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Elden Ring

WARNING!

This post has spoilers. Both in text and images. Do not read beyond the summary if you do not want anything spoiled.

Summary

I have had the pleasure to sit down with Aaron McNair, Orrin Luc, Zac Frazier and the profile-less Kevin McNair on The Jump Crouch Podcast, where we got to do our spoiler-cast for Elden Ring. With that released in the wild, I will summarize and expand on some of my comments since I can’t seem to remember to mention everything in my notes.

With about 280 hours into the game, I have a few initial and updated thoughts on the game overall.

I really like Elden Ring. I’ve played three separate builds (strength and faith, full intelligence, and now finally bleed), and I was able to adjust my play style easily. I did initially shoot for a bleed/arcane build but re-specd to STR/FTH.

I am also on NG+, more than half way through. With the map uncovered, I am still finding new places.

Elden Ring is the culmination of every game fromsoft has made, and I would say they have mostly improved upon every aspect. The continuation of outer gods, greater ones, in Elden Ring really made me love the lore. Astel is one of my favorite beings in the game.

What they have not improved on, and this seems to just be their thing, are technical issues. I don’t know why, Sekiro was a near perfect game. Elden Ring has a slew of issues like multiplayer, shader issues, occasional crashes, and I count the forced black bars on ultrawide monitors a technical issue. I partially suspect the forced aspect ratio is tied to it being a multiplayer game, and users with an ultrawide resolution can arguably have an advantage. However, my counterpoint to that is:

  1. So are users with a consistent frame rate or gsync
  2. Fromsoft is not an eSports company. There are no eSports teams for dark souls, like there are for Call of Duty, Starcraft, etc…

So how about the imbalances? Multiplayer, or invasions specifically, are filled with the same build. Rivers of Blood, Or the frenzy sniper shot. I’m well past invasions now, I only encounter them when I co-op with my daughter or let a random person summon me. I just find it really annoying. Bleed is really powerful in this game, I kind of wish it was toned down in pvp.

The ash summons are also a little imbalanced, as in, they disincentivize co-op. They are reliable, upgrade-able, and they do not buff the boss. In the beginning, I could see how this is helpful, but near the end of the game, my mimic or black knife tische could solo a boss.

I’ve mentioned before, one of my favorite activities was co-op in bloodborne and dark souls. I could spend a few hours leaving my sign down in front of boss gates, or using a password for summoning to help someone out. There was a real sense of community and joy.

Elden Ring’s multiplayer was HOT in the beginning. I could be anywhere and find or get a summon. And then it stopped. I’m not sure if I over-leveled out, or if people naturally got frustrated with the disconnects and only used the mimic ash after a certain point. I would love to know the details.

Two big questions that were discussed were 1.) Is Elden Ring th Best From Software title, and 2.) Does it benefit from an open world.

No; Yes.

Despite my enjoyment of it, I don’t think Elden Ring is the best. Due to the reliance on Ashes vs Cooperative players, and input reading, it is not as fun as Bloodborne or Sekiro. I think combat wise, Sekiro was hands down the most refined and perfect mechanically.

Elden Ring is a very good open world game. I feel I have a huge amount of freedom to explore whatever I can see and mostly whenever I want. Red Dead Redemption 2 might be my favorite though (even though I forgot, and mentioned Ghost of Tsushima on the podcast) because that world really feels alive. From animals to NPC’s, RDR2 is a lived in world. Elden Ring is still tightly coupled with classic enemies walking in a loop or a set path. Its not truly dynamic. I hope we see a smaller From Soft project where it returns to the smaller and tight level design everyone seems to enjoy from them, because I suspect with Elden Ring’s financial success they will continue down the open world path.

The game is top notch. I don’t think it’s my top fromsoft title, that would go to dark souls or bloodborne. I look forward to how much they will add to the world. It seems like the subterranean areas are ripe for DLC content. The game looks great, and will hold up for a few more years for sure.

Oversimplified likes/dislikes

One thing I want to stress, is that this game is overwhelmingly good, and the majority of my opinions are positive. I have tried to become more aware of what I communicate online, and to try and focus on positives more than negatives. Twitter for example, seems to attract and amplify negative feedback. So even there, I try to focus on positive acknowledgments over ire.

I do not always succeed… Have you looked around lately?

