"Elden Ring": Bigger Than Anything Before

"Elden Ring" is considered a possible game of the year – also because star author George RR Martin is involved. The result is an epochal and difficult adventure.

Something big is coming. That's probably what many people thought when the Japanese studio From Software introduced the action role-playing game Elden Ring (Playstation, Xbox, PC) two years ago. Not only does it come from the creators of the Souls series, which is as popular in the gaming world as it is notorious for its level of difficulty. Game of Thrones author George RR Martin is also actively involved. Two giants in the fantasy cosmos, two masters of their trade, join forces to develop a game together: That naturally raises expectations.

These haven't gotten any smaller since the announcement. Especially since company president Hidetaka Miyazaki repeatedly tempted Pied Piper with superlatives. Compared to its previous works, Elden Ring should once again contain a much larger game world and many new game mechanics. Not to mention the involvement of George RR Martin, who is said to have laid the groundwork for the game's mythology. 

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Whatever the writer's influence and advertising claims, Miyazaki's games have always been characterized by three things: dark, challenging, epochal. Does that also apply to Elden Ring , which has been available for PC, Xbox and PlayStation since Friday with a delay of almost six months? tehnologijaviews was able to take a look at the eagerly awaited game in advance.

"Elden Ring" is dark, but not too much

As early as 2009, Miyazaki showed with the PlayStation exclusive Demon's Souls that his understanding of fantasy includes run-down castles and disgusting swamp landscapes rather than magnificent Elven castles and idyllic forests. It should be as moldy, dusty and hostile to life as possible. The characters stumble through labyrinths of traps and have to fend off monsters that drive swords, claws and teeth through their armor, which is usually much too thin.

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The world of Elden Ring builds on this, but also does many things differently, dares more. The game begins in Limgrave, which is already a place of contradictions. On the one hand, the ruins of old Gothic buildings are rotting away, while their residents, just as dilapidated as the architecture, shuffle disconsolately through the periphery. But in this broken world, on the other hand, there are lush green meadows, colorfully speckled plants covered with ripe fruits, large and small animals that eat their fill. And, perhaps most strikingly, a huge glowing yellow tree in the center. An oasis of well-being in the middle of the disaster area.

That makes you curious. And this is where Elden Ring probably shows the biggest difference to the Souls series (and its greatest strength): Players can freely decide whether they want to follow the common thread or first explore the world in the sense of an open-world adventure. The latter is worth it, because there is a lot to see: winding caves, ancient tombs, magical prisons. The world of Elden Ring is indeed vast, interwoven and mysterious, an adventure playground for fantasy fans that often looks fantastic too. Each area is a piece of the puzzle that gives clues to the lost civilization and also contains items that make the game easier as you progress.

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Simple is relative, because Elden Ring is demanding. Heavy blows from opponents usually only smash the character after a few hits. The trial and error principle applies to boss fights: the players first have to meticulously learn the movement patterns in order to then be able to dodge precisely and hit punches skillfully. Such demanding struggles characterize Miyazaki's works. For the self-declared hardcore gamers, quasi for the professionals at the controller, games like Dark Souls are a kind of gold standard. For casual gamers, on the other hand, they are an almost insurmountable task. After all: In Elden Ring they now have the chance to strengthen themselves first, to learn more in the world before they face a boss.

So Elden Ring is more accessible than its predecessors. Many Souls veterans were concerned about this, especially when Miyazaki said in an interview earlier this year that more people might get to see the end of the game this time. They feared a casual game, a game for Candy Crush fans, to put it bluntly. Of course it didn't turn out quite so shallow. Of course, it will be easier if the character collects the right equipment beforehand and gradually becomes stronger. Nevertheless, it remains challenging. And particularly hardened gamers can decide whether they only go into battle with their underpants and club.

Epochal, but not always original

With the story of Elden Ring, From Software does not completely reinvent itself. As with Demon's Souls and Dark Souls, the story revolves around an outlaw chosen one. The character is a so-called tainted one, a being who hovers between life and death. After demigods destroyed the Elden Ring, the land fell into ruin. It is the task of the Tainted to collect the fragments of the ring, rise to the lordship and restore order. This is epochal staged, even if not very original.

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George RR Martin's participation gave hope for something bigger, or at least maybe something special. But the 73-year-old apparently didn't have much to do with the main plot, but "only" developed the game world and the background story. Incidentally, he submitted both years ago, as he writes in a blog post. Developing video games takes time - and actually a lot of consultation. How many of Martin's ideas actually flowed into the game is not known.

Maybe they hide in the smaller details of the game world. In a crab cook's hut in the middle of a monster-inhabited swamp; in the church on a mighty stone stake digging into the bowels of this desolate world; at the foot of a mountain from which poor wretches in rags hack chunks. They all push the main plot into the background without telling much. Instead, they stimulate the imagination, which isn't such a bad thing for a video game.

In the case of Elden Ring, a great frame saves the image that is often copied, and even expands it by a few facets, as can be seen later in the game. This is also typical of Miyazaki's games. So is Elden Ring the big dish that many were hoping for? In any case, on the Metacritic rating platform, the game was already considered one of the best rated games of all time on the day of publication, and not only the game magazine GameStar speaks of a milestone . The ingredients seem to taste the same to most players as ever. 

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