Elden Ring Review
Elden Ring is a flawed game. It's very good in its own respects, but it stands as a flawed game that could have been so much better. That said, it still stands out above most of the competition anyway in the open world genre, which makes it alone great.
I will outline here, that Elden Ring is an Action RPG in an open world. It does not do much in quests, and it does not allow much in the aspect of roleplaying. This is fine if you expect this, but I imagine some people will go in expecting a relatively tame open world RPG with Dark Souls combat. Skyrim's quests with Dark Soul's Combat is what I think some people would be expecting.
Singing its praises
Elden Ring is the best Open World game I have played so far. It is also still so far away from being a great game, it is merely a good game. The problems outlined below are my main gripes with it, however keep in mind that this game was a thoroughly great experience and probably the best choice for a game to play, for someone new to the Soul's series. You'll probably get between 60 and 130 hours of gameplay in your first playthrough depending on how you play it, so on a pure value point, it's a good offering.
Problem 1: The mini dungeons
Elden Ring has a lot of its side content in the form of mini dungeons. These come in 6 forms. There are mineshafts, where the structure and geometry is similar between them all. Especially in the case of elevator shafts where you will always know where the secrets get placed. There are caves, which are almost identical to mineshafts with the absence of wood, lanterns and the like. There are catacombs which are usually interesting puzzles to open a boss door with enemies littered around. There are underground graves, which are effectively larger catacombs where each section is a puzzle about progression rather than about opening a boss door. There are ruins, where the surface aspect of a ruin is usually trash mobs, and they always have stairs down(often hidden in some way) to a boss fight or just straight to a treasure chest. Then there are Rises(Magic towers) where they are more of a puzzle about observing the surrounding environment to access or acquire access to the rise.
In all these aspects, only the Rises don't have boss fights. Almost all of the above follow a repeated structure, which means it devalues the differences between them as they all end up feeling the same. This is also an issue exacerbated by somewhat poor enemy variety, but that's a separate problem. The fact each of these has to have a reward, also ruins part of the appeal of it, and the psychological draw to exploration. Part of the psychology of dopamine, is that more dopamine is released when the actual trigger for it doesn't follow a consistent pattern. A comparison I'd make here is to the Fallout or to Skyrim's worlds. Not every location has to have unique loot, or unique challenges. It's just the presence of some, that elevates all of them and makes them all feel different.
All of this said, this problem is almost laughably minor in the face of other open world games. The 70th identical tomb with drauger or identical cave in Skyrim- the identical dungeons of Breath of the Wild. It's certainly better.
Additionally, this is broken up by "Legacy Dungeons" which are large dungeons that completely blow the side content out of the water in terms of quality.
There are other bits of side content, like abandoned towers, abandoned villages, abandoned castles and the like which do a better job in this regard and wandering mausoleums. I'd consider each of these to be relatively distinctly different and unique, but their uniqueness likely comes down to not being overused as opposed to the above cases.
By the 20th hour this becomes noticeable. By the 40th hour I started getting tired of it. I still continued doing this to get close to 100%. In any New Game+ runs I do, I'll probably skip this side content as I consider it in a similar class to filler in TV Series.
Problem 2: Enemy Variety
Elden Ring's problem with enemy variety is significant, that it also extends to Bosses. The same Boss ends up reused(Godskin Apostle, Magma Wyrm, Dragons), and some minibosses end up significantly reused(such as Crucible Knight, Ulcerated Tree Spirit, Erdtree avatar). This also extends to the "trash" mobs, such as Gargoyles and "Soldier of Godrick" reskins. This issue is nowhere nearly as bad as Skyrim's humans reskinned, and Breath of the Wild's differently coloured goblins... but it remains a problem. In the case of bosses, it makes some hard fought victories shallow. One case is in the Magma Wyrm as a boss at the end of the climb into the Altus Plateau. This was big and with some flair. Then you find him again in the Volcanic area, and it ends up being a nothing fight and devalues your previous fight against him.
Problem 3: Questlines where the next step is unexplained
Some of Elden Ring's Questlines are terribly unexplained. This is worsened by them being obtusely progression sensitive, and by their dialogue not pointing out the next step for them.
