Elden Ring – Review

Source: @bonfire.aesthetic on Instagram

Arise, Tarnished… and welcome to the Emmen Gaming written review of From Software’s latest game, Elden Ring.

Usually, one of us reviews the game and gives you their opinions on it. However, we’ve decided to switch things up this time.

Elden Ring is an immense game with many build options and progression paths. Therefore, we will be sharing with you, four perspectives on the game.

Four members of our team have been playing Elden Ring on four different platforms since launch and are ready to give you an account of our experiences.

You thought this was one review, but surprise! It’s actually four reviews!

With that out of the way, let’s begin our journey through the Lands Between starting with…

Mikh’a – PlayStation 4 Pro

Source: @bonfire.aesthetic on Instagram

Alright for you who are reading I want you all to know that, none of us know what the others are saying. It’s quite likely we’ll end up repeating some of the same points the others are…. pointing out.

With that being the case, I want to focus on one maybe two very specific points about Elden Ring.

First, when the gameplay trailers first shown off a lot of people labelled the game as ‘Open world Dark Souls’ and I think now that everyone has had time with the game, we can see that it’s much more than that. But, there’s also a truth to it.

In fact , I would actually add on to the moniker and say it’s ‘Open world Demon-Dark-Bloodborne-Sekiro-souls’. 

You get the combat adjusted from Dark souls. The good old stamina system, guard counters, the improved back and jump attacks, weapon arts and even more weapon variety.

You get the the poise and stealth system from Sekiro along with its vertical sense of design. I can’t emphasize enough enough how the devs have thought of the vertical elements in the game, especially in your legacy or main dungeons.

You get that Lovecraftian horror feeling of Bloodborne along with their foreboding chalice dungeons. And surprisingly you get the very basic principle design of Demons’ Souls. You had the system in that game which allowed you to just wander off and go to another area and come back as you want and you can do the same here.

It feels like From Software has taken the best parts of all their old games and some how, some how managed to combine them into this near perfect alchemical concoction we call Elden Ring.

Source: @bonfire.aesthetic on Instagram

The other thing I’d like to focus on is exploration and story. Amongst all of us, I think it’s very fair to say that I am the slowest player and the one who’s most likely to call out the others about dropping spoilers.

I really like to take my time looking around and figuring things out for myself. For me and most likely a lot of other players, the first time playing through a From game is a very joyous experience, one based on discovery. It’s something you’ll almost never get on a second play through.

And the devs deliver on that joy of discovery in spades. In a lot of ways the game follows the design principles of another well known title you may know as Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

Just like the divine beasts in that game, Elden Ring has a set of objectives it points you towards, but it’s completely up to you to follow it.

And just like in BOTW, you see various structures and things on the horizon that pique your interest. Doubly so with these little telescopes that you find which gives you a birds eye view of your surroundings.

Suddenly you’re like, what the heck is that over there, I want to … I need to see it. And then you’re off, completely oblivious to your main objective.

Or so you think, but you find items and NPCs which somehow, somehow connect back to the whole broken Elden Ring fiasco in some way.

I realize that figuring story out through item descriptions and NPC dialogue is not everyone’s cup of tea, but actually connecting things together like some Elden Sherlock Holmes has never been more satisfying.

Honestly, I have a lot to say about this game, but I’m gonna let the others take it from here.

Bottomline taking everything they learned before, this might be From’s best title yet. And it’s their best exploratory and story title. Story might be contentious but it’s definitely an amazing exploratory experience.

If only the game was not marred by its technical issues on PC at launch…

Even with the occasional glitch and frame dip on the PS4 Pro, I’d happily call this a masterpiece. 

Editor – PC (On launch)

Source: @bonfire.aesthetic on Instagram

During our time with Elden Ring, we have managed to play the game across three different platforms (PS5, PS4 and PC). Here is our technical overview of the game.

In this section, we will talk about in detail our experience with the PC version of the game.

On PC at launch, Elden Ring is a mixed bag to say the least. During the launch some users were reporting frame rate dips and occasional stuttering of the game in certain sections. There was a patch update, ver 1.02 released in order to address these problems.

Ironically, this made things much worse for the PC players. The stuttering has become more frequent, frame rate dips are more common as you play the game and during our 15 hours of gameplay in Elden Ring Steam has crashed on us three times.

