The Wonder of Elden Ring

by Ben Kirby
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I was hesitant at best, to get started with Elden Ring. Speculating that all of the hype was possibly misplaced due to the fact that everyone reviewing it appears to be a massive fan of the Soulsborne series.  The gushing over Elden Ring has been nothing but overwhelming, and anyone on the outside with a sceptical mind, is likely thinking similar?

I’ve written a bit about if it’s actually good, if the reviews are overdoing it, and how I’ve perhaps been playing things “wrong”.  And the “wrong” thing is what sparked this piece here. I was 100% wrong about the reviews of Elden Ring.

Why? Well, let’s look at that.

Elden Ring

Elden Ring / Elden Wrong

When I started to realise I hadn’t been doing things “properly” (this is a matter of perspective, you play how the hell you want!), it dawned on me just how big the scop of Elden Ring truly is.  I was trying to play as a Samurai, based on the class and armour I started with.

Having little-to-no exposure to the Dark Souls games means I figured the class was a significant choice and determined your play style.  It is, and it does, but not how I was thinking.  The classes in Elden Ring are purely about the initial spec of your stats.  It isn’t a choice you make and then you’re stuck in a kind of role-play situation.

Once that opened up to me, I was changing gear, approaching levelling differently and even approaching encounters differently.

Wow, Elden Ring opened up in a big way.  I’m literally free to do as I like. Not constrained by a class or play style.

What happened though, was that it unlocked the whole game to me in my mind.  I went from a passive observer to a sceptic to a fan in the space of about 15 hours of play.

Elden Wow

This is where I say something that I haven’t fully concluded yet……I think Elden Ring is actually one of the best games in the past decade, perhaps all time.  It’s hard to understand until you understand.  I’ve become a guy that has a string of databases in to keep track of what I want to do, where I should go and what gear I should find.  I’m full-nerd now, and I love it.

See this is what happened to me. Elden Ring doesn’t guide you at all. I still have no idea what a “tarnished” really is or what the aim of the main story is trying to convey.  I don’t really care though, because that’s not what the game is about.

There is some deep lore, deep NPC interaction and so much stuff that you may never ever see or know about.  Elden Ring doesn’t care about showing you what it has to offer. It wants you to explore, learn for yourself and to care by developing your own motivations.

Breath of the Wild gets brought up a lot as a comparison, and I can see why.  Again, left to explore the world of your own accord. Little in terms of narrative, without going to find it yourself, and literally no guidance on how to approach the game as a whole.  It’s weird that Elden Ring seems revolutionary after Breath of the Wild did this a few years ago, but nothing has come close since.

Elden wonder

And this is the crux of why Elden Ring is being defined as a masterpiece.  The sense of wonder, the exploration, no hand-holding.

Ignore the narrative around difficulty and bosses. It’s not about that, that’s just like an added bonus. Well-crafted combat is the cherry on top, and the thing everyone comes to Elden Ring for.  I think they stay to find all that hidden goodness, though.

I’ve had a whale of a time researching, logging in and going on my merry way.  I love reading about what’s been found. About what is still being found now.  The mystery, the depth and the wonder.  What other games deliver like this?

This is where the hours go.  Hit a wall with a location or boss? Fuck it, go somewhere else, find new things, forget about it entirely if you want.  There’s so much to learn and take in, Elden Ring doesn’t care what you’re doing.  So hit that critical path when you want to, but don’t think you have to.

I doubt I’ll ever finish it, but you can believe that I’ll still leave it feeling like I’ve had the best time.

Elden Ring tree

Elden hmmm…

Tonally it’s dark and not generally my thing.  It certainly isn’t the bright and wonderful world of Zelda! That’s the From Software vibe, though, right?

I think graphically (on PS4) it’s a little underwhelming.  Nice skyboxes, lovely creature designs and a massive map full of things to do. But draw distances are poor, sometimes textures aren’t great, either.

It doesn’t matter one iota though.  Think of all your favourite games from the past. Is graphical fidelity really the thing that remains in your mind? Or is it the experience?

Experience every time!

Elden Ring is delivering something rare, and whilst others will likely try to replicate elements of it, I doubt anything will come close for a while.  If you love an RPG and a big open world. This is the game for you.  Working on builds, finding rare gear, levelling up and exploring. It’s like Skyrim and Breath of the Wild had a dark-brooding baby with a nasty temper.

Elden Ring cloaked figure

Should I?

If you’re on the fence or intimidated by all the discourse around the difficulty in these games like I was.  Then I promise you it’s all for nought.  Give it a go anyway.  If you like doing character stat building, getting hidden gear from secret bosses in a massive open world, you’re in the right place.

I thought it was going to be “Dark Souls but a bigger map” and I’m sure the argument is there to say it is exactly that.  But to me, as a Dark Souls virgin, I feel like this is the way my first time should have been.  It eased me in with a bit of force, but I loved it anyway.

I’ll go back to Stormveil Castle shortly. But I have a few checklists of things I’d like to get first! Now, where is the map piece for that region in the southwest corner of…

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