When I first stepped foot into the realm of the Elden Ring I already had expectations based on previous Souls games. I knew I’d die within the first 5 minutes. No disappointment there. What I didn’t anticipate was the scale of the game that I had just stepped foot in. 90 hours later, and 99 levels up, I wasn’t even closed to being finished. I wanted more, and I knew the endgame was approaching.
I’ve spent a lot of time soaking up all of the different biomes encountered through this adventure. Mountainous regions, poisonous swamps, blood-curse ridden bogs, lush forests, and deep caverns. There’s more, but the devil is in the details of every centimeter of the game is like an endless masterpiece of thoughtfully placed game objects and carefully crafted prefabs. I’m taken aback by it all. My favorite thing about this journey was stepping into a new castle, tower, or dungeon. As a sorcery castle, my favorite places were the ones lined with books, bookshelves, and baubles of the arcane.
About 20 hours in, I realized my fatal mistake in previous souls adventures, which was the desire to use really cool weapons. Magic was where the gap was closed between extremely high death counts, and high death counts. The distance between you and your foe became key to success, along with proper timing to cast a spell to get the drop on an unsuspecting death dealer. I’m fast approaching the first major boss encounter, and I’ve just stumbled upon one of the most important resources moving forward, the Table of the Lost Grace.
There’s nothing like a productive roundtable. In Elden Ring, the area is the hub for shopping, smithing, powering up, or just taking a rest at the Table of the Lost Grace. It seems to be ever changing with the array of characters that appear in this area. They all have a different story, and a different purpose. Sometimes, their purpose is to catch you off-guard and bring you to your knees. You’ll eventually find more about the fate of the roundtable, which sent chills down my spine.
Another key component is your trusty steed. Without this feature, the length of this game would have likely doubled or tripled. I cannot express how much I appreciate a well programmed mount with pretty damn good mechanics. I’ve fallen off of a couple cliffs, and dismounted in the middle of a battle, but I will always appreciate riding into the sunset while tossing glintsone sorceries a foes way.
I appreciate the metroidvania aspects of the adventure, where you need specific items, keys, medallion halves, or quest-lines completed to venture forth. At first I was worried when I’d use a Stonesword Key to access a blocked off area, or secret dungeon, but eventually found that there appeared to be ample opportunities to acquire these items. I can say for sure that the mini-dungeons are a fun addition to the adventure, as they can primarily be skipped, but are excellent in keeping the journey fresh and challenging.
55 hours have elapsed in the game, when I finally realized how useful summoning spirits from ashes were. I’d hit a hard stop at a pair of vicious gargoyles, a nice tribute to Demon’s Souls, but growingly frustrating. I eventually gave up and ventured back out into the vast world. I downed another boss with the assistance of a trio of Raya Lucaria Soldiers, in place of a real-live player, which made it a bit easier for me to pummel foes with more powerful sorcieres, while the summoned spirits took the brunt of the attacks. These spirits cost fp, and eventually can be leveled up to become even more powerful allies. From what I can tell, they are only available during most boss battles.
If you’re new to Souls type of games, I describe them as a high risk low reward type of challenge. Elden Ring is the most polished version of this type of core game mechanic. Even the use of healing potions has had some polish. I’ll be really surprised if From Software is able to create something better than Elden Ring, which has been a real challenge for software companies when they release a masterpiece. How can the developers and artist create something even better than before?
My best advice for this game is to seek the Mimic Tear Ashes and be your best self.