Elden Ring Put Some Joy Back Into your Gaming Experience and Kick that Cynicism to the Curb

When you play a lot of games, it’s easy to become jaded about their tried-and-true tropes. Fortunately, Elden Ring is here to bring some joy back to your gaming experience and toss that jadedness out the window.

(Image credit: FromSoftware)

The ‘Ubisoft formula’ has been mastered across multiple open-world games in the Assassin’s Creed and Far Cry franchises, according to the gaming (plenty of other developers have come to rely on these same familiar tools, of course, but Ubisoft seems to be the easiest target).

Although the accoutrements of many open-world franchises may change with each new installment, players can typically anticipate a large map with numerous obvious points of interest to investigate, objectives to complete, and collections to collect. If that is your idea of a good time, you will go around and check off all the question marks on the map. Sometimes, if you’ve played one recent open-world game, you feel as though you’ve played them all.

However, as you already know if you’ve begun playing Elden Ring, few of us have ever encountered anything quite like it. Its creators, FromSoftware, have crafted a universe that is bigger, better, barmier, and far more mysterious than any you have explored in recent memory.

After a brief tutorial introducing the basic combat mechanics, Elden Ring throws you into The Lands Between, a vast and varied landscape whose backstory was co-written by Game of Thrones’ George R.R. Martin. And if you were wondering, the lore is as twisted and devilishly dense as one would expect from a collaboration between Martin and the Dark Souls team.

While players of other franchises may anticipate a mini-map with a clear objective marker to indicate what to do, Elden Ring provides only a vague indication of the direction you should head in, and there is nothing preventing you from completely ignoring it. In fact, going off the beaten path is encouraged, and your curiosity will be rewarded at nearly every turn.

Although the boss battles in Elden Ring are difficult and even smaller enemies can kill you if you’re not careful, The Lands Between goes to great lengths to make you feel safe and supported as you explore.

If a combat encounter is too difficult for you, you can almost always flee or fast-travel to another location. And the game truly shines in the “doing something else” section. It seems as though there are surprises around every corner. And while some of these surprises are large monsters out to kill you, others include stunning landscapes, epic weapons, and utterly unexpected treats.

To divulge too many of these surprises would ruin the fun for you, but suffice it to say that there are portals that lead to strange and wonderful places. There are incredibly bizarre characters to meet, eerie-looking creatures to gawk at, and entire quest lines you would have missed if your curiosity hadn’t gotten the best of you.

Those who haven’t enjoyed FromSoftware’s previous games will find this game to be surprisingly accessible. It’s not just the beautifully crafted world and the ability to avoid much of the combat. A special mention must also be made of the game’s brilliant multiplayer system, which is at its core.

You will be able to summon other players into your world once you’ve unlocked the ability to do so. You will also be able to view messages that other players have left on the ground, some of which may help you avoid traps or locate hidden treasures that you might have missed otherwise.

From this reviewer’s perspective, the community of players currently inhabiting Elden Ring appears to be generally supportive, and it’s a pleasure to play with them — and we don’t always enjoy online gaming, so that’s saying something. On a few occasions, we required assistance from random players to defeat bosses, and receiving that assistance felt very natural and enriching to the overall experience. It felt like the best kind of community coming together.

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