Some of them are better explained(Volcano Manor-adjacent quests, Irene's questline) and some are terribly explained(Warrior Jar Alexander and Sorceress Sellen). I appreciate this requiring a little more thought, but they could have taken pointers from Morrowind, in the rumours, notes that you can find in the world, and just saying directions and distinct landmarks in their dialogue. This is a system that is pretty much copied and pasted from Dark Souls and related games, and in those it works due to the relatively linear nature of them.
Problem 4: Solo invasions are Opt-In and not Opt-Out
I didn't encounter any PvP due to no solo invasions. Every previous Souls game has featured solo invasions. This has also negatively affected the Co-Op community as Co-Op with friends outside of bosses means you are invasion eligible, but due to the small number of these players, invasions end up occuring frequently to these players as opposed to being unique events in older souls games. Additionally, Solo invasions are faked with scripted NPC invasions, which means realising this is the case is unlikely to new players.
There is an Opt-In method, but it's easy to overlook and forget, called the Taunter's Tongue. It would have been possible to change it to an Opt-Out method, called the Coward's Tongue in a very soulsy style, and ensure people get some experience with invasions. The only reason this is the case in my opinion, is to appeal to a larger demographic, but it waters down the experience.
Problem 5: Poison swamps
Miyazaki really likes his Poison Swamps. So he made the Aeonian Swamp, Caelid, Lake of Rot, Haligtree and made a fair bit of side content poison swamps too. It gets tired, and a bit annoying having to dash through an area to reach the next nearby grace just because you're in the 10th Poison Swamp area. It also devalues hardfought encounters and setpieces in these poison swamps(Lake of Rot is an example where when you reach it, you're annoyed about it rather than surprised about it due to experience in the Aeonian Swamp and many catacombs before).
Problem 6: A HORRIBLE PC Port
From Soft are mainly a console developer, so their games are aimed for consoles. That said, I'd expect a PC Port to target the standard interface(Mouse and Keyboard) appropriately. Instead, the map key isn't rebindable, default binds are attrocious(arrow keys to switch items). Dodge rolling, sprinting and backstepping are all bound to the same key, you can't bind items to certain hotkeys, and the D-Pad style interface for items remains the same and is generally problematic on PC.
These issues also go further. Map can only be moved by movement keys, not mouse which is just stupid. Default in-game key prompts are controller buttons, not PC buttons(which should just be detected anyway, not set in a settings menu. I have enough development experience to say this is possible and easily so). The Inventory is less featureful, lacking a filter option(that is present in controller) making fin ing newly picked up items a tedious and difficult chore as you have to search each tab of your inventory for what item it is and where it is, which is painful when you have many items.
Additionally, I reckon some builds would be straight up difficult by how fiddly they are. Builds that find themselves using lots of consumables mid-combat, builds that involve switching both primary and secondary weapons would also be very difficult due to how fiddly changing weapons and dual handing them is. Add on top of ashes of war, and the PC Control Scheme is frankly half-assed.
A half-assed default control scheme, where some comments on reddit and the steam discussions point out previous Souls entries had a better default scheme, even if still problematic in their own ways, was a terrible first experience that marred the entire game with a legitmate frustration of the controls in addition to the natural difficulty of the game.
THIS VERY PROBLEM ALONE, MAKES ME NOT RECOMMEND THIS TO ANYONE WHO PLAYS EXCLUSIVELY PC WITHOUT HE MUSCLE MEMORY FOR CONTROLLERS, AND WITHOUT THE TIME TO FIGURE OUT BETTER BINDS OVER MANY HOURS OF GAMEPLAY. AVOID THIS GAME UNLESS YOU CAN DEAL WITH THIS, OTHERWISE YOU WILL HAVE AN UTTERLY MISERABLE TIME.
Aspects of no experience
As I mentioned, there's aspects in this game I have no experience in. It's easy enough to complete the game without using sorceries or incantations. As a result I have no experience with those, and there's a wide selection of those tools. Then there's PvP, which I have heard has issues with laggy netcode, but again haven't used as I'm not a casual using Co-Op for bosses and completely forgot about the Taunter's Tongue until discussing invasions after I beat the game, meaning no PvP.
As outlined above. Elden Ring has its issues. It also is a good game. Far better than its competitors in the genre. The biggest problem it has, is a bad PC port, followed by repetitive side content, but its repetitions are far less egregious than competitors in the genre. Questlines are problematic to 100% gamers or gamers who enjoy lore and dialogue.
It's a good game, but not a great game, and certainly not a flawless game as some gamers make it out to be.