‘Elden Ring’ is a game wonder. But why is it so hard?

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Elden ring should have an easy mode.

Now, most will find this statement uncontroversial: who wouldn’t want the latest gaming phenomenon to be experienced by as many people as possible? Of course, interactive accessibility still has a long way to go, but great strides have been made in recent years to give players of varying abilities the ability to see stories through.

But that’s not how From Software does things: This desktop software turned gaming pioneer is known for its build density. While previously known for the action mech series Armored Core, the company’s cultural cachet has grown significantly after it allowed newcomer Hidetaka Miyazaki to create a new subgenre of action role-playing games since dubbed “Soul-likes”. 2009 Demon’s Souls, a PlayStation 3 exclusive whose remake would be the flagship app for the PlayStation 5 launch 11 years later, laid the groundwork for what was to come, but it remained fairly niche on its own. The sequel, 2011 dark soulswould change video games forever.

It’s hard to deny the impact the game has had on modern development. Its DNA is now found in everything from indie darlings to the latest Star Wars game: dense, mysterious, interconnected levels full of monsters that can and will kill you if you don’t master the intricacies of their combat. And Miyazaki got things done himself: transmitted by blood, Dark Souls III (he only supervised the first sequel), Sekiro: Shadows Die Twiceand now Ring of Elden. All beautiful, brutal and beloved.

For some people, the souls-how the experience borders on the spiritual, and these people are as fierce towards critics as any fundamentalist. “Git gud” (“get good”) is a common refrain thrown at normies who wish they could get on the show but lack the patience, time, or skill to really connect. After a video game journalist openly admitted to using mods to help him beat sekiro‘s final boss, a viral tweet chided him, “You not only cheated the game, but yourself,” which… okay man.

Ring of Elden will make people like this very happy: it’s another impenetrable beautiful game filled with vicious monsters ready to crush you. But what about the rest, the normies? People who might want to see what it’s all about, but understandably don’t like the idea of ​​screaming in frustration in front of their TV for dozens of hours. What, if anything, does Ring of Elden have for them?

Honestly? Not much… at least in terms of gameplay, but maybe a bit of fun to be found in the world itself.

Ring of EldenThe mythology of was created in collaboration with game of thrones author George RR Martin, whose only previous game-writing experience came with the 2012 critical adaptation of his series. Although his role in Ring of EldenCreating was to shape the world and its story rather than directly influence the story of the game, he’s clearly a fan of where the company took his ideas from.

As you’d expect, this involves a lot of high-fantasy gibberish: you’re a “Tarnished” who entered the world long after it was destroyed by The Shattering, a war caused by the bursting of the Elden Ring. Many have made efforts to reform the Ring and have failed – you will not, assuming you are willing to devote the many days of your life that will be required to complete the task. Hard-to-pronounce names and huge historical events are constantly referenced in minimal dialogue and there’s no way in-game to keep track of it all, requiring all but the most deeply invested to eventually meet up with the fans. Wiki to find out who they just talked to and also if they really should care.

But they don’t really need it. Obviously a lot of thought and effort went into creating all of this, but you rarely need to engage with the story during regular play. For better and for worse, Ring of Elden plays a lot like dark souls with some fun twists. There are ten different classes to start from, each of which can change the experience quite fundamentally, but it doesn’t matter what you choose: battles are about spacing and timing. Know when to roll, block, parry, hit, item, magic.

And I admit I did a little flip before: the fight in Ring of Elden is deeply satisfying once you get the hang of it. It’s not the most intuitive thing, especially when trying to juggle weapons and secondary items, but when it’s just you and an Eldritch Abomination you’ve been dying to kill for 30 minutes then as you slowly chip away at more and more of his health with each pass attempt, he begins to click. Suddenly you realize you have it on the ropes. Your heart is starting to race, that could be it! But you also know that a single poorly timed roll or failed parry can result in a combo that ends everything in seconds. You keep going, trying not to lose patience and rushing in when you need to back up…and when you do, when you’re the only one to land the final blow and take down the enemy, it’s amazing. That’s why people love these games. I completely understand, although I don’t understand the weird control attached to it.

