Becoming an Elden Lord

The+official+Elden+Ring+banner.

The official Elden Ring banner.

Jacobo Mendez, Culture Editor

Playing Elden Ring for hours was a rollercoaster of emotions. It was anger when destroyed by its frustrating challenges, gratification when I finally overcame them, and irritation after losing massive amounts of ruins to some of the toughest bosses I have ever encountered. However, despite all of this I was in near-constant awe – the jaw-dropping vistas, the sheer scope of an absolutely gigantic world, and the way I almost always felt rewarded by my curiosity with either an interesting encounter or a valuable reward. 

To give you context, you start the game being a ‘Tarnished’ blessed by grace and are compelled to journey across the world to become the next Elden Lord. How one might go about doing that, you must discover yourself. Like other FromSoft games, the main story is difficult to fully digest on your first playthrough, especially because there’s no in-game guide or reminder of the story. There really should be one, especially for gamers who aren’t really familiar with FromSoft games, but it is a story you will nonetheless enjoy trying to piece together. 

FromSoftware picks up from the footsteps The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild left behind and ends up creating a fascinating open world. It was amazing to explore an open world as vast as this one, however, the trade-off is without any markers or quest logs, it becomes very easy to get lost. Furthermore, any missed quests give me extra incentive to continue onto New Game+ to try to 100% this game.

“Freedom” is the word every aspect of Elden Ring’s design connects back to. From the moment you spawn in Limgrave, you are completely free to go wherever you want. You could be an explorer and spend hours in Limgrave, delving into every catacomb, fighting every boss, discovering every NPC, and leveling yourself up to better prepare for what’s next. Alternatively, you could follow the Light of Grace, guiding you toward the main path and the first major dungeon. 

There are a few things setting Elden Ring apart from other games providing a similar openness like The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild. For one, Elden Ring doesn’t scale enemy levels to match your own, meaning when you jump into a later region in the game early on you’re going to end up facing much stronger enemies. However, the way its different regions are connected makes finding them more than a simple matter of choosing a path and heading towards it. Limgrave’s design is very specific as it contains the main path leading to Stormveil Castle, and finding a way to avoid it truly feels like you’ve discovered a hidden passage, an amazing feeling not present in most open worlds I’ve explored.

Another great thing you can do in Elden Ring compared to any previous FromSoft game is you have more freedom in how you approach combat. For example, stealth becomes more viable due to crouch-walking, allowing you to sneak by enemies or get behind them for a critical hit; the addition of horseback combat allows more mobility in open areas; you can craft items on the go to prepare for whatever enemy you will have to face; you can also summon a large variety of creatures or soldiers to fight for you, each with their own unique abilities and situational advantages; lastly, you can equip Ashes of War to your weapon of choice and completely change their affinity and skill depending on your playstyle.

The Ashes of War system combines two elements from prior Souls games: weapon affinities and weapon skills. For example, during a dungeon, I find a really good spell/incantation, but my character build is mainly focused on Dexterity and Arcane, as my intelligence isn’t as high I won’t be able to use these spells. Best of all, if I eventually decide to undergo rebirth, I can still keep the same weapons and just put a different Ash of War onto it to suit my new build. Of course, you still have to find the specific item, but it’s nonetheless an incredibly smart addition allowing for a ton of variety. 

Elden Ring is hard, which is expected, but its difficulty surprised me. I hit multiple points where I’d unlocked paths to several bosses and stayed countless hours trying to defeat some of them. But even when hitting dead ends, there was always somewhere else I could go: a region not fully explored, an NPC questline, a Light of Grace indicator I had not yet followed, etc. There was never a point in Elden Ring where I was completely lost, and every time I explored other regions or followed alternate paths I would find new gear and items and level up my stats, aiding my fights against bosses that had given me problems in the past.

It’s no overstatement to say Elden Ring is one of the largest and most ambitious games yet. Even after the numerous hours of sweat, frustration and tears shed in some of the most challenging bosses “cough cough Malenia”, there are still a lot of secrets, dungeons, weapons, and many more yet to uncover. Throughout it all, with the large variety of enemies and the brutal bosses, what I had the privilege to play, is easily one of the best open-world games ever.