Figured I should make a post commemorating this game that took over my life for a couple of weeks.
I wasn't planning on playing it, and was going to boycot it, because I hate the elitist "git gud" SoulsBorne community, I am not part of the GRRM hype, and most of all, I don't voluntarily want to play a difficult game that I know will frustrate me.
But I gave it some time and the reviews and impressions kept coming: this is an incredible game. Eventually, for many reasons, I decided to play it too, especially after hearing from a friend that you can basically get to level 120 and come back to one-hit the first boss, if you want. That was the last bit of convincing I needed.
So I started playing it, and yeah, it is a fantastic game. Very few games I get this addicted to. We had a 4 day weekend (easter) and my schedule those days were basically: wake up around 8 am, play until midnight, sleep, rinse and repeat. Very rare for me to turn on the PS5 first thing in the morning, but this was one of those games.
Apart from just playing it a lot, I was also thinking about it a lot when I wasn't playing it. While at work I would google around and research stuff, while chatting with my friend about it too, sharing discoveries with eachother.
I also really enjoyed the "overleveling" aspect of it. Getting to a boss, finding it a bit difficult, going away for a while to level up, and then come back and beat the shit out of the boss. Very fun.
I always liked the gameplay of the SoulsBorne games, they have very satisfying combat. But I always felt this tremendous pressure playing them. Everytime I got to a boss I would feel really pressured and be like "well, if you don't beat him you'll never see the rest of the game". With this game, you don't feel that pressure because you know that you can just leave and go do something else for a while and come back later. Makes the game a whole lot less stressful to play.
I honestly kind of struggle to put into words what I liked about the game. I just liked it a lot. It was very addicting, and once I started playing it I had a really hard time putting the controller down. Most games when I go play them I'm like "well, I guess I could play that". With this game it was like "hell yeah, Elden Ring time".
Having said that, I have a much easier time writing down what I don't like about the game:
First off, it's all the typical From Software cryptic stuff. Nothing is clear and obvious. All text is written with the weirdest words. You have to google everything. Every item you get, every character you meet, every decision you make, you better google it if you want to know what's going on.
At the same time, I know that's part of what makes these games so liked, but I just wish it was like 5% more helpful, and had 5% more clear language. Like there's no quest log and that makes it very tough to keep track of what you have done without keeping notes yourself. (And I know some reviewers praised the game for this, but I just found it annoying and would've preferred to not need my laptop handy at all times)
Along the same lines, all the menus and UI is a mess. Did you just pick up a new weapon and want to check it out? Well, you better remember what it was called and what the icon looked like because you're gonna have to dig through your equipment to find it. How about a "NEW" indicator, would that have been so bad? Fortunately, I played it on PS5 so I could save the last couple of minutes of video and go back and see what the item was.
Speaking of PS5, the performance in this game is very lackluster. The FPS probably averaged like... 56? It is not a solid 60. There was also some other weird stuff, like sometimes you turned your camera around quickly and you could see the entire world pop in. Performance and tech wise, the game feels like a beta build.
Gameplay wise, I did not care for the platforming sections. While it's cool there is a jump button now, I really hated all the sections where you had to do it. I don't know how many accidental deaths I had because of it, and not just because of the jumping, but because of arbitray fall damage also. Some areas I really felt like I would die if I jumped down - but didn't, and other areas I was sure I could make the fall, and I died instead. Very frustrating.
Speaking of dying, I would not mind it so much except there's this Great Rune system in this game that makes you extra powerful if you have a Rune Arc to activate it. Unfortunately, this "extra power" is lost when you die, and you have to find a Rune Arc again to reactivate it. I wish it would just be activated all the time so you didn't have to worry about Rune Arcs. It would make the game even more chill to play.
On the other hand, maybe it's good there is something you lose when you die so you don't feel too relaxed. I think that's what this game nails: the difficulty. It isn't so easy you can just chill and not look at your screen, yet not so hard you feel pressured and afraid to continue. It's just right.
If I were to break the review into separate categories:
Audio: 8/10. While no track indepedently sticks out to me, the overall background ambience is very good and nice to listen to. Only thing I absolutely hate was the hit sounds for the female characters. Everytime I got hit it was both hillarious and frustrating because the sound of my character was so hillariously bad.
Visuals/art direction/world building: 10/10. Every area looked distinct and beautiful. Every corner of the world felt like it was worth exploring. It didn't really feel like an open world game to me, felt more like a bunch of tiny, highly detailed areas linked together. Fantastic stuff. While I would sometimes find a new area and be intimidated and go like "oh god, I'm never getting out of here", I went in and before I knew it a couple of hours had passed and I didn't even notice.
Graphics/performance/tech: 6/10. It was sharp enough, but it ran pretty poorly at times and there was some weird shadows and reflections.
Story: ?/10. I have no idea what it was about or who anyone was, and frankly, I don't care.
UI/UX: 2/10. All the menus are messy, there's too much text, and it feels very intimidating at first. After 50 hours you kind of get it, but bleh, wouldn't hurt FromSoft to modernize a little. Still feels like Demons Souls on PS3.
Gameplay: 10000/10. I always enjoyed the gameplay of SoulsBorne games (clicking R3, then spamming R1), but I hated the pressure I felt from the difficulty. Here, it is not a problem and it feels much more like a sandbox with my favorite gameplay.
Like, all the complaints I had (performance, fall damage, rune arcs) are so tiny compared to how otherwise great the gameplay is. You don't think about how the game is running at like 57 FPS, you're having too much fun with the other stuff to really be bothered by it. Y'know, it's like the old retro games on NES/SNES, they have some bad stuff in them, but overall they're so fun to play you'll deal with it anyway.
I would highly recommend this game. The only things that sucks about it is the SoulsBorne community and the cryptic nature of FromSoft games, but if you just ignore the community and follow a guide I think you'll have a blast. Use summons, make a ranged mage build, do whatever you want, have fun.
Especially if you have played the previous games, but were put off due to difficulty, I recommend this game. It's like you get to have revenge for all the times the previous games screwed you.
I have some random fancy looking pictures below. I don't think they spoil anything but if you want to go in fresh, just don't look at them.