Anyway…

Likes

  • Familiar enemy types and sounds. The giants sound like giants, the cat statues are like thralls. Asylum demon are tree avatars but ng+4 level
  • Dungeons. Short and sweet. A lot like Chalice dungeons, though I still liked those a little more due to the ability to recreate and get high level gems. It was a bit grindy but I liked that
  • The open world is great, I love the exploration
  • Sneaking/Stealth
  • Unlimited stamina while not in combat
  • day/night cycle and enemies only at night
  • Mounted combat
  • Multiplayer is easier, less rules about when and how it can happen
  • Music and overall sound design. The low hum in the catacombs, the horror tense background music in Caelid, and the lonely but regal score in Lyndell Capital are some of my favorites.
  • Body horror bosses
  • health/fp refill after defeating a mob
  • Enemy variety is huge, from what I have seen, every region has its own enemy types and bosses
  • The map. It’s a beautiful Tolkien hand drawn map. You can see buildings, caves, castles, lakes, forests, etc. Everything has its purpose and worth exploring
  • and no mini-map
  • Tons of new weapons
  • Bloodborne callbacks. D’s brother = alfred, frenzy village = mensis nightmare, windmill village = witches of hemwick
  • Cosmic horror, elder gods. Astel and the elder beast are amazing
  • 250 hours in, I still find new things.
  • The lore is deeper and in the case of characters like the dung eater, absolutely horrific
  • HDR is stunning in this game. I would review my screenshots, and be almost mystified how bad they looked compared to in game HDR
  • 170 bosses. Some are “re-used”, like dragons and death birds, catacomb bosses
  • Some of the best creature and boss designs I have ever seen. I am continually impressed by the creativity and variety From Soft turns out

Indifferences

  • Weapons go up to +25 or +10 for legendary weapons
  • >150 feels like it will be the new meta
  • New status effects. Poison, bleed, rot, madness, blight, instant death
  • Crafting. I tried it in the beginning, but in the end I ignored it and just bought whatever arrows I needed

Dislikes

  • No ultra-wide support
  • Input lag, AI input reading (like enemies forever dodging my arrows), and eating inputs. These all happen, and its very frustrating
  • Mods will likely get you banned with EAC
  • Shader compilation issue, still on-going and unless they pre-compile before launch like FC6 does, this will be a problem for a while
  • Multiplayer is borderline broken. It almost doesn’t seem worth it with all of the instability and terrible invasions, which is sad. It was my favorite part of the soulsborne games
  • Mimic ash makes summoning real people pointless

Some Screenshots from Steam!

Right off the bat, I loved the grafted and set pieces for it. Very Cronenberg.

Right off the bat, I loved the grafted and set pieces for it. Very Cronenberg.

I stumbled across this, and I think it is supposed to be the corpse of a god.

I stumbled across this, and I think it is supposed to be the corpse of a god.

The underground areas like Nokron, are stunning. Again, HDR really pays off in this game and the screenshots do not do it justice.

The underground areas like Nokron, are stunning. Again, HDR really pays off in this game and the screenshots do not do it justice.

With as vast as the subterranian area are, I can see future DLC taking place underground more and more.

With as vast as the subterranian area are, I can see future DLC taking place underground more and more.

I fought and erdtree avatar, had 0 flasks, and near death. I love the feeling of victory when that happens.

I fought and erdtree avatar, had 0 flasks, and near death. I love the feeling of victory when that happens.

We lost Kentaro Miura in 2021. His influence over nearly all of the Fromsoft titles is incalculable. I had read Berserk since the late 90’s/early 00’s and had continud to stay up on it. It is a tradegy we will never see his vision. I really liked how much Blaidd was a homage to Guts.

We lost Kentaro Miura in 2021. His influence over nearly all of the Fromsoft titles is incalculable. I had read Berserk since the late 90’s/early 00’s and had continud to stay up on it. It is a tradegy we will never see his vision. I really liked how much Blaidd was a homage to Guts.

There are no mimic chests in Elden Ring… yet. But I laughed seeing this.

There are no mimic chests in Elden Ring… yet. But I laughed seeing this.

Loved stumbling across this strange ball of mage heads.

Loved stumbling across this strange ball of mage heads.

I was expecting this statue to be a phase-two kind of boss, but it was just a beautiful set piece.

I was expecting this statue to be a phase-two kind of boss, but it was just a beautiful set piece.

The keen observer will notice this image is in a different aspect ratio. That is because after a driver update, Elden Ring briefly glitched and the black bars were missing. I have a few seconds of an amazing 21:9 aspect ratio

The keen observer will notice this image is in a different aspect ratio. That is because after a driver update, Elden Ring briefly glitched and the black bars were missing. I have a few seconds of an amazing 21:9 aspect ratio

I absolutely hated the fire giant fight, but damn if I didn’t love the design and Eye.

