Elden Ring Review thumbnail

Elden Ring Review

Open-world Souls

A.J. Maciejewski

Reviewed by playing a PS5 on 💍

Elden Ring is also available for PS4, Xbox Series X, and Xbox One

Elden Ring is rated Mature by the ESRB

Elden Ring is finally upon us and it is one incredible game so let's take a deep dive as I explain everything about it in my detailed review.

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Elden Ring screenshot 1
You never know what to expect on the horizon

Who is Elden Ring for?

First off, it's of utmost importance that you know and understand exactly who will enjoy their time with Elden Ring. Before playing it for myself, I thought that it may have been tailored to the general gaming public by adapting the classic Souls gameplay to a more accessible and modernized formula but this notion was quickly shattered once I encountered the first major boss. In other words, Elden Ring is undeniably a Souls game made for people who love Souls gameplay in all of its supremely challenging glory. So, if you've previously tried any similar games by FromSoftware and didn't enjoy yourself then you most likely won't appreciate what Elden Ring has to offer. v1d30chumz 100-25-42-211

For the record, I started playing the Souls games from the very beginning with the original Demon's Souls back in the PlayStation 3 era. From then on, I've had a blast mastering every single Soulslike that FromSoftware developed since. As a fan and veteran of these games, I have some slight issues with Elden Ring as it takes some minor missteps in its unwaveringly ambitious approach to the formula and I'm not going to hold back in this review. That being said, there is a lot to love and Elden Ring is surely up there with the best.

Before we continue, if you'd like to understand some interesting new features in Elden Ring, please read my preview that's linked right below this paragraph as I'll try not to repeat myself here. Afterwards, you'll know more about what to expect before we dive deeper.

7 Cool Elden Ring Features
Elden Ring screenshot 2
If scenarios like this excite you, Elden Ring is your kind of game

World and exploration

Obviously, the most striking aspect of Elden Ring is its absurdly enormous game world that's packed with gorgeous sights, treasures, secrets, various enemy types, optional bosses, dungeons, NPCs, and crafting materials. As you uncover the massive map, you'll encounter diverse regions that consist of the plains and forests of Limgrave, the watery ruins of Liurnia of the Lakes, the poisoned wastelands of Caelid, the heavily guarded Atlus Plateau which contains the Royal Capital of Leyndell as well as the giant Erdtree, the intimidating rocky verticality of Mt. Gelmir, and the wintery snow-covered Mountaintops of the Giants. There are even a few underground river areas in the form of Ainsel River, Siofra River which houses the awe-inspiring Eternal City of Nokron, and the dastardly River of Rot.

Every environment is memorable and fully exploring anywhere will require hours due to each area's overwhelming size and elaborateness. However, there are a couple of gameplay elements that help a great deal with this: the fact that you can ride a horse named Torrent who has a double-jump ability and that there are loads of Sites of Grace dotted around which act as bonfires as well as fast-travel points that you can warp to at any time. Meanwhile, you'll discover many dungeons which range from short optional side-areas to massive compounds such as castles that are home to Elden Ring's collection of primary bosses. Needless to say, such areas make the gameplay feel more like the classic Souls formula as opposed to exploring the vast open world which is an entirely different experience.

Now that I mention it, one element from previous Souls games that I love is the interconnectedness within environments as it makes uncovering shortcuts and unlocking doors incredibly satisfying. There isn't as much of that in Elden Ring; even in the main dungeons which are admittedly huge and impressive. Specifically, they're lacking when it comes to a feeling of solving an elaborate puzzle which is how many areas felt in the previous Souls games. Other minor issues are that optional mini-dungeons such as crypts are all too similar even late-game ones and that the open-world can occasionally feel tedious, especially whenever you're riding your horse across large expanses without much going on. Thankfully, these moments are few and far between and being able to fast-travel certainly helps.

Elden Ring screenshot 3
Even the most decrepit areas are breathtaking

Character progression

There is always a lot to do in Souls games when it comes to upgrading and equipping your character and Elden Ring provides the most amount of options thus far. First of all, there is no weapon degradation so that's great and levelling up and equipping gear is nearly identical to what you'd expect. The first new mechanic that you'll notice is the upgradable Flask which allows you to allocate charges between the healing Flask of Crimson Tears and the Flask of Cerulean Tears which lets you charge FP which is basically MP. You'll also acquire the Flask of Wondrous Physick which lets you mix Crystal Tears to provide you with 2 simultaneous boosts upon drinking it.

Another notable new feature is the Great Runes which unlock once you defeat each one's respective Shardbearer. The first one that you get is the most interesting because it essentially levels up each attribute by 5 which translates to a 40 level gain but the effect wears off once you perish and you'll need to acquire and activate a Rune Arc to re-enable it. I also enjoyed the crafting system although I used it much more in the early goings and kind of forgot about it later in the campaign. One nifty inclusion are certain tools that you can find with unlimited uses such as a Lantern that you wear around your waist to automatically light your surroundings, a Telescope that lets you observe distant points of interest, and a Mimic's Veil that transforms you to blend into nearby objects. How cool is that?

