There is something to be said for experiencing a historic moment firsthand.
Van Software’s Hidetaka Miyazaki pioneered the Soulsborne genre, a clever subversion of conventional action RPG mechanics packed with beautiful set pieces, twisting horrors and certain death. After the triumphant launch of Demon’s Souls in 2009, From Software’s rise was virtually guaranteed…or so I’m told. You see, I have no doubts about the reported brilliance of the studio catalog; I’ve just never experienced it myself. Until now, yes.
Elden Ring emphasizes and rewards player agency, a tempting offering for any novice who wants to chew on something. Simply put, there is no error way to play. And while I suffered countless losses, I also took solace in the freedom The Lands Between immediately promised.
In Elden Ring you design your own emerging stories – every afterlife is different. During an encounter with a giant, I hid behind my shield and armor, heavy and unable to quickly dodge the blows of the colossal thing. In another, I handily killed the beast, outfitted with nothing but chain mail and a bow—risky yet thrilling. When I grew tired of succumbing to Margit, the Fell Omen, I instead navigated the serpentine routes along the confines of his ruined castle. And what awaited me beyond the green pastures of Limgrave? Go discover it! Class builds and overall gameplay were so malleable that my inexperience with the barrel felt unimportant.
For Soulsborne novices like me, progression is all about combining natural curiosity with extreme vigilance. Treasure chests hidden under ruins can yield editable items. Alternatively, they teleport unsuspecting adventurers into infernal endgame landscapes. However, the various quality-of-life features of Elden Ring help to overcome frustrations in beginners. Fast travel spots like ‘Sites of Grace’ and ‘Stakes of Marika’ negate extended runbacks. Torrent, your trusty mare, speeds up navigation. Spirit and multiplayer summons make intense boss battles less lonely and more winning. And an impressive array of collectible/available weapon arts and item buffs enhance your avatar’s fighting skills. These tools allowed me to experiment with unique gear or seek rare prizes in the face of adversity. From Software’s titles are notoriously punishing, but Elden Ring is occasionally merciful to its new players.
Look, this is my first Soulsborne game and I’m obsessed with it. From the ever-luminous Erdtree to the goblin-riddled coastlines, the world is stunningly active rather than reactive. Knights on horseback equipped with batons that can break the guard sneak below the treeline. Murderers in robes patrol winding waterways. And deep underground slumber grafted monstrosities that are unimaginable. Sneak past in search of more magnificent vistas or fight for runes, as unrestrained exploration allows players of all skill levels to find success.
Elden Ring is an appeal to the uninitiated of Soulsborne. I can’t tell you if From’s latest blockbuster is more accessible than its predecessors. I can’t even speak for sure about the evolution of the combat system or the narrative design. Still, I want to make one thing clear: you have to play Elden Ring, regardless of your familiarity with the genre. Do you spend hours dissecting the game’s stubby stat-enhancing systems? Yes. Will you constantly alternate between over-aggression and anxiety? Naturally. And will you face destruction at every turn? Beyond a shadow of doubt.
Still, fellow newcomer, don’t avoid this historic moment. be sullied.