2022 was the year of the elden ringfrom Miyazakifrom Malenia. The highly anticipated FromSoftware title held the industry by the throat For months he dominated the conversation difficulty, damage scalingand player builds (including the ever-popular Nepo baby Elon Musk). It took over streamit renamed every animal to “dog”, it created legends.
After over a decade of FromSoftware games holding court as the quintessential ‘Git Gud’ franchise and locked in by us without a masochist bent out of discourse, elden ringThe open world of has opened the gates to a whole new player base. As such, it catapulted the work of Hidetaka Miyezaki to whole new heights: elden ring is by far the best-selling FromSoftware title, it snags GOTY awards like Rowa Fruitand it’s still sparking passionate conversations 10 months after its release.
By subtly detaching from the tried and true FromSoftware formula and giving us a game freed from a single, punishing, linear path, elden ring oroffered The Lands Between on a beautifully ornate (but slightly tarnished) silver platter. And we gobbled up that shit.
Feeding the trouble discourse machine
That souls Game discourse has revolved almost exclusively around difficulty. In front elden ring was published, FromSoftware’s Yasuhiro Kitao told Eurogamer that the game was “made for all types of gamers,” not just “die-hard veterans.” This sent fanboys into a tailspin, but piqued the interest of those who never got to enjoy the punishing gameplay of FromSoft’s oeuvre.
I wrote about Kitao’s quotes when I was at GamesRadarsuggesting what would make elden ring great would be its accessibility, and that that accessibility was made possible by its open world. It’s much easier to avoid difficult areas if you can go around them on horseback, but sooner souls Games forced you to choose between the difficult path and the path banging your head against the wall because it’s impossible to choose. The promise of plenty to choose from got me thinking that maybe, just maybe, elden ring could be a game I would enjoy.
Vice versa, forbes published a reply to my article, one who hoped elden ringThe open world of wouldn’t ruin the FromSoftware vibe by focusing too much on “making these games accessible rather than gritty and gritty”. That was months before the release date, but the discourse machine spun and spun and spun, smoke billowing from every inch, its gears crunching and crunching with each new take stuffed into its gaping maw.
Until February came and brought with it the Lands Between, wide open to explore like a darker, deadlier breath of the wild. The players learned that quickly Most of them accidentally skipped the combat tutorial, and learned a little slower that the first boss (that damn tree guard) was avoidable. Many of us who never got used to a FromSoft game clung to it willingly elden ringAs we found out, we could actually mount a horse and piss off a horrible scary beast.
As we set out together elden ringwe’ve been given the gift that only comes with true open-world games: seemingly endless discoveries by ourselves, our friends, and other players on the internet.
Braving brutal battles for a touch of beauty
The beauty of elden ring lies in his world, teeming with life, bubbling and spewing, both kind and deadly, that torments and terrifies with its landscapes, that beckons and shuns you with a single breath. I find this beauty in so many moments during my time playing the game, like when I accidentally go down to the Siofra Rivernot too long in my playthrough.
In Limgrave, I step onto a platform and am hurled down, down, down until I step into an amazing space: a fully realized night sky in a multitude of blue spot colors, riddled with tiny pinholes of light. Crumbling classical architecture clouds my view of this impossible galaxy, and tombstones line the path leading away from the platform, which glowed a bizarre green during my descent but is now dormant.
I am, as the children say, gagged and aimlessly stumbling off the platform, oblivious to what enemies might get in my way for the first time since booting elden ring. That’s a mistake I pay for quickly, as I’m running right into a horde of claymen. They’re slow moving but they hurt and I’m severely underpowered for that area. One of the unarmed magicians takes me out with his strange bubbles in a matter of seconds and sends me back to the place of mercy right next to the platform that brought me here. When I go back to get my several hundred runes, the same guy takes me out again.
“Fuck it,” I murmur before stepping onto the stone circle in the center of the elevator. “I come again later.”
And I do, only much, much later. After discovering that I’m a battlemage with an affinity for gravity magic and conjurations, and long after knocking down the Tree Warden with a single slingshot, I return to the Siofra River from an entirely different direction and wreak havoc on its denizens. Then, after collecting every last item dropped by a fallen NPC and picking every Ghost Glovewort my eyes can see, I give myself a second to breathe. I look up at that still impossible night sky and exhale. I deserve this. elden ringunlike other FromSoftware games, gave me ample opportunity to gather the tools and experience I needed to earn a quick breather.
Eternal Elden Ring
but elden ring isn’t just dark and serious, it’s not just hours of grueling gameplay with short, meditative pauses. It’s goofy as hell how all FromSoftware games are inherently. There are stupid, dirty news Scattered all over the floor, dozens of ways to die that will make you laugh in disbelief, and the ever-popular but always slightly broken online game that encourages players to fuck each other.
It’s that combination of hard-hitting gameplay, compelling story (thanks, George RR Martin), and silly antics that make FromSoftware games, especially this one, so special. elden ring gives you enemies like Star Court Radahnwho has your brakes on one moment with gigantic meteorites being hurled out of a blood-red sky, and at another sends you into a fit of hysterics when you realize that he is actually sitting on a very small horse. elden ring plays with you, offering prophecies and moral dilemmas that will make you scratch your head, but undermines it with both accidental and deliberate absurdism.
elden ring gives you a giant turtle with a pope’s hat. It gives you weird, unsettling storylines about grapes that are actually eyeballs. It hides a giant bat granny between a ledge and gives her a haunting song to sing ad infinitum – or until you rip open their leathery, gray skin. It saps your hope in humanity at one point, only to rebuild it the next.
You can spend hours exploring this incredibly fucked up world, fall in love with some of its characters and slander the rest, afflict yourself physically and mentally with enemies pulled from the deepest depths of game design hell, and at the end, it presents you with a few options that don’t really fucking matter. It does all of this while making itself playable for us FromSoft plebeians, which means (brilliantly) more of us will be talking about it than any game before it.
When we inevitably look back elden ring A decade from now it’ll be hard for us to remember exactly how much it shaped the zeitgeist, how far it permeated popular culture outside of gaming, and how much we couldn’t stop talking about it. But now, ten months after its release, it’s hard to imagine we ever existed in a world without it.