A fantastic world with good combat and stiff challenge that is sadly missing its soul.

User Rating: 8 | Elden Ring PS5

I vowed I was not going to buy this game. I have a love-hate relationship with From Software games, and I was torn on whether I should really invest so much of my free time dying over and over in FS’s latest. And yet, I was drawn in again to another soulsborne experience.

Being frank, I will say I think this is a good game. At times, it is a great game. The world the player explores, known simply as the Lands Between, is a fascinating and engrossing place. It feels wondrous, sad, and ominous all at once in a way that truly draws you in. As with all soulsborne games, this game is very challenging, especially the boss fights. Personally, the boss fights don’t do anything for me; just my opinion, but it doesn’t add anything to the experience, and just serves as an obstacle in the way of getting back to what is, in my opinion, the best part of Elden Ring, which is exploring the vast world. It seems to really drag the pace down to an otherwise flowing combination of combat and discovery, but that’s just me.

Combat feels like a natural progression of Dark Souls – dodging and waiting for an opening to strike the many monsters in the world is still the most prevalent focus of the combat. You get more magical options this time around though, which has given the fighting some much needed variety for the souls formula.

The area that the wonder and ‘magic’ start to unravel sadly is in the narrative, or rather, the lack of it altogether. Many hours in, after the initial awe I felt walking out into the Lands Between to fade, a sense of emptiness crept in. The world of Elden Ring looks fantastic; its characters, weapons, creatures, etc seem like they want to tell a story. But it is a story that is regrettably never told. There are a handful of NPC’s with quests and whatnot, but otherwise there is virtually no cinematics, cut scenes, no character building whatsoever; its like a great play with the stage set, actors all present, but there isn’t a script.

The absence of a true narrative or storytelling began to make to make me feel like my choices had no meaning. Okay, I get fighting these insane bosses is supposed to make me feel accomplished and that I “overcame adversity” – but why are these monsters adversaries of mine? Why does literally everything want to kill me so bad? I am tarnished, someone banished from the world, but why? It doesn’t’ matter if this character that is a boss was betrayed by this other character (also a boss you have to fight, later) and now they are mad or something, wants to kill the player. It has absolutely no bearing on the character you play. Again, It really makes it feel like choices don’t matter like killing a boss has no emotional weight other than “you did it!” In comparison to other open world games, this is where Elden Ring falls short. It feels less at times like a living, breathing universe and more like one big open arena to slaughter absolutely everything in sight; and that is the majority of activity in Elden Ring - you go to places, you fight, fight, fight. It has very deep lore, sure, but you are not, as a player, really rooted in any of it.

I still think this is a great open world game, don’t get me wrong; it is sad however that the connection, intimacy, and dynamics of a well told story are absent from it’s artistic, beautiful world. Because it’s world deserves to have its story told.