“Elden Ring” rekindled my faith in the video game industry


“Elden Ring” is an open world, role-playing game focused on exploration and challenging enemies. (Photo courtsey of Bandai Bamco Entertainment)

Ian Young, Staff Writer

If there is one game that will define the year 2022, it is “Elden Ring.”

“Elden Ring” has quickly become one of the highest rated and highest sold games of the year with millions of copies sold since its release Feb. 22. Unlike other video games, the hype and praise for “Elden Ring” is not only deserved, but a breath of fresh air in the current state of the video game industry.

“Elden Ring” is an open-world, role-playing game set in the Lands Between. You play as a Tarnished, an outcast warrior being called to the Lands Between to restore the broken world and to become the next Elden Lord.

The game tells you nothing besides a quick tutorial of the basics. You wake up in a cave, open the door outside and the game says go. Without map markers or quest logs, “Elden Ring” makes it a point not to hold your hand. The main way of learning how to play the game is through dying, and you will die a lot.

“Elden Ring” was developed by FromSoftware, the same company that created “Dark Souls,” a game notorious for its difficulty. “Elden Ring” follows the same philosophy when it comes to difficulty with challenging enemies, leading to a boss fight that tests the player’s skill. “Elden Ring” stands out by putting much more emphasis on exploration.

“Elden Ring’s” main gameplay loop is to put the player up against a challenging boss, get their teeth kicked in, explore the world to level up and find gear to beat said boss. Having a simple, concrete goal of just beating an enemy you’ve been struggling with makes exploration much more meaningful and, visually, this is a game worth exploring.

Walking around the world of the Lands Between is like stepping into a painting. There are hundreds of scenic vistas for the player to discover and be taken aback by. Graphically, this game isn’t much to brag about, but it makes up for it by having the best art style in the business. Every location feels intentional and purposeful.

Limgrave is the first explorable area in “Elden Ring.” This area encourages the player to explore “Elden Ring’s” world to level up, find better gear and admire the game’s excellent art design. (Photo by Ian Young)

Not only is the Lands Between beautiful, but it is also massive. The map in “Elden Ring” is dense. Something is always hidden around every corner. If it seems like there is somewhere you can go, you can. The amount of secret areas in this game is insane. Some of my favorite areas in the game require searching around to find. Then, you have to explore that secret area to find the other secret entrance to another massive area.

These areas contain the enemies you will face. FromSoftware is famous for their enemy designs, and they really pulled out all the creative stops for this game. There is a staggering amount of creative enemy and boss designs, as well as attack moves. They really keep you on your toes when you have to fight each and every single one with the gear you find around the world.

There are many different weapons, armor sets, spells, summons and special moves in this game. No other game has given me so much freedom to craft insane or wacky builds. Experimentation with different gear is the main replay value the game has, especially in a game that tells you so little. However, the amount of gear in “Elden Ring” leads to my one and only issue with the game. It has some major balancing issues.

While “Elden Ring” has no official difficulty settings, the build you craft determines how easy or difficult the game will be. Some builds are just flat-out better than others. Of course, this is a role-playing game, and true balance is impossible, but the poor balancing becomes really apparent when you reach the late game areas.

There is this really steep difficulty spike in the late game areas where it feels like your character was reset to level one. Common enemies, whose purpose was to prepare the player for the next boss, have so much health and do so much damage. It feels like every enemy becomes the boss of the area.

In this stage of the game, no matter how much you’ve leveled up, enemies can still kill you in one to two hits or with a combo so fast it feels like one hit. Having super aggressive enemies who have long combos and unpredictable moves is a fun kind of challenge, but having those attacks kill you so quickly is cheap. This results in feeling like you need to use the strongest gear in the game instead of using what is fun.

Godrick the Grafted is one of the first bosses you fight against in “Elden Ring.” Boss fights test the player’s skill and in-game level in preparation of harder enemies later on in the game. (Photo by Ian Young)

It’s important to note I’ve beaten “Elden Ring” five times now. This is a massive game, where each playthrough can take 60-80 hours to complete, and I’ve beaten it numerous times. Clearly, FromSoftware did something right, making a video game stand out from all the mediocre mainstream games released nowadays.

For a long time, games have been hyped up only to release as buggy, incomplete messes that take weeks or months to finally be completed, a trend that has become far too common with popular video games. A perfect example would be “Cyberpunk 2077.” It is a great game, but it took 2 years of updates for it to reach that greatness.

“Elden Ring” is the exception where expectations were surpassed. The game is packed with content and is very well optimized. It was also the first game in FromSoftware’s catalog to really break into the mainstream. Millions of new players who have never played a challenging game like this before tried it out for the first time. Not only did it become overwhelmingly popular, it outsold “Call of Duty: Vanguard” three months after launch. The last game to outsell a “Call of Duty” title was in 2018 with “Red Dead Redemption 2.” This is something FromSoftware’s other games haven’t done until now, proving there is still a demand for challenging video games.

Games like this are few and far between. “Elden Ring” is not only the best game I’ve played in years even with the balancing issues, but it has also rekindled my faith in mainstream video games. “Elden Ring” is worth more than what I spent and is worth revisiting again and again.

I had such a blast exploring the world of “Elden Ring,” experimenting with different builds and being challenged like never before in a video game. I give “Elden Ring” 9.5 stars out of 10.