Brooke Long: For a couple years I was worried Elden Ring would never come out. From Software announced the sprawling open world game more than two years ago at E3 2019. For longtime fans of the series we knew this would probably bring a similar experience to previous From Software games with a bit of a twist. This game blew that expectation out of the water.
First things first, this game includes some quality of life changes that make it more accessible to people who aren't used to the frustration of souls-like games. This game adds summoning pools to make it easier to ask other players for help. Another big change introduced in this game is the Stake of Marika. The little statues are dotted across the landscape near open-world bosses to prevent long run-backs if you lose over and over. I lost over and over and the stakes make it much easier to keep trying a boss without worrying I'd lose all my runes.
Elden Ring also includes new types of bosses not seen in other souls games each with their own unique rewards. Fighting Erdtree Avatars will get you cracked tears to mix into potions, fighting bosses trapped in underground "evergaols" nets big beefy weapons and spells, and running through dungeons gives you upgrade materials and a side quest item called death root. It gives players the ability to truly build any type of character they want.
While all of those changes made the game enjoyable to play it's some of the old mechanics and familiar game play that really sucked me in. Elden Ring feels to me, a souls fan, like a greatest hits of all the mechanics that worked well in previous games. Larger-than-life epic boss fights remain central to the plot of the game. This game keeps the "weapon art" addition that came in Dark Souls 3, but makes even that mechanic more customizable than before. It adds crafting so players don't spend hours and hours hunting down certain consumables that can help break open a roadblock for them. The magic is faster and smoother to cast in this game while still packing the same punch on early level enemies.
The two biggest changes in the game are both movement based. From Software added a dedicated jump button to this game which only previously existed in Sekiro. It make exploration possible through platforming in a way that would have ruined previous souls games with a different jumping mechanic. The second big change is Torrent. He's a spirit horse you call with a whistle and he is FUN to ride. Torrent double jumps like he's in the old Adult Swim game "Robot Unicorn Attack" and has a bad habit of getting hit by great arrows, but he's a good boy. This addition helps players more quickly navigate the open world and gives them another choice for how to fight many of the collossal bosses you find roaming around Limgrave, or Caelid.
All that is to say, now about 100 hours in, I really, really love this game. But it's not without its flaws. I'm playing on PS4 and the game has some rendering issues when I step into an area too large. I frequently get frame rate drops when fighting a big group of enemies (of which there are many). The multiplayer has also caused me problems. I have spent probably two hours looking at loading screens while being summoned to another world only to be returned immediately to my world under another 30 second loading screen. Another time I got summoned out of my own boss fight to help someone else fight a boss. It was bonkers. Elden Ring also has a 1:10 (yes, I timed) elevator ride.
It's only March, but Elden Ring has my vote for game of the year so far.
Sean Newgent: "Elden Ring" is a beautiful metaphor for the futility of life and the efficiency of everything outside of the safety of your home in killing you. The only way you can ever survive is by being on your high horse, raining blows down upon your opponents with the flailing motions of an inflatable tube man outside a car dealership. Or summoning others to win your fights for you.
"Elden Ring" is a From Soft game through-and-through, brutally difficult, uncompromising in its vision, and so fun even I, the kind of gamer who plays "Lego: Star Wars" on easy mode, can't stop playing.
Much of this is the world it is set in. In my previous review with Phil Villareal on "Tiny Tina's Wonderland" I complained about the generic fantasy world. While you certainly fight skeletons and dragons in castles and crypts, "Elden Ring" is so full of innovative and interesting creatures, characters, and areas that all of the more generic elements are lost in the excitement of discovery.
And that's the element that has me returning to its world constantly. Around every corner is something new, in every cave. The enemy variety is staggering and coming across some giant creature tugging along a massive wagon or randomly stumbling upon a boss.
The massive game world allows for hundreds of hours of discovery. But while exploration is a fun, key part of leveling up your character, the combat is also a blast. As a samurai, I could quickly strike at opponents with my katana and the bow and arrow allowed for ranged combat, picking off tougher enemies from afar.
I also really enjoyed the stealth and wish there were more emphasis given to it. Backstabbing an opponent has so much weight and satisfaction.
"Elden Ring" is a massive endeavor by a studio that has perhaps the most rabid cult fanbase of any in gaming and will definitely be the number one game of the year for those players. Non-fans will also find this perhaps the most accessible in From Soft's catalogue. But it is still a punishing adventure, one only the most hardened gamers will likely be able to sit through to the credits. For me, I'll be dipping in and out throughout the year while playing games I can actually get somewhere in.
Both Brooke and Sean reviewed on PS4
Brooke Chau is a reporter for KGUN 9. She was a part of Fresno State's newscast, Fresno State Focus and interned at KFSN-ABC30 in Fresno, CA before coming to KGUN 9. Share your story ideas and important issues with Brooke by emailing email@example.com or by connecting on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Sean Newgent has been with KGUN9 since January of 2020 and is Good Morning Tucson's executive producer. He graduated from Illinois State University with a degree in broadcast journalism. He is a critic and cultural commentator. Share your story ideas and important issues with Sean by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.