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I wanted to give this a chance because cool bird guy is cool. In the game, he does not look cool, he does not move cool, and he does not feel cool.
Super glad this game exists in 2023 - it's absolutely charming and I can definitely understand why people love it. Unfortunately, I am dead inside.
This fucking game, man.
Here I sit in front of the dim glow of a computer monitor, inebriated, ready to spill my guts over a video game. I will just embrace the cringe and do as the Elden Ring meta dictates and smash that L2 Seppuku.
Playing through the Souls games was a sort-of gaming evolution for me - a transition away from Bioware and Bethesda RPG dominance into widening my perspective. I talked about that in my Dark Souls Remastered review, so if you're interested in more saccharine reflection, it's there. So when Elden Ring was announced and trailers debuted, I thought "holy shit. This is going to be my favorite game of all time."
It's this expectation that has killed me over and over again. I have thought so many times that I loved open world games. I probably put over a thousand hours each into Morrowind, Oblivion, and Skyrim. I also love Souls, with over a thousand hours in Dark Souls 3, let alone the series, so it should be the marriage of both things into an epic triumph of everything that I want from a video game. Yet, I remember after finishing Elden Ring for the first time, where this intense excitement and longing had been burning, the shadow of disappointment set in instead. Then followed the guilt.
What a stupid thing to feel - guilt over not liking a video game as much as I expected, and yet it destroyed me all the same. So I parsed out my feelings into a review and then guarded them by joking Elden Ring was a "bad game," because you can't critique me if I'm just being funny! It, obviously, is not a bad game.
And then, I played Elden Ring for about 700 more hours, battling with other Tarnished, and helping others overcome Malenia and her incessant need to remind us of who she is.
Here's the deal: I still mostly feel and believe the same things I did about Elden Ring as I did in my first review, however what has left is the guilt and frustration over those opinions. I still dislike several of the end-game bosses. I still think after the first playthrough the world feels lonely and lacking. I still prefer the more closed structure in these types of games. I still feel like some of the balance is lazy. I still think the multi-player in this game is a big step back.
I don't really care anymore though. The art direction is incredible from the just horrific nightmare that is Caelid to staring down giant arrow-shooting golems in Limgrave in the face of a thunderstorm. The framing of events is spectacular, and I get to be the camera man. There is a ton of customization and build-crafting that can be done, a thousand different ways to overcome obstacles, and despite the irritation I have with some of the end-game bosses, I still look forward to running through the game and fighting everything, as I find something new each time. Sure, some of this transformation does stem from "mad because bad," but so much of it is a result of eschewing expectations.
I have managed to make some amazing memories in the Lands Between, and will continue to find more. I hereby change my disappointed 9/10 review to a 10/10. Please, cringe at me. I invite it - I know the Vow of the Indomitable.