The game itself is a great game as we have highlighted in detail in our previous versions with the game. However, the state of Elden Ring on PC is almost unplayable to some players at launch.

We are not playing Elden Ring on a particularly high end system but it does meet the minimum system requirements required to play the game.

It is worth mentioning that players with high end PCs are also reporting the same issues with the game. From Software has acknowledged the concerns of the PC community, although for a game that was released on February 25th a patch update required to fix these issues seem long overdue.

With all the issues taken into account, on launch Elden Ring is Recommended on PC if you are willing to play around with the game settings and play the game in a low quality mode.

After the release of the recent patch updates and GPU fixes we can safely say that most of the concerns we faced during launch have been resolved.

Thundertortoise – PlayStation 5

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Like my compadres, I am more than happy to state the obvious that Elden Ring is a masterpiece. But I think it’s important to know that I didn’t just give the pass just because it had Miyazaki or FromSoft attached to it. Quite the contrary, despite my love for the genre, I was actually quite reserved initially. So my view now is well established.

As a Soulsborne veteran greatly invested in having played, platinumed and being overall quite partial to the FromSoft banner, I was actually not so onboard with Elden Ring as I was leading up to the release and eventual experience of it.

The genre’s games are usually fixed environments with a (mostly) well layered, roughly linear path that is usually interconnected with shortcuts and reasonably distinctive structures, enemy set ups and obstacles.

This, along with the fact that the open world sandbox RPG model has been very much mass produced with little love given to the map and level design that was once given to such endeavors (looking at you Valhalla), I was worried that From Soft maybe sacrificing it’s trademark experiences in the effort to make the experience bigger and more variety inducing than ever. I prayed, I hoped that I would be wrong.

I was wrong. And boy was I glad I was wrong.

Elden Ring skilfully presents an open world experience in the truest of fashion, while weaving in just about everything that made a great FromSoft Soulsborne gaming experience of yester ages—a fair but punishing gameplay experience that is leveled and enhanced by how much a player applies skill and will to succeed.

The story is presented as one would except from any other FromSoft so far—vaguely straightforward with barebones indications of what goes where, with the depth and nuances of a very, very well crafted lore available for those who stop, think and read with curiosity.

While this approach to storytelling may not be everyone’s cup of tea, I can vibe with it, as I’ve never been one to ask too many questions—instead more than happy to dwell my efforts in far more obvious aspects, such as the spectacle and challenge of taking on punishing boss fights and coming out on top after worthy struggles.

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And on that matter, the aspects of gameplay is what truly puts Elden Ring in my eyes, as not just one of the best open world games, but one of the best games of modern times. I’d also wager this is the easiest Soulsborne game to both complete and attain full achievement completion—and no, that is not because of the OP weapons, summons etc. (more on that ahead and in another review specific to the the trophy difficulty) but I digress.

The core of the gameplay remains familiar to any genre veteran or gamer—that you create a character, and navigate, fight, block, dodge, cast, parry and gallop your way across a dangerous world where everything can and will try to kill you (quite capably too).

Although starting classes have prioritized stats and armaments to begin with, any souls vet knows that the starting class honestly does not matter in the long run, as you can level up with runes and commit to different build set ups along the way. With the sheer amount of weapons, sorceries, incantations, ranged weapons and other gimmickries, the choices for creating custom builds of all manner are almost unlimited.

We’re a month in and people are STILL building new Tarnished builds for PvE or PvP purposes. The combat has the feel of needing to commit to your moves like the Dark Souls games, while also having the faster, more violent aspects of Bloodborne when fighting large beasts and behemoths, and rewarding efficient battle positioning, blocking and defensive play ala Sekiro.

In other words, it feels like Elden Ring’s combat is a culmination of everything good done with those that came before.

Having said that, I can recommend the Samurai and Astrologer class as starters for new players, for two reasons.

One, is that the Bleed effect is very powerful in this game, and is available in most katanas , which are getting some serious love in this game. Magic is also quite varied and potent in this game, with a variety of melee, short, mid and long range spells to obliterate enemies before they even draw near you.

Power stance is available, so you can dual wield weapons of the same kind to deal some serious damage.

There are a plethora of powerful melee and hybrid weapons, all with unique or transferrable skills that can help you make a damage dealing and enemy juggling menace.

