Elden Ring Review 2.0

Playthrough one’s time

After my initial review of Elden Ring, I realized I owed myself and to those that read my site, a better review. One not filled with heat, but rational discussion on the shortcomings of greatness. It is not a masterpiece as so many raved, but it is a very good game with a strong foundation. If I may compare it to a 10 course meal, I could better explain it.

Imagine you’ve heard some celebrity chef is opening up a new restaurant, and everyone’s invited to try his brand. He is offering a 10 course dinner, personally prepared by him, and it’ll have all the ingredients you’ve always dreamed of. You’re beside yourself with excitement, eagerly anticipating the day you can go. It arrives, and you show up to a swanky display, the chef went all out. They sit you down, and give you your first dish. It is beyond heavenly. It is exactly what you wanted, and were promised. It can only get better from here, you think. The second dish comes out, it’s different, but still as amazing and exactly what everyone said it would be. After the third course comes, you’re incredibly ecstatic. Then the chef comes out. He asks you to close your eyes as he has a little something special prepared, and to open your mouth. He puts in a spoonful of something, and as you bite down, you realize that it’s a spoonful of shit.

You spit it out, gagging, asking him with a bewildered look, “What the hell was that?”

He smiles, and offers it to you again. You look around and everyone is nodding along. You have to eat it if you want to continue with the meal. Begrudgingly you swallow it down, and then steady yourself. That experience dampened your entire mood. The rest of the dishes no longer have that appeal to them. Yes, each one was amazing in their own rights, but all you can think of is the fact you were forced to eat shit. Gradually, the feeling passes, and on dish eight, you’re back to feeling like this is the best meal you’ve ever had.

Now we’re approaching the end, you wonder what these last two dishes could be. You know one of them is optional, a dessert. You ask for it. Again the chef asks that you close your eyes. This time he grabs a teaspoon, and places it in your mouth. You can immediately tell what it is, and spit it out. You decline this time, and this time, he allows it. You can say no, and still get that final dish. It is scrumptious. Then he offers you the position to return again to his restaurant, for another course prepared by him, but this time you can skip out on the large spoonful of shit. And I did.

Playthrough two’s time

Elden Ring is like what I just laid out for several reasons. The game starts out incredible, the entire world is available for you to go out and explore. It encourages it. The first area new players will find themselves in is called Limgrave, this is essentially that first dish. It gives an expectation of what’s to come. The very first boss you come across is meant to teach you to avoid it, and return when stronger. To encourage exploring. You can attempt to fight it if you wish so because at this point, the game still has that illusion of choice. After that area, you can go northerly to the lakes, or easterly, to the red hells of Caelid. If you go east, you’ll be eating the spoonful of shit sooner than those that went north. The main boss of that area suffers a fundamental design flaw that’s replicated again and again in end game bosses.

Personally, a role playing game means that within the confines of your system, I can do whatever I want in order to proceed. That I am free to create whatever build I want, and it would work against the enemies you have designed. This is why games like Skyrim are a huge success. Unfortunately, Elden Ring’s shortcomings during the end game showcase that you cannot in fact do whatever you want and that is because the bosses are not restricted to the same system as you are. I cannot stop an attack command that I triggered until it is done, yet I watched several bosses break their combo midway to punish me for trying to heal during it. Coding bosses to read inputs means you have taken agency away from me as a player. I am no longer losing because of mistakes I made, but now you’ve subjected me to pure luck. Same with including one-hit moves that cannot be avoided, that only result in death. I could do everything perfectly right, but because the boss used that one move, I will lose my life and my time spent. When I die to the bosses by my own mistakes, I don’t get angry. I laugh. Like, “ok, I shouldn’t have done that.” But having me lose to something outside of my control, results in anger because you cost me time for no reason other than that philosophy that seems to have cropped up of “fuck you, player.”

I eventually got past that spoon of shit, and not by playing how I wanted to. I found myself a little bit flabbergasted that so many online discussions praised the fight. Sure, it is cool to see, but the execution is terrible. These people are the nodding heads at the restaurant, “Yea! Eat that shit, it’s so good, Hidetaka Miyazaki can do no wrong!”

