If you have been on the internet the passed few days you have probably heard about the amazing reviews Elden Ring is getting. And honestly, the game deserves the praise! Because of this though, I feel like doing a full on review of the game wouldn’t be too interesting. Mainly because I’m loving the game so far and I don’t think I’d be able to offer anything new when it comes to praising it in that way. Instead, I want to look at how the game managed to be as good as it is! Namely, how it managed to take what makes The Legend of Zelda and Dark Souls such great games and combine them into something even better…
Now before we get too deep into this, I should state up front that I am going to try and avoid including any spoilers for Elden Ring. I’m mainly going to be using examples from the beginning of the game and the game’s first major dungeon, Stormveil Castle. Most of the stuff I’m going to talk about has been shown in trailers and talked about before release but if you are wanting to go in completely blind here’s your warning! And with that out of the way, let’s get started!
To clarify, when I mentioned before about how the game takes what makes The Legend of Zelda so great, I was mainly talking about Breath of the Wild, the most recent game in the Zelda series. Breath of the Wild is a phenomenal game. With many people calling it their favorite Zelda game. I’d honestly say it’s my favorite too! Which is why it’s even more impressive that Elden Ring manages to take what makes that game so great and improve upon it. Breath of the Wild, or BOTW as it’s often abbreviated to, is an open world adventure game. Emphasis on the open world. As I’d argue that’s where the game truly shines. The sense of wonder and exploration that comes with going through BOTW’s world is something else.
I feel like with most other open world games, you start to understand what is worth exploring and what isn’t. There’s a point when you are playing that you realize that the odds of something worthwhile being over that hill or in the middle of a forest are pretty slim. You start to recognize what’s clearly designed to be explored and what isn’t. BOTW never runs into this problem though! The world is filled to the brim with things to do and find. Despite being a massive world, you feel like there really can be anything at any corner of it. You can easily get lost in the world literally and figuratively! This is because of one of the game’s other biggest strong suits, and that’s allowing the player to go just about anywhere from the start.
I still remember the feeling of wonder and excitement when I realized that I really could go anywhere. I probably spent a good few days doing nothing even close to the main plot of the game due to the fact I just kept finding other things to do! And this is exactly what you want with an open world game. You want the player to feel like they can go and do anything. Rather than worrying about whether or not the player will find their way to the main plot or get lost, you should be embracing the fact that they can get lost and that they’ll be able to find their own way to the plot! It’s this freedom that people loved and latched on to about the game. And lucky that is what most of the game is focused around! But it’s not what the entire game is focused around, and that’s where BOTW starts to have some problems.
Now to be clear, these really aren’t major issues. But for the sake of argument, and to explain what Elden Ring does so right, let’s talk about some of the issues that BOTW runs into. I feel like the game does somewhat drop the ball when it comes to the dungeons of the game. By ‘dungeons’ I don’t mean literal dungeons, at least not all the time, but rather I’m referring to the areas of the game that are designed to be more like actual levels rather than an open world. Levels that have their own maps and end with a boss fight. Now I wouldn’t say the dungeons of BOTW are bad but they doesn’t feel anywhere near as good to explore as the open world or even dungeons from previous Zelda games! This is probably due to the fact that a lot of them feel very similar to each other. Which, to be fair, is by design for narrative purposes but that still doesn’t give it a pass. Each dungeon has the same objective to it that all ends with a boss that looks very similar to all of the other major bosses. Even if each boss does play differently, it does remove that feeling of excitement when it comes to actually meeting the boss.
When I think back to what I enjoyed about BOTW, the dungeons rarely come to mind. They don’t come to mind as bad parts of the game either, but they really aren’t stand out in anyway. They are experiences that don’t bring down the game but they also don’t make the game that much better. And this is something that Elden Ring learned from. It manages to make it’s dungeon fun, memorable, and have that feeling of freedom and exploration that the open world does! And how does it achieve this? By combining what makes BOTW so great with what makes Dark Souls so great!
While the Dark Souls games aren’t really open world games, they always manage to have a great sense of exploration. Finding shortcuts in the levels, opening doors back into old areas… Things like this really make the world feel incredibly well designed and interconnected. I’d argue this is one of the best qualities of the series. And Elden Ring takes that and applies it to its dungeons!
To overly simplify things, Elden Ring is basically if you took the open world of Breath of the Wild and combined it with the level design of Dark Souls to make for a perfect world to explore and not just it’s open world. It truly amazes me that Elden Ring manages to give me that same feeling of wonder that BOTW gave me. But at the same time it manages to also capture what made the Dark Souls levels so great and combine the two into something so perfect. And it’s not just that the great aspects of each game are represented, it’s that they both somehow compliment each other in ways I never expected!
By simply giving the player the ability to jump, Elden Ring‘s levels offer far more exploration than anything in Dark Souls! Now rather than feeling like there are a few paths to take in a level, it really feels like you can make your own way through! Whether that be a more straight forward approach by fighting your way through any enemy in your path or by finding ways around them such as jumping from roof to roof. And while in reality, Stormveil Castle might not be any bigger than Anor Londo from Dark Souls 1, the freedom you have when it comes to exploring it makes it feel that much bigger!
This mix with Breath of the Wild also helps avoid some of the frustration that people feel with Dark Souls, namely, getting stuck at a boss. Because Elden Ring is a true open world that allows you to travel wherever you want right from the start of the game, if you get stuck at a particular boss you can simply go somewhere else for awhile! Not only is making progress somewhere else a good way to relieve stress but it’s also a good chance to level up and come back to the boss you were stuck on. In fact, while I did say earlier that Stormveil Castle was the game’s first dungeon, that isn’t exactly true. It would be better to say that it’s the first dungeon the game is pointing you towards. If you want, you can literally go around the castle and explore the world behind it. Or go south instead and check out what’s down there! Options that are pretty nice considering the boss blocking Stormveil Castle, Margit, can be pretty tough! The final boss of the castle as well, Godrick, is also a tough wall to climb. But unlike in Dark Souls, you don’t have to get super burned out or frustrated throwing yourself at the boss until they break. Instead, simply go explore somewhere else for awhile! The world is massive. Almost absurdly so. You will not run out of things to do even if you avoid every boss you come across.
Now, I could go on and explain every little thing that compliments each other about combining the two games. Like how Dark Souls variety in builds and play styles gives it the kind of replay value that Breath of the Wild was lacking. But we’d be here for a very long time and I feel like this is more than enough to get my point across.
Very rarely do I like to call a game ‘perfect’ or a ‘master piece’. Honestly, I wouldn’t even go that far for some of my favorite games. However… I honestly have to give it to Elden Ring. This game is a master piece. Much like Dark Souls and Breath of the Wild, this game will influence future games for generations. It perfectly blends the best aspects of those games to help fix their flaws.
Elden Ring is a game I think everyone should try. I am loving it and I’m not even close to the end of it! And even if I was, I know I will be spending much more time with this game before I am truly done.
And to summarize all this… Elden Ring is the Dark Souls of Zelda games!
There, I said it.
But those are just my thoughts! What are some of yours? Have you picked up Elden Ring already? Are you enjoying it or not? Did this help get you interested in trying it? I’d love to hear your thoughts so please let me know!
And as always, thanks for reading! If you liked this post, feel free to share it with a friend or leave a comment. Any interaction is appreciated so don’t be shy!