For as long as I can remember I’ve always liked open world games. My first was Final Fantasy for the original NES. The last open world game I played that captured the open-ended gameplay FF1 possessed was Morrowind.. Until Elden Ring came out, that is.
Elden Ring is a brand new title by From Software, the people who brought you domestic disturbance calls due to all the swearing and thrown controllers coming from your home.. But Elden Ring isn’t really a souls-like.
Instead, Elden Ring is a classic open world game that doesn’t hold your hand. No level scaling, no quest markers, and no warnings when you’re about to go somewhere you probably shouldn’t.
I love it, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll love it too. Let’s get into the details about why Elden Ring is perfect for people who don’t like souls-likes.
Elden Ring is as hard as you want it to be
As an older man with physical limitations, I hate ultra-hard games. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice was the last one I played, and while I enjoyed it, I never really got very far in the game itself.
Elden Ring is still a souls-like, but rather than adding a difficulty slider the game gives you ways to level up and get better gear before you take on anything too challenging.
Hell, you could get yourself in the 60s easily without even touching a boss outside of the tutorial.
That doesn’t mean that you’ll be able to breeze through the game; No, power-leveling in Elden Ring is only part of the equation. You’ll still need to pay attention to boss strategy and gear up for the fight in a way that makes sense.
Thankfully there are a lot of bosses to fight, and only a handful are truly required to progress in the game. Some of the optional ones are no big deal, but there are also quite a few that are very much classic Souls-like challengers.
In fact, if you really want a challenge, just pick the Wretch as your starting class. You’ll die plenty if you’re not ready for it.
Speaking of classes, you’re not really locked into any one style of gameplay when you pick your class. I myself went Confessor, focusing on dex and faith.. Which gave me not only great casting abilities (using Incantations), but also solid melee (with dex-based weapons) AND ranged (with bows & crossbows).
You can play pretty much any style you like. Want to be a big, lumbering brute? No problem. Want to be a glass cannon? Sure. Something in-between? There is no limit.
And the death-as-a-gameplay-mechanic? Yeah, it’s not NEAR as punishing thanks to a liberal sprinkling of Sites of Lost Grace (Elden Ring’s version of a campfire) save/respawn points. The classic dungeons can be challenging, but otherwise it’s not as big of a deal to die here.
With that said, let’s talk about the stealth in Elden Ring.
Elden Ring: Stealth like Sekiro.. Sorta
Stealth in Elden Ring is limited, yet also a critical gameplay mechanic.
None of the modern comforts common among stealth games is here: There is no detection meter, no indication that you’re well-hidden, and no way to really improve upon stealth aside from a couple spells and a consumable (as far as I can tell – a deeper investigation into Elden Ring’s stealth mechanics is the first guide I will be producing here).
You can hide in the bushes, creep up behind foes, and perform critical hits.. All of which are necessary for most players to be able to succeed here, especially in the early game and classic dungeons.
In fact, I’m almost always creeping around any time I’m in an area that may have enemies that could harm me (which is pretty much everywhere). If I’m not riding my magical steed, I’m crouched low to the ground, peeking around the corner to make sure I’m not about to get ambushed.
What is interesting is that there are sorceries (magic) and incantations (prayers – think clerics from DnD) that tie into stealth. While none of these are game-changers, many times these little abilities can mean the difference from dying repeatedly to finally getting past a specific area.
Overall, the stealth in Elden Ring follows the same “no handholding” philosophy.
Elden Ring & From Soft Jank
Elden Ring is nothing special when it comes to graphics; While From Soft has been known to create otherworldly creatures and environments, they do so with relatively dated graphics.
On PC at launch even my GTX 3080 chugged along periodically, and it still does after extended sessions, occasionally dipping into the 30-40 FPS range.
Poor optimization aside, Elden Ring has a lot of the classic jank common in From Soft games.. Numerous methods to cheese your enemies, timing issues and more are rife here.. But honestly, nothing here is really “game breaking”, and in many cases are just endearing aspects of From Soft games that end up being called “mechanics”.
I will say, however, that it can be a real nuisance to be stuck in a spot trying to get out of range of a foe’s attack just because you’re stuck in an animation (or just outright stuck due to a small piece of the environment blocking your foot).
I also encountered a few oddities in progression due to bypassing the first boss fight.. And the second (accidentally). I went back and took care of said bosses, but the progression of the story is hard enough to follow sometimes.
Speaking of, you don’t even get an in-game journal to help you keep track of everything, so keep a notepad by your desk, and make liberal use of the custom map markers.
Finally.. Buy a controller if you’re on PC. Seriously, this is pretty much unplayable without a controller.
Is Elden Ring worth it?
Yes. YES. ABSOLUTELY 100% YES.
Ok, maybe not. If you’re a fan of classically challenging RPGs, want to play a game the way YOU want to play it (unlike Dying Light 2), and really want to see what all the hype is about with Dark Souls games, grab it.
Even if you don’t normally like Souls-like games, Elden Ring is worth a shot. I am notoriously bad at Souls-likes, and now I’m in the 60s and have taken out numerous bosses.. And I’m still smiling, and haven’t even thrown my controller.
The world of Elden Ring (like most From Soft games) is just absolutely enthralling. I mean.. I randomly encountered so many beautiful, disturbing, haunting, enchanting things in the game that I literally let myself write them all out here, and then cut them from my review (keeping only a handful of screenshots from those bits). You need to experience them.
It’s not perfect, however. If you don’t want to spend a lot of time researching, playing, and living this game, your mileage may vary. As well, if you’re playing on an aging PC, wait for a few more patches.
While Elden Ring may not really be a “stealth” game, it’s so good I can’t help but cover it here at GGN. Expect multiple guides over the coming months.