A third-person role-playing adventure with nearly limitless death and despair awaits players with the courage to restore the Ring of Elden (Bandai Namco Entertainment and FromSoftware, rated: Mature, $59.99, tested on PlayStation 4).
How’s that for a fun weekend? As part of the evolution of the legendary and painfully difficult Dark Souls franchise, a vast world awaits players where they can embrace the mythos of the Lands Between through the lore developed by “Game of Thrones” patriarch George RR Martin. .
Specifically, the magic-infused Elden Ring was shattered into seven great runes by Queen Marika. His demigod descendants each received a shard but fought and ravaged the lands in an attempt to collect all the great runes and reforge the Elden Ring.
Known as the Shattering War, the events completely fractured the Midlands. It’s up to the player to kill all seven Shard-bearing demigods, reassemble the Elden Ring and become an Elden Lord.
As with all role-playing games, the epic journey begins when a player, recalled after being branded a Tarnished Exile, selects one of eight warrior types and then customizes their final appearance.
Classes available range from lowly wretched (unleashed into the world only while wearing a thong); an astrologer (practitioner of magic); samurai (heavy fighter); and vanguard (a flexible mid-range fighter).
Sufficient depth of customization actually allows a player to closely recreate their face and body, if they take the time, down to pores, color of eye bags, right and left iris size , color and detailed musculature.
Expect this process for the undecided to take hours to hone in on a class of humans. Although I remind everyone that most of these facial features are often covered with some type of hard hat.
I chose the Vagabond class, a well-rounded, well-rounded fighter with a shield, longsword, halberd, and all that facial customization covered in a helmet and body in silver armor.
It should be noted that a Vanguard should unequip this Halberd early on for a more functional and faster dodge roll to help in combat.
Now forge ahead while collecting, battling, and crafting generously to upgrade attributes and conquer a world overrun with intentionally powerful humanoids and creatures demanding combat while interacting with characters seeking or eager to help.
To give a taste of exploration, a player will first be dropped into the lands of Limgrave to find areas such as Castle Stormveil to defeat Godrick the Grafted (the first story’s demigod); Mistwood Forest (watch out for ferocious giant bears); Agheel Lake (yes, it’s a big fire-breathing dragon); Elleh Church to purchase the Crafting Kit from the Kale Merchant; and Morne Castle to defeat the savage humanoid Leonine Misbegotten.
For those who work hard and play many hours, they will acquire many useful gifts through exploration and battles.
Specifically, get the Spectral Steed Whistle after a conversation with Melina. A player’s avatar can now summon the horned horse Torrent on demand to ride and double-jump across the lands with various abilities such as laying down enemies in a dizzying spin attack, enjoying large wind geysers to make mega jumps.
Or defeat Mad Pumpkin Head (a large humanoid with a huge pumpkin head) hidden in a dungeon and gain access to a room to meet the witch Sellen, who will offer magic items and teach a warrior several Glintstone techniques.
For those who reach the obsession commitment, just about 40 hours of gameplay for me, and explore including those caves, mines, crypts, dungeons, expect to find a wide range of gear.
Some fun things include the Twinsage Glintstone Crown headpiece (a pair of metal heads that look cool and help further negate damage); the Raya Lucarian Robe (for more magical protection); Bloodhound Fang (kill the Bloodhound boss); a large curved sword (causes severe blood loss); the meteorite staff (found in the swamps of Caelid) for a powerful magic throw like throwing rocks; and a magical shining blue Carian sword (magic strikes with a large sword).
Familiar gameplay mechanics feature areas called Grace Sites for saving play and fast travel; a variety of upgradable flasks to fill and restore health and stamina; using runes to buy things; and the ability to collect a large number of items in a warrior’s inventory for crafting.
For example, collect Root Resin and Smoky Moth to create Fire Grease and use it to ignite a sword for battle, a pretty neat and handy trick.
A welcome and crucial addition to the gameplay experience is the summoning of dead warriors and creatures to aid in combat. A player must find a variety of ashes to unlock and summon them by ringing a bell collected from Renna the Witch.
They can summon such useful warriors as a pack of wolves, two skeletal militiamen, a spirit jellyfish, a sorcerer noble (shoots glittering stone shards), and five wandering nobles to attack enemies.
Director and game designer Miyazaki, the father of the Dark Souls franchise, has once again cooked up some incredible monsters and creatures.
Players can battle gargoyles, giant bats, skeletons, a graft graft (a troll-like blob implanted with various body parts and extra appendages), human spiders, knights in golden armor, a lobster massive, an earth octopus and large spinning jars (nicknamed pot boys) containing the entrails of fallen warriors. Each encounter guarantees the death of those who are not powerful enough or who do not know how to fight.
Finally, the potentially welcome co-op mode is a pretty confusing lesson in patience. A host player first visits an Effigies of the Martyr statue. With the help of various powered severed fingers, he powers a summoning pool and creates a sign to summon friends who have entered his realm using a small golden effigy and a tool called Furlcalling Finger Remedy to see his sign.
In almost all cases no connection occurred and my friends could not be found. It seems to be a common problem right now.
What worked in co-op was interacting with bloodstains to see how other players (as ghostly specters) died, and reading notes left by others that might aid in a warrior’s exploration .
Suffice it to say that after more than 50 hours of immersion, the vastness and beauty of Elden Ring is matched only by its immense difficulty. It’s guaranteed to bring tantrums and bouts of depression, but will be easily remembered as one of the best video games of this year and potentially in the history of the medium.