Friday, March 11, 2022
Beware: some minor Elden Ring spoilers ahead.
Loot has been intertwined with the world of video games for nearly as long as the hobby has existed. From the random goodies you’d find in some of the earliest roguelikes, to the carefully placed chests in JRPGs like Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy, there’s been something ever-so-satisfying about the prospect of discovering a new favourite weapon, or devastating spell, for over four decades. The word itself stands alongside terms like ‘Game Over’, ‘Level Up’, ‘Super Effective’, and ‘Respawn’ within the video game lexicon, frequently plastered across the obnoxious gamer merch that makes you physically cringe ever so slightly whenever you see it. You know, t-shirts declaring that “I Only Get Paid In Loot” or “I Could Go Outside But Video Games Have Dragons”. That sort of nonsense.
These days, however, the word ‘loot’ has taken on an even more cynical meaning. Loot boxes still cast a long shadow over the industry, with plenty of games like Overwatch or FIFA offering players a form of in-game gambling, trading real money for the chance to grab a rare item. Loot, in its more classic form, does still exist in games like Borderlands 3, Diablo 3, Destiny 2, and others, but too often you’re finding randomised items, or the same weapons you already have, just with some new stats or a different level of rarity. This sort of system is compelling in its own way, sure, but there’s still a distinct randomness to it all, one that’s designed to keep you playing, to keep you rolling the dice, even if real money isn’t involved.
Elden Ring’s loot system is about as far removed from these concepts as you could imagine. The game’s regular roaming enemies often carry the chance to drop loot, of course, but these items are always tied to each enemy type - cut down one of the Viking-esque warriors roaming the grassy plains of Limgrave, for example, and there’s a chance you’ll be able to grab his fur-lined armour, or his curved Dismounter sword. There’s something really cool about seeing an enemy in the game, clad in interesting armour, or wielding a massive weapon, and knowing there’s a chance they’ll drop it once defeated. But where Elden Ring really shines is in the unique loot that’s carefully placed around its world.
Elden Ring’s map feels absolutely massive. Like many other open world games, it offers a nice mix of densely packed areas, and wide-open spaces, but developer FromSoftware is excellent at hiding tons of little caves, catacombs, and secret illusory walls in plain sight. Each of these areas will contain a chest, or an item, or a boss fight, and, most impressively, the reward is almost always something entirely unique and worthwhile.
Whether that’s a brand new piece of sorcery that you won’t find anywhere else in the game, or an essential item like the Bell Bearings - each of which is unique and unlocks the ability to purchase specific upgrade items at the Roundtable Hold - you can’t help but get the distinct feeling of being rewarded for your accomplishment. Not only are these unique items scattered and hidden all over the world, but they’re placed extremely carefully as well. Each item description offers a little bit of lore, and the locations in which you find them help to expand upon that further. If this weapon once belonged to a character located elsewhere, how did it end up so far away? Why was this spirit summon tucked away in a locked room, deep within a dungeon?
The biggest impact that Elden Ring’s unique and varied loot has, outside of that feeling of reward, is how it shapes your journey through the world. In a game the size of Elden Ring, with all of the choices available, every player will have a slightly different experience, and how you build your character will slowly change throughout the game, depending on the items you find. My character spent a good chunk of the early stages of Elden Ring wielding a curved greatsword, but upon finding a very useful Ash of War, known as Glintblade Phalanx, I switched to a regular greatsword so I could equip it. This became my primary weapon, until I picked a fight with one of the game’s optional bosses - the monstrous Full-Grown Fallingstar Beast.
Defeating this otherworldly creature rewarded me with a new weapon, the Fallingstar Beast Jaw, which not only hits really bloody hard, but also calls down a bolt of gravitational lightning from the sky. It is, quite frankly, one of the coolest weapons I’ve ever seen in a game, and I immediately switched around my stats so I could wield it - not only because it was powerful but because it allowed me to parade around a trophy of my victory over a particularly tough boss. What better way to celebrate my triumph than to use the great beast’s tusk to cleave my future foes in half? It’s this weapon that saw me through the latter half of Elden Ring, and it completely changed my playstyle as well. But many players may never even pick it up. That’s the beauty of Elden Ring’s loot system - there’s so much to find, and so much to miss, that it makes every player’s experience unique.
FromSoftware’s games have always done loot well in this way, but Elden Ring’s open world makes it even more impactful than before. With players able to tackle different areas in a completely different order, loot can be found earlier, or later, and help shape the rest of their game. The fact that Elden Ring makes respeccing easier than in any FromSoftware game that came before it also lends this loot system a big boost. No longer do you find yourself coming upon spells, weapons, and armour during the late game, and knowing there’s no way you’ll level up enough to be able to wield them - instead, you can quickly warp your way to the right NPC, and reinvest your stats in order to try another playstyle. The sheer number of options available to players in Elden Ring is immense, and it makes every bit of loot all the more valuable, and rewarding.
Friday, March 11, 2022 @ 06:24 PM
Saturday, March 12, 2022 @ 06:52 AM
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Sunday, March 13, 2022 @ 09:11 AM
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