How is it possible to create in five years a project that does not claim to be a NEXTGEN, but spectacularly picturesque and diverse? Not having a well-constructed plot, but interesting and pushing to explore the mysteries of the world and characters? A project whose predecessors were characterized by chamber-like events, winning the hearts of the audience with one of the best open worlds in the gaming industry? Specific answers will be lost behind the doors of the talented Japanese from From Software, and we will be left only with the living embodiment of the above — almost perfect in all of Elden Ring.
The story of Elden's world, where the game's events unfold, hasn't gone far in its signature style from the plots of Bloodborne, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, and the Dark Souls series. The realms of Midland, like those of Yarnam, Dranglik, or Lordran, once thrived under the shadow of the Great Tree and through the power of the Ring of Elden. But the artifact was split into pieces and divided among the demigod heroes, whose brains soon swam and bodies underwent monstrous alterations from the new power. The world has changed to match them. It was at this point in the game's protagonist enters Mezzanine, relating to the «extinguished», once deprived of the divine grace of the Tree and the Ring, exiles. The decisions of the hero (or heroine) in the end will determine whether the agony of the world will end, or whether it will finally perish in the abyss of fire and death. While the overall motif of what happens brings back memories of any part of Souls, to the rescue of originality comes the old man Martin. Ready to do anything but sculpt a sequel «Songs of Ice and Flame», a legendary writer has taken a part in the project. His pen is especially noticeable in some of the game's events and character relationships, mostly tragic and bloody. It turned out well and not to the detriment of the corporate style.
Of course, the story in games from From Software is not unimportant, but it will only work because of the gameplay. And it's the best and most powerful organ in the body of Elden Ring. The open world that appeared for the first time in the developers' creations surprises with its details and fullness. Dissecting on the starting location, Zamogilya, the tenth hour of the game, opening more and more new dungeons and quests from NPC, you would think that the final is not far off. And then the map begins to recede, and Elden Ring throws out one of its major trump cards: it turns out that the adventure area is several times larger than it appears to be. And that's not all: there are plenty of underground locations and secret lands, like Canehurst Castle from Bloodborne. And where we berate the conveyor belt franchises of other developers for «copypaste» from the same camps and towers, the Japanese are to be commended. Even on the hundredth hour exploring gilded with autumn foliage plateaus, snowy tops of the giants, dangerous streets of the capital Leindell or tornado-ravaged city Azul is as interesting as the initial locations. The overall atmosphere of adventure within the open world is akin to the game, not even with the big brothers, but with some «Gothic 2: Night of the Crow». It once gave the same experience of a complex journey with the possibility to get away in some wilderness with strong enemies and get a cute artifact as a reward for curiosity.
In terms of mechanics, Elden Ring didn't invent anything fundamentally new, taking good things from the old, slightly improving and simplifying it. Nowadays, for example, you don't have to look for certain stones to harden your weapon to the right element — enough to swap your blade with the so-called Ashes of War, and there he is already raining down fire on opponents and can do a new reception. Moves around the world have been noticeably simplified — local «campfires» here in abundance, there are separate resurrection points next to the bosses, and teleport to the rest area is allowed at any time if you are not in combat or special catacombs. Also here again in fashion fighting stances with the weapon in each hand, that we liked from the second part of Dark Souls and seriously cut in the threequel. Chop up enemies with any combination of found katanas or curved swords — A special treat. Added long-needed non-combat mechanics like creating consumables or sewing, and for those who think the game a purely solitary adventure, introduced a variety of ghost bots to help with the difficult parts.
Separately I want to praise From Software for the local bosses. Yes, many of them are not seriously dangerous, but none of them can be denied entourage and style. Take at least the distraught General Radan or Astel, Born of the Abyss, who dwells in an incredibly beautiful cave. The developers can only be criticized for the fact that some of the powerful villains appear in the game more than once: the Apostle of Pale Skin meets at least three times, entertaining as a boss in the open world, then in a dungeon, or even in the company of a comrade. A similar approach in «cloning» content in the world gradually peeks in the structure of the explored ruins and catacombs, but do not dare to call it a drawback. Too deftly the Japanese shuffle their structure and the events taking place there. And, just kidding, these occasional self-replications are probably the game's only marginally serious flaw.
Elden Ring is great on the visual and sound side, too. Graphics, in no way claiming the title nextgen, draws stunning scenery, time after time prompting to take screenshots. The closet and arsenal are full of stylish samples, for the sake of close acquaintance with which you want to pass the game one more time to see a different ending. The sound on the whole is not bad either, but you can't call it outstanding — In Bloodborne, for example, the musical themes were more memorable and beautiful.
And not to turn the text into a sugar-coated compliment … No, not to poke fun at non-existent flaws, but to wrap it up. Elden Ring will definitely be a contender for GOTY 2022. This is a prime example of a project where you can see what years of development have been spent on. For the first time in years, a game is out where you can finally spend a hundred hours on one playthrough and not get tired of it, which in itself is the criterion for a great game. Now if only a sequel to Bloodborne, created in the same spirit, and it will be time to come up with a double gold medal.