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Elden Ring Review (Xbox Series S)

March 10, 2022 | Posted by Stewart Lange
Elden Ring Image Credit: FromSoftware
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Elden Ring Review (Xbox Series S)  

Elden Ring is the long-awaited open world epic by From Software and George R. R. Martin. For those of you unaware, Martin is the author of A Song of Fire and Ice; which hit television screens as Game of Thrones, while From Software are the creators of the notoriously difficult Dark Souls series, as well as the equally unflinching Bloodborne and Sekiro games. Given it’s hype and huge difficulty spike compared to most AAA games, there has quickly been a divide of players who knew what they were letting themselves in for and those shocked as to just how unforgiving these games could be. This review will be aimed more at the latter of those players. Before Elden Ring I had next to no experience with the Souls-like genre besides a short blast of Dark Souls 2 upon release, so it’s very fair to say that I don’t have knowledge of the series aside from the fact I’m probably not capable of getting very deep into any of these games. As it turns out, I was wrong.

Elden Ring is set in the Lands Between, a sprawling environment full of caves, sprawling fields, churches and more than a few monsters. The environments you find yourself in after a short and very missable “tutorial” cave are just breathtaking but you’ll also be very quickly taught a valuable lesson. The most important part of this lesson is that if you fear death, then you’re going to have a very bad time as the first foe you come across, a large knight on horseback, will one shot kill you with no qualms. While I’m sure that there are players out there who can and have beaten this foe without being any higher than a starting level, for us mere mortals this is just a glimpse into what is to come. My next lesson came shortly after a bit of exploring and a level of success against some soldiers out wandering the roads. With a new found confidence that actually, I can take some of these guys on and win, while avoiding anything bigger or meaner looking than I am, I started progressing in the story. With my trusty steed now in tow, I went exploring and found a shack with a couple of rotting corpses to fight- neither of which proved to be overly hard but took a few well timed shots to put down. Revelling in the fact that I was maybe doing quite well with the lower level enemies, I started taking damage from something that I can only describe as an angry puddle- which brought be back down to earth very quickly. This taught me that there is little to no let up in this game- the lack of a pause button should have really led me to that conclusion earlier- but given the constant threat to life you really can’t take your eye off the ball at any moment.

Running between life threatening encounters, I was able to take in more and more of the scenery and start to appreciate that the Lands Between are as beautiful as they are deadly. While I understand the lack of one, this is one game where I would actually use a photo mode. In the calm moments, it’s easy to just pan around the scenery to take it all in, either in the lush greenery of the starting area Limgrave, or the hellscape that is Caelid. The enemies you face are exceptional and while there isn’t variety within soldiers or undead, there are hundreds of enemy variants that are all rendered exceptionally. So many of the bosses and enemies are unique and memorable, although I’m not keeping up with the lore quite to the same level as I’m seeing around with people having memorised all the boss and enemy names. My only graphical criticisms come from the friendly NPC characters, and how in the heat of battle there can be a lot of camera clipping that leads you to losing your bearings a bit, or effectively end up inside the boss you’re trying to take on. For the most part, though, everything flows and I didn’t experience any significant glitches or issues.

Image Credit: FromSoftware

The core gameplay is what I found most interesting about Elden Ring, as I feel like there are games where the swing of a sword feels smoother, or the casting of a spell feels more powerful, but there’s something addictive about getting used to the differences in weapons or abilities. Unlike a lot of these other games, the difference between a light and heavy sword are massive, while focusing your time into magic will leave you feeling like an all powerful sorcerer. I started as a sword based build, thinking I’d be better served as a tank style player since I’ve really very little experience and knew I’d be getting hit a lot, but certainly at early levels when every foe you meet is capable of ending you in one or two shots it doesn’t seem to matter, so I switched to magic and have seen instant results. This could be the opposite for another players style, but I think it’s here that I’ve found another indication of the addictive charm of this type of game.

The first indication I’ve touched upon already- remember those angry puddles from earlier? I strolled back into their town a few levels and a wizard staff later and melted them into oblivion. It felt so good even doing it to a grunt, but I can tell you it held nothing to finally besting my first big boss. Normally a few deaths are enough to put me off a game but there are so many different ways to hone your skills and level up before going to get that sweet revenge that it really does feel possible at any level of the game.

The second I think really is the absolute freedom that you get to explore all the different gameplay types and find what really works for you. Elden Ring gives you everything you need to beat it, it’s up to you to put the pieces in the right order for yourself and beat the game any way you can, rather than the way they tell you to. I’m still sure that the more traditional Souls games will prove above my ability and time levels to beat, but right now I don’t think I’ve ever played anything like Elden Ring. Given that I’ve died 800,000 times and have a sinking feeling I’ve barely scratched the surface in it’s world, I don’t think I have anything negative to say about this game aside from “in an ideal world the NPCs would look nicer.” I don’t want to even give any more away but if you’re a new player to this type of game, take it from me- it’s worth every minute. Just remember, there’s a time and a place to take on every enemy and if it’s not time yet, then you’re in the wrong place.

The final score: review Virtually Perfect
The 411
Elden Ring is far more accessible than previous Souls game but don't mistake it's kindness for softness. Every inch of this world will happily kill you, but every moment you survive and every battle you leave as the victor just has such a sense of accomplishment behind it. The boss battles are fierce and unforgiving but once you've found their weakness you'll feel like the baddest in the land until a crap creature slaps reality back into you. This truly is a once in a generation game which is apt since a lot of average gamers like me will be playing it throughout, but I'm more than okay with that.

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The Elden Ring, Stewart Lange