Elden Ring: Souls-like but Not Souls-Crushing Action RPG [Review]

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The release of Elden Ring was highly anticipated by many for this year. Of course, large parts of the people looking forward to the release are fans of the developer FromSoftware, but other gamers who enjoy fantasy action RPGs were also looking forward to this to arrive. While Elden Ring is a new game and introduces new concepts, it also leverages many of the game mechanics of FromSoftware that made the Dark Souls games and other releases of the studio very popular. The idea here is to create what the fans love and to add some new features without risking the established franchise.

Release day bugs all over the place

The title has been co-developed by FromSoftware (Dark Souls, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, Bloodborne) and Bandai Namco Entertainment, and one of the most significant features of Elden Ring, in comparison to the Dark Souls games, is the fact that they are offering the players an open world to explore rather than predefined, and often narrow, paths that are often considered to be outdated in our current time and age of gaming. The release of the game came with issues on all platforms. Xbox players reported being unable to use any sort of multiplayer features because they couldn’t connect to the service.

Elden Ring Review - Screenshot 1
Image: FromSoftware, Bandai Namco Entertainment

There is apparently a bug for some PlayStation gamers that results in corrupted savegame files, which is certainly one of the worst things that could happen for such games. Many PC gamers have reported framerate issues. All of this is recognized by FromSoftware, and they are working on fixing the issues. Nowadays, big games are often introduced with bugs popping up on release days. Still, I am puzzled by how these three issues were not identified during any testing and quality assurance phases before the title hit the market.

Update: By the time of finishing the Elden Ring review, the Xbox multiplayer issues have already been resolved.

Is Elden Ring any good? Worth buying?

But let’s focus on what works for now. As you might know, a review, unlike a news report, always contains a bit of opinion from the author. Still, I’ll try my best to be transparent about how this opinion is established and what anything I say might be applicable or not applicable for yourself before you decide to buy the game or not. I tested Elden Ring on the Xbox Series X, and I can confirm that no multiplayer features are working until now, but there haven’t been any other issues for me in about 20 hours of testing time since this was released on the 25th of February.

Elden Ring Review - Screenshot 2
Image: FromSoftware, Bandai Namco Entertainment

I also did play Dark Souls games before, and I’m familiar with the elements that make the titles famous for being unforgiving and challenging beyond the difficulty of other games on average. I consider myself more of a casual gamer, playing many hours but not being very motivated by challenges. This is why I understand how Dark Souls could become very popular as a franchise, but I never fell in love with any of the titles of the series before. So why try Elden Ring now, knowing it’s going to inherit many such traits?

I wanted to give them a chance. Dark Souls might not have been the right game for me, but FromSoftware tried very hard to build something new as well. From my point of view, they have achieved what they aimed for. They gave the fans what they loved and enabled others to find a way into the game that was, let’s say, less soul-crushing.

Just another “Souls-like” game?

I’m a huge fan of playing in an open world and not having to follow a strictly defined path. So hearing that they offer this to Elden Ring players was a major selling point to me, and yet, I remained doubtful if I could remain motivated to play and grind if I was killed all the time. Yes, the game throws some big mobs at you right from the start, but due to the open nature, you can just skip them and avoid anyone you can’t beat yet and save those battles for when you’re strong enough. I’m happy to say that it’s far more welcoming to new players of this type of game. It feels a little as if someone mixed The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild with Dark Souls 3 and Elden Ring is the result of this curious experiment. It’s playable for all. Challenging, yes, but much more accessible than any Dark Souls game.

Elden Ring Character Creation Editor
Image: FromSoftware, Bandai Namco Entertainment

Now that we talked about how it’s unlike Dark Souls let’s also see how it leverages the Dark Souls formula and game mechanics that many grew to love over time. As you start into the game, you get to create your character, and while the character editor of other Dark Souls games wasn’t terrible, it still felt a bit old and outdated. Creating a character in Elden Ring is a bit more like what you’d expect in the year 2020. But does it mean anything? Not too much, to be honest. As soon as you start the game, you’ll try your best to get better gear. You’ll find yourself in a full helmet and armor quickly, leaving nothing of your character design visible. You can maybe still tell if you’re playing as a man or woman, and maybe you can see what skin color you picked in tiny parts of the body, depending on what equipment exactly you’re using, but it’s quickly becoming ambiguous.

Related news: Elden Ring PvP is being ruined by Deathblight builds

What class you pick has a similar meaning to your experience in Elden Ring. The starting class merely defines your backstory, the set of clothes you begin with, and a small headstart as far as your character’s attributes go. No matter if you’re picking the brute for melee rampage at the start, you’ll still be able to improve your intelligence later and, therefore, be able to use spells and staffs as your character levels up.

