Elden Ring Review In Progress (PC) – The time that so many fans have waited for is here. Elden Ring is released to the public in just days, and soon everyone will have the chance to test their own mettle once more.
I’ve been playing Elden Ring for just over a week now and there’s a lot I feel I need to say about it. First however, some housecleaning.
This is a review in progress because this game is just so dense that I don’t feel comfortable calling this my full review. There are still major points in the game’s story I’ve not yet seen, and I know there’s much more to explore.
As such, I’ll just talk about what I can for now. You may also be wondering as to why I’ve played it on PC, not PS5. This is simply due to getting a code to play the game on PC first, and choosing to stick with that in order to have something to write about in time.
Housecleaning aside, time for the rub. Elden Ring is likely to be this year’s biggest release, and for good reason. It’s really, really big.
It also happens to be a very good game.
Elden Ring Review In Progress (PC) – Emboldened By The Flame Of Ambition
Journeying The Lands Between
It’s not every game that makes you anxious to start. Usually, anything I’ve been waiting for, I’m excited to play, though I was anxious to step into The Lands Between.
I think some of that comes with the daunting thought of what this game’s release will mean. FromSoftware is easily one of the best developers working in today’s industry, and their games have gotten increasingly more popular with each new release.
Getting the chance to critique and dwell on a game like this doesn’t happen every year, and that’s not to say big releases don’t come every year. It’s that games like Elden Ring don’t release every year.
Having said that, my anxiety washed away once I first gazed upon The Lands Between, and the world I saw ahead of me.
The latest setting for FromSoftware’s painful fun is a gorgeous land called The Lands Between. I’ve not yet unlocked the full map, and even what I have unlocked I know is not yet fully explored. This is a dense game, and it takes a long time to fully take everything in. Exploration, however, is Elden Ring’s key pull. It’s the thing that makes it harder to put the controller down than anything else.
You’ll find yourself more often than not amazed by what you’re seeing, while likely horrified, and in all cases, in awe. That’s what it is to play Elden Ring, and explore The Lands Between. If for nothing else, that is what makes this game a great open world experience. But more locally, it’s what makes The Lands Between FromSoftware’s best and most beautiful setting yet.
The only areas that seem to combat this notion are some of the catacombs, especially as you’ll find the same structures and kinds of environments in each one seemingly.
There are outliers to that, and that’s not even really getting into the deeper Underground areas which are, from what I’ve seen, wholly unique.
And that’s another thing. While I’ve not unlocked the entire map, there’s a whole Undergound map to discover with regions that seem just as big as the Overworld.
The vastness of The Lands Between, the various living, dead, and magical beings that inhabit it and the challenges you’ll happen upon all come together to make this world feel more alive than any other in a game I’ve played.
That for me is the most profound effect of The Lands Between. It doesn’t just feel real, it feels alive, and you are just one, lowly Tarnished within the world.
With this great new space, also comes a whole new level of verticality to FromSoftware’s game design. Having a jump button, and even a double jump ability while riding Torrent is very helpful for this.
What always keeps it interesting is figuring out how to navigate the environment. The Lands Between are fully laid out to you at all times when exploring, and you’re almost always able to just pick a random structure or area in the distance, and just go to it.
Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t emphasize how important the more generous checkpoints in Elden Ring are to making it fun to just explore The Lands Between. Not having massive treks in between sites of lost grace and plenty of options for fast travel help to mitigate some of the fluff in gameplay that comes from choosing to just walk across the whole map.
Big Dark Souls
With the open world setting of Elden Ring, the notion that it would be “big Dark Souls” is one many players shared. When people finally got a chance to play it in the closed network test, it didn’t seem far off.
To say that Elden Ring is “big Dark Souls” I’ve found, is actually an apt description. Though not in the way you might think. Yes, the Souls formula of killing enemies for runes [souls], finding checkpoints, levelling up, traversing back to your place of death to recover what’s lost, lest it be lost forever – is there.
That formula is stretched out across a massive map, and that does technically count as ‘big Dark Souls’. But that’s not the only way Elden Ring has gone ‘big’ with Dark Souls.
Elden Ring goes big on the characters, big on world variety, enemy variety. I’ve already met some of my favourite characters in a FromSoftware game within Elden Ring, and each one you meet will feel unique from the last.
There’s also more enemy variety than in any other game released by FromSoftware. I feel like I’m always seeing a new kind of enemy and trying to figure out how to combat it.
It’s a huge factor in how combat stays fresh and exciting, while also being mind-blowing at just the sheer quantity of different foes you’ll face.
