I love The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. I really do. But Elden Ring brings a whole new level of awesome to fantasy open-world games, along with the patented “Soulborne” style and difficulty! It’s more approachable than Dark Souls 3 was for new players and gives you a lot of options to play with but make no mistake: this isn’t an RPG that is going to hold your hand, and it expects you to WORK. Thankfully, the “work” is an absolute blast!
Let’s get the basics out of the way:
- Does the game live up to the hype?
YES! It’s one of the best games I’ve ever played, and I’ve been playing video games since Pong was the best game available to gamers. I don’t want to make a guide or ruin anything about this game, though I am going to follow this up with a quick set of tips that YouTubers and gaming sites don’t want to tell you about this game. But I will say this: if you have the money to buy this game, DO IT. I’ve sunk in over 40 hours in a single weekend and feel like I’m still only scratching the surface!
Every location feels crafted, enemy types vary wildly from each other, and you never really reach a point where can just run on autopilot. You’re constantly engaged in this game, trying to piece together where to go, what you want to do, or what you’re trying to solve.
- Is the game hard?
YES! But it’s not an insurmountable kind of hard. Instead, the difficulty is tied to your ability as a player to recognize what is presented in front of you and understand what options you have available. For instance, a mounted boss on horseback in the open world is a hard opponent, especially at the start of the game. In your bag of tricks, you have stealth to creep around, a horse to run away, and possibly a vast arsenal of spells, tools, weapons, and abilities to craft a battle plan. The choice is yours as to what you want to do.
There are many encounters I skipped in order to explore the world; in doing so, I found a lot of great weapons, spells, Ashes of War, (which tie special techniques to weapons; trust me, it’s amazing), and then I’d level up some, too. When I came back to earlier parts of the game, I was a wrecking machine on some of those early bosses!
A great example of how the difficulty adjusts to you is the map. Genre staples like map markers, directional pointers, or location pips on a compass are not given automatically. You have to find the map for the area you are in to see details, and on your map, you can place your own markers and location beacons to keep track of important places, quests, and NPCS. But the game doesn’t do it all for you. It’s harder than if it did, but not necessarily difficult because you can take more into your own hands.
Same thing with quests; Elden Ring may give you a line of dialogue about where a NPC is located for your quest; then that NPC might die. (This actually happened to me.) If you had a paper and pen handy and made notes about what they said, you’re good to go. If not, you might struggle to remember what that tip was.
- How is the combat?
Flexible! If you’re a gamer who loves melee and has fast reflexes, you can put together playstyle that works to your strengths, making a melee damage dealer. On the other hand, if you’re like me and terrible at timing dodges and swordplay, you put together a ranged playstyle of bows, spells, incantations, and Ashes of War, (techniques) that let you dish out damage from a distance. There are a plethora of tools at your disposal, and you’ll likely find yourself, (like I did) experimenting and changing depending on where you are and what you’re fighting, even if you have a preferred style and flavor. This makes the game much more engaging than the, “lather, rinse, repeat” of many games with fixed combat systems.
- Is it really Dark Souls + Open World?
YES! It’s very well done, and it makes me wonder why previous Dark Souls games didn’t include jump buttons and open maps. From Software NAILED IT!
The world is BIG. Spatially, it’s not nearly as large as something like Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, but I think it’s way better crafted in terms of entertaining complexity. Due to the plot, the world is in the process of breaking, which means that many of the environments on the map are multi-level. Getting from one place to another isn’t as easy as just walking a straight line. But it’s crafted in such a way that you get used to exploring, and as you explore, you find a lot of hidden things naturally. Trying to find a way up a cliff face may lead you to a hidden door or dungeon. Checking out some building may have you finding an elevator that takes you to an underground city.
And just like other Soulsborne games, the team is the best in the business on showing a world that is bright and gorgeous on the surface but falling apart or rotting beneath. Many of the previews for the game show just the first area; believe me when I say that decrepit, poison filled areas or places strewn with rot, disease, or decay are to be found just like places of serene beauty.
- Is it hard to know what to do or where to go?
YES… and a little NO.
This time around, the developers try to give you a little more guidance and hints on how to complete the game and complete particular quests. That said, there is a LOT that is hidden in this game!!! You will stumble onto some of the secrets on your own, while others might completely slip past.
I say, don’t be afraid of wrong turns or going off the beaten path. There are actually a lot of times your ‘wrong turn’ actually puts you in a place to see something you can’t get to you yet, but tantalizes you into trying to figure out how. I had a glorious moment tackling an underground city; at one point, I could look off in the distance to something I couldn’t reach and saw a single figure standing on a ledge. It wasn’t till hours later I unlocked a teleport gateway on a different part of the world map that took me to that spot I couldn’t see. It was an amazing feeling, and the game is full of these surprises!
There will eventually be a ton of guides written about this game, but I think every first run for every player should be one where they only look at guides if they are seriously stuck. For the most part, the game gives you the essentials, if you follow the clues the devs have left for you.
- Should I buy this game?
This game is phenomenal. If you like open world, if you like Dark Souls, or if you just like games with RPG elements, this game is for you!
I love Skyrim to death due to how it is approachable, fun, and customizable through mods, which have given the game a life far beyond what should have been expected. Elden Ring is Skyrim for masochists: it doesn’t hand you everything on a silver platter, enemies don’t scale to your level, and a lot more is in your hands. But that said, the highs you get from figuring out a quest, putting a plan together to defeat a boss, or finding something new and unexpected is way higher as well.
Last night, I went to the edge of the map, saw something weird, and found a way to platform down a cliff face and fight the hardest Golem I’ve found in the game yet. Just getting down there was challenge that lead to my death multiple times, and the Golem fight was ungodly difficult. But, my reward for beating him, (other than PRIDE), was a new Ashes of War that was very cool. There were no outward signs anything was there initially; I looked at a particular spot though a magnifying glass my character has from multiple locations. Then I died a LOT testing whether there was a way down, and then died more when I found the Golem. But I had an enormous swell of pride and ton of fun from the experience, because I felt like in a game loaded with secrets, this one feels like it’s just mine.
The game is FULL of these. This is a 100% recommend! Buy this game!