See, once I got past that hurdle, it turned out there was so much more content locked away. Almost six more dishes worth. Entire hidden areas, secret bosses, and much more. It was phenomenal and yet, all of it felt sullied by that spoonful. I felt like I just wanted to get it all over with. It gnaws at your mind, this world. It is pure horror, there is nothing worth saving here. Eldritch entities and cosmic ones, malformations of humans, the only beauty to be found is in the stark horror of it all. At the same time, I question a man who likes to create these kinds of fantastical worlds, who likes to mess with the players playing his games. I never once felt like that with the Witcher 3. Since I brought it up, there can be quite a few comparisons between the two.

All the praise Elden Ring gets for its minimalist approach is great, but let’s not kid ourselves into thinking it’s the first to do so. It is the first to force you to play its way, and not give you the option of freedom. In Witcher 3, you could go into settings and disable the HUD to your heart’s content, disable markers on the map, and make it similar to Elden Ring’s entire premise. Elden Ring has cool lore, but the execution of its story is trash. I got two endings and I still don’t understand what’s going on besides “This world is fucked up and we need to remake it in somebody or something’s image.” The assortment of characters I met along the way were all depressing individuals, often demented and warped beings, George RR Martin’s hand clearly displayed. Nobody to identify emotionally with, I didn’t care for what happened to this world. Witcher’s world is vibrant and alive, and a plethora of characters to emotionally identify with.

Where Elden Ring excelled was that feeling of exploring a new land, of acquiring the tools needed to survive. That’s why the first 80% of the game is a 10/10. But as you play on, the cracks start to form, until the rivulets of sweat from your hands deepen them into streets you can walk on. I can’t beat Rahdan or Malenia without using specific builds or items, I can’t run around the late game world without using at least two specific talismans that cannot be removed or I’ll be one shot by many denizens. I need to have a ranged weapon to get the attention of certain enemies. Arcane is flat out bugged, and doesn’t work correctly. And too many bosses have moves that either stun-lock, or instantly kill that I know that Hidetaka Miyazaki no longer follows his philosophy of ‘tough, but fair’, and has adopted the “fuck you, player” mentality.

And yet, despite all that, I went and beat it once, and then beat it again in 3 hours and 24 mins. The point that I’m at is so far ahead of the average player that the only reason I’m having fun is because of the extreme time sink dedicated to leveling my character. The average player won’t do that. They’ll reach certain bosses and call it quits, or not even, they’ll get annoyed at the regular enemies that pose as much of a problem. And people like this only come to this game because of the word of mouth calling it a masterpiece, a 10/10. Therein lies the problem, it is not a masterpiece. That would imply a perfect experience from start to finish, but the ending is such a chore, that I only finished because of the sunk cost fallacy.

Overall, yes, it is a phenomenal game, but a 10? No. It is an 8 for sure, and with a little updating and a balancing of bosses, a solid 9. Do I recommend this in its current state? The answer is still no. And if I were to recommend it, it would only be if you were a fan of the previous games by the company.


Elden Ring

To preface, I am a hardcore gamer as it were. I started with Doom, and have played every category possible, I’ve worked my way through all of the souls games, even the Nioh series, I remember playing Ninja Gaiden, I know it all. I love games, and I put my all into them. So as it were, when I find sections unsavory, I don’t merely say it due to my inability but because there is serious fault to be found instead.

I was part of the masses so excited for this, I had my preorder copy ready and waiting. I read up on what it would offer, the sheer scale and scope, and I was bedazzled by it all. I had absolutely loved Dark Souls Remastered, and in many aspects Elden Ring delivered. That sense of awe and mystery as you explore uncharted regions, completely unsure of what to do except wander, and kill what you can, run from what you cannot, and slowly accumulate a massive hoard of treasures and loot. The rush and exhilaration of the dance of death, of timings and striking, blocking or dodging, and then the sense of victory over your opponent. The scale of grandeur is vast, with serpentine labyrinths, and even the simplest cave will yield a lengthy exploration of its secrets. Hidden walls aplenty, and a lore that can be pieced together to explain the world, and your purpose. And in doing so, start to realize what must be done. It took me roughly 15 hours to realize I had to go to the Stormveil Castle, and by then, I was severely over-leveled for the boss.

