That is the average amount of time that I have spent playing between all three Dark Souls games, Bloodborne, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, and the Demon’s Souls remaster on the PS5. But despite the toxic relationship we have of putting me through an endless loop of pain, tears, and repetition, this subgenre of open-world RPGs still remains as one of my favorites till this very day.
Throughout the years, souls games such as Dark Souls have made a name for themselves for being some of the most vague and unforgiving games to start playing. This notoriety in gaming also coined the term, ‘The Dark Souls of-’ in reference to the absurd difficulty level that new players will have to overcome to start enjoying the rest of the game properly.
Like many a souls fan, I was a passenger of the hype train when the first trailers for Elden Ring was released in the olden days of… 2019. And even after two more years of waiting with no news of the game and two whole E3 conventions not showcasing anything from FromSoftware, we still remained in anticipation for the next souls title.
And when the story and gameplay trailers came out in the middle of 2021, souls fans around the world rejoiced for an update from the developers from FromSoftware and Bandai Namco giving us an update that the game is very close to completion and to be released in the following year afterwards. Leaving little breadcrumbs of content to dampen our hunger for the game.
Fast forward to the end of February and we all got our hands, mine included, on the game and installed it on our consoles and taking a day off work to play it. It was nothing short of the greatest masterpiece ever made by FromSoftware in conjunction with Bandai Namco, and even having the writer of the Game of Thrones novels, George R. R. Martin, and Hidetaka Miyazaki (no, not that Miyazaki!) of Dark Souls 3 fame being involved in building a deep, complex, and immersive world.
I don’t usually give away my final thoughts at the very beginning of the article, but Elden Ring is by far, the best souls game with a great setting, story, enemy designs, combat, and sound track. Bar. None.
Strap yourselves in, people. Because this story, as amazing as it is when you slowly unravel more and more pieces for yourself, is an incredibly deep, complex, detailed, and the biggest that I’ve ever seen in a souls game of this scale thanks to the man, myth, and legend himself: George R. R. Martin.
The story of the Elden Ring, in true souls game fashion, starts off with a sizable and digestible exposition dump that sets the plot, premise, and scene of the game. Elden Ring takes place in the lands of… well, the Lands Between after the destruction of something that is known as the ‘Elden Ring’ (roll credits!) and shards of it being scattered all over the lands known as the ‘Great Runes’. And it is these shards of the original Elden Ring that is currently in the possession of the offspring of Queen Marika the Eternal and corrupting them with unapparelled strength and power.
And that’s where you come in: Your character is part of a category of exiles commonly referred to as the ‘Tarnished’, and you have answered the call to the Lands Between to seek out all the pieces of the Great Runes to rebuild the Elden Ring and become the ‘Elden Lord’. Of course, this is one ending that you can pursue, and there are other branching story paths that you can take instead.
Very early on, you’ll find out that you, a Tarnished, is maidenless and are incredibly susceptible to becoming corrupt like the offspring of Queen Marika when collecting the Great Runes. You eventually meet a maiden known as Melina, who grants you the power to turn these Great Runes into strength instead and unites you with other Tarnished in hopes to gather the Great Runes and repairing the Elden Ring. But your window of time is incredibly short of the offspring are at war with one another to try to claim their Great Runes for themselves.
And that is an extremely summarized version that I can give you that fully explains the entire premise of the story. But it doesn’t just stop at the main story quest, there are also an abundance of characters each with their own piece of lore that you can dive deep into and learn all on your own by continuing your journey to the next story mission, or just wandering around the Lands Between all on your own.
Just like other souls games such as Dark Souls, Bloodborne, and Sekiro, each of these games still have core combat mechanics that all of them share, but have their own unique spin to make the experience a little bit more lore-accurate and immersive. Dark Souls has a myriad of weapons and spells as per dark fantasy vibes, Bloodborne has traditional melee weapons and firearms of the period, and Sekiro has blessings and augments that enhances your damage output for a time.
