Patrick has put in a lot of hours into previous FromSoftware games, but Liza was new to their games and eager to dive into the world of Elden Ring. These Couch Soup contributors share their reactions to the recent release.
Patrick is wrapped up in the open world
I've procrastinated writing this article because I've been utterly consumed by the realm of Lands Between in FromSoft's highly praised action role-playing game, Elden Ring. With just shy of 30 hours of game time clocked in, I still feel like I'm barely scratching the surface of what this game has to offer.
In the two months prior to the launch of Elden Ring, I decided to revisit every modern-day FromSoft game (besides Dark Souls 2, which I hate, but that's a topic for another day). I consider myself a “souls-like” veteran, having sent Old King Allant into a well-deserved retirement in Demon's Souls, rekindling many a flame in Dark Souls, fighting the Moon Presence in Bloodborne, and dueling Isshin, the Sword Saint in Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. All that considered, clearly, I'm more than willing to bash my head against the metaphorical wall, given that these games are notoriously difficult.
In the ramp-up to the release of Elden Ring, I stayed away from all major news outlets' coverage of the new title and thought I knew what to expect. Just when you think you know the answers, Elden Ring changes the questions, resulting in a refreshing and challenging experience.
While my character ascends the elevator and takes in the first glimpse of the open world that FromSoft has crafted, I am beside myself with glee. Are you telling me I can just go any direction I want? The curiosity absolutely killed the cat in this situation when I found myself pillaging some lakeside ruins. Upon opening a treasure chest and being transported to a crystal-filled cave on the opposite side of the map, I was surrounded by monstrosities that stole my pride and lunch money.
In my experience, the open world has been a double-edged sword. I love that I'm given the option of heading in three different directions when I've reached a challenge that seems insurmountable. However, it's not always clear to me if this is a case of needing to buckle in and learn enemy patterns or if my newly acquired halberd is four levels underpowered. In previous FromSoft games, you may have had a branching path that led to a new area or two, but it always felt like I was meant to be wherever I found myself - unless it was Blighttown, no one belongs there.
At level 48, I've cleared one of the “legacy dungeons” and defeated the area's final boss, an Elden Lord known as Godrick the Grafted. The legacy dungeons capture the feeling of exploring previous games' linear progression. That's where I've found the most enjoyment (and challenge) up to this point. Right now, I can only speculate on the quality of the remaining dungeons. But if they're anywhere near the treachery of Stormveil Castle, I'll be in for a masochistic treat.
In an interview with the PlayStation Blog, Elden Ring Director Hidetaka Miyazaki has expressed that Elden Ring will be more accessible although not inherently less difficult with the inclusion of stealth and spirit summoning mechanics. While playing previous FromSoft games, I'd seldomly summon in real players unless the goal was to engage in PVP combat. With a bit of patience and extra tools at your disposal, such as Wikis and guides, I can see how this game would be a great entry point into this type of adventure.
That being the case, I've teamed up with my co-collaborator Lizabeth Phoenix who is taking on Elden Ring as well, while having never played a previous FromSoft game. We thought it would be fun to share what the game's like for someone who's been in the "souls-like" genre for a while, and someone who's just jumping in.
Liza has been trying not to get lost
As a first-time Souls-like gamer, playing Elden Ring has been enthralling. I've killed bosses, talked to a giant tortoise (I think?), and learned more and more about the world of the Lands Between. At the same time, I've also been getting kicked into the dirt on a regular basis, or chopped up into finely diced bits of Tarnished. I've lost a fair amount of runes, as well…. That's one facet of the game I could do without. Especially when I lose them in a place that has me nope-ing out of there on Torrent seconds after arriving.
The world itself is gorgeous! Full of wildlife, littered with stunning landmarks, and there are resources to harvest around every corner. But it's not a game to casually wander through. Danger lurks around every corner, too, and I've learned the hard way that enemies that look harmless can turn into spinning, blade-wielding death machines in milliseconds. I've both enjoyed exploring and found myself frustrated with the sudden elevation changes. How do I get across the map with a ravine in my way, a rocky cliffside towering above me, or a dragon napping on the bridge? While glorious to behold, Elden Ring's world is chock full of death and devastation. Don't let the lovely sunrises and starry nights fool you.
Combat started out as a challenge, but I changed my specialty and it's become much easier. I originally thought I could hack and cut my way through like I did during my brief stint with Assassin's Creed Valhalla. Nope. Absolutely not. I got sliced to ribbons. So, I've leveled up into more of a mage build, and am now happily flinging purple rocks at whatever decides to get in my way. Me and my trusty Meteorite Staff have so far bested Stormveil, and I've moved on to Castle Morne because I want the Grafted Blade Greatsword, the famed sword of Morne. It's a (not so) subtle nod to the Iron Throne, so you know I had to go after it. I probably won't use it as it’s far too heavy for my build, it'll just be fun to keep.
All in all, it's been an epic experience. I have a long way to go, and quite the road to travel, but every NPC has a unique personality and the quests feel fulfilling and engaging. (Even though I've done a grand total of one quest. Yes, one.) A gaming pro I know has been sending me all sorts of tutorials and videos to guide my path to become Elden Lord, and they summed it up pretty well, "Don't rush through. It's about the experience." I've taken their advice to heart, and plan on meandering through this fictional murder spree and taking in the sights along the way.
The tl;dr of post-launch impressions
Liza: Elden Ring is a fantastic start for newbies who want to get into FromSoft's signature gaming style. However, it's not without its challenges! Picking the right class for your skill level and style, learning how to use your weapons, and leveling up fast can help make the game even more enjoyable. I'm having a great time just sightseeing… when I'm not getting smushed or torched or poisoned, that is. Despite the murderous lightning bolts and maddening wastelands, I'm loving the game.
Patrick: Although I've already sunk so much time on my current character, I can't help but start to plan out what route my next one will take. This game has consumed me since launch and it's all I intend to play for the next month. Sorry, Horizon Forbidden West, it was fun while it lasted!
Do you have plans of becoming an Elden Lord? Let us know how you're liking the Lands Between, and don't forget to tell us what killed you first!