Adorable scary boss bear sleeping

I have sunk in nearly 60 hours since its release and I cannot with any good conscience recommend this game to anyone in its current state. There is a boss you have to eventually beat, a lovely fellow called Starscourge Radahn, in a sort of cinematic battle with summoning NPC’s resembling a raid. I cannot understand how any individual at From Software, especially the director, Hidetaka Miyazaki, let this pass quality control. There is nothing fun about it. It is a tedious, downright frustrating experience that completely sullies, mars, and ruins Elden Ring. It is the ultimate representation of the developer idea of “Fuck you, player.” Every moveset in the boss’s repertoire is capable of killing you in one hit, lovingly called a one shot. To add insult to injury, in the boss’s phase 2, he acquires 4 magical skulls that all one shot, and have an explosive radius. The insult comes in that there’s this item, a magical physick, that lets you combine different effects for a one time use. One such effect says to block any one hit. Well, General Radahn doesn’t obey the rules. Even with that on, he’ll still instantly kill you with one of his skulls.

The fact this is a necessary boss, and not mentioned in any reviews leads me to think everyone of you lying, gaming “journalists” was paid off, and with as easily as a free review copy. A 10/10 implies that there isn’t a single moment during the entire game that slows down, or infuriates, or straight messes with the player. I could do every single thing correct, make 0 mistakes, and General Rahdan will kill me still. Skill has gone out the window, and is replaced by luck. Until there is a patch severely downgrading or balancing the boss, I will not be playing this game. From Software has lost the ball hard, and I think the director has let all the praise get to his head thinking he can do no wrong. He needs to relearn what makes a boss good, and replay Dark Souls. There wasn’t single moment in that game that I felt was unfair, or complete bullshit, everything had a way to be overcome without sweating bullets. Man’s come so far up his own ass, he can’t remember what it’s like to not be made of bullshit. I have done everything leading up to the Erdtree, except for General Bullshit. Well, that’s a lie, pretty much all of the northern snowy region is composed of bullshit bosses where skill doesn’t matter because the other half of the battle is luck. I don’t feel great that I beat X boss, or an overwhelming sense of satisfaction. No, I feel cheated, like “oh, he didn’t do his bullshit move this time around.”

Elden Ring is a 7/10 game at best, masquerading itself as a 10/10 because it brings several new things to the open world genre and does them exceedingly well. And yet, in all its brilliancy, it spectacularly falls apart towards the end. The powercreep in the strength of mobs and bosses is insane, and the player cannot compete with it. There isn’t enough of a farming method in the late game (80s and up) to grind the stats needed to have a somewhat even playing field. It is obvious that the early game and mid game received lots of love and care, lots of polishing, but this final bit feels like slog and a half. Fun has gone out the window because everyone can kill instantly while I have to whittle away their hp.

I started my playthrough as a melee user wielding a longsword and a shield, I transitioned into a great shield with a +19 longsword. And I was doing good. But then the wall known as Radahn showed up, and the snowy region and suddenly, melee weapons that didn’t have some sort of magical power sucked immensely. It felt like all my efforts at bettering myself went down the drain, 60 hours down the drain because I feel like a fly trying to attack a giant. So I used the in-game option to rebirth, and change my stats around to a new build. I reformed myself as a mage, and found the enemies I struggled against earlier die in 2 hits from my spell. My special katana could one shot most enemies. I felt good again. Like I had purpose. I tried a random boss that was giving me trouble as a melee, and wiped the floor with him. Emboldened by this endeavor, I set out to fight General Radahn once more. This time, I can consistently get him down to low health but then his bullshit breaking the rules skull kills me through my one time invincibility shield. To those that have beaten him, congratulations, but don’t try and tell me that he’s remotely a good boss. He’s the worst designed boss in the history of boss fights, and that’s saying something. If you’re telling me the director came up with this, then it’s time he retires from games for good. Be a consultant or something.

Incredible that 60 hours can be ruined by one experience

Loved the character design

Overall, even with the masterful combat, the scope and scale of the world, the wonder of exploration, it all gets marred by having a necessary boss be such a burden that it ruins the entire experience. The end game does little to help alleviate that feeling either, with enemies that seem to exist solely to make player exclaim, “oh, what bullshit!” I don’t recommend this game in its current state, and every single reviewer that gave it a 10/10 needs to take a good long look at what that actually means.

Update 1

I consulted with the reddit nerds and was able to bypass said Captain Bullshit. I shall continue my adventure, and will post updates after that. As it were, I stand by my words. This boss is in need some kind of balancing check, whether it is his ability to switch aggro (who he’s attacking) on a dime, or his skulls/floating rocks? that obey no rules and instantly kill.