Elden Ring Review: Hands Across America

Elden Ring Review: Hands Across America

FromSoftware’s Elden Ring is a nearly perfect culmination of the ideas and mechanics which originated in Demon’s Souls and became cornerstones of the developer moving forward. Even more so than Dark Souls 3, Elden Ring feels like a celebration of everything FromSoftware has created in the last decade, merging elements of all its previous entries to create something at once wholly different and yet completely familiar. Elden Ring succeeds at almost everything it attempts to do – and it’s attempting to do a lot more than players may expect.

Most players likely already know whether or not they will enjoy Elden Ring based on their experience with past FromSoftware games, but even those who found Dark Souls and Sekiro too difficult may want to give this new title a chance. From allowing players to fast travel whenever they want from the very start of the game (as long as they’re not in combat) to providing unlimited repeat access to NPC support in the form of ghostly summons, Elden Ring provides multiple options to make the game as difficult or as easy as players want.

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Elden Ring might be the most accessible FromSoftware “Soulsborne” game yet, both in terms of story and gameplay. There is still a large amount of obscure conversations with NPCs and reading item descriptions remains the only way to really understand all aspects of the lore, but players will have a good grasp on the general plot and story throughout – something which cannot be said for all of FromSoftware’s previous titles. Relying on help from online cooperators, while still something the game offers, is less necessary here than it has been in the past, and ultimately the world of Elden Ring feels much more hopeful than some of the pre-release trailers suggest.

Elden Ring Side Quests

While Dark Souls and Bloodborne were interconnected, Elden Ring’s open world is much more in line with what players have come to expect from games like Skyrim and Breath of the Wild. Crafting materials, wild animals, roaming enemies, and small dungeon-like areas dot the landscape between the more massive temples, castles, and cities, and each of the different lands players will traverse have their own theme and weather. The smaller dungeons feel like perfected versions of Bloodborne’s Chalice Dungeons, helped immensely by the fact that most are short, contained experiences which can be knocked out in five-to-ten minutes. They are also quite worth doing, as each one contains a valuable weapon or item which can make progression in the game’s main path that much easier.

Torrent, the player character’s spectral mount, is a welcome addition that makes both travel and combat in Elden Ring an enjoyable experience. Nearly all of the enemies in the overworld can be attacked while atop Torrent’s back, and sometimes battles which are incredibly difficult to win on foot can be turned by simply summoning Torrent and forcing foes to engage in an impromptu jousting session. The creature’s double-jump also allows players to reach areas they would not be able to previously, whether that means over walls, up cliffs, or across large, dangerous gaps in the terrain. These hard-to-reach locations nearly always offer a reward for exploring them, whether that is a chest containing a prize or a surprise boss hiding around a corner.

The enemies and bosses of Elden Ring might be the most ridiculous and (occasionally) horrifying creatures FromSoftware has created yet. Elements of Sekiro and Bloodborne design philosophies can be seen intermingling with the more hard fantasy, Dungeons & Dragons-like creations of the Dark Souls series throughout this game’s world, creating a juxtaposition that teaches players to always expect something unexpected. Longtime FromSoftware veterans will likely remember (and thus be initially less afraid of) the giant crab monsters hiding in Elden Ring’s swamp, but when they are chased into a group of them by two giant lobsters and a land octopus, things can and likely will become much more intense.

Elden Ring Bridge Stone Giant

Elden Ring’s combat itself feels like a mix of Dark Souls 3 and Bloodborne, with both fast attacks and poise feeling more important than the slower, more methodical combat of the first three Souls games. However, there are still many parts of Elden Ring which feel like FromSoftware is reattempting concepts and ideas from Dark Souls 2, particularly in regard to the game’s environments and enemy encounters. Players will be facing off against multiple enemies, sometimes large groups of them, far more often than in previous titles, and the open world design means sometimes encounters can happen from multiple directions at once. It’s important to know when to run away and when to stay and fight in Elden Ring, but when it’s time to face an enemy the game still gives plenty of options.

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Ashes of War are skills in Elden Ring which can be applied to certain weapons, allowing players to mix and match playstyles in order to find something which suits them best. Some Weapon Ashes allow for enhanced physical attacks – “Wild Strikes,” for example, allows players to swing their right-hand weapon back and forth continuously by holding L2 until their magic or stamina runs out, whichever comes first. Other Ashes of War summon magical Crystal spears, or allow the player to create tornado-like gusts of wind. Players can also equip special Talismans, which are functionally similar to wearable rings in Dark Souls and bestow benefits like increased stamina regeneration or reduced magic damage.

The degree of customization and specialization in Elden Ring is extreme. While Sekiro saw FromSoftware restricting player choices to only what Wolf would use in combat, Elden Ring – much like Dark Souls – allows for massively different kinds of character builds. This applies to clothes as well; Elden Ring lets players tailor garments to their liking, a clear nod to the Fashion Souls community. Players also have the ability to change their physical appearance at any time once they have reached Roundtable Hold, Elden Ring’s central “base” area. New types of magic not-yet-seen in Soulsborne games, such as Gravity attacks that warp players or enemies from one direction to another, assist in make the developer’s familiar combat feel fresh, and the addition of crafting is thankfully unobtrusive, quick, and useful in both offensive and defensive situations.

Elden Ring has few negative qualities. During the review process there were occasional small framerate hiccups while playing in 4K resolution on Maximum Quality settings, usually only when large amounts of particle effects were on screen, but this was only a minor issue and did not happen often or even enough to break the flow of combat. When fast traveling to sites of grace or returning to one after death, the ground textures will usually load in a second before the grass textures, giving the entire world a muddy look briefly before returning to normal. The largest and most detrimental visual quirk is how enemies look when viewed from far away – since so much of Elden Ring’s open world is loaded at any given point, enemies in the distance are reduced to two-dimensional, low-poly images until players get closer to them. Thanks to the game’s impressive draw distance and large areas it’s easy to see these low-poly animations from a distance, and it can be somewhat immersion-breaking.

Everything about Elden Ring feels like a celebration of what FromSoftware has accomplished since the original release of Demon’s Souls, up to and including Déraciné and Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. The open world genre is perfect for the developer’s penchant for hiding NPCs, quests, and items in obscure and hard-to-reach locations, and the Lands Between have been crafted in such a way that it’s nearly impossible to get too lost or overwhelmed at any given moment. Elden Ring is exactly what fans want it to be, and it very likely will become many people’s favorite FromSoftware title yet.

Next: All Elden Ring Pre-Order Bonuses & Special Editions Content

Elden Ring releases on Xbox, PlayStation, and PC on February 24, 2022. A Steam code was provided to Screen Rant for the purposes of this review.

Our Rating:

5 out of 5 (Masterpiece)

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About The Author

Christopher J. Teuton
(693 Articles Published)

Christopher J. Teuton is an author, game developer, film director, and producer based out of Savannah, GA, in the United States. Owner of Filthy & Free Publishing. When not working on his various projects, acting as Screen Rant’s gaming editor, or spending time with his family, Christopher J. Teuton mostly enjoys playing with dogs and climbing on trees.

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