Are games feeling stale and boring? Never being able to find something to play and enjoy for more than an hour or two has become something that many gamers, including myself, have felt in the past few years. Some articles expressing these points are, “Sometimes You Just Get Tired of Playing Video Games” (Mike Fahey) and “Feeling Gaming Fatigue? What to do When You’re Tired of Playing Games” (Dave Leclair) as well as multiple social media threads that speak of the mental deterioration relating to the cyclical nature of games. However, with the release of one of the largest games of the year, we might be seeing a new age of graphical design and creativity.
Developed by FromSoftware, Elden Ring is a momentous collaboration between the famous Game of Thrones author George R. R. Martin and the creator of the Souls series, Hidetaka Miyazaki. With such a massive legacy to live up to – such as Dark Souls winning the “Ultimate Game of all Time” award in the Golden Joystick Awards 2021. While it does have its flaws, Elden Ring succeeds on such a grand scale. It went as far as to win the “Most Wanted Game” award at the Golden Joystick Awards, selling 12 million copies in just two weeks and 17 million copies as of September 2022, making it the most successful Fromsoftware release to date.
But what’s the game about? Elden Ring is a massive multiplayer online role-playing game where you take on the role of the Tarnished, learning about each faction and character’s story while fighting brilliantly designed bosses and enemies with new forms of combat, one such being the infamous “delayed attack” that has given many gamers trouble in learning and mastering. Though these bosses have given me trouble, at some points feeling totally unfair, I still enjoyed every moment and cannot wait to start another playthrough, designing my character in a completely different manner.
The reward of playing these games is knowing that your victory is something that you alone earned. You spend your time, not on a meaningless grind that ends with some small upgrade, but rather on learning the weaknesses and strategies needed to beat your enemy and pushing yourself to improve through trial and error. The Souls series lets you throw yourself against a brick wall until you find a way to climb over, and satisfaction comes from knowing that this accomplishment is entirely your own.
My only issue with the gameplay itself is the semi-repetitiveness of enemies, mainly the mini-bosses. There was creativity put into the design of each different character and enemy, but the main flaw came in how those creative elements were utilized. There are multiple instances where bosses simply repeat with different names or locations, but what makes up for the use of the same fights is differences in environment or placement. I can see these rematches as ways to make new choices and learn new things.
Although it follows many of the previous aspects of the series such as fighting mechanics, menu settings, and character creation screens, Elden Ring takes a new approach to progression. It has to, being the series’ first attempt at an open-world game. Previous titles involved somewhat linear progression with multiple straightforward paths the player could take to explore the setting. But Elden Ring takes a new route, literally, in the ways it lets you play. Elden Ring will hit you with a boss that is way above your level, but you are presented with multiple ways to overcome it. You can repeatedly fail, trying to learn the patterns and strategies of the boss, or you can leave and progress in a completely different direction, getting stronger gear somewhere else and coming back to the boss stronger. Or you can take a separate path around the enemy, bypassing the challenge entirely. The beauty of Elden Ring is choice; whether it be the tools you use or directions you choose, there is something for everyone.
Personally, my first experience with this new gaming philosophy was difficult to learn. I had adjusted myself to this strategy of trying over and over again. With little success in defeating a boss I was struggling with, I gave up. Coming back to the game and, after some advice from my friend, finding I could simply leave and return stronger was so refreshing. I had never seen this before in a souls game, or any game for that matter. Games with original, inventive thinking can be few and far between, but they are a breath of fresh air to experience.