“Elden Ring” just might be the greatest game ever made



Ranni the Witch is one of the major characters in “Elden Ring’s” story.

Justin White, Sports Editor

Finally, the long and arduous journey through the world of “Elden Ring” is complete. And with this completion, comes the time to give a full retrospective. 

After not only meeting but surpassing the massive hype surrounding it, and with not much competition in its way after “Breath of the Wild 2” was delayed to 2023, it seems the Game of the Year award is all but locked up for “Elden Ring.” And for good reason. 

The game is an absolute marvel and an outstanding achievement for gaming, one that may even change the way that video games are made. The game is so incredible in fact that it just might be the greatest game ever made. But how did “Elden Ring” become the crown jewel that it is? Well, a few things immediately come to mind.

Where other games go wrong

Perhaps the biggest reason for the success of “Elden Ring” is the fact that it puts the fun back into the open world genre. For years the open world genre has felt so bland and repetitive that even games that we consider to be some of the best from the genre like “Grand Theft Auto V,” “Red Dead Redemption II” or “Horizon Zero Dawn” still manage to feel as if they were made using a cookie cutter. And the most interesting part is that “Elden Ring’s” fix for that is incredibly simple; “Elden Ring’s” map is completely absent of any markers that tell the player where things are.

Of course there are still the “graces” that show up on the map once discovered, and a later update to the game also marks the locations of NPCs the player has met, but outside of that, “Elden Ring’s” map is totally devoid of the markers that other open world games are plagued with.

No question marks to show where a stranger is. No treasure chest icon to show where loot can be found. No markers to show where the next side quest mission is.

Just the “graces,” and whatever trail of light they may leave that gives the player a non-exact, general direction of where to go next to continue the story.

At first this may seem counterintuitive; why would developers spend so much time packing a huge world with things to do, and not want the player to complete them? Of course they mark the locations, because they want them to do them. And that is the exact difference between other open world games and “Elden Ring.”

The joy of exploring an open world

“Elden Ring” wants you to LOOK for the extra stuff. And thus, by forcing the player to look for the side content and not marking its exact location on the map, it restores the very thing that makes exploring an open world fun; the joy of discovery. 

By not crowding the map with icons detailing the exact location of every single collectible, or every single cave, or every single boss, exploring and finding these hidden treasures no longer feels like cleaning up a crowded map or marking off the game’s checklist of things to do.

Instead, it feels like going a little off the beaten path leads to the exciting discovery of an abandoned cave, where deep inside the heart lies a boss that guards powerful equipment waiting to be collected. And admittedly, while not everything found in these optional areas will be super useful, finding all of this on the player’s own is far more exciting and engaging than if the game had clearly pointed out where it was.

World building and minimalistic storytelling

Another thing that makes “Elden Ring” so great is the deep and engaging story that surrounds the world. The story is quite simple, if looked at just on the surface level; the titular Elden Ring has been shattered, and the player, known as a Tarnished, must find the Great Runes, pieces of the Elden Ring, to restore it and become the Elden Lord. However, in typical FromSoftware fashion, the most intriguing part of the game’s story is rather the lore that surrounds the world.

Without spoiling anything, “Elden Ring’s” lore, like its predecessors, becomes incredibly complex and interesting if the player so wishes to search for the information needed to begin piecing everything together, and this information is gained in a similar manner to the “Dark Souls” trilogy, through optional dialogue with NPCs and the reading of item descriptions. 

In “Dark Souls” this method of storytelling somewhat falls flat, which is a shame for a story that’s as incredible as the ones told in the “Dark Souls” trilogy, since it can be quite difficult to understand the role that some major characters in the story play, or their motives for doing things the way they do them. 

However in “Elden Ring,” even without taking the extra time to read through item descriptions or finding the NPC that will tell the player the information that they wish to know, the story is far more digestible and understandable. This is likely due to the addition of George R.R. Martin of “A Song of Fire and Ice” fame, the novel responsible for inspiring the hit “Game of Thrones” series, and Martin’s involvement with world building and storytelling certainly help to ease the difficulties of understanding the game’s deep lore. 

Difficult, yet fair

While understanding the story is less difficult than other FromSoft games, the in-game difficulty is still sky high. It’s no secret that “Elden Ring” is very difficult. In fact it might just be the hardest game that FromSoftware has made to this date. But despite the intense difficulty, the game never feels cheap. Not just every boss, but every enemy is designed in such a way that feels like much care was put into each and every movement, into each and every attack, to make them the best they could possibly be. 

Basic enemies are designed in a way that they can still punish even the most experienced players if they get careless, with strong attacks or quick movements that force the player to stay attentive or face the consequences. Bosses, as stated in the previous review, are a marvel to behold that can both dazzle and crush the player if they aren’t able to react properly. When walking next to a cliff and taking in one of the many incredible views that the game has to offer, it’s possible that a lowly enemy can sneak up on you and cause you to fall to your death. As previously stated, “Elden Ring” is immensely difficult, and the world will make sure that you feel its wrath.

But it never feels unfair.

With trial and error, even the moves that seem impossible to avoid can still be dodged. The enemies that seem too fast to attack can still be hit. The bosses that feel too strong to defeat can be beaten, and there are a lot of bosses that feel too strong to defeat at first. Malenia, in particular, lives in my nightmares.

But though she may be the most difficult boss that FromSoftware has ever created, even Malenia can be slain. Margit can be felled, and Godrick can be surpassed. And the incredible sense of accomplishment the player feels upon defeating such a powerful foe feels like a nudge on the back to continue onward into the world, looking for stronger weapons and even more powerful enemies. Perhaps that is “Elden Ring’s” biggest accomplishment; a game that will challenge and frustrate you to no end, but you still love it so much that you beg for more. 

Or maybe I’m just a masochist. Oh well.

While “Elden Ring” does have some performance issues (the PC version of the game was reported to have the occasional frame rate drop), these problems come few and far between, and the game’s greatness shines brilliantly through those light clouds. Already a proven developer, FromSoftware wanted to try something new by taking a swing at the open world genre, and they blasted it straight into the stratosphere. Without a doubt, “Elden Ring” will go down as one of the greatest games ever made.