Elden Ring has some new combat actions that are added as sort of a quality-of-life feature. One such addition that is a godsend for all souls players is the ability to use jumping attacks to close the distance between you and the enemy rather than rolling away and then running up to it for a hit. This was a welcome addition to me as I could deal a healthy amount of damage to enemies without having the worry of them winding up for an attack when I approach them slowly.
Speaking of rolling, Elden Ring also made tweaks to how you can avoid taking damage and save yourself from using too much stamina which I have come to learn extremely late into the game. I’m already used to rolling away from a boss’s attacks to avoid attacks as it guarantees you an invincible frame that nullifies damage. I learned that this time, you can freely block fast and quick attacks from enemies and the time is reduced for you to safely roll away and reducing your chances in taking damage. This change for me is also a welcome one as it made combat for me more dynamic and fluid while also adding a layer of combat that is essential to master for tougher bosses further down the line.
In addition to that, the big change that everybody was hyped for is mounted combat on your horse/goat. Since the world is wide and expansive, it is a requirement for you to utilize your mount to traverse across the land and heading over to certain parts of the map to higher elevated areas. The added benefit to mounted combat is that you are able to make multiple high-speed and high-damage passes to a group of enemies with a low chance of getting hit, or even killing other fast-moving animals that you need to collect materials from where your jumping attacks would be too slow.
These changes in combat is actually quite subtle in reality, but they feel a big enough change that adds to your experience and immersion when you progress further into the story of the game.
In the first few moments of the game, I initiated a branching path in the main storyline where I met another maiden similar to Melina called Ranni, a blue-skinned, multi-armed witch who throughout my entire playthrough had always been there to help me out of tough situations for story purposes, and it eventually went to a point where our working relationship together has evolved from a purely professional standpoint to a more… let’s say intimate one. Towards the end of her questline, I already presented to her a ring that I can only describe as an engagement ring and married her, and in return giving me a cool sword and an option at the end of the game that led me to an alternate ending where Hell literally freezes over and dooming the rest of the world.
And throughout my playthrough of doing Ranni’s missions, everything felt so organic and natural that even I felt myself also falling for Ranni, and also noticing her lines that she has also developed some feelings towards me too. Whenever I was going back and forth to different areas of the map to complete a certain side quest, I make it an extra effort to search around the area that may contribute to helping Ranni.
Deep down as I was digging myself deeper into the lore of the Elden Ring, I finally realized that I have done something that no other Tarnished has done and deemed an impossible feat and making fun of somebody who had such aspirations: Finding a maiden for myself, marrying her to become my wife and queen, becoming the lord of the freakin’ cosmos and then ending the world in the progress. All while finding happiness in the stars not alone, but together with her.
TL;DR – People made fun of me for being single, so I married a blue witch lady so hard that Hell literally froze over and doomed the rest of the world and got a cool sword at the end for New Game + in the most hardcore dating sim game ever made. Was it worth it? Heck yeah it was.
At the time of writing this review, I’m already starting a new character on my second playthrough now and taking and taking another route to look for other possible endings of the game while running over to different parts of the map to get the most OP weapons and armor possible.
That is just how good the game really is, and I cannot stress enough how much of a perfect souls experience I had just went through in my first and current second playthrough.
Next to the Demon’s Souls remaster on the PS5, Elden Ring is the perfect game that serves as a love letter to the veterans of the genre. The subtle additions to the gameplay mechanics has now been made even easier for even newcomers to enter the genre of souls games while also providing a good amount of challenge for them to overcome and be better throughout their playthrough.
And with such an excellent story written by one of the greatest series of novels of all time teaming up with a great director of past souls titles, a fantastic musical score that amplifies the atmosphere of the world of the Land Between, there is no other souls game that I can think of that can top Elden Ring, and I cannot recommend this game enough. This is one of the best souls experiences that I had in years, and I look forward to every single second of it in my next playthrough.