Elden Ring also went big on build customization, weapon variation, and player choice overall. You still have to grind for each stat point, and of course it’s still best to pick a build type and stick with it, but Elden Ring is more rune [soul] farming friendly than any previous games.
You’re killing enemies for runes, but you’re also finding them at least 200 a pop in level 1 Golden Rune’s just lying around the Overworld.
If you’re diligent about picking them up, it is easy for them to accumulate alongside any higher level Golden Runes you’ll find.
200 doesn’t sound like a lot once you get to higher levels and require tens of thousands of runes to level up. They’re also a great way to buy things with more ease early on, and they’re free runes! Why wouldn’t you pick them up?
So having a more multi-faceted build is more viable than ever, and a good part of that grind doesn’t have to involve combat at all.
There are also a bevy of new and interesting weapons, a few that I’ve discovered and many I’ve not. It all works together towards the best thing Elden Ring went ‘big’ on which is player choice.
Struggling in an area to just smash your enemies to death? Try the much more evolved ranged attacks, whether they’re magic or non-magic. Or try sneaking around them to get to where you’re going. If you’re fighting in the Overworld, hop on Torrent and try just running by for a couple of hits in between being attacked. Summon a spirit to help you out and to take the brunt of the attacks.
Or, and this is the best part – turn around and go literally anywhere else. It’s so freeing to not have to bang your head against the wall needlessly like in previous FromSoftware titles.
Now, you could always just happen upon an area where you’re still too under-levelled, but that doesn’t mean you have one option to return to.
There are a seemingly unlimited amount of things you can go do instead of just dying to the same boss, and there are more ways to approach those things than ever.
How you deal with your flasks is a perfect example of this. Not only can you allocate how many healing or magic flasks you carry between your total number unlocked, but you now have a third, all new flask.
The Flask Of Wonderous Physik lets you use different Sacred Tear’s you find to combine the effects of the flask. A helpful combination I’ve used for a lot of my time replenishes my FP while boosting my Intelligence stat, making my magic attacks stronger.
It gives you greater control over your combat strategies, and is a particularly helpful mechanic when you’re fighting a boss and managing how much FP versus HP you think you’ll need to replenish.
All this option and choice work to make this the most approachable FromSoftware title yet, though that doesn’t mean it isn’t a difficult game.
I’ll save my full thoughts on the difficulty until I’ve had a chance to feel what it’s like in the late/endgame, but I will say that this is still just every bit as tough as FromSoft’s previous work.
A Warrior’s Heart
Combat is another area in which Elden Ring went ‘big’ on so to speak, which is to say expanded greatly. You can summon spirits to help you using your own FP, instead of looking to trigger an NPC co-operator just for a boss fight.
You have Ashes Of War which are powerful attacks that can be equipped to specific weapons to suit your playstyle. Guard Counters are an excellent new mechanic that can not only give you a clutch opening on an enemy, but can greatly speed up farming runs.
That’s before getting to the different weapons you can find, the different sorceries and incantations you can use if you’re an Intelligence or Faith build.
I have however noticed I’ve a tendency to forget that I have spirits to summon in the first place. They’re very useful in boss fights, but while fighting basic enemies it can be easy to forget to use them at all.
I know that is partly due to my own habits with playing FromSoftware titles, but it does make the spirits a more situational based mechanic. This is hen pressed further by the fact that you need to be within an area that allows you to summon, otherwise you can’t use them.
It’s fine for them to be more situational, but with how well expanded every other aspect of the game is it can’t help feel like a bit of a missed opportunity.
If you could summon a spirit anywhere, it would make them much more viable, and could add another layer of combat to fights that could feel like you’re summoning an army to fight with you against an opposing side.
They’re still very useful in their current state, they just feel like they could have been more.
Despite a some-of-the-time forgettable mechanic, fights are still thrilling, and many of the new animations you’ll see between your weapons, spells, and ashes of war all help to create a great spectacle, even on a small scale.
Even engagements with early enemies can still feel triumphant many hours in, when your flasks replenish after use.
Not only does this help keep you exploring longer, but it makes any fight, no matter how small, important and worth doing.
There’s Still So Much More
It’s at this point where I feel unable to continue. There’s more to discuss, for now what’s above is what I feel confident in talking about.
I want to talk about the bosses, but not until I’ve gone through what I expect to be the best in the game towards the end. I want to talk further about the approachability and difficulty of Elden Ring, but not until I’ve seen how it changes from earlier to later sections.
There’s also still the question of just plain performance, and when it comes to the PC port, well…let’s hope the day one patch helps.
As such my full review will discuss these topics and more, which is to come, well, when it’s ready.
Review code generously provided by the publisher.