Elden Ring Review

Matt Lorrigan

There was a point in Elden Ring where I found myself lost in a bizarre, subterranean world. Cast in the light of the stars that filled the perpetual night sky, I had no NPC to guide me, nor any objective marker on my map. The only hint I had was a series of tall monuments, each holding a flame that I could light. So I did. I set about seeking out these monuments, lighting each and every flame, sneaking past difficult enemies, and frequently dying. I could have left at any time - a simple case of opening my map and warping to a previously-discovered Site of Grace (Elden Ring’s version of bonfires), - and carried on pursuing the critical path, or explored somewhere else, but I kept on. Finally, I lit the last flame, and at first, nothing seemed to happen. No cutscene played, no message popped up congratulating me on my achievement. But when I travelled back to the first flame I’d lit, a gateway had opened up. I entered, and was treated to one of the most beautiful boss fights in any of FromSoftware’s games. By the time I finally managed to take down the majestic creature, I was grinning from ear to ear.

Dragons provide some of the most epic and rewarding fights in the game.

This is what Elden Ring is all about. Developer FromSoftware’s previous games in the Dark Souls and Bloodborne series have always featured meticulously crafted, interconnected worlds. They offered a certain sense of freedom, but they were far from open - each challenge was intended to be tackled head-on, in a specific way. In Elden Ring’s open world, there’s so much choice as to where to go, and what to explore, that you’ll rarely ever find yourself bashing your head against a brick wall, and hoping it will break. Instead, you can go off and explore, spending a few hours discovering hidden locations and new enemies. Along the way, you’ll gain some levels, perhaps some new items, or upgrade material for your weapons. By the time you come back to that tricky boss you’d gotten stuck on, you’ll have some kind of advantage that you’ve not had before. Dark Souls’ methodical combat and challenging enemies have always been excellent, but in Elden Ring they feel complete. It almost seems strange that FromSoftware hasn’t decided to delve into an open world sooner.

The Lands Between, the setting of Elden Ring, is stunning to behold. When you hear the term ‘open world’ thrown around in gaming, it's likely that you picture wide open spaces and great plains. Elden Ring does have these, but it also has a depth and verticality that make it a more interesting space to explore. Great jutting cliffs tower over certain areas, with just the hint of a ruin or tower at the top, begging you to work out how to make your way up. Similarly, you’ll descend into ravines or caves, working your way ever deeper. Each area of the world is visually distinct, from blood red swamps to misty lakes, and travelling across them is a joy, thanks to your spectral steed, Torrent. Part horse, part goat, Torrent comes equipped with a useful double jump and the ability to speed past enemies, making him an essential part of the open world experience.

That’s not to say that those more linear, challenging dungeons from Dark Souls and Bloodborne are gone, however. Far from it. Instead, these areas, which publisher Bandai Namco has referred to as ‘Legacy Dungeons’, are found within the overworld, and offer a more traditional Dark Souls-style experience. You’ll unlock shortcuts, fight tough bosses, and discover illusionary walls. If anything, these areas have been given the scope to be longer and more intricate than before. After all, even if you get halfway through and become stuck, you can always choose to leave, warping to another point on the world map, and making a note to come back later.

The map itself is a thing of beauty, all tea-stained brown land and grey-blue sea, with flecks of red, green, and gold. Upon first opening up your map, you’ll find it to be completely blank, with only a few faint roads, and the locations of the map fragments you need to collect. Collecting each map piece gives you a small section of the world, but thankfully, you won’t find it suddenly full of symbols and objective markers. Instead, you’ll find yourself drawn towards strange shapes on the map that you’ll deem too interesting not to explore - a large tree towards the east, or the telltale outline of a colosseum to the north. Once you discover these locations, their names are marked on your map, lest you forget them, but the game is more than happy to let you both discover its secrets, and let you miss them, on your own. 

