No spoilers ahead for this one.
Elden Ring is a review I put off because I just felt like I was missing something. For the last week now I've been seeing 10/10, 100%, perfect reviews for it but I just couldn't see it. Every couple years a really phenomenal game comes out and sadly for me Elden Ring isn't that game, that game is Horizon Forbidden West (click link for review).
It's not that Elden Ring is bad, it isn't at all, it just isn't as mind-blowingly good as I had hoped. It's just a bit underwhelming. If you're a die hard fan of the Souls and Bloodborne games you'll love it, it's more of the same. If anything it's maybe too much of the same it feels like an open world filled with nothing but boss fights, after playing a game with such a rich and full open world (find out which game) so recently this one just feels a little hollow. Aside from boss fights and enemy camps the world doesn't really offer much, there's the odd merchant or spirit to talk to but it's few and far between. Honestly that's this games biggest flaw, the execution of the open world. To FromSoftware's credit it is their first free roam game and it really isn't actively bad, far from it, it just feels like they maybe bit off a bit more than they could chew. I have so many thoughts on this and the open world but I'm saving them for an upcoming article (sign up to be updated when it comes out). If I had to give a comparison I'd say the world of Elden Ring feels like the original Assassin's Creed map but with open plains rather than dense cities, they're both broken up into sections divided by 'corridors' full of enemies. Maybe just a bit more in the way of world building wouldn't go amiss, that's not to say that there isn't any, I just want a world that feels lived in. I wouldn't even mind any of this normally but the world was a huge selling point of the game.
The game also suffers from a lack of direction, you kind of just have to figure it out yourself. I know that this is the kind of thing that Souls fans like, I guess it's supposed to make it harder but it works with those games, it doesn't work so well in such a huge map with so many offshoots. Sites of Lost Grace are really your only guidance, but it doesn't really tell you that (you can have that tip for free from me though), they're basically the same as campfires from Bloodborne and souls games. You could potentially actually never unlock your mount to ride if you don't figure it out yourself, there's absolutely no hand holding here. Honestly though that's not a huge flaw but I can definitely see it putting off new players.
It really isn't all bad though, as much as I might've made it sound that way. It's definitely one that you need to sink your teeth into, you really can't go into it half-heartedly and I like that about it. It's really a slog but one that feels super rewarding to get through, even the lowliest of enemies feel rewarding to take down. And that's what the FromSoftware games have always done so well, being rewarding. Parts of the world are gorgeous too, it's just a shame it's too dangerous to stop and look around, the George R.R. Martin influence is so so clear and in the best ways, it's like a grungy Witcher map (which is high praise).
The combat is completely original recipe too, no complications, you dodge, you block, you attack, simple as that and that's great. It is rock hard though, harder than the other FromSoftware games, I always found that they were never quite as hard as people said but that's absolutely not the case with Elden Ring. Elden Ring makes that second Sifu boss fight look like a cakewalk which is no easy feat. And combat is really what draws people to these games, you only play FromSoftware games if you're looking for a challenge and if that's what you want then Elden Ring is your game.
I obviously haven't finished the game yet but I'm really looking forward to seeing what else it has in store for me and that's a great sign, the best games always leave you wanting more. Sure it's not so fleshed out and meaty as Horizon Forbidden West but it has its own charms. I can't wait to be a high enough level to take on every enemy the game has to offer and I won't stop until I can. That's Elden Ring's best quality, it will keep you coming back. It can get very samey exploring cavern after cavern and dungeon after dungeon but it all feels absolutely worth the slog just to be able to level your character up even just once.
We've come to the all important section of the review: is character customisation good? Yes. Yes it is. It's a little bit fiddly and difficult to use but as far as character appearance goes it's super in depth. You can fine tune every little detail of your characters face, voice, body, and hair can all be edited individually in a customisation menu that gives Cyber Punk's customisable genitals a run for its money.
I guess the best way to sum it up is to say that if all you want is Dark Souls on a huge scale you'll love it. And I guess that's the issue for me, I just expected a little bit more. I expected a revolutionary ,state of the art, game changing experience but that's probably on me for listening to the deafening hype created by long time fans of the series. It really isn't a bad game at all and I have every intention of seeing it through to the end but it just left me feeling a bit empty. I didn't really want to write this review yet, I wanted more time but here we are, I will be revisiting it much more in the future though as I play it more.
Elden Ring is if nothing else intriguing. It's a good game spoiled by ridiculous hype. I don't fully understand the media fanfare either, it just doesn't feel like a perfect game to me. For me it gets itself a 7, which is a pretty respectable score, maybe I'll change my mind on this one, right now though that's where I'm at. If you're reading this and disagree though let me know in the comments and on the cloven hoof twitter @_cloven_hoof_