Elden Ring is FromSoftware’s latest Souls-like title. Unlike previous games from the studio, Elden Ring is based in an open world, rather than pushing you to follow a linear path. It’s received considerable praise since its launch in February 2022, but is Elden Ring overrated and is it worth it? Here are our thoughts, as well as some information on the title for anyone that’s considering trying the game.
Like most other Souls-like games by FromSoftware, including the titular Dark Souls, Elden Ring‘s story is obscure. A majority of the plot is told through item descriptions, like boss remembrances – Elden Ring’s version of boss souls -, and by speaking to the slew of NPCs littered around the game’s open world. There are cutscenes, but they’re few and far between, either introducing bosses or triggering world-changing events.
At its root, Elden Ring sees you take on the role of the Tarnished, an exile from the Lands Between, who, after the shattering of the Elden Ring by Queen Marika The Eternal, must traverse the world and defeat demigods to become the new Elden Ring and restore order, or not.
Many unfamiliar with FromSoftware’s vague storytelling may feel put off by Elden Ring’s story, particularly if you’re used to the storytelling from triple-A games like Horizon Forbidden West, Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, and others, all of which are straightforward and told directly. However, this often pushes you into reading as much as possible and exhausting NPC dialogue to understand most of Elden Ring and its heavy lore, crafted by Game Of Thrones author George R. R. Martin and Souls-vet Hidetaka Miyazaki.
Although Elden Ring doesn’t live up to the visual standards set by the smaller PlayStation 5 console exclusive Demon’s Souls, it’s still a gorgeous video game that benefits from FromSoftware’s distinctive art direction, whether you’re exploring a large, shallow lake; a lush area of land; a region covered in dangerous rot; the frozen landscapes of mountaintops belonging to giants; or the claustrophobic hallways of a magic school. While you shouldn’t expect ray-traced reflections, Elden Ring is FromSoftware’s most visually stunning game so far, and that’s a feat in itself since the game is set across a large open world.
Technically, the game runs at 1080p at a steady 60 frames-per-second on PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series consoles, with previous gen consoles running the game at a slower 30 frames-per-second. When it comes to playing on PC, there is a slew of graphical options available depending on your specs, although there is a 60 frames-per-second cap.
As mentioned, unlike previous Dark Souls games, Elden Ring is open world, and it will see you explore various regions across the Lands Between, including underground regions and a small city floating in the sky amidst rubble. These regions – which we’ve explained in our area order guide – are jam-packed with content to find, NPCs to meet and speak with, and hidden areas. Like most open-world games, Elden Ring has a map, but rather than climbing towers to unlock regions of the map, the game pushes you to venture into the dangerous and unknown to find map pieces and stitch together the overall world map, so there’s lots of risk involved.
Rather than using Bonfires, Elden Ring uses Sites Of Grace, which act as fast travel points and are littered throughout the Lands Between. They’re also used for levelling up stats, changing spells and incantations, altering armour, upgrading and changing flasks, and pointing you in the right direction for story progression. When you rest at a Site Of Grace, all enemies excluding bosses revive.
Despite being an open world, Elden Ring sticks to the same formula of requiring you to take on various bosses on your journey to complete the game. Key differences here are that you’re free to explore regions as you see fit, there are plenty more bosses and stronger enemies to take on, and there are several catacombs and tunnels to explore, each of which house various upgrade materials and bosses.
All of these main and mini-bosses provide you with Runes, replacing Souls from Dark Souls and Blood Echoes from Bloodborne, which you’ll use to purchase items and level up your stats, creating a unique build that will see you through to the end of the game (Although you can respec early on). Like with previous games, dying will see you lose all collected Runes, and you’ll be given one chance to retrieve them. Die again before collecting lost Runes, and they’re gone forever.
Elden Ring uses the usual healing mechanic from previous games, you have the Flask Of Crimson Tears to restore HP and the Flask Of Cerulean Tears to restore FP for sorcery and incantations. Finally, there’s the Flask Of Wonderous Physick, which you can mix at Sites Of Grace to create various special effects. The Cerulean and Crimson flasks can be upgraded by collecting Golden Seeds and Sacred Tears. Seeds give you additional flasks and Tears provide you with more HP and FP per drink.
Additional new mechanics in Elden Ring include a dedicated jump button and crouching, as well as a stealth mechanic through which – following from Sekiro – you can hide from enemies in vegetation, sneak up on them, and perform stealth attacks. What’s more, exploration of the game’s world is done on horseback with Torrent, allowing you to cover ground quickly, use jump pads to climb out-of-reach areas, and attack while on horseback either with ordinary enemies or enemies also on horseback. However, enemies can knock you off Torrent and Torrent can die, requiring a healing flask to revive.
There are also other new mechanics, like the ability to craft items from materials you find or purchase when playing, the ability to summon collectable and upgradeable spirits (Other players can be summoned, and some can invade as usual too), improvements to weapon upgrading, and more free roam around the world. All of this combines into great gameplay that builds upon the usual Souls-like experience and bolsters it.
Is Elden Ring Hard?
Yes, Elden Ring is hard, but it’s also one of the most accessible Souls-like games. Like previous titles, Elden Ring supports online co-op, allowing you to summon up to two additional players into your world to help you navigate regions and defeat bosses. There are also talismans that can help by boosting your defences or abilities, particularly if you’re a mage.
If you don’t want to play with other players, Elden Ring also provides you with a slew of upgradable summons, as we mentioned above, with different abilities, strengths, and weaknesses. All of this has made Elden Ring much more accessible to players, and has in some way made the game easier to complete.
However, you’ll still face a slew of challenging bosses and difficult regions, and failing to create a focused character build or correctly level up the required stats will see you suffer throughout the game, making it a miserable experience. Thankfully, there are numerous guides available online that detail the varying builds in the game, which weapons best suit them, and which stats to specialise in.
Length: How Long Is Elden Ring?
Elden Ring is an extremely long game, with most players clocking in at up to 100 hours by completing the main game and a majority of its side content. If you’re looking to acquire all trophies or achievements, the play time will extend to well over 100 hours as completing Elden Ring to 100% will require a minimum of three playthroughs, unless you remember to back up your saves and acquire the different endings – some of which you will definitely require a guide for.
If you’re a serious completionist, you may also want to try and complete all NPC quests, acquire all weapons, sorceries, and incantations, find all spirits, and defeat all bosses, including the game’s mini-bosses. All of this will add even more time to your playthrough, and we haven’t even touched on the hours of entertainment you can get from invading and assisting other players.
Summary: Is Elden Ring Worth It?
Firstly, Elden Ring is not overrated. The game has received considerable praise from fans and critics alike, and for good reason. The game manages to rejuvenate the Souls-like formula while simultaneously building upon it, adding refreshing new gameplay mechanics that we hope will make it into future titles. Although the game does some fallbacks; the game, in our opinion, is a little too long – particularly the final segment – and some of the late-game bosses felt incredibly unbalanced (We’re looking at you, Melenia). However, the game was an incredibly entertaining and somewhat challenging experience, and one we’re eager to replay when time permits.
We believe that Elden Ring is worth it, regardless of whether you’re new to the genre or have played previous Souls games. There’s plenty to explore, lots to challenge you, and enough to keep you busy for several months. Elden Ring acts as an excellent introduction to the Souls-like genre for anyone that hasn’t yet tried the games, and it’s a great title for Souls veterans too, utilising the traditional gameplay but with enough changes to throw experienced players off.