Elden Ring is a fantasy, action and open world game with RPG elements such as stats, weapons and spells. Rise, Tarnished, and be guided by grace to brandish the power of the Elden Ring and become an Elden Lord in the Lands Between.

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One of those game where you beat it
I did

A tightly tuned combat system and intriguing story, as expected from the Soulsborne titles. The scope, while at first thrilling, begins to feel stretched thin over time, and eventually I felt too aimless. Reused enemies and bosses feel more egregious than the limited bestiary of other FromSoftware titles, and eventually my interest faded.

Incredibly difficult for certain builds but incredibly rewarding. I have well over 120 hours in the game, beat every boss and got every achievement (Scum Saving, but I wanted to see all the endings). The beauty of the game and the story alone sell it as another mainstay of the Souls/Borne series

You know what, it’s pretty good.
I put close to 200 hours into this game. I beat every boss there was to beat. I amassed a nifty badge collection. I earned every achievement. But I didn’t take any notes. Which is unusual, because I can amass pages of notes for games a tenth this length. And the cultural impact, the sales, the prestige - there was a part of my brain expecting I should have big, deep thoughts about this big, broad game.
But Elden Ring is not that deep. It’s just fun.
If we met in person, I could talk about Elden Ring for hours. I have done so on accident multiple times now. Because Elden Ring is the kind of game where talking about it brings to mind a million anecdotes that will never be as engaging for the listener as for the speaker. Even providing a video of my golden armored knight atop his stout bicorn steed, jumping 30 feet straight into the air in failed attempts to knock a giant spectral tortoise from the sky, will not capture the hilarity of the moment, or how my friend and I were gasping for breath from laughing so hard at the absurdity.
But anecdotes are not a review.
Up until I beat the final gauntlet of bosses, I was unsure of what score to give this game. Because in terms of sheer scope, Elden Ring has so much good game in it as to easily be the match for multiple other good games. From Software employed no magic tricks. They simply put in the work to make every level its own visual wonder filled with unique player tools and enemy types that encouraged experimentation in styles of play. The game consistently expected different gameplay approaches from the player far longer than I expected. But being honest with the height of those highs, Elden Ring is a mountain range long and multitudinous, rather than one with colossal peaks. So depending on one’s rating philosophy, I would completely agree with giving this game a perfect score. Its mountains are so consistently lovingly crafted you cannot help but appreciate the ambition.
What grounds the ambition is the dedication to gameplay above all else. There are hundreds of weapons, dozens of magic spells, each that control just differently enough to have their own learning curves, most of them unique and found in only one place in the entire game. Since everything is found, not bought, even the most minor of detours can yield some armament or enchantment that will drastically change your approach to the game for hours. As such, all exploration feels impactful through to the end.
However, I’m split on Elden Ring’s successes, because there are two ways to play this game. In one, it is similar to other From Software titles that reward deliberate player movement and gradual weapon mastery. In the other, you find the cheesiest form of magic possible, ignore the combat, and instead enjoy exploring a beautifully realized fantasy world. Both flavors are fine, but what surprised me was how the game started as one before morphing into the other, and not in the order I expected.
Because why would the game start throwing magic wands and spells at me if I wasn’t supposed to dabble with them? Weapon enchantments that condensed entire movesets into single button presses? Giant hammers that could control gravity and trivialize story boss encounters? It was all very silly and fun, but quickly made me feel the fool for previously trying to engage with the game seriously with flails and swords.
My guilt for becoming a spamy, cheesy goblin melted the instant the game made me fight two Crucible Knights simultaneously after the worst platforming gauntlet the game had to offer. Normally I love a game that says “balance? Fuck that, here’s some cool shit you can do,” but Elden Ring maintained the facade of being a serious “git gud” type of game for so long that I had trouble adapting to the new mindset.
While Elden Ring has some of the most luxurious dungeon designs I’ve encountered in years, it is also riddled with garbage-tier ideas. Some walls were secretly ~illusions of walls~ that disappear when you whack them. Which meant after finding the first one, I had to whack every similar wall I ever saw again for the next 100 hours. Worse than that, there were invisible bridges to nowhere that required jumping off of cliffs to discover. You can’t include these types of elements in your game without turning your players into neurotic weirdos!
I don’t want to harp on the game’s flaws for too long, because ultimately, it’s a great game. 4 stars, A rank, a 10/10 value for your money proposition. But extolling what the game does well isn’t very interesting to write or read, because it boils down to - what if, instead of front-loading all the development effort into the beginning of the game to get people to keep playing, the same level of care was poured into the whole game? Which also sounds dismissive of Elden Ring’s accomplishments, but there’s no way to talk about 200 hours of unique content in a summarizable way. It would be like talking about a hike - and trust me, your friends do not care what the mountain trail was like. They let you talk because it’s fun to see a friend’s face light up at the memory of something enjoyable.
Quick shout-out to the excellent naming conventions for the locations. Something like The Church of Dragon Communion sounds cool while being completely literal about what happens there. Stormhill is a castle on a hill that’s always raining. I don’t know if the Game of Thrones guy was responsible for that level of granular detail, but his influence in maintaining simple, descriptive fantasy language is much more my preferred flavor than, say, Breath of the Wild keyboard smashing the name of every waypoint.

Played for about 35 hours, the most time and effort I've ever put in a Souls game. There were moments where I think I felt what Soulsborne players get out of these games. The feeling of learning, mastering, and overcoming seemingly an insurmountable enemy.
But after a certain amount of time, I just grew bored. The open world is so empty and the only thing to do is ride up to some guys and fight. There's no variety and after the 35th hour of bouncing off harder enemies and going to find someone else to fight, I just thought "okay I get it" and stopped playing.
This game is going to be one of those things where I desperately wish to understand why people say it's a masterpiece because I can see how it's good but I don't see how it's universe-shaking.