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Elden Ring finally made me understand Dark Souls

My FromSoftware fandom has always been uneven.

Like many others, I tried unsuccessfully to battle through the grim dungeons of Dark souls and Dark Souls 2 before looking for housing Bloodbornegothic alleys. At moment later, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice proved that my beginning love of FromSoftware wasn’t just a fluke. But I am still deeply divided. On the other hand, part of FromSoftware are some of my favorite games ever made. On the other hand, I’ve never finished a game in the “Souls-like” franchise of the same name.

My early hours with Elden Ring, From the new epic full of life, reminiscent of my first time in Dark Souls. But now, 60 hours later Elden RingI think I finally get it – not just the thrill of Elden Ringbut also Dark Souls.

[Ed. note: This post contains spoilers for Elden Ring.]

Blaidd the Half-Wolf in Elden Ring

Image: FromSoftware / Bandai Namco via Polygon

My initial trembling with Elden Ring purely due to its size. FromSoftware’s previous titles have purposefully messed up the next slot, but at least you only have so many options. With Elden RingHowever, my open world was able to go in all directions from the start. I quickly felt indecisive. Even the guide lights on Sites of Grace – which pointed me towards a boss I was too incompetent to take on – couldn’t help me. When I stumble across a catacomb, I win in the end, but annoyed because all I get is a bow that I’ll never use.

As a player who generally doesn’t like the loose and liberal structure of modern open world games – even those filled with icons that tell you what to do – I fear I will never click into the Elden Ring. And so I decided to start the game as much as possible. With some decent FromSoftware experience, I feel confident enough in my skill level to not need to crush everything and just look for items that fit within my predefined build.

Using flavored builds of the week like the Moonveil katana and magic (which I’ve heard are good), I push through Margit the Fell Omen, Stormveil Castle, and Godrick the Grafted. I was frustrated, unqualified, and tired of riding from place to place. I ended up being pushed into Lake Liurnia and Raya Lucaria Academy. But I just played out of obligation and recommendation, trying, desperately and stubbornly, to figure out how I could make the experience like the FromSoftware games I love.

After 20 miserable hours, I killed Rennala, Queen of the Full Moon, and began two new adventure activities: Responding to my character and starting Ranni’s quest.

I don’t like the Dexterity/Intelligence mode I’m using, but it works so well that I’m afraid to change. However, I have collected a “Colossal Sword” only called “Greatsword,” and am very curious about it. So even though the Prisoner class wasn’t originally designed for Strength builds, I changed things up. Suddenly, I was rolling around in heavy armor with a sword twice the size of my character.

Not immediately convinced by the new build, I started Ranni’s quest as a sort of experiment. Then I started slicing through the spiders with the hands of Caria Manor, and I knew this was the game for me. Using my new toy, I reintroduced myself to the witch, defeating Starscourge Radahn, unlocking his two giant swords, buying armor, and dressing up as a mini-riding demigod for the rest of the game. game.

In the playstyle of these Radahn enthusiasts, I spot a spark that reminds me of my favorite FromSoftware titles. Every battle was punitive, forcing me to play aggressively against much faster enemies. If I’m not intentional with my combos and don’t know their timing to the exact second, I’ll fail.

After twenty hours, I found my joy in Elden Ring.

Elden Ring's hero, in her early game armor, rides her Torrent horse through Limgrave

Image: FromSoftware via Polygon

In a larger sense, I realized that my problems with Elden Ring is my own fault. With Dark Souls, I’ve always disliked the flexible build. Even when I was having fun, playing aggressively and bypassing the shields, I felt like I was doing it wrong and not playing the game the way From intended. While that may not be important (and does stimulate multiplayer), it makes me want to not get involved.

In Bloodborne, I get to choose from a plethora of wacky items, but the intended gameplay is always clear: Defensive play is punished while aggressive play is rewarded. So whether I’m using a Hunter’s Ax, Cane, or the last (and always) Ludwig’s Holy Sword, I’ve never played defense. Similarly, I love Sekiro because it only gives you one weapon. It’s rigid, creating a more manual experience – Here is the challenge and here is your tool, now start working.

Elden Ring In that respect, Dark Souls is more than Dark Souls. There were hundreds of items to choose from and the freedom started to overwhelm me almost immediately. But changing my build because I found an interesting weapon changed my mind. There is no wrong way to play Elden Ring or, in other words, Dark Souls. The beauty of these games is that FromSoftware always gives players almost endless choices and all of them are valid. Basic bosses and enemies don’t always play fair (hit you when you’re down, shoot you one shot, etc.), so FromSoftware offers a ton of tools to help the whole playing field.

Don’t confuse my hanging with Dark Souls which is an unacceptable guarding by some Soul-like fans (I’m glad that Elden Ringmore accessible format). My frustration with Dark Souls came when I refused to play the game midway. For example, despite really enjoying the soul of the devil to do it again, I put it down right after using my bow to cheese the Armor Spider, feeling like I was “tricked”. Elden Ring showed me that changing builds and items to match the fight – or my mood – is not only for purpose, but is an important key to success.

Once I broke out of the linear path of the Ranni quest – which allowed me to focus on my new gameplay – I began to explore areas I had previously overlooked. Now every dungeon or sassy body contains an item that I can actually use in a future construction or for a tough boss fight. I stopped spells and weapons that didn’t fit my idea of ​​success.

An image from the opening cutscene in the Elden Ring, in which a warrior with a very long sword faces a giant creature

I’m against Malenia, basically
Image: Fromsoftware via Polygon

In the end, I opted to use Spirit Ash summons and spells sparingly for the rest of the level. But that’s my choice based on how fun I am having 1v1 bosses with my massive gravity swords. However, I still try to get the spells and summons interesting because it’s always something I might find myself using later; and when I use Spirit Ash to help me kill Malenia, it definitely doesn’t sound like “cheating”.

With Elden Ring done and done, I want to revisit the Dark Souls games. I hope I’ll still end up using a big sword in my playthroughs in the end, but I’d rather leave myself open to more possibilities. Maybe I’ll get some magic without guilt, or win that I can achieve it with some creative archery skills.

Elden Ring helped me overcome my own limitations and earn success with creativity instead of just brute force. It sounds like a cliché, Elden Ring reminds me that the only wrong way to play a game is to not have any fun.

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