I'll admit that I dismissed Elden Ring at first. FromSoftware games have always felt like they exist on an island surrounded by murky water that represents gaming capabilities I do not have: parrying, patience, and perseverance. They're notoriously brutal and task the player with losing a lot to gain a little, which acts as gigantic barriers to entry for a large swath of the gaming community.
But the latest chunk of Elden Ring news speaks to me. Not only are there features that have never been in a FromSoftware game, like an actual map (what luxury), vertical traversal, and more flexible fast travel, but Elden Ring will afford players more choices than ever before. It will function more like a proper open-world RPG, giving the more green Souls-like players a chance to avoid constant, brutal combat.
If it wasn't already clear that Elden Ring is poised to be the most accessible FromSoftware title to date, just listen to its devs. FromSoftware's Yasuhiro Kitao recently said the game is made "for all sorts of players" and not just "hardened veterans". Elden Ring certainly seems like it's a FromSoftware game made for those of us who have yet to be converted.
The Lands Between
I have played one FromSoftware game: the Dark Souls remaster, and for me, it was akin to psychological torture. I'm a run-and-gun kind of player with about as much patience as a toddler, so the limited traversal options mean I constantly run into an enemy type that repeatedly and unrelentingly kicks my ass, sending me back to a bonfire I lit 30 minutes ago. Boss battles with limited, to no, Estus Flasks had me trapped in what feels like an infinite cycle of death, like Tom Cruise in the Edge of Tomorrow except I never get any better at facing enemies. I absolutely hate losing, and Dark Souls wants you to lose, a lot. Eventually, I shelved Dark Souls and I haven't looked back since.
The latest Elden Ring updates show how FromSoftware is looking to ameliorate some of their games' more punishing features. The Lands Between is an absolutely massive open-world space that will give players more choices when it comes to traversal. Elden Ring won't force you to choose between one of two equally brutal paths like other FromSoftware games, where one path features a Lovecraftian demon waiting behind a shimmery veil and the other is just a swamp full of septic skeletons.
Instead, a much more open map means players will get a chance to go the scenic route and maybe avoid a multi-armed demon man and his 40-foot-long pickaxe. This bodes well for those of us who still frantically mash buttons whenever they encounter a FromSoftware enemy. IGN reports that the hands-off Elden Ring demonstration showed tons of unexplored paths and exploration options, from the open fields of the Lands Between to side entrances in legacy dungeons. Options afford players choices, and choice is a luxury in FromSoftware titles.
And speaking of maps, Elden Ring will actually have one for the first time ever. This makes traversal much easier for those of us who have a hard time remembering if the impossible boss is behind a crumbling stone door or up a set of crumbling stone steps. Plus, fast travel will work from nearly anywhere on the map, which means less time spent going back through a gauntlet of bad guys over and over.
Somewhat less brutal combat
Map traversal isn't the only choice you'll be afforded in Elden Ring, as hands-off demonstrations show multiple opportunities to sneak past passive enemies and entirely avoid combat. As GamesRadar reported, while Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice has stealth options, it appears that Elden Ring is making stealth a more powerful tool that is central to its combat (or lack thereof). Not only will you be able to use sleep arrows to knock out enemies, but you can hide in shadows or tall grass to avoid passive enemies patrolling areas. I may not be the queen of stealth, but if I can avoid getting my skull caved in by a wolf with lobster pincers or whatever the hell Elden Ring is gonna throw at me, I'd prefer it.
FromSoftware games have extensive combat RPG options that let you build a character best suited for different combat situations, but Elden Ring is poised to give you even more choice when it comes to fights. Players can summon collectible NPCs to aid in single-player fights, which is a great way for those of us who are still woefully inadequate in FromSoftware combat to get an advantage. And with each NPC bringing a different edge into the fray, I'm excited to see if I can find one that will match up with my rather, erm, chaotic playstyle.
Elden Ring - like all the other FromSoftware games - won't have a difficulty option, but it's clear that Kitao and the team want to create an opportunity for players to shape their playthrough when it comes to challenges. With multiple traversal options and stealth capabilities, you'll be able to take routes that aren't as punishing. Whether that's by taking the main hallway through a legacy dungeon and getting absolutely walloped by enemies or sneaking around the back entrance and hitting a sleep paralysis demon with a night night arrow, Elden Ring gives you a choice.
As someone who has struggled through Dark Souls, avoided Bloodborne, and scoffed at Sekiro, Elden Ring is offering up an approachable FromSoftware title that's ripe for the playing. With built-in difficulty options, a team of NPCs, a consultable map, and a wealth of choices, Elden Ring will welcome an entirely new set of players. I can't wait to get my ass kicked.
Elden Ring is coming to PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, and PC on January 21, 2022.