I absolutely hated the fire giant fight, but damn if I didn’t love the design and Eye.

Again, screenshots fail to capture the HDR beauty, and Astel’s fight was my favorite. Absolutely my favorite boss design.

Again, screenshots fail to capture the HDR beauty, and Astel’s fight was my favorite. Absolutely my favorite boss design.

Ranni’s questline was great, I think this is what is left of her doll she inhabits.

Ranni’s questline was great, I think this is what is left of her doll she inhabits.

Farming spot. I have no shame in this, just a bow and some arrows and a company wide all-hands meeting can net you a million souls.

Farming spot. I have no shame in this, just a bow and some arrows and a company wide all-hands meeting can net you a million souls.

Eat sh-t fire giant! Try one-shotting me now :)

Eat sh-t fire giant! Try one-shotting me now :)

Nothing ends well for anyone here, this was a sad discovery.

Nothing ends well for anyone here, this was a sad discovery.

Alright, Ranni’s ending, all of that hard work payed off right?

Alright, Ranni’s ending, all of that hard work payed off right?

No… this was when I realized I possibly chose a dark ending just because she was nice to me. It was a real ‘are we the baddies?’ moment for me.

No… this was when I realized I possibly chose a dark ending just because she was nice to me. It was a real ‘are we the baddies?’ moment for me.

Placidusax was an incredible fight, and the entire arena was just beautiful. The boss is optional, and phase two reminded me of an intense bloodborne fight.

Placidusax was an incredible fight, and the entire arena was just beautiful. The boss is optional, and phase two reminded me of an intense bloodborne fight.

Total Alfred moment here, D’s brother getting revenge. Such a great call back to Bloodborne and the subversive character that Alfred was.

Total Alfred moment here, D’s brother getting revenge. Such a great call back to Bloodborne and the subversive character that Alfred was.

I started to go for the full chaos ending, but, scrapped it because I could do another ending as a high int build…

I started to go for the full chaos ending, but, scrapped it because I could do another ending as a high int build…

The real Ranni

The real Ranni

The maiden for the chaos ending is pretty brutal.

The maiden for the chaos ending is pretty brutal.

Yet another tragic NPC, Milicent. I really enjoy how Fromsoft tells a story, and how bleak mostly everything turns out. Each playthrough, I find a new NPC quest to perform.

Yet another tragic NPC, Milicent. I really enjoy how Fromsoft tells a story, and how bleak mostly everything turns out. Each playthrough, I find a new NPC quest to perform.

Co-op goofing around.

Co-op goofing around.

Melinia. Incredibly challenging boss, and this was even harder for my mage build. It took a weekend.

Melinia. Incredibly challenging boss, and this was even harder for my mage build. It took a weekend.

I had mixed feelings on the last boss. Radagon was amazing, reminded me of Gwyn’s fight in Dark Souls. But the Elden Beast? Wonderful design, but I hate chasing an enemy around a large arena. Its projectile attacks were unforgiving and I died so many times before I could run up and hit the boss once. The mage build was easier by far, due to ranged attacks.

I had mixed feelings on the last boss. Radagon was amazing, reminded me of Gwyn’s fight in Dark Souls. But the Elden Beast? Wonderful design, but I hate chasing an enemy around a large arena. Its projectile attacks were unforgiving and I died so many times before I could run up and hit the boss once. The mage build was easier by far, due to ranged attacks.

The message system is brilliant. I left a handful, and when someone online rates you message you get free full health. This was so incredibly helpful.

The message system is brilliant. I left a handful, and when someone online rates you message you get free full health. This was so incredibly helpful.

Every time I edit this article, I have to re-adjust the playtime. I have really enjoyed Elden Ring (and will continue to do so) even with some complaints. I feel compelled to get tattoo inspired by Caelids beautiful hellscape to accompany my other fromsoft tattoo.

Like with other From Software titles, Elden Ring has an incredibly satisfying game loop. I have played them enough that I find dark souls relaxing, and Elden Ring falls into this same casual gaming session. I can fire it up for 20 minutes or hours and enjoy my time. Reading wiki’s and watching lore videos are icing on the cake. Similar to Dark Souls or Bloodborne, I find myself consumed with what the community is discovering or hypothesizing about NPC’s and possible DLC. This game is worth GOTY, or your hard earned cash, even with its flaws on the PC platform.