This is perhaps where FromSoftware’s appetite for the ambiguous becomes a problem. The developer’s willingness to let you miss its secrets and optional content is one thing - it makes each player’s experience in the open world unique - but when it comes to the critical path, things can get a little confusing. Many of the Sites of Grace will point you in a specific direction, but too often, you’ll find yourself following the path for a few hours, before discovering it wasn’t part of the main quest, or that you’ve arrived earlier than you should have, perhaps without the right item. While the frustration is quickly forgotten - you’ll be on your way to the next cool thing in no time - it would be nice to have just a little more direction without having to turn to a guide, especially when the world is so huge.

That classic FromSoftware obscurity leaks into the game’s story, as well. It’s been well advertised that the lore of Elden Ring’s The Lands Between was created, in part, by George R.R. Martin, and while there are storms and swords aplenty in Elden Ring, it bears only a passing resemblance to A Game of Thrones. Instead, Dark Souls creator Hidetaki Miyazaki’s fingerprints are all over Elden Ring, and there’s a creeping sense of familiarity for anyone who has played the Dark Souls trilogy. Rather than Unkindled or Undead, we are Tarnished. In place of Bonfires, we have Sites of Grace. There’s a corruption spreading over the land, with great poison swamps to be found, and academies of magic to explore. It all feels a little familiar, in a way that titles like Bloodborne and Sekiro didn’t. This game could have been called Dark Souls 4, and few of us would have batted an eye.

The bosses are just as tough as ever.

These are, however, minor quibbles in the grand scheme of things. Combat is as crunchy and satisfying as ever, and there’s a range of options outside of the classic sword and shield combo that are more widely useful than in the Dark Souls games. Magic and incantations are wonderfully fun to use, often allowing you to cast while moving, or allowing you to charge up spells for a more powerful attack. Stealth is also a viable option in many situations, allowing you to creep up on unsuspecting enemies for a vicious backstab, or letting you sneak past foes that you don’t want to fight. Ashes of War replace Dark Souls 3’s Weapon Arts, but can be freely changed between weapons at Sites of Grace, enabling you to mix and match abilities. There are more options for combat than ever before, and it’s a joy to experiment and play around with all the possibilities available to you.

Elden Ring’s combination of classic Dark Souls gameplay, with an open world that is ripe for exploration, is an utter treat for fans of FromSoftware, but also serves as the most welcoming and accessible game to newcomers that the studio has made to date. It’s rare to play a game that is so difficult to put down, but so easy to pick up. Elden Ring might not be totally unique, but you could make the case that it’s FromSoftware’s best, most accomplished game yet.

Elden Ring

Elden Ring offers up a gorgeous open world that is enticing and exciting to explore, along with excellent combat variety, amazing bosses to fight, and intricate dungeons to tackle. It might feel a little familiar, but this could well be FromSoftware’s best game to date.

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The music in Elden Ring is excellent, and each boss fight track gives the battle its own vibe. Ambient sounds help to make the open world feel more alive, and what voice acting there is in the game is very high quality.


Elden Ring’s art direction is absolutely stunning, and the steep cliffs, golden trees, and misty lakes of the game’s open world are wonderful to behold. Unfortunately, some technical problems hold the game back, with particle effects like fire not loading into view until you’re extremely close to them.


Elden Ring takes the combat of Dark Souls and expands upon it in interesting and worthwhile ways. Stealth is a welcome addition, combat atop your steed Torrent feels epic, and the vast array of magic spells and weapon abilities mean there’s plenty of ways to take down your foes.


Elden Ring’s open world is a joy to explore, with something new to discover around every corner, and it offers a ton of verticality, as well as wide open areas. The more linear dungeons are really well made, but progression can be a little bit confusing at times. Loading times are far too long, as well.


The vast majority of the list will reward you for defeating the many bosses in the game, which is very welcome, but there’s not much variety. Additionally, you’ll need to beat the game at least three times, it seems, in order to get the three different endings needed to collect all of the trophies, which could easily prove frustrating.

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