Elden Ring Review - Screenshot 3
Image: FromSoftware, Bandai Namco Entertainment

Your character’s progression works very similar to grinding in Dark Souls. Just that in Elden Ring, you’re not farming souls. You’re farming runes. So if you beat a small creature, you’ll be awarded a small number of runes, and if you manage to defeat a boss, you’ll receive a larger amount of runes. These runes can be considered both experience points as well as the in-game currency. So you can buy things with the runes from merchants, but you can also invest runes to level up your attributes. But here comes the challenge, if you die, all the runes that you carried will drop right there next to your corpse. Now you have to respawn and try to pick the runes up again, but if you die once more before you manage to get to the location where you dropped the runes, they will be lost forever, and you start from zero. Because of this, there is always a bit of pressure to not die to avoid the loss of progress, unlike respawns without any consequences, which is also popular these days.

Just like all kinds of movement in the game, the combat as well as fast-paced and the animations just fit well. The clipping is realistic yet forgiving in a way. For instance, if you’d hit a stone with a sword, it wouldn’t just strike through the object. The blade would clonk onto the rock and break the animation. This makes combat in narrow environments like a tunnel in a dungeon somewhat more difficult with large weapons, but you’ll still be able to pierce ahead instead of trying to swing the big-boy around. This is hindering to a degree but merely realistic and if everything fails, just swap your two-hand weapon for a smaller one temporarily. Overall the fighting feels rewarding, and while it takes a bit to get used to, you’ll quickly learn all the basics.

Visuals, sounds, and the world of Elden Ring

The visuals, sounds, and all aspects of the atmosphere just work out. While Dark Souls were often very dark in their style, Elden Ring also shows you some vivid scenes and beautiful nature landscapes. There are also cute random animals to see and not only crazy monstrosities that are out there to kill you. The framerate is fine, as long as you’re not hit by the issues that are happening for some PC gamers, which is also hopefully shortly fixed with an update or patch. Console players can choose if their focus of the game visuals should be performance or image quality – meaning a higher framerate or more realistic visuals. If you have a high-spec PC, you might get to enjoy the best of both worlds, though.

Elden Ring Review - Screenshot 4
Image: FromSoftware, Bandai Namco Entertainment

The world design is entirely open, and you can spend a lot of time just exploring the realms. Based on what I’ve discovered thus far in Elden Ring, I believe that the overall map might be not as large as I’d hope for, it still provides a significant improvement over previous Dark Souls titles and even many other RPGs that were referred to as “open world” titles like for instance Dragon Age: Inquisition, The Outer Worlds, Borderlands 3, Metal Gear Solid 5: Phantom Pain, or GreedFall. Shortly after the tutorial, you will also be provided with a horse-like mount that allows you to explore the area even faster. While “Torrent” might not look very appealing, it gives you the ability to double-jump, evade strong foes, or let you be the cavalry and face enemies on horseback.

Elden Ring Review - Screenshot 5
Image: FromSoftware, Bandai Namco Entertainment

The enemies and mobs could certainly be considered to be Dark-Souls-esque, but they are all very original. Though you might face a group of enemies that all look exactly the same, there are still many kinds of enemies that keep the game from feeling too repetitive. If you ever feel like the enemies just overpower you way too much, you can also summon spirit pets to aid you. Relatively early in the game, you’ll be able to summon a group of three ghost wolves to aid you in combat, but that as well does not work in all environments, so it might help you with some random mobs, but it might not be available in dungeons or boss fights, just like the horse will also not be available to aid you in important fights. This summoning can be done even by melee-specced characters, so it’s nothing only a mage would benefit from, which is a nice feature and supports you during the grind oftentimes.

What’s the verdict for Elden Ring?

Long story short, I would say that Elden Ring is definitely something for every Souls fan, but it’s not exclusive to gamers of that group. I am confident that people who find Dark Souls too difficult and not fun to play will still be able to get a lot of fun out of Elden Ring. Even if you’re not that good at combat, you can still pursue alternative strategies and exploration to get better gear and slowly level your character up and face the bosses at a later time. Elden Ring has many activities that feel very well-implemented and rewarding. I would say this is definitely worth the purchase, but if you are still unsure, you can check out my gameplay video below, which includes the character creation along with the first hours of the game.


YouTube: Let’s Play – Elden Ring [Gameplay, No Commentary]

Photo credit: The images shown are owned by FromSoftware and Bandai Namco Entertainment.

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Christopher Isak
Christopher Isakhttps://techacute.com
Hi there and thanks for reading my article! I'm Chris the founder of TechAcute. I write about technology news and share experiences from my life in the enterprise world. Drop by on Twitter and say 'hi' sometime. ;)
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Elden Ring: Souls-like but Not Souls-Crushing Action RPG [Review]Overall a nice title and a good step forward in comparison to previous titles of the studio. Certainly many hours of fun to be expected here and worth the price.