Elden Ring Review
Death Of The Wild
From Software's latest is a masterpiece of open-world design that places exploration and player agency at the heart of the experience.
Fifteen hours into Elden Ring, I defeated Godrick, the first of five Elden Lords. In the time between emerging into the Lands Between and striking him down, I'd discovered decrepit ruins, ventured into twisting caves, stumbled upon enemy encampments, and battled tooth and nail against challenging bosses. From Software's games have always made you feel small in many ways: They tell you that you're worthless--a plague-ridden rat or accursed Undead, unfit even to be cinders. They ask you to navigate unflinching brutal worlds and pit you against enemies that systematically dismantle your ego. Elden Ring maintains the nail-biting combat and air of mystery that has distinguished From Software's Soulsborne games, but it's elevated to new heights by the studio's interpretation of what an open-world game can be. Having brought down Godrick, the breadth of the world--and the way in which From Software has applied its signature style to an open world--was on full display, reinforcing how insignificant I really was and driving home the magnitude of the task that still awaited me.
Standing on the edge of a cliffside in Liurnia of the Lakes, the area beyond Godrick's arena, I took in the world laid out in front of me: the enormous Erdtree casting brilliant golden beams of light onto the land that exists in its shadow; the sharp peaks of a distant mountain that look like claws tearing at the sky; a castle standing proudly amidst ruins; a forest blanketed in an ominous fog. It was all overwhelming, and none of the hardships I'd experienced in Demon's Souls, Dark Souls, Bloodborne, or Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice have come close to making me feel as small. At the same time, I was overcome with excitement for what the Lands Between had in store for me and all the seemingly insurmountable battles awaiting--and it did not disappoint.
Elden Ring is From Software's crowning achievement in world design--epic in scale and scope. But what makes it special isn't just how visually stunning it all is, or that its open-world is vast, rich in detail, and teeming with possibilities. Instead, it's how the studio has applied its own esoteric design principles to deliver an experience that feels fresh, elegant, and uniquely From Software. The game's core pillars are built on the same strong action and role-playing foundations as previous titles while offering more freedom to explore than ever before. Elden Ring is an open-world game entirely in a category of its own. That delicate orchestration of highs and lows and the build-up and release of tension that From Software has mastered, coupled with the thrill of freeform exploration and discovery, is an intoxicating cocktail of game design.