Games

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.

Games

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.

TV Shows

All of Us Are Dead

Another fresh entry in the South Korean zombie genre, ALL OF US ARE DEAD, is an interesting ride into the eyes and perspectives of a group of teenagers trapped at ground zero of a zombie incursion. I would say it’s a clever take on the zombie virus but 28 days later already came up with such an idea, and executed it much better. This was a deceptive coming of age tale hidden inside a zombie apocalypse, a primary reason being that it was created to stop bullying inside the school system. One of the evil zombies is a bully, and harassed the main party over and over until finally meeting their demise. Then there’s the clich├ęs and clique, jocks and nerds, rich vs poor, all the fun stuff of school life in South Korea.

It was twelve episodes long and I felt it was just enough, it was starting to teeter on exhausting. There’s only so much snarling, screaming, chewing, and all around horrible sounds one can take. And in so many inventive ways before it all starts to numb and blur together. The acting was fun because not all of the actors were recognizable, some I knew from before but for the most part, they were new to me. And everyone did a fantastic job, especially the actress that played the evil rich bitch, that was a particularly fine performance – actress Lee Yoo-mi, recognizable from Squid Game. The special effects team and stunts deserve a callout when making zombie shows, they did a great job making the gore avert my eyes from the screen.

Not much I have to say about this, nothing really morally beautiful, or hidden here. No deeper meanings, even though it did try hard to create some. To be better and kind to each other in dark times. But I mean, that should be a given. Characters in the show asked, who would make such a crazy world? Well, how about the author designs a zombie show where the enemy is the zombies, and they don’t empower the bullies with even more capabilities to spread harm. Because it was really neat to see a show embrace having to establish a dedicated spot to relieve themselves, so a show focused on survival would have had more impact than sprinkling it in lightly over the plot. And yes, so many character deaths were obvious, and served the sole purpose to push the plot action forward, while taking cheap shots of emotional manipulation at the audience. Yes, let’s connect the paternal figure with child that’s been longing after them just long enough to develop a bond in the viewer’s eyes. To let them identify with a very human emotion before we kill him off violently, and incredibly needlessly, coupled with stupidity. If you’re gonna T-Rex some zombies with a flare, you have plenty of time to escape a closed space and run away while tossing them.

Overall, if you like zombies, you’ll like this.

Movies

Malevolent

Sometimes I like to watch ghost stories because I enjoy that bit of supernatural fun, and for the possibility of being healthily scared – preferably without a jump scare. There’s only two or so in the movie which was nice; however, halfway through, the movie decided to shit the bed and stop being a ghost story. It turned into torture porn.

Is it so hard to make a pure ghost story with inventive twists and turns without devolving into some sort of Satanist bullshit?

Based upon a novel called Hush by Eva Konstantopoulos, who shares screenwriting credit, it’s a story about two siblings, a brother and sister, who run a medium investigation service in which they con grieving relatives in regards to their dead who supposedly haunt the living. They do a script, play some sound effects, and get the people to believe it worked. Angela, the sister of the duo, is the one that plays the role of the medium because their mother apparently was one before committing suicide. They get hired by some old lady to help her stop the children’s screaming at the orphanage where she lives. Cue murderous backstory revealing the gruesome demise of the children. Cue Edgar Allen Poe and the guilt of a murderer. And you can figure it out yourself.

There is no twist ending here, simply human beings being murderous monsters. I don’t know why you had to use a ghost story for that. Should have just gone with the murder murder path. There’s too many plot points trying to vie for time, it would have gone over much better if it stuck with just one. For example, her brother needs the money because of gangsters? I wasn’t quite sure. The whole ghost story angle, and how even the brother might be sensitive to it. And then the story of the orphanage, and the old lady could have been an entire story on its own.

I watched this because I was curious to see Florence Pugh, and how she could act because I only knew her from Black Widow. It is obvious she’s yet another star brought in by who she knows, her family, and not the strength of her own bootstraps. She was atrocious here, her emotions stilted, subdued. I would say it is the fault of the writing, but look at Henry Cavill, in the trash released the other day, he was the carrying force. Yet, it didn’t save the show at all there either.

Overall, it’s yet another trash horror release by Netflix, no doubt another in the latest long line of supposedly possibly without any proof, or hearsay, money laundering schemes. Or not, I pulled it out of my ass like Lauren S. Hissrich does with her writing.

TV Shows

Hellbound

I can understand the critical love for this show, it is masterfully helmed and well crafted. The characters are strong, rounded, and believable. Humanity reacts in a predictable manner when masterfully manipulated by psychology under the guise of religion and the unexplainable. Being marked by so called angels for death, and then being brutally beaten to a pulp before burned away out of existence, is an interesting concept. Six episodes was far too short to explore such an idea, and I hope season 2 delivers. The cliffhanger was the only time it got truly interesting for me.

I understand the allure of telling emotional stories, playing with the viewers’ heartstrings to get audience immersion, and nobody does it like the Koreans do, but man! This felt like one of those Hollywood movies crafted solely for an Oscar… Except for the sheer brutal violence. It is over the top, and gory, and just feels like it’s there for the sake of being there. It wasn’t done tastefully, it was too much. I looked away every time. Perhaps that was the intent, to showcase how some would look on in glee, while others away. Perhaps, like all media, there’s social programming plugging away at you. Desensitizing you to the brutality of it all. I would have liked this show if they did away with the horrific acts committed by entities to humans, and just shown the after effect of the burned bodies. I don’t need to see a man or woman brutalized against the ground, pavement, or other.

I would have enjoyed the story way more if it focused on the supernatural element as the forefront plot point. Yes, yes, humans will create their own religion and groups to make meanings of events they don’t understand. I wanna see an exploration into these demonic entities, research some ancient libraries, make a special government team for it. But, that wouldn’t draw people in as strongly as small interknit stories between specific individuals that shape the world, and the small people affected by such decisions.

Overall, yes, it’s a good show, not denying that. I, myself, didn’t like it.