In the past decade, few developers have been as influential as From Software. Whether it’s the challenging gameplay of Demon’s Souls, the carefully crafted worlds of Dark Souls, the compelling stories of Bloodborne, or the sharp gameplay of Sekiro, each of its games resonates in profound ways.
From Software’s expertly calculated and balanced game design; That much sense of discovery comes as you navigate through crumbling castles, unsettling forests, and otherworldly dark realms. It is in that triumphant swing of the sword that brings an insurmountable foe to its knees, and the heartbreaking moment where a slip allows the enemy to bring you to yourself.
The highs and steep lows of From Software’s gameplay loops hinge on insight into what the player will see, when they will see it, and how they are likely to react. In theory, an open world that offers the freedom to go anywhere and do anything would certainly undermine design principles that From Software has diligently honed to the brink of perfection. However, Elden Ring showed that the opposite was actually true.
Lands Between is bigger than anything From Software has created before and enables the player to take discovery and exploration into their own hands. From the start, those determined to overcome the challenges they face can travel across green fields brimming with life, down to treacherous dungeons where monstrous guards await, through regions blighted by rot, and even discovering lost cities in the depths below.
From Software has been able to single-handedly instill that sense of freedom is admirable, but being able to do so while advancing the core design principles of their games is a massive feat. It ensures that, after all these years, the defining features of the studio’s games remain fresh. Elden Ring is a game that delivers a more powerful role-playing experience than any From Software has created before, one that encourages experimentation and adventure outside your comfort zone and rewards it with unforgettable gaming opportunities. It could be circumventing a certain area of the game or being unexpectedly caught in another, or it could be the discovery of an unusually powerful spell or devastating weapon. No matter what it is, what’s important is that at every step, the Elden Ring inspires a sense of wonder that immerses you deeper and deeper into its world. Even when faced with seemingly impossible challenges, it gives you the opportunity to look for adventure elsewhere and return when you feel most capable.
It’s a game that, on first playthrough, feels like it’s endless, always surprising with breathtaking new horizons and architecture of astonishing scope, offering you tougher challenges and giving you new rewards. And after subsequent playthroughs, the Elden Ring continues to give, allowing players to experience more quest missions, encounter characters found far away in dark corners, and develop a deeper understanding of the narrative that drives the struggle for the fate of the lands between.
In my review, I said that Elden Ring was flawed in just about every way, and that its commitment to design by subtraction put the responsibility for charting its journey in the hands of the player. After all these months, the impact of this has not diminished. I’ve said previously that Elden Ring stands head and shoulders above other open world titles, and as bold as that statement is, I think it’s even more powerful today. In Elden Ring, From Software has redefined its design philosophy for the first true open world, and in doing so, has elevated the genre to an even higher level. It’s a game that ensures the studio will remain as influential as it was up to this point for years to come.
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