What really sets Ring of Elden of his souls predecessors is the world: the “Lands Between” are quite different from previous FromSoft locales: they don’t stray as far as sekiro did, with his stylized take on historic Japanese architecture, but Ring of Elden sees you riding your ghost horse through grassy fields as often as failing to progress through the castles and crypts that surround it. There’s a lot more color to the world than we’re used to, and while some of these previous games have been adjacent to the open world, allowing you to carve your own path along a series of interconnected paths, Ring of Elden is a much more typical implementation.

You keep going, trying not to lose patience and rushing in when you need to back up…and when you do, when you’re the only one to land the final blow and take down the enemy, it’s amazing. That’s why people love these games.

He has a old scrolls atmosphere, like a post-apocalyptic Skyrim with much less dialogue and much better combat, and I think people who have spent hundreds of hours in this game could easily do the same here. After a brief tutorial where you’re given a lot more information than you can realistically process, you’re propelled onto a high cliff, from where you can see the places you’ll soon be going in the distance. It’s huge, almost shocking. There was a moment when I accidentally opened a trap near the bottom of the world that teleported me to the top and suddenly realized that all that empty space on the map screen wasn’t just a strange design – it was a sign of how much I was left to see. There’s so much here, and if it wasn’t for last week’s release of the superb Horizon: West forbiddenit would almost certainly be the best open world of the new generation.

And I think that’s where people who might not be in love with combat can always find something to hold on to, because there’s a definite joy in the act of exploration separate from enemy encounters. , and it seems a little less important than its predecessors. Sure, you can always run past monsters you don’t want to engage with, but that’s a much less daunting prospect when you’re on horseback. And while you can’t completely avoid combat, many open-world encounters can be brutal as you roll in tight circles around your opponent as you smack them with your weapon. And those who can’t, well, just accept that death is coming and try to find some humor in it. I really laughed the first time I accidentally summoned a dragon that all of a sudden dealt 50% more damage than my health.

That said, I wouldn’t really recommend playing Ring of Elden if you are worried that the fight will be too difficult unless you have hours and hours to practice, otherwise it will be. That’s how these games are, and I wish it wasn’t so black and white. I understand that creating a new difficulty mode and trying to balance it all out is a rather laborious task, but it’s not the only option to improve the experience for the less dedicated. Direct invincibility would be great for would-be explorers, but maybe something akin to “God Mode” in the much-loved underworld Could work here: Every time the player dies in this game while the mode is active, the damage they take on the next run is reduced by 2% while active, up to a reduction of 80 %. It’s not forced on anyone and it allows players to reach their own balance where the game is challenging in a satisfying rather than frustrating way.

To me, Ring of Elden swung wildly between these descriptors. Maybe that’s an inevitable result of the open world design, because either every enemy has to be exactly as tough as the others, or your ability to take on baddies in near-random order could cause you, like me, to die multiple times. times when you die. first four sets of bosses in hidden catacombs, then take out the fifth entirely on your first try. I think I was supposed to hit that one first. Whoops !

But playing the game now, when everyone else is jumping on it, makes it all a little more accessible by creating community engagement in a typically single-player affair. While it’s possible to join other games for one-on-one battles to help or harm other players, you’ll spend more time with other players’ remains scattered across the world. This has long been part of FromSoft’s design, but getting to a treasure chest and seeing a note from one player saying “It’s a trap” and another saying “This guy is lying, it’s not a trap” makes the experience livelier, whether it’s a trap or not. And the same goes for seeing the white ghosts of other players who are at that exact moment in the same part of the map that you’re just, you know, doing their thing. The world is also littered with bloodstains, which can be tapped to show you a red ghost of another player’s final seconds.

Sometimes it’s just funny, like watching someone accidentally lead their horse off a cliff. Other times it’s helpful, like seeing them react to an invisible trap that you now know is approaching. Sometimes it made me feel better about my own failures because I had walked through an area covered in blood spatter without leaving any of my own. And the first time I checked a note after beating a boss to see “You did it!!!” to appear on the screen, it was nice! Damn, it was still fun the twelfth time.

But I know I will eventually get to a point where the timing is too tight and the battle too long. Where I can’t do it anymore because I can’t dedicate my life to a virtual sword. Unfortunately, I’m not “gud” enough to Ring of Elden. But given the time I spent with it, I’m already good.

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