I have a love/hate relationship with FromSoftware games.
I love the combat, the action, and the challenge. However, the art direction and environmental design are in a league of their own. Enemy encounters are tough but fair; you must learn the attack patterns and exploit enemy weaknesses.
I hate the wall I always hit in FromSoftware games. It’s different for every game, too. Sometimes, like in Sekiro, I can make it far into the story. Guardian Ape? No problem. The Owl? Yeah, that’s where I get stuck.
Other times, like in Dark Souls, it’s a pretty early wall named the Capra Demon.
The wall in Elden Ring wasn’t a boss for the longest time. It was the world itself. The beauty of The Lands Between is that there are no limitations on players. I can go wherever I choose, regardless of whether or not I should be in a certain area. For me, that came at a cost. I would aimlessly travel without purpose, make no progress, and fail to strengthen my character.
Why, though? Why did it take a full year for Elden Ring to click fully? Honestly, I need to “get good” at FromSoftware games. I consider myself pretty good at video games, but I often lack the time or patience for anything that makes me want to pull my hair out.
Instead of discovering things independently, I’d do what any reasonable person would: seek advice. As a result, I was able to progress further into the game, but here’s the problem with Elden Ring: when you try to adapt to someone else’s playstyle, the experience falls apart.
Whether it’s trying to follow suggested “best builds” or taking the advice of a friend, that’s not how you play Elden Ring. In a recent re-start of the game, I tried a new build focused on cheesing by sprinting past enemies to acquire items. While my stats left something to be desired, I had the shiniest loot.
It didn’t translate to in-game success, though.
Frustrated and determined, I had finally had enough: I would play the game my way. Build the character how I want to build it. Do the missions I want to do. If I wanted to kill mindless enemies on the road, I would do it. If I wanted to explore that random encampment with little to no value, I would do it. Several hours later, I realized I was finally hooked.
For the longest time, Elden Ring was the kind of game that I respected from afar. Was it for me? No, but I recognized what made it good and understood its appeal and success. However, after my bout of frustration, everything has begun to click. Elden Ring’s strength comes from its ability to mold into anything we’d like.
If you’re looking to speed run, that’s not a problem. If you’d prefer to be methodical, that’s okay too. Perhaps you’d like a nice, open-world playground with zero limitations. That’s the experience you’ll find here, and now I’m kicking myself for taking so long to realize this.
Elden Ring isn’t incredible because you can go anywhere you want. This isn’t 2022’s best game because players are only hindered by their limitations. Instead, Elden Ring is magnificent because of what becomes possible when you set sights on a destination or specific goal. It can be the open-world Dark Souls games of your dreams, traveling from dungeon to dungeon, defeating boss after boss. Or, it could be a simple, relaxing stroll through a beautiful world filled with intrigue and hidden treasure.
Most importantly, Elden Ring is whatever you want to make out of it. I hate that it took me a year to realize this, but I’m sure glad to be on the hype train just in time for the DLC announcement.