You'll come across many enhancements and gear along your travels and I found merely running as far as possible to the most dangerous areas that I could reach in order to procure new treasures to be a gratifying endeavour. Whether you find keys that unlock rooms with trinkets in them, cookbooks that widen your crafting options, pots that let you store more of certain crafted items, scrolls that let NPCs sell more spells, or Memory Stones and Talisman Pouches that expand your maximum spell and accessory slots, respectively; there's always plenty of reasons to explore every nook and cranny. Plus, the ability to shape your character however you wish adds a lot of personality to character progression whether you prefer melee combat or utilizing magic spells which consist of Sorceries and Incantations.

Elden Ring screenshot 4
You and me, baby, ain't nothin' but Tarnished

Combat

After you're done setting up your character and take part in combat, Souls fans will feel right at home with the familiar gameplay that Elden Ring offers. Blocking and dodging incoming attacks as you relentlessly unleash a flurry of blows whenever you have the opportunity is as rewarding as ever. Of course, there are new elements to combat such as the fact that you can attack enemies while you ride your horse and there are even jump attacks which add a dimension to battle. You also have a skill for each weapon that you can unleash as well as swap by assigning Ashes of War. I found this skill system to offer a wonderful opportunity to experiment in order to expand your repertoire exactly as you see fit. Finally, you can summon certain enemies to assist you in battle by using Ashes in your item slot which helps divert your opponents' attention more than anything. It also lets you have a bit of a respite as your summon takes damage.

One thing that I noticed is that if you're aggressive in Elden Ring, you'll have a much easier time than if you pussyfoot around while carefully striking enemies which is slightly different to previous Souls games where you are often punished for forceful combat. To compound matters, you can be reckless in Elden Ring because death really isn't a big deal. Whereas previous Souls games punish you by changing area tendency or turning you into a Hollow, you merely drop your runes upon death which you can then reclaim. I guess you could consider losing your Great Rune boost as extra punishment but I see that more as a bonus than a core gameplay component.

Another aspect of combat that's different in Elden Ring is its lack of scenarios that beg for out-of-the-box strategies to overcome. Throughout each previous Souls game, you'll frequently encounter situations that make you stop dead in your tracks and think, "How the heck am I going to work past this?" Now, there are a few moments like this within Elden Ring's dungeons but they're not nearly as daunting as you usually have plenty of room to navigate around enemies without any sort of plan in place. This is similar to the issue that I brought up about interconnectivity as both that element and the frequent merciless combat scenarios within previous Souls games made the gameplay regularly feel like you were strategically working out practical puzzles but I rarely felt that way in Elden Ring.

Elden Ring screenshot 5
This fight is brought to you by Burger King

Bosses

The collection of bosses provides the most memorable moments of any Souls game and the bosses in Elden Ring are fast, vicious, and humongous. The main bosses that you'll fight in order to acquire Great Runes and progress through the story are obviously distinct and unforgettable, especially considering that they usually have multiple phases as well as stand-out personalities that encompass a strong human emotion be it inadequacy, devotion, fury, or insatiability. In addition to the primary bosses, there is a wide variety of optional boss fights that range from simple encounters at the end of small dungeons to large-scale confrontations with dragons on the overworld.

Although the bosses are challenging and great fun to master, many of them are very similar and therefore, don't force you to change-up your strategy in order to succeed. Think about the vast assortment of bosses within Demon's Souls and Dark Souls for a moment. You never know what to expect before facing each boss in those games as unique challenges are presented with even the arena itself often being incorporated into the fight. In Elden Ring, if you merely expect each boss to be a huge monstrosity that leaps around the arena while swinging an oversized weapon and launching some sort of elemental projectile then you'll more often than not be correct. Even the optional boss battles with the handful of dragons play out nearly identically with their element being the only real exception.

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Rennala here is one of Elden Ring's most unique bosses

Multiplayer

As with every Souls game, Elden Ring includes a multiplayer component and it's actually quite basic as you can cooperate with others to take down bosses (which proportionally increases the boss's health) as well as compete. With that being said, the competitive aspect is rather deficient because you can only be invaded if you use an item to explicitly invite people to do so or if you currently have a co-op partner which frankly doesn't feel fair. When playing co-op, you can summon adversaries via signs, too. In short, the multiplayer takes a back seat to the large exploration-based campaign as you'll mostly only work together with others sporadically for a few minutes at a time and that's basically it because the competitive side of the equation isn't as prominent or as fully-featured as it is in other Souls games.

