This was not a game that came out of Nowhere. This is not a game that had the cards stacked against it. Instead, this is an amalgamation of consistently great stories, respectful gameplay, and the notion that a game doesn’t have to hold your hand to give you what you want.
In today's market, gamers are told what they want rather than being listened to. We are told that even though we buy a game for sixty-odd dollars (if not more) we don’t want the complete game. And even if we get that, we ‘want’ a game that charges us even more money so that we don’t have to play it…
I could go on, but for all the gamers out there, we all know which companies are doing this and how much we hate this. From Software does not do this.
When you buy a From Soft’ game, you are getting a complete game that is not going to hold your hand.
In 2009 Demon’s Souls was released and gained a Metacritic score of 89 (the remake going into the 90s’).
The next game from From Software, Dark Souls reached the same score and since then they have only grown.
While I personally will not be going back to, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice - I don’t think my furniture could take another playthrough, even I have to admit that it’s a wonderfully made game and the combat is magnificently fun.
I’ve written a few times about the magnificence of Dark Souls and how much I love the story and the hidden story. For me, that is why I play these games. A story that you have to work to find and when you do it’s a story to truly love as your own perceptions influence the story.
Enter Elden Ring.
A story from the mind of George R. R. Martin and Hidetaka Miyazaki - though I couldn’t tell you how much came from each and without question, the rest of the From Software team have helped.
The story itself is not - as someone once wrote about a ring or something. It’s a story about people being godly powers and becoming corrupted. And yes, this is an overly simplified recount of events and you should absolutely check out the story for yourself if you like mystery, fantasy and complex characters. It also is not about fighting a dragon. While there are a few dragons in the game, they are not the big or even main bosses.
You are the Tarnished. A reanimated corpse (one of many) to be brought back into the world to do the will of the Fingers.
Most story lines end in tragedy and in my first play-through, even the ones that should have good endings can have sad ones.
This is a game that makes you feel part of the world. Sure, the bosses but be beaten, but you feel like your actions make a real difference- a lesson learned for Bloodborne (another beloved game from From Software).
As you progress the map grows as you force it to. I had no idea how vast this open-world was going to be. And in an industry where games like Assassin’s Creed is large worlds with more content that you know what to do with, Elden Ring gives you the balance of a living and breathing world that gives you more that you can do in one play-through, yet not so much that you are just overwhelmed to the point of exhaustion.
Its extensive range of weapons doesn’t just allow you to play with different play builds - dual swords, powerhouse, magic, and so on, but this game encourages you to play again and try different things. Like massive swords, here is a massive selection, go have fun. Like spears and spinning blades, go play. Wanna wield the very power of dragons - you know what I am going to say don’t you?
My point is, this game wants you to play it the way you want to. I’ve noticed that the bosses and enemies that I struggled with were not the same as my friends and that is for a very simple reason- we like to play these games differently.
Is this a perfect game? No. Is this a new revolution in gaming and something we have never seen before? Nope.
Unlike some have said, this game’s success is not because the world was in the perfect time for it. It was built on respecting it’s audience and improving and everything it previously got right.
There is a very small minority of players who’s mantra is, ‘Get Good’. And will not accept something like an ‘easy’ mode to their games.
Personally, I hate this mentality. There are many people who are put off of playing these great games because of the difficulty and that truly is a shame.
So is Elden Ring easy? If you could see my smile, you know the answer to that. But, while the difficulty is still there, this open world is far more accessible than it’s predecessors.
Sure, the multi-player is more complicated than it needs to be, and the bosses are still as rage-inducing, but that entry-level, that hook is that not only are most of the bosses optional- and very rewarding, but the open-world means that if you are struggling in one area, or with one group, you can scale it back, refocus and enjoy honing your skills on easier enemies.
So is it a masterpiece?
That really depends on what you are looking for. I want a game that respects me and don’t hold my hand telling me how to play it every five seconds. A game that has a great story with an option to share this with my friends and not have to share it with people if I don’t want to.
A game that is challenging but fair. A great story that has layers and just enough information for me to legitimately speculate on a story and not so deprived of information that I really don’t know what's going on. A game where I feel like my actions matter on the world and not just a script to follow.
It has faults, enemies repeat but it never feels lazy. There are glitches- a friend kept falling through the world and I’ve died several times and not really known why.
But ultimately it is a great game. A fun game. And for me, it ticks every box.
Yes, Elden Ring is a masterpiece.
But that is just my opinion.