Elden Ring

Elden Ring

Punishingly good.

Elden Ring

It’s almost the end of another year, which means we are getting very close to crowning our GotY 2022, but before we take a look back at the past 12 months of gaming, it’s worth catching up with a few titles that slipped through the net this year.  With one of the biggest for us being Elden Ring (I know shocking, but don’t ask why) which was a MASSIVE hit when it landed back in February and cemented its place as a real contender for GotY.  FromSoftware evolved their signature Soulslike formula once again with the help of fantasy writer George R. R. Martin (the Game of Thrones creator) to craft an epic gothic and dark world, with all the boss battles and mysteries you would expect.  But what may have sounded like Dark Souls 4 on paper, quickly broke free to become its own thing.

Yes the core gameplay sticks to its Dark Souls roots in terms of combat and the like, but it’s the open world element that totally changes up how you play the game.  Elden Ring takes place in the Lands Between – a place full of mystery and wonder as you meet a number of different characters on your adventure and start seeing the overall tale start to build, weaving a number of threads over time.   Your overall goal is to find and restore the Elden ring, but there is much more going on here; both in terms of lore and interconnect-ability between the crumbs of tale you find along the way, which in the Dark Souls way is never too clear and often told indirectly.  A lot of details will be told to you from the environments and world, which though not speaking directly to you per say… does tell you more about the land than you would expect, if you’re willing to really look around.

Lands Between is a Souls fans toy box of a location; from castles, run down villages and dungeons all with countless secrets to be uncovered, once you start really exploring them. All locations seem reward your curiosity with something of interest (that is if you’re willing to face what dangers that lie within).  Gameplay is split between main and side quests that you can take on as you wish, often seeing you tracking across the world on your trusty mount, to more than likely face down some unbeatable foe… at first.  Combat is very much what you would expect from a Soulslike, so timing and knowing when to attack is key, while keeping a constant eye on your health and stamina bars.  However, it’s refined and polished to a mirror shine with a few tweaks for the open world element.  There is a fun stealth system in the game that is limited in where you can use it, but does see you dodging full-on combat at times.  Plus you can jump now which sees you being able to battle flying nasties more easily now and you can do battle on the back of your mount as well.

Ashes of War is a new system that lets you customise your weapon with a number of special abilities, which can majorly change the tide of a battle, as knowing the best one to use against a boss can see you cut them down in seconds.  Given this is an open world game there are more than a few bosses to square off against in here, with the biggest selection seen in a FromSoftware title yet.  Though hard as nails they never feel quite as punishing as other FromSoftware titles big bads… well some of them.  Crafting also plays a larger part in the game than past titles, seeing you collecting resources to forge new potions, kit and gear.  All of which can and will save you in a pinch and all of this feeds back into the open world side well, as exploring will result in better resources.  As for issues (if you could call them that) it was strange that the time of day doesn’t really effect enemy cycles in the world and oddly you can’t bait two or more groups to battle each other beyond a few pre-scripted moments.  Elden Ring is a true tour de force and feels like FromSoftware crafting a game based on everything the studio has learned over the past decade.  Taking what fans love and adding new and smart elements to create an open world you really want to explore and uncover all its secrets.  Just be prepared to die… again and again and again.

An Xbox review copy of Elden Ring was provided by Bandai Namco’s PR team, and the game is out now on all major platforms at various prices.

The Verdict

10Perfect

The Good: Stunning world | Deep and satisfying combat | The urge to explore everything

The Bad: If you’re not a Soulslike fan this will not change your mind

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Stuart Cullen

Scotland’s very own thorn in the side of the London gaming scene bringing all the hottest action straight from The Sun… well… The Scottish Sun at least, every week!

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