Lost in the Lands Between

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

Green DesklampSpoiler Warning: This review is light on spoilers, but is written after 100+ hours in Elden Ring, and will contain some mild spoilers on events, locations, and/ or boss names or details.

I chose the wretch. Of course I did.  It’s been my preferred route since I started playing From Software’s ‘Souls series’ back in 2009 with the mind-blowing and spirit crushing Demon’s Souls, and one that I was even more excited to set forth on in 2022’s Elden Ring.

Hyped up as the culmination of the 13-year road between Demon’s Souls and now, Elden Ring promised to take the ground-breaking and genre defining combat and level design the series was known for, and bring it into a truly open-world format.

The claim was a bold one. Changing the formula from tightly designed, primarily linear albeit Metroidvania-esque perfection of Miyazaki’s masterpieces into a sprawling open world meant risking the design aesthetic and ubiquitous attention to detail that was so important to the franchise.

As a long-time devotee of the series, I knew that it was my solemn duty to try it out, and report back to you—my dear readers—on how Elden Ring pulled off this momentous task.

I wish that duty wasn’t mine.

I wish I had no duties.

To be honest, I just wish I was playing Elden Ring.

Right now.

Always.

As my miserable, naked wretch—named Baurgon the Lost—heaved open the massive stone door to the cavern he’d bludgeoned his way through, and stepped out into the brilliant landscape of the Lands Between, I could already tell that From Software had pulled it off.

Those crazy sons of bitches. They really did it!

And how!

As the grandeur of the physical geography held me in awe, my gaze settled upon one distant object, then the next. I knew I would be to each of them soon enough. It was—ironically enough—the lands in between these mesmerizing landmarks that really sucked me in. The forests I’d need to navigate, the mountains in the way. The huge golden knight riding across the path in front of me.

I shouldn’t have challenged him so soon. Lesson learned.

Wherever I looked, there was something amazing I wanted to do. Sometimes, I’d pick some distant object and try to hurry over to see it. Inevitably, hours would pass as I followed one lead and another, constantly tempted off my path by the overwhelming richness of the environment around me.

When I’d finally got my bearings and began to gain some semblance of confidence, I found myself exploring a cave just south of my starting location. No longer naked and equipped with a club, I now had a sword, and a fine pair of boots. With my skill with the series, I was certain nothing could stop me. I carved through bandits, out-maneuvered savage dogs, and slew several hideous monsters as I fought deeper into the ruins.

Finally, I stood before the object I hadn’t even known I was seeking—a glowing treasure chest at the bottom of these ruins I’d randomly encountered and sworn to best.

I’d been playing these games for 13 years after all, and I was no rank amateur.

When, therefore, a blue-grey mist seeped out of the chest as I cracked it, quickly transporting me to what by all appearances may have actually been hell, I should not have been surprised.

I fought my way out of a crystal mine guarded by magic-wielding golems, then sped across a lake of what could only be blood as pterodactyl-dogs chased me past dilapidated castles, glowing caves, sleeping dragons, and impassable peaks.

By the time I’d made it back to the starting location, I was no longer the fresh-eyed scamp who had set out from those heavy stone gates hours before. I was weathered, beaten, and hungry.

Hungry not for any sustenance found beyond. No, my appetite could only be whet by diving deeper into the incredible world of Elden Ring.

And I have gorged.

Since those early days, I’ve traversed all the sprawling lands I’d seen that day, and trawled the depths of every great ruin and castle. Beyond them, I have found more sights unimagined and unlooked for. Some were beautiful, others shocking. All were terrifying in their own ways.

I’ve felled the Fell Omen, slew the Queen of the moon, and joined a tournament to take down the great war General Radahn, known as the Starscourge. I’ve watched allies fall as I continued on.

I met a particularly nasty mage in a tower, and spent the next several days honing my character into the blade that would be his undoing.

At this, I was successful.

I have experienced magnificent triumphs, and heart-breaking failures. I have won battles that I’ve wished I’d never started, and watched the consequences—ever subtle—play out before my weary eyes.

I don’t know how far in I am, or how much is left. It’s about how far I’ve come—and how far the gaming industry has come, at least in some areas.

Already, I have my next few builds picked out, and can hardly imagine what could pull me away from Elden Ring. It is an emphatic victory for the comparably small From Software, and a rude wakeup call to so many of the AAA Studios pushing out unfinished, uninspired crap with pay-to-win design and missing features.

It’s the same message Elden Ring sends to its players—do better, and learn from your mistakes… or get left behind.

-Brad OH Inc.

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