Elden Ring has been out for over two weeks already. I know this review is a bit late but I wanted to take my time with this game. In a way, I am grateful review codes didn’t arrive until launch because I would have hated to rush through this game in order to prep a review for the embargo. You see, Elden Ring is best experienced as slow as possible. I am sure people out there will disagree with me but the slower I played Elden Ring, the better it felt.
Elden Ring is nothing short of a triumph not only when it comes to open-world games but also the soulslike genre. Somehow FromSoftware managed to reinvent the genre they created in the first place and that alone is an incredible achievement. Every hour spent in the game was filled with breathtaking vistas, exhilarating bosses and most of all a superb sense of discovery.
Open-world games often have the same cookie-cutter design. They take place in a large landscape with similar enemies reused across the map and a trickle of locations to visit as you pretty much do nothing but walk around. Elden Ring takes a different approach by completely rethinking how the player approaches the world around them. Firstly, it doesn’t hold your hand with objective markers and tedious scanning mechanics that point you to where you need to be. Instead, the way you approach Elden Ring’s world is with trial and error.
At the very beginning, the game tells you to simply seek the grace sites scattered around the world and you will find where to go. Keep in mind that there are hundreds of grace sites in Elden Ring so this objective doesn’t help much. But that is fine. Instead, I spent the first 25 hours of my journey exploring one portion of the map and specifically Stormveil Castle – an early dungeon at the start of the game.
It is hard to describe how incredibly detailed the world of Elden Ring is but that 25-hour chapter is a decent testament to its sheer scale. To think that this starting area and the castle held so many hidden pathways, items and people to meet that it took me 25 hours to finally say “I think I am done here”. The same can be said for the rest of the game. Every crumbled building wants to be explored. Every cliffside demands that I turned the camera angle downwards to see if I could get down the side. Not to mention that the dungeons had me glued to my screen as I found items and bosses to fight.
Even midway through Eden Ring, I was still finding it hard to comprehend its world and how this game exists in the sheer scale of things. The real joy is also knowing that if you can see something or a place in the distance, you can get there but the journey towards it is where the adventure awaits.
I often looked up at a towering castle in the distance and was filled with excitement thinking of all the dozens of hours I could spend exploring it. Not to mention all the dangers that await. Elden Ring also makes it worth investing time in meeting the NPCs in the world as they all have something interesting to say and some quest lines are incredibly dark and twisted. They simply add to this unbelievable world that feels alive but at the same time emotionally dead and helpless.
Elden Ring doesn’t tell you its story directly. In fact, you can most likely speak to no one in the game and be any wiser about what’s going on. Like past FromSoftware games, the story is layered in mystery and finding it requires reading item descriptions and meeting NPCs. You can always just watch a video on it on YouTube once you complete the game.
Being a soulslike game, Elden Ring is challenging and mostly everything in the game wants you dead. It takes a while to embrace death but once I let go of staying alive and being a perfectionist, the game is a lot more enjoyable. I stuck to my Prisoner class and went shield-less and favour of left-hand magic and right-hand pierce weapons. The game’s sheer variety of combat leaves a lot of freedom to branch into a range of builds. There are also some new magic types and weapons that might make the second or third playthroughs even more exciting.
Given the size of the game and these new character builds, it also means exploring locations that wield rewards that might be useful for your playthrough. There’s a lot of freedom here and the gear system works very well. The varied build types also means the combat is more accessible allowing different players to get into the game without having to “master” the typical sword and shield combat type.
Combat generally follows the same approach as past games and of course, the game is “easier” if you stick to certain builds but Elden Ring is still a tough game so don’t expect to breeze through it. Bosses have more move sets and most of them also switch things up once I passed the 50% health mark. I also noticed how some bosses got faster resulting in a deadlier fight. There are also countless fights to take on in Elden Ring with many of them being optional. Again, this all boils down to how much exploration you’re willing to do and how much of a completionist you are.
If you hate to see things incomplete then you’re going to get the best value out of this game. Bosses appear in all strange and wonderful locations. However, the set main bosses are where the game shines the best. These iconic encounters left me sweating and my heart racing. If it wasn’t the bone-chilling presence of the being in front of me it was the unforgettable soundtrack that kept the combat encounter heated.
Other classic mechanics from Dark Souls games are also found in Elden Ring too. You can invite a friend or two for co-op sessions to help kill a region boss and also invade other players who are simply going about their game session. Invasions favour co-op players so if you’re exploring the Lands Between with a friend then there’s a higher chance of encountering a hostile player.
Co-op is fun but also has its downfalls. Elden Ring relies heavily on riding around horseback. This helps get around and lets you explore the world faster. Given the scale of the world, this helps a lot. Sadly, you can’t ride your horse in co-op which means the general experience is a lot slower and if anything, quite a chore.
The game also fails to tell you whether or not you can or can’t help a player during a certain part of the game. Once the so-called “region boss” is killed, you’re locked out of summoning players to help you explore the rest of the area even if you still have a giant chunk to discover. However, you won’t know if this is the case. Given how large the world is, you never really know if the region boss is actually dead or perhaps it was a “mini-boss”.
I also encountered some nasty networking issues in the game where I could not summon anyone at all nor be summoned. Users report this is due to a NAT issue but there’s no confirmation on what the network limitations are for summoning.
There’s also the save bugs. Make sure you back up your Elden Ring save often because this game loves deleting your save file. I lost two whole characters and at least 25 hours of game time during my playthrough of Elden Ring. Once I was joining a friend for co-op and the game crashed. The second was due to loadshedding and the power cut out of schedule. Just fair warning here.
Issues aside, Elden Ring is unlike anything I have ever played before. It is like FromSoftware took the Dark Souls series and cranked everything up while expanding the entire experience to a giant open world. Every map portion acts like an entire Dark Souls game when it comes to the size and experience on offer. Now take that and put it into a map that contains dozens of sections. It is unfathomable how this was achieved. To offer such an incredible amount of variety across the entire game is also unseen today.
This Elden Ring review is based on a PS5 retail copy we purchased. Bandai Namco did provide a code to us at launch. You can pick the game up starting at R1,180 here.