Anyway, Elden Ring features a familiar collection of multiplayer items that do things like reveal and create summoning signs, lure invaders, send players away, and allow you to write messages. Now that I bring it up, the wealth of jokey messages throughout the world that are neither funny nor helpful is ridiculous; so much so that I wish you could disable them entirely. I should mention that although Elden Ring doesn't feature any discernible covenant system, it does have NPC allegiances that reward you for killing other players and such.

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We have all of these chairs yet no audience for our epic boss slaying

Lore and characters

As expected, Elden Ring is chock full of lore that stretches back to ancient history and expands across a large cast of NPCs who have an impressive amount of depth when it comes to their relationships with one another. A lot of NPCs are also quite literally insane whether it's through their unintelligibly verbose dialogue, brutally blunt attitudes, devious pasts, over-the-top personalities, or psychotic actions. Even characters that appear kind and genuine may be revealed to be much more sinister than you would initially assume.

All of this is excellent stuff but to be frank, I reached a point where I stopped caring about all of the character quest-lines. In fact, this marks the first Souls game where I lost interest in this aspect and it's mainly because it's quite overwhelming in Elden Ring. For starters, there are a lot of characters so remembering where they all are and what they want is a chore, especially if you're eager to keep forging ahead and exploring new lands like I was. With that in mind, I imagine that many players will relish the complex character relationships as they try to appease everyone before the end credits roll. It all depends on your proclivity for patiently piecing things together. If you're like me then you likely lack the attention span to unravel the complex web that the large cast of characters weave.

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If you'd like some of the story spelled out for you, here's good old Sir Gideon Ofnir

Sights and sounds

Elden Ring is a stunning game on a visual level. The way that familiar medieval fortresses and ruins combine with fantastical features like the massive Erdtree that can be seen from anywhere in the overworld is jaw-dropping. As I mentioned, the distinct environments are all unique and memorable, too, and my favourite is Mt. Gelmir as it's incredibly daunting to trek through the rocky mountainsides as you witness horrors such as killing machines that devastated encampments only to then see a forest of hanging corpses nearby. There are many unexplainable landmarks that are hard to look away from like this throughout the world and when you add in a day/night cycle as well as weather then you're left with a truly immersive atmosphere that'll stay with you for long after you stop playing.

With all of that in mind, Elden Ring has its share of performance issues such as environmental pop-in which is slight yet it still occasionally takes away from the immersion. I've heard that people have also been complaining about the frame rate which is something that I personally only notice when it's atrocious and it definitely isn't here which is good. There are some strange graphical bugs, though, like enemies that stick through floors and walls and once, a boss picked me up in its mouth but my character model was a good 10 feet from where it should have been so it looked like I was floating. Now that we're talking about immersion, when it comes to DualSense support, Elden Ring apparently features haptic feedback although it's so weak that it's practically unnoticeable. Meanwhile, there is no adaptive trigger functionality at all which is disappointing as I imagine it would have made executing weapons skills much more gratifying.

As you explore the landscapes of Elden Ring, you're treated to an understated and almost drone-like orchestral score that matches the environment perfectly and it even subtly changes whenever you commence combat. In stark contrast, the epic arrangements that play during boss fights add a great deal of tension. It's a real roller coaster ride of a soundtrack, that's for sure. Plus, the voice acting is spot-on even though there are some long pauses in between line deliveries and the effects reflect whatever's happening onscreen perfectly.

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You can only imagine what went on here back in the day

Replay value

Last but not least, let's discuss replay value. Previous Souls games are great fun to play over and over again as things progressively become more difficult at each New Game Plus cycle and thankfully, the same functionality is present in Elden Ring. With that being said, the huge world will definitely wear thin on subsequent playthroughs so I'd consider it to be the sort of game that you'll complete again only with a substantial break beforehand. In other words, it's exhausting enough to uncover and master the game world on one playthrough that I can't imagine jumping straight back in and doing it all over again as soon as the end credits are done rolling.

One reason why you would want to play Elden Ring again is if you'd like to tie up any character quest lines. Considering I stopped caring about this in my first playthrough, I imagine that whenever I get around to playing it again, I'll be much more vigilant and invested in this aspect. There are also multiple endings that I honestly have no idea how to trigger but I'm certainly excited to find out.

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Once you think you've seen everything, you discover something amazing

Although I still find the original Dark Souls to be FromSoftware's magnum opus, Elden Ring is an undeniably amazing game. At the end of the day, it's sure to delight most Souls veterans but it probably won't convert many non-fans.

  • + Absurdly huge and intricate game world that's a pleasure to explore
  • + Familiar and superb Souls gameplay
  • + Loads of outstanding new elements
  • - Lacks a sense of overcoming elaborate scenarios within interconnected areas
  • - Many of the bosses are too similar
  • - Plenty of odd performance issues
9.3 out of 10
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Elden Ring Trivia

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