You can also opt to use Summon Spirits as aiding NPC characters to help manage yourself in select tough encounters and bosses. While this option has drawn some criticism from some purists, stating that the player is not experiencing a souls game the right way, with an easy mode. I’d argue that these options are just that—options.

You can choose to engage with it, or not and preserve your version of the experience, and there’s nothing wrong with using anything that the game clearly provides you with the option to use. And even with powerful summon options (Mimic Tear) and weapons (Sword of Night and Flame), you still need to have your wits about you to use them in the right places and times.
You’re going to need all those weapons, magic and skills, because the game has a lot of enemy varieties and bosses.

From angry imp mobs to deathly dragons, there’s a bit of any and all kinds of enemy encounters.

The bosses can range from simple mini bosses, dungeon bosses, open world bosses that require your steed for effective combat, and of course, those very special bosses that are utter spectacles, in both scale and presentation. Radahn, Placidusaux, Malenia , Rykard and Astel are among my favorites in this regard.

They are truly experiences to behold and soak in for those seeking spectacle boss fights. As a bit of a boss hunting aficionado, Elden Ring delivers.

So many enemies and bosses, all in one map? Yes indeed.

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The map is huge, and I mean yuuugge! There’s a variety of environments, from open nature-y fields, castles, forts, ruined cities and bloody battlefields, to even entire underground cities and areas that are just filled with places to explore, things to collect, enemies to vanquish and sights to take in. FromSoft acknowledges this, and has made traversal and platforming a lot easier in Elden Ring.

First and foremost, you can ACTUALLY JUMP COMPETENTLY now! Souls veterans rejoice, for our characters shall no longer be defeated by a minor gap to be cleared with inconsistent jumping animations! You can also move faster in the open world with Torrent—easily the best in-game steed I have ever used in any game.

What’s not to love about a magical goat-yak bunny hopping pony that can give those skyrim horses a run of their money on scaling steep cliffs? Not only that, but there are a generous number of checkpoints aka Sites of Grace that allow players to pick-me-up on sorting their gear, level up and get their bearings right in case they’re killed out in the fields and dungeons.

This again is a good indicator of how FromSoft has improved upon what worked before, and addressed many game design limitations from previous Souls games. Many times in the past, it was not that the bosses themselves were hard—no, it was that sometimes, the price of failure was a frustrating trekking via extremely inconvenient routes, nuisance enemy mobs and other travesties en route to the fog gate.

This time around, all those things that were previously hindrances to the gameplay experiences are very much mitigated and improved upon from a general movement perspective.

I played it on the PS5, and the overall experience was very good on the PS5. There were no significant performance drops that I could fault—I did initially on some delays in draw distance and texture popping, but they were minor, and I quickly gave it a pass as I continued to acknowledge just how vast and varied the overall visual and map dimensions were.

These are minor gripes and ones that did not ruin the momentum and flow—an impressive feat, given how chaotic the combat can become at times. Visually, the game is gorgeous, with attention to detail being given a good showcasing, especially in the character creation and model parts—something that was never a strong suit before in FromSoft games.

The game’s soundtrack is amazing, and shines especially so in those large scale, spectacle boss fights which help elevate them to absolute god-tier experiences, and make you really feel like you’re in deathly dances with demons and deities.

Elden Ring is an excellent game for me because it manages to do what few games have managed to master—it is challenging enough to welcome back the veterans, and reasonably well built to welcome the new players to the game flavor and genre.

I’m always for it if a game is more accessible to more people, and I say this as a hardened veteran of the souls series. Elden Ring, quite impossibly, is a worthy challenge and yet welcoming host to all who wish to try.

FromSoft picked a bit of everything from their predecessors. They understood the essence of ‘the lows define the highs’ aspect that is so damn satisfying for the players who play and persevere, and figured out the sweet middle spot.

Elden Ring is what happens when you fail forward from your previous mistakes, and embrace that which is yours as an identity, and step forward with unapologetic confidence. In short, this is one way to create a Masterpiece.

Moons – PlayStation 4

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Now that it’s my turn, let me run you through what I think are the ABC’s of what made Elden Ring work for me.

Accessibility – Plenty of discussion has been had about the accessibility of Elden Ring. But I think most of it is framed wrong.

