Elden Ring has been out for a week, and fans are enjoying developer From Software’s first venture into an open-world design. The Lands Between is a treacherous world teeming with beauty and dangers all at once. However, From Software have also arguably crafted one of the best open-worlds in a video game ever, and here’s why.
The Lands Between is unlike any other open-world we’ve seen in gaming before, with the obvious comparisons being drawn to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. However, it oozes From Software’s incredible attention to detail and knack for littering their worlds with secrets, interconnected zones and unexpected encounters.
Forward, Up, Down and Around
The Lands Between is quite similar in design to the interconnected levels of previous From Software games like Dark Souls and Bloodborne. Instead of a traditional open-world that’s more horizontal in its design, Elden Ring‘s world dips into caverns, rises into towering castles in the sky, and bends paths that often take you to completely different areas.
It’s quite refreshing to explore an open-world that’s as unpredictable as the vast amount of enemies you fight in the game. You can be in one section of the map, find a hidden portal and suddenly be whisked away to a new area. From Software encourages exploration, not through tedious quest logs and check boxes, but a far more natural implementation of adventure. The best part about any journey is not knowing what you’ll be up against around every corner, and Elden Ring‘s world works this to absolute perfection.
Most open-world games will simply guide you to new areas or quest locations via a marker, but Elden Ring doesn’t hold players’ hands in this regard. Instead, The Lands Between is dotted with landmarks that constantly catch your eye and encourage you to venture towards them. Without markers apart from a guiding light emitting from Sites of Grace, the world is your oyster with countless possibilities.
Furthermore, landmarks give you a good idea of the land’s layout. As soon as step foot into Limgrave, you’ll be greeted to towers, castles, Erdtrees, mountains, ruins and more in literally every direction you look. When you get your steed Torrent, travelling to these areas (if you haven’t unlocked the map yet by collecting map fragments) is simply a matter of setting a custom marker and riding there. This level of freedom is almost unheard of in open-world games that might lock you out of sections if you don’t have a high enough level. Elden Ring lets you ride to the every corner of the map almost from the get-go.
Rewarding Patience and Perseverance
Elden Ring might just throw you into the thick of a dangerous world, but it’s not an unfair journey. Every new location, secret or NPC encountered in the open-world yields some kind of reward. Sometimes it’s as easy as stumbling upon them, while other hidden dungeons require a bit of perseverance to grind through before trading blows with a mini-boss.
Elden Ring never feels like it short-changes you with rewards, and that’s brilliant. There’s always something – but it a useful item that may unlock a new shortcut, some materials to craft new equipment, or a new powerful Ash of War – that’s beneficial to your survival and progression in The Lands Between. It gives players plenty of directions, but the driving force behind that sense of exploration is what the game offers you in exchange for your curiosity.
Is That A Boss?
Of course, since this is a From Software game, you’ll likely run into a boss fight completely unprepared numerous times. Unlike Dark Souls which had a more deliberate path forward, Elden Ring‘s open-world simply dumps bosses in the world who freely roam around. Thankfully they’re still limited to certain areas, but the shock of stumbling across a boss out in the wild followed by panic and terror is what gives Elden Ring its addictive unpredictability.
Since these bosses are tied to the open-world, you don’t even have to engage in battle with them. The same can be said for even the Legacy bosses, who control towering castles but thanks to fast-travelling across Sites of Grace, you can literally just ignore the fight and come back later when you’re strong enough and have better gear.
Elden Ring‘s open-world is From Software’s first attempt at one, but it’s actually a culmination of years fine-tuning their previous worlds that brought us The Lands Between in all its glory. Even as I’m writing this, there’s still so much of the massive world left to explore, that I’m itching to dive back in. The Lands Between is a truly remarkable achievement in open-world game design.
Elden Ring is now available for PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S and PC.