Elden Ring has been just over a week now and, after putting in around 30 hours, I have to say – all those reviews piling praise upon it pre-release? Yeah, they were onto something. I’m absolutely loving the game, and am excited to sink another 30 hours (and then some!) in over the coming weeks. Here are some of my impressions of the game so far:
- Elden Ring is my fifth From Software game and – dare I say it? – the easiest of them… I think. This is the first time I’ve tried a straight magic/mage build and it is straight cheese. The astrologer class starts with a spell that dispenses a wide magical arc and, after beefing up my intelligence (which ups magical damage) stat, this arc spell can easily dispel groups of enemies without them even aggroing against me. The amount of summons available, both of NPCs and spirit creatures, makes for an easier go of things for even non-magical builds. You’ll have ample time to heal and refill your magic while bosses and enemies are focused on attacking anything that’s not you.
- Running away is also such a viable option and helps ease the difficulty of the game. Surrounded by enemies? Summon Torrent and run away! Stumbled upon an area you’re underleveled for? Run away! Stuck at a boss fight? Run somewhere else, explore, and level up! I don’t find myself beating my head against a wall when stuck on a fight now or spending an hour grinding for runes (experience points) like in past From Soft games. Instead, I turn away from the difficult encounter and find somewhere else to explore and organically level up. This keeps the game always moving toward something fun to do.
- There’s a wide berth of approaches to combat in Elden Ring. It can be played like Dark Souls with giant great swords and a reliance on shields, like Bloodborne with quick weapons and even quicker dodges, or anywhere in between. Like I mentioned, I’m playing the game with an intelligence (magic) build and having a blast doing my best Gandalf impression. As I acquire more and I more spells to experiment, I have more and more fun. Weapons, spells, and armor are scattered everywhere, encouraging players to take their time, explore, and take the game in.
- I could get used to the enemy variety Elden Ring offers and hope more games aspire to have such a diverse array of foes. There are classic knights, Mongol-inspired warriors on horseback, sorcerers of the Raya Lucaria Academy, classic animals like bears and wolves, the undead, demi-humans, some monstrosities straight outta Yharnam, and much more. Have so many foes to go against helps keep combat from going stale.
- Elden Ring has some wonderful boss designs and fights. At about 30 hours, I’ve felled two Great Rune bosses, five optional trophy bosses, and several “field bosses,” which are optional bosses you’ll encounter in a dungeon or wandering the game’s world, like the early Tree Sentinel or the Night’s Cavalry. The Ancestor Spirit – a giant, monstrous, bony deer with glowing magical horns – owns my favorite design of the game so far while Godrick the Grafted has been my favorite fight. I haven’t encountered a frustrating boss or cheap boss yet. All the fights have felt fair and fun.
- Exploring the world of Elden Ring has been such a joy. There are so many nooks and crannies to turn to that you never know what you’ll end up finding. A dungeon entrance? A pack of wolves ganging up on a giant bear? A dragon swooping down to attack you in some sunken ruins? A trap laid by a group of demi-humans? Hell yes to all of the above. I’m usually not one for open world games, but with Elden Ring’s freedom and variety, it’s such a joy to explore and experience.
- As players explore the world, they can leave markers on their world map as reminders of where things are – I use skulls for difficult boss fights and the person marker for vendors and NPCs – but there’s no ability to make a textual note on the map, which I do wish was an option. Instead, I’ve been having to take notes on my phone of which vendor is where and such. There’s also no quest log in the game, which I don’t mind at all as the idea of a “quest” in From Software games is a bit nebulous. They aren’t so much quests as they are storylines the player progresses through exploration and conversations with NPCs.
- I’ll defend most From Software game staples — difficult enemies, bosses who can one-shot you, losing exp. on death — but for the love of Queen Marika can we please get a pause button?
- The graphics of Elden Ring are gorgeous, and it’s easily From Software’s best looking game. The colors of the environment are vibrant at times, moody at others. The night and day cycle makes for some beautiful visuals, like when the morning light shines through the trees as the sun rises or when the darkness of night descends on some abandoned ruins as skeletal enemies rise from their graves.
- Technically, however, there are some hiccups. It’s running mostly fine for me on the PS5, but PC players have reported several issues with the game, including problems with saving (yikes). I’ve personally experienced the occasional framerate dip and frequent texture pop-in – grass is constantly loading and sprouting up as I traverse the landscape — but nothing game-debilitating.
Overall I’m loving Elden Ring and it’s easily an early frontrunner to be my choice for game of the year.
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