2 Reviews liked by Walks_G16
Elden Ring gets caught into the trap of the open-world design: bigger always means better.
There is a sense of discovery in the first 20 hours or so, where you slowly uncover the elements that form the world (characters, enemies, levels, systems...). Many of them are well-known by now, as everyone has pointed out, given their iterative nature. But it's in how is iterated that I think lies the magic of those first 20 hours. The caves, dungeons and mines are my favourite part, having to keep your lantern with you at all times, not knowing where those little assholes will come you from. Little passages, some secrets, a nice boss battle at the end and out. A little adventure in the midst of all that grandiosity.
Sadly, those 20 hours of discoveries and secrets comes to an end rather abruptly, when the iterative becomes repetitive. The same locations, the same enemies, the same bosses, the same items, the same strategy, the same vistas. A boring mosaic. All the magic got swept away for the sake of squeezing all those hours that become junk.
There is much more than just small dungeons, of course. The rest is an extension of dark souls 3, not dark souls 1, with very big and intricate castles, and at the end a stupidly giant mega boss awaiting to be slayed and make a fucking super epic moment, which in many cases read as very similar encounters. I would lie if I'd say that i didn't enjoy (very much enjoy) some of those battles, mainly Radahn and Rennala. They offered something more varied and interesting than just battle, and very refreshing.
Dark souls games have been compered to Berserk ad nauseam, pointing at all the homages and references to Miura's biggest work. It is considered that Dark Souls 3, even this one, kept some of the spirit of the manga faithfully. Recently, I was once again listening to Susumu Hirasawa's ost for the anime while re-reading the manga, and when this song started https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vZa0Yh6e7dw, I realised that we view Berserk through different lenses, because there is no moment in all Elden Ring that even resembles this.
If that wasn't enough, I've also been replaying Dark Souls 1 at the same time, and it's really jarring the comparison. People destroyed Dark Souls 2 for not capturing the essence of the first one, but I now think they only meant the world wasn't fully interconnected, because Elden Ring is nothing like the first one in the worst ways! DS1 gets much better the spirit of Berserk, the melancholy of a dark and twisted world, full of violence but with traces of hope to continue. Some of the characters you meet along the journey are too cynical to keep going, some of them still hold the will to go forward, many will fall into despair, madness and death, but every single one of them are bound to the strength needed to dream a different future. The idea that the world is not going to die this time. Some still believe it, some stopped believing a long time ago. You yourself keep persevering in a world that has died so many times that it doesn't make sense anymore. Buildings are not going down, but the concept of architecture itself is fading. Ugliness can be felt in the colors of the walls, in the faraway trees and landmasses. Elden Ring is too concrete and clean to show that ugliness, and is too convoluted with power plays to make character interactions tragic or memorable (also, maybe having much more characters doesn't help). The only exception is the woman's hug in The Round Table, something that could perfectly have been in DS1.
I read someone explaining the game as "imagine the moment in DS3 when you saw Irithyll for the first time. That's Elden Ring all the time", implying that it was something great. For me, it's not. I got saturated of so much "beauty", so much brightness, so much clarity, so many perfect compositions that it didn't strike me anymore. Since you are going to be traversing a world for a long time, they decided to make STUNNING VISTAS all the time, every time. An attempt to naturalistic open-worlds. In Spanish, there is a word that perfectly describes my sensations: relamido.
Yes, the gameplay is obviously good. Its the previous games with more weapons, which translates in fun ways to approach fights. But I find pretty underwhelming that the thing this game has going for is what people criticise constantly: polish. A bigger and uniform forest with polished trees.
Maybe I'm being more harsh with this game than with any other, but seeing the comparisons with previous games and Berserk, and spending maybe 70 hours with no moving or alienating experiences unlike the previous ones, has made me more bitter towards this spouting of thoughts. Beware games, don't make me play for that long.
Nearly a year removed from its launch, free of recency bias, no longer swarmed by the theses of those more eloquent than I, I'm content in saying I don't like Elden Ring. I've beaten it a couple times, played solo and online, used a variety of builds, gone completionist and not, tackled its world in intended and unintended order, had fun and glazed my eyes over in boredom, been in awe of and readily mocked it through and through. I like so very much of it, but I don't like Elden Ring.
I don't like this GRRM-gilded world. There's a prevailing sense of deliberate obfuscation that apes the peculiarities of Demon's Souls and Dark Souls but it's a mere mimick. It is an inverse Rowling-style approach to worldbuilding -- she fills her holes and says they were always filled, Dark Souls had holes and never noticed them, Elden Ring creates holes to taunt the VaatiVidya watcher with the tar with which to fill them.
I don't like this ocean of content. Even if wondrous tsunamis are few and far between, the impetus to purposefully seek them renders them decreasingly effective. The novelty of Walking Mausoleums, Erdtree Avatars, winding tombs, subterranean cities all turn quickly to routine. I can only laugh so many times at a man getting hit in the groin by a football.
I don't like the perpetual breadcrumbs. Scattered like millet for fowl lay treasures for the taking. Of what use is a thousandth herb, a hundredth spirit, a tenth greatsword? None, so say I, if it caters only to that which I am not: the theorycrafter, the PvPer, the challenge runner. And for these redundant fragments to be handed to me after a repetitious romp through yet another imp infested tileset with a singular twist? I am left wondering why I put in the effort.
I don't like the ramp. Other FromSoftware titles, deliberately or not, have tremendous peaks and valleys in their presentations of power and the scope of encounters. From the terror of Ornstein and Smough to the odd simplicity of Sif to the potential headache of Four Kings to the humour of Pinwheel to the fear of Nito to the melancholic ease of Gwyn. Here, outside of minibosses, I proceed uphill eternal as Sisyphus. On paper it is an ideal, in reality it is a fatigue. Does it seek to frustrate? Does it matter? There is no reprieve on the intended path.
I don't like that this is designed for me to like it. Polished to a mirror sheen, every aspect is intended to appeal to me. A personality in flux to receive my adoration, never showing me that true, imperfect self. I long for the idiosyncrasies of a chance encounter.
I had so much fun with you, and I came away with the understanding it was all a falsehood. The dopamine was real. The sentimentality, a fiction.
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