Elden Ring Review: One of the best, but not Perfect
It took me a little over a month, but last night I finally finished Elden Ring. And believe it or not, I have some thoughts about it.
I kind of avoided talking about the game too much on Twitter this past month mainly because I was so engrossed in the experience myself. But also I didn’t want to be the person to spoil this game for people, because it really is a special game that I think will stand out as one of the greatest accomplishments we’ve seen in gaming up to this point. But, does that make it my favorite FromSoft game? Well…
Over the past month I put a whopping 187 hours into my main character. And a couple dozen hours into “alts”. My main character, Zara (inspired by my wife, as per usual) ended the game at level 154. I started as an Astrologer and didn’t stray too far from sorceries for the entire game.
I did however mix things up on occasion. At one point I was going for a hybrid “Spellblade” sort of build taking advantage of the Carian magic weapon spells, or just enchanting a weapon with magic. Later I would become more of a pure caster with heavy nukes. But by the end of the game it was a mix of both again, with the latter half of the game seeing me use melee weapons a lot more than earlier in the game. While still slinging around some powerful spells.
When taken as a whole, Elden Ring probably has the best build variety, and combat options available in any of From’s “Soulslike” games. I think this has more to do with the open world nature of the game than you might think though.
It’s true that the game has a wide variety of weapons, armor, talismans, spells, and ashes of war to take advantage of. And I certainly spent a great deal of time online and on YouTube looking at build guides and videos. There are a ton of extremely viable options available to the player.
But what I think sets this game apart from previous From games is that since the player has so much freedom to go around the world and collect the individual pieces for their builds at their own pace, I think that allows for a lot more flexibility and experimentation than you typically get with the more linear games from them.
That’s probably the biggest reason I think the open world format works so well for this game. But it also allows for a great sense of exploration through a massive world that is full of some truly amazing things to find. This is easily the best looking FromSoft game to date, and the amount of content packed into this game is staggering.
It’s almost impossible to go for too long while exploring without running into something noteworthy. But at the same time this is still an open world game, and as the hours start to pile up you can see some of the cracks start to form.
For one, I would argue that Elden Ring is too long. And this is of course a subjective thing. I love that there’s so much to do in this game, but I feel like the length of it hurts it more than I would like. About ⅔ of the way through the game I started to feel fatigue and a strong desire for a conclusion to the game.
Granted, I could have cut down on the amount of optional content I was doing, but I didn’t want to do that, because I still enjoyed the game. But there are only so many catacombs and tunnels you can wander into before things start to feel a little repetitive.
On top of that, you start to see a lot of returning enemies and bosses. While this isn’t anything new to FromSoft games, it feels particularly noticeable in this game because of how *long* it is, and how many times you see bosses repurposed.
Thankfully the game’s “mandatory” route leads you through most of the game’s legacy dungeons and a good number of unique and amazing boss encounters. So at the very least there’s a very generous portion of this game that ranks up there with some of From’s best work.
Overall I would say this game has some amazing boss fights in it, and there weren’t too many of them that I had too many issues with. I thought they were (for the most part) all fun. And that might have to do with a combination of my experience with these games + my build + taking advantage of all the game’s tools. But these fights were easily some of my favorite parts of the game.
And as I mentioned before the Legacy dungeons are incredible too. You can tell they’re a cut above the more generic dungeons in the game. However, as the game went on into the latter half, it started to turn into a slog.
During the last act of the game, I felt like so many of the areas and dungeons were littered with really annoying enemies that did way too much damage, were packed together in huge groups, and ultimately proved much more frustrating than I thought it was worth.
It got so bad, particularly in the “Haligtree” dungeon that I just stopped fighting completely and ran through the entire two-part dungeon whenever I could. And that felt shitty.
As far as the game’s lore goes, it’s a bit complicated. I wouldn’t say it’s my favorite lore by far. But I really loved the presentation of it. The game’s opening cinematic does such a good job of getting you invested into the world with key characters and events. And it’s really fun to see how all that unfolds as you progress through the game.
I also think Elden Ring has the best NPC questlines in the entire series. With so many of them being so expansive, even going as far as having Ranni’s questline feel like a substantial portion of the game, despite it being almost entirely optional.
Meanwhile in another questline, a sudden and completely unexpected “secret message” was so shocking that my wife and I lost our minds. It was an incredibly cool moment for us during this massive playthrough, and again it was an entirely optional thing that wasn’t even necessarily all that accessible to see either!
In closing, I figured I’d rapidly fire a few other opinions I couldn’t fit in above.
Magic looks incredible in this game, but despite there being so many cool looking spells, only a few of them truly feel “viable”. I’m sure you could make more of them work, but it’s hard to argue with the efficiency of a few of them. And this is even after the buffs.
Ashes of War are so cool, though I wish that “Regular” weapons didn’t feel so inferior to the unique ones. It makes it hard to justify using all but the most powerful of Ashes of War. Conversely, it’s cool that there are so many amazing special weapons.
Spirt Ashes/Summons are so fucking good! I know there’s some silly discourse about using them or not. But honestly I feel like they’re one of the best things about the game. I never used NPC summons or co-op much at all during previous Souls games, but the Spirit Ashes were so useful and fun in this game. Love em!
Torrent is a good boy, but I never fully came to terms with mounted combat. I love the traversal aspect though.
Melina is a little disappointing. I love her design, and she’s a really cool character. But you barely see her, and I think it sucks that you barely get to interact with her.
The Hero’s Gravesite dungeons fucking suck. Full stop. I did one of them. And didn’t bother with any of the rest. Man, they suck.
I’m not sure how I’ll feel about Elden Ring once I get further away from it, but for right now I think my personal ranking of these games are
Dark Souls > Bloodborne > Dark Souls 3 > Elden Ring > Demon’s Souls > Dark Souls 2 > Sekiro
It’s probably more accurate to say Dark Souls = Bloodborne, and Dark Souls 3 = Elden Ring. But eh.
Finally, unrelated to Elden Ring. But I decided to quickly write this up and put it on my Medium. I’ve started working on my WordPress site where I want to put all my content going forward, but for now at least I’ll put this on Medium.