There is a prevalent assumption that when people say that Elden Ring is “accessible” that it will not have the levels of difficulty From Software games are known for.

However, this is slightly off the mark. When Elden Ring is described as “accessible”, what is being meant is that it offers options. Many, many options.

Previous From Soft games low key forced you to beat specific bosses to progress the game. There are options on which order to do this but there is no beating Dark Souls 1 without obtaining the four Lord Souls, for instance.

Elden Ring is quite different in this regard. If you’re struggling with one area, just leave. Go in a completely different direction and spend hours exploring and discovering new things.

It took me a whole two days of playing before I could work my nerve up to challenge the first story boss. But I was not bored or just wasting time with busywork those two days; I was blazing a trail through the Lands Between that was completely mine.

The game gave me options on how to engage with its content and made it worth my while to step off the beaten path in a way that no From Software game has allowed me to do.

This too, is accessibility.

Build Diversity – This game and its love affair with build diversity is one of the most notable things about it.

First off, Elden Ring is full of hundreds of weapons. There are old returning favorites like the Zweihander, the Claymore, and the Uchigatana. There are also plenty of completely new weapons with amazing move sets too.

In addition to this, the game takes a page out Dark Souls 3 in the form of weapon arts. Here, they are called Ashes of War and can be affixed onto most of the weapons in the game.

What this means is that you can take a weapon whose move set you like and replace its original weapon skill to something you enjoy more. You can also change the damage scaling of the weapon.

All of this comes together in the form of a weapon that you like, tailored to your play style. This can be quite fun to figure out and if you get bored, you can simply try another weapon and spec it the way you like.

The ability to tweak various stats such as Strength, Dexterity, Intelligence, Faith, Arcane, etc to your liking offers the same class-neutral build options that many From Software games are known for.

You want to be a Berserk character? That’s a strength build. You want to be a Paladin? That’s a Strength / Faith build. You want to play an Assassin? How about a Dexterity / Arcane build? You can even use katanas.

My first play through of this game was full of moments where I found cool spells, equipment, and items that would be perfect for another build. It made me look forward to my next play through more and more.

And then Elden Ring revealed that you can respec your character stats multiple times in one play through!

I started this game as a Dexterous Sorcerer type but ended it as a katana-wielder who drew rivers of blood with every swipe.

It was the most anime thing ever and I loved every moment of it!

Culmination – Elden Ring is what happens when a company iterates on its core designs, rather than constantly coming up with something new.

There is a little bit of every other From Software game in Elden Ring. Whether it is mechanics, aesthetics, or design, I found myself feeling a strange sense of familiarity.

“That’s so Bloodborne!” “This is like x from Dark Souls!” Oh my god, why is y from Demon’s Souls here?!” were the kind of comments I constantly made during my playthrough.

This is not me saying that the game is derivative or repetitive. In fact, I would go as far as to say that this game is a distillation of everything that worked in the previous games.

Too often, we see companies abandon really good game systems or other ideas when the game they experiment with doesn’t earn them the return they wanted. Heck, Square has been reinventing the wheel for Final Fantasy since 1988 (since the release of FF2).

Elden Ring boldly answers the question of what would happen if good ideas that didn’t work were iterated upon and polished.

This is not Demon’s Souls or Dark Souls or Bloodborne or Sekiro. But in a way, it is the best parts of all of them.

The level of competency on display here in terms of design is staggering to say the least. From Software have pushed themselves to their absolute peak this time and I am here for it!

Verdict – This is a game I went into blind. I knew nothing about it and was near-constantly surprised and delighted the whole way through.

This game feels like a love letter to every other game they’ve made. It is the distillation and culmination of From Software’s unique style of games.

It has high build variety and pretty good mechanical fidelity some balancing issues aside. (From Software, please nerf the bleed-inflicting dogs. I can’t take it anymore!)

It has amazing music, right from the menu screen. There are moments where I sit and admire the start menu theme.

All of this to say that this game is a certified masterpiece.

This is the best game From Software has ever made and I can’t even imagine how they will top this.

Source: @bonfire.aesthetic on Instagram

And there you have it! Our reviews of Elden Ring.

This game has taken over our lives for the last month and will not let us go! (Send help!)

This game is a must-play masterpiece for all From Software fans and the best game to try out if you are new to the series.

Rating: Masterpiece


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