REVIEW: Elden Ring surpasses all expectations and sets a new standard for quality in video games

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Creative Commons, Copyright Holder: Bandai Namco Entertainment Inc.

Elden Ring is living proof that a game can not only deliver on the hype, but even exceed expectations.

Daniel Marshall, Multimedia Manager

“Rise, Tarnished, and be guided by grace to brandish the power of the Elden Ring”

FromSoftware brandished the power of perfect critic scores with its explosive launch of Elden Ring.

Elden Ring is a video game developed by FromSoftware, Inc. that was released to the public on Feb. 25. Triumphing the charts with 13.4 million copies sold in its first month, the game is making out to be one of the most popular releases of the year.

The plot takes place in The Lands Between after the events of The Shattering, a terrible war that ensued after the Elden Ring, the source of all order, was smashed to pieces. The shards were reclaimed by the demigods, with each demigod partaking in an endless struggle for power. The player, who takes control of a “Tarnished” character, is tasked with reclaiming these shards and restoring order to The Lands Between.

The player starts by choosing a class, which determines the initial stats of their character upon creation. Scattered throughout the map are sites of grace, areas in which the player can save their progress. These checkpoints can also provide guidance to the player by pointing to the next site of grace with rays of golden light. Weapons and gear are made plentiful throughout the Lands Between, and can be upgraded during the long journey. 

The world of Elden Ring is expensive, with countless areas to discover, each with their own distinct themes, personalities and secrets to uncover along the way. Throughout the game, a strong sense of scale is communicated through gorgeous vistas, intricate dungeons and side areas along with the great Erdtree that puts mountains to shame. The starting zone, Limgrave, immediately puts this into perspective: when taking the first step, the setting opens up to a vast continent speckled with ruins, monoliths and castles waiting to be explored.

Although the map is immense, appraisal based on size alone would still not do it justice. The density of each zone also ensures that the player always has something to look forward to while pursuing their goal. Throughout their journey the player uncovers countless dungeons, side areas, quests, buildings and other points of interest that offer interesting encounters with loot to sweeten the deal. 

The level design is intricate and nuanced. As an example, a player can progress through one area but then unlock a shortcut that loops back to an earlier point in the level for easier traversal. Every large zone is connected to another, and if desired, the player can explore many of these regions out of order. The game mixes large, expansive areas such as Limgrave with more linear and confined levels such as Stormveil Castle, an important milestone within the story.

The game would not receive such a high level of praise without its sheer quantity of means to destroy enemies. From tiny daggers to colossal swords and hammers taller than the player, there is a choice to fit the niche of every player. Magic also plays a significant role in combat encounters, with the dozens of incantations and sorceries readily available for the player to either use on themselves to power up or cast onto their enemies. 

If weapon variety was not enough, every weapon can also have a unique moveset equipped in the form of “Ashes of War”. These items allow the player to customize their play-style even further, and can be used to mix and match moves from one weapon onto another. In addition, Ashes of War can change the damage type of a weapon, such as fire or lightning, which can be used to scale with the player’s stats. 

All of these factors coalesce to provide an incredibly diverse experience that all kinds of players can enjoy. Whether a player wants to cast a death ray, wield a flaming sword, throw lightning spears or take a standard sword and shield approach, there is truly something for everyone.

Elden Ring takes a slower and more methodical approach to combat. Every swing must be carefully thought out, as there are animations which vary in duration depending on the weight of the attack. During these animations the player must commit fully and cannot cancel out of it. 

Dodging also plays a large role when fighting. Enemies often come with large area of effect attacks and heavy swings that the player must know how to dodge. Similar to attacking, dodging also locks the player into an animation which cannot be canceled. Both actions will consume the player’s stamina bar, which constrains the player from spamming commands.

Most of the difficulty in Elden Ring derives from its combat. If done rashly, an action from the player can be interrupted by most enemies. In this game, none of the enemies are punching bags, and can pose a significant threat to the player if caught off guard. It should be known that damage from enemies can easily result in an early death within just a few hits. In order to survive the journey to the Elden Ring, every player must always be on their toes. This idea translates into boss fights as well, where it is crucial to memorize the attack patterns of highly dangerous enemies in order to avoid damage while exploiting openings. 

Junior Addison Bailey witnessed some of these gameplay elements. “There are plenty of ways to fight, but it comes down to how good your timing is and whether or not you know the enemy’s attack patterns,” he said.

Failure to follow these rules will often result in a swift “You Died” screen. Throughout the game, the player can expect to visit this screen dozens, or even hundreds of times. Unfortunately, this may be a bar to entry for some players who might prefer a more laid back experience. 

Delving into the only blemish on this gorgeous game, a prevalent opinion is that the difficulty can be particularly brutal due to the mechanics of combat. “Elden ring is difficult so if that’s not your type of game I’d recommend something else,” Bailey continued.

From an objective standpoint, the video game is a truly marvelous work of art that will leave a lasting impression on anyone who plays it. “It’s difficult but there are a lot of great things about it,” elaborated Bailey. Even if the game seems unwelcoming at first, the payoff for triumphing the learning curve is immense, and will unlock the limitless potential that FromSoftware has left for players to discover for themselves.

From the combat, visuals, level design, and overall gameplay, Elden Ring deserves the title of masterpiece. There are very few games that deliver every promise shown in marketing, but Elden Ring proves that a game can not only deliver its promises, but even to exceed expectations.