Back in February, the gaming world was awash with excitement over the release of FromSoftware’s Elden Ring. People were going insane about this new entry into the Soulsborne world. The conversation splashed across my Twitter timeline, permeated the podcasts I listened to, and infiltrated the conversations of streamers that I watched.
Critics and reviewers raved over the new game from Hidetaka Miyazaki and story contributions from George R. R. Martin of Game of Thrones fame. It had a 97 metacritic score at launch and has only dropped one point to 96 in the time since. IGN, giving it a 10 out of 10, called it a “masterpiece,” whilst Bloomberg said it was “a triumph of interactive design.”
From what I’ve seen, the world that FromSoftware has created looks dense and beautiful. It seems to be a truly next generation title and an impressive expansion of the Soulslike formula. The sheer volume of different enemies to encounter and artifacts to find is astronomical, and I’m sure that players will be finding new secrets for a long time to come.
On top of all of this, Elden Ring was nominated seven times across various categories at The Game Awards, winning four, including the Game of the Year (GOTY). In effect, Elden Ring has been the best game of 2022.
But I, for one, will never play this game.
Elden Ring’s many achievements cannot be questioned. There are just some aspects of the game that are not appealing to a gamer like me (although I’m sure that my “gamer” status will be questioned by the end of this article).
Grand Theft Auto III was the first open world game that I ever played, all the way back when it was released on the PlayStation 2. Seeing how far game development has come in terms of scale and quality is amazing. However, some newer open world games can cause me boatloads of anxiety. Their ever-increasing scale is almost unfathomable.
Assassin’s Creed Origins (AC Origins) is the perfect example of this effect. The map is so large and the quantity of “?” waypoints so abundant that it begins to feel overwhelming. Elden Ring does not utilize these particular map markers, but knowing there are invisible, ghostly phantoms of “?”s is enough to induce that same anxiety. I’ve not bought a Ubisoft open world game since AC Origins, and I loved that franchise in the Ezio years.
Hell, I must be the only person in the world who has not completed (or even got halfway through) Grand Theft Auto V. For me, it’s another case of “there’s-so-much-to-do-and-I-can’t-concentrate-on-the-story.” Collectibles and side quests keep giving me the side-eye when they’re not the focus of my gameplay.
Elden Ring’s map is so massive, with so many places to explore and die in, it becomes just as overwhelming as these other open world games. And it’s not like it closes any of those areas to you from the start like in the old GTA games, where you were sequestered to the first island until you have progressed far enough in the story to unlock more parts of the map. It’s all accessible, in theory, from the start of the game; woe is you if you wander too far in the wrong direction!
A 55+ hour campaign (and some side content) is not appealing to me. That is the approximate time necessary to complete Elden Ring, according to howlongtobeat.com. At that point, it becomes more of a trial than entertainment. Although I am not technically a completionist, trophies and achievements are my Achilles’ heel. The sweet ding of that Platinum trophy has the same effect on me that Baby Shark has on toddlers. Knowing that the game will become more of a chore than a leisurely pastime in the future will dissuade some people from even getting started.
Making matters worse, there are trophies for multiple endings, so the journey won’t be over after the first playthrough. After the initial 55-hour slog to complete it the first time around, there is no doubt in my mind that this game would go to the back of my virtual shelf, never to return. Howlongtobeat.com estimates that unlocking 100% of the trophies would take just about 135 hours. I mean, just come on!
The reviewers who praise this game will often concede that the Soulsborne formula is not for everybody. These games rely on precision attacks, parries, dodging, and, most of all, patience. It’s a constant battle to make sure that your stamina is conserved for emergencies and your inventory is stocked with the right items for specific fights with ridiculously overpowered (and often massive) creatures. In order to succeed, you have to be able to multitask… and that’s just not in everybody’s skillset. It’s definitely not in mine.
How do I know this for sure? One word: Bloodborne. Yes, I know that Elden Ring is a completely different game and the combat plays more like Dark Souls than Miyazaki’s Yharnam-based adventure, where everything everywhere can kill you in two or three hits. However, I cannot ignore my own journey with this title. It has taken me three and a half years to get to Rom, the Vacuous Spider, a boss that I believe is not even halfway through Bloodborne. And I’m stuck again. My problem is that if I die this much to one boss with little or no progress to be had between attempts, I struggle to find the motivation to turn the game back on. It usually takes an invite from a friend who is good at these kinds of games to get past a difficult scenario, but if I do that, am I cheating? It sure feels like it.
And if the difficulty of the enemies wasn’t enough, this series of games won’t even let you pause without penalty! The game continues around you when you have the options menu open or you’re looking at your inventory. It’s relentless, with very few safe zones. Once, when playing Bloodborne, I was ten minutes into a boss battle when I had to take a phone call. Hello sweet death, goodbye all progress made!
I can hear the screaming now. “You just have to Get Good!” *wink.* I know! Problem is, I need to chill after work or during the weekend, and honestly, dying all the time causes me to experience an enormous amount of frustration and anger. An overly emotional state is not usually conducive to “Getting Good.” A steady rise in the anger tide is also not good for my health, and I know it. A LEGO game usually serves as a mental palette cleanser.
Elden Ring was named GOTY, and although it’s not my personal choice, it is rightly thought of in high regard. Whilst watching HeyZeusHeresToast (a Soulsborne game streamer), I found that it looks dense, graphically stunning, varied, and challenging. It utilizes an open world that is huge and packed full of hidden treasures and creatures. In general, the experience seems exceptional. But it’s not my type of game, and I’m ok with that. I may enjoy watching other people play Elden Ring, but I will certainly never play it myself.
I mean, never say never, right?