Controversial opinion: I don’t like Elden Ring.
Before you at me in the comments, I’m married to the biggest FromSoft fanboy. For months, I’ve had to endure lectures on why ‘ELDEN RING IS THE CROWNING ACHIEVEMENT OF FROMSOFT’S GAMES!’
Here’s ten reasons I don’t like it.
1. The control system isn’t optimised for play
You’re in the middle of a fierce battle. Health is low. You reach for a healing potion but you now need to scroll through a million items in order to get to it.
Then you want to summon your horse, Torrent, to escape.
“DO YOU WANT TO SUMMON YOUR STEED?”
Of course, I bloody well want to summon my steed. Why would I be pressing the button if I didn’t?
I know they say a poor craftsman blames his tools, but when you have to remap the control system to make it work for the game, there’s something wrong. In this age of dynamic gaming, where combat is fast, Elden Ring’s controls feel clunky, slowing down gameplay and frustrating players to no end.
2. Problematic lock-on
One enemy, no probs. Two, okay. But fighting a group where your lock on keeps rolling around between enemies, so that you can’t focus on taking down one at a time? Plus, spells don’t really aim well without locking on. It’s a massive playability issue for Elden Ring.
3. The story is buried
I’ve heard all the lectures about how the story is hidden in the lore, but how the hell do I find the lore? Turns out, one of the best marketing strategies From Software ever did was to bury the lore, so that there are thousands of videos explaining the story of Elden Ring.
Which is great for them, but is it a good player experience?
After forty hours of gameplay, I still don’t know what’s going on. There’s a ring, I’ve gotta go defeat some people. And what do all these inventory items do? How do I know I have to whistle at a certain spot to talk to a werewolf that’s hiding in the ruins? Why is that turtle wearing a pope hat?
I’m all for discoverability in video games, but compared to other open world experiences like Skyrim or Dragon Age, the least they could do was give us a couple of plot bones. Maybe even a cut scene or two, that’s not linked to a boss battle. Not to mention how much it feels like a bloated riff on Shadow of the Colossus.
The issue is that without an obvious story, it’s hard for Elden Ring to be meaningful. Which leads me to my next point…
4. I don’t care about being an Elden Lord
Because the lore is so buried in the game, I don’t care about becoming an Elden Lord. I can’t be arsed. I’m pretty happy just being Lady Brumhilde Knobhead, thankyou very much. I don’t even know what I should do half the time, except for riding my horse past enemies and opening up the map.
It’s a key question for any narrative designer: why should the player care? Because if I don’t care, I don’t want to play.
Elden Ring fails to answer the most important question: why should I become an Elden Lord? Because if you can’t tell me why, unless I’m the kind of gamer who plays for the achievement of completion, I’m not going to invest my time in the game.
Honestly, I cared more about my Tamagotchi than becoming an Elden Lord.
5. There are passive aggressive notes everywhere
Yes, Elden Ring is my first From Software game (how did you guess?).
But why, oh why, are there passive aggressive notes and bloodstains everywhere?
While some are helpful, some are just downright nasty, encouraging you to jump off a cliff when there’s nothing down below. Rude.
6. The grind is real
I get that in any open-world RPG, you’re gonna need to grind, especially in those early stages when your character is a squishy little level 1 wretch. Where most games give you a couple of low-level quests with a bit of story thrown in, so you can build up your XP while learning the game, Elden Ring gives you a Groundhog Day nightmare.
Hours upon hours running around a boulder Indiana Jones style, to collect thousands of runes, just to run back to a site of grace and start again. Never mind that you have to watch a YouTube video just to know how to do this!
I come back to the question: why?
7. The bosses are over levelled to the area
After you’ve spent all this time levelling up, grinding, rolling around balls, you go and fight a boss.
And you died.
I’d expect some level of challenge in a boss battle, but these bosses are next level. It makes you feel like you have to progress the map far further than where you’re at with the current boss. The fights are brutal and unforgiving, which isn’t a problem in their own right, but these boss battles stymie any progress you feel like you’re making.
8. The stealth mechanics are basic
Assassin’s Creed has better stealth mechanics than Elden Ring.
Apart from being insanely OP, the stealth mechanics in this game have one function: sneak up and backstab. And yes, I’m all for manipulating the weak points of a game’s mechanics to your advantage, but it feels silly that you can sneak up on someone sitting around a campfire in broad daylight wearing full armour and still not be detected.
9. The female character generator is… interesting
I appreciate you can play as a masculine or feminine character here, but it feels like there hasn’t been a lot of thought into how the outfits would appear on different body types. For example, the open shirt outfit – fine on a dude, not very practical on a woman.
And when you age your female character, your boobs don’t sag. Sorry, but this is a fact of life and weird when all your other skin is saggy.
10. It’s not fun
I had been really hoping to enjoy Elden Ring. After all, open-world RPGs are my jam. But I find myself getting angry at the game (rage quit anyone?). And that’s not necessarily a state I want to be in as a player or a human being. I love the challenge, but when the challenge makes me want to throw a controller across the room, you’ve got to consider whether the game is beneficial to your well being.
And I don’t believe all games should be fun – after all, no one plays The Last of Us for fun. But without the meaning imbued by the story, I’m not intrigued, nor am I compelled to stay in the world of Elden Ring.