date. I’ll revisit this once the game goes live for everyone else.
To me, Elden Ring is the perfect game. The open-world aspect has been amazing, with lots of stuff to do, things to wander into, random encounters, and the occasional puzzle that forces me to think. While the combat, being familiar to that of Dark Souls and Sekiro, has formed what I deemed the perfect marriage. Take things head-on, or stealth your way into victory, where you can at least. There hasn’t been anything outside of the technical concerns that have soured this experience, and believe me, I’ve tried. It’s all, for lack of a better world, perfect — the gameplay, visuals, and audio. I am still bothered by the lack of accessibility options, which is quite a cause for concern. Yet, outside of this, I’d recommend Elden Ring to everyone, singing its praises whenever possible.
That all said, Elden Ring has also spoiled me in the sense that I can never go back to any of the previous Fromsoftware games. Dark Souls, Demon’s Souls, and yes, even you, Bloodborne, are now dead to me. I can’t see how Fromsoftware can top this masterpiece, but I’m sure they’ll find a way. And I’ll be waiting.
Review Disclosure Statement: Our copy of Elden Ring was provided to us by Bandai Namco for review purposes. For more information on how we review video games and other media/technology, please review our Review Guideline/Scoring Policy for more info.
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Elden Ring Review
Elden Ring Review – Elden Ring is the perfect mixture of the Soulslike genre and open-world games. It’s simply that good. Fromsoftware has taken everything it has learned, from both the Dark Souls, Demon’s Souls, Bloodborne, and Sekiro games, and combined with a vast and amazing open world, and it works better than it probably should.