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Elden Ring review: Vast and epic

Elden Ring review: Vast and epic

Elden Ring

Elden Ring is everything fans of FromSoftware's Soulsborne games have been hoping for since its reveal back in 2019. The developers have created a fantasy world brimming with mystery, wonder, and danger. I haven't had so much fun in an open world game since Skyrim. It's the Breath of the Wild moment for the Soulsborne games, which have become a genre of their own. For fans, it's a must-buy and their game of the year. Meanwhile, those who are new to these games, which are known for their difficulty, will find Elden Ring the most newbie-friendly of them all.

Quick notes

  • For PS4/PS5 (tested), Xbox Series X/S and Windows (Steam)
  • Action RPG in a huge open world
  • Crafting, summons, and weapon customisation
  • Multiplayer co-op to take down bosses

Elden Ring has been dubbed “Big Dark Souls” by some fans and pundits. It's a fair description. FromSoftware has adapted its successful Soulsborne formula — when you die, you drop your runes aka experience/money and have to run back to collect them or lose them forever — to a massive open world. But more importantly, going open world has made Elden Ring more accessible than previous Soulsborne games. For starters, you get a ghost horse that lets you outrun most enemies in the open world. This means you can run in, snatch a valuable piece of loot from right under the noses of enemies, before making a quick getaway. That's how I upgraded my gear, especially the flasks that restores health and focus points (required for skills and magic), before taking on the game's first major story boss. In addition, certain gameplay tweaks keep the game moving along at a good pace.

Elden Ring
Screenshot by Vincent Chang/Can Buy or Not

If you need help, the game offers multiplayer co-op of up to four party members (cross-gen support so you can play with others on a similar platform e.g. PS4 and PS5, but not PS5 and PC). You can also summon spirits and NPCs to help in fights. The open world has also necessitated other tweaks to the usual Soulsborne gameplay. For example, you can now collect resources to craft consumables. There's fast travel, as well as tweaks that make magic and ranged attacks more viable. However, FromSoftware has stuck to its guns when it comes to storytelling. It uses the same minimalist, environmental storytelling where you glean events from the game environs, item descriptions, and the hints dropped by NPCs. Don't expect an omniscient narrator telling you the story. In fact, there are no quest logs and no markers (except the ones you create yourself on the exquisite world map).

Elden Ring
Screenshot by Vincent Chang/Can Buy or Not

This approach of not spoon-feeding you everything enhances the cloak of mystery around the game world, which looks absolutely amazing. FromSoftware has always been great at creating spectacular yet unsettling landscapes. Many of the scenes look straight out of some concept art book. I would often pause to take in the sights — fallen giants, moving buildings ala Howl's Moving Castle, and the massive glowing tree at the heart of it all. Alas, there's no photo mode. Many of the enemies, though, give me the creeps. There's a variety of disturbing bestiary, from giant dogs with oversized heads that run like a T-Rex to many-armed puppet creatures. Everything feels organic and handcrafted, though minor dungeons do follow a certain template. Thirty hours in, I'm about 15% done in terms of the main story, and I have only mapped 60% of the world. I even found an entire whole new world underground.

Elden Ring is the pinnacle of FromSoftware's Soulsborne games so far. While it's easier to get into this game, it still has some quirks that may deter some gamers. For these players, perhaps the equally excellent Horizon Forbidden West is their cup of tea. Fans, though, will still find it challenging, but they now have more options and tools than before if they get stuck on a boss. It's only February, but I expect Elden Ring to be in contention for 2022's game of the year. It's that good. The game will be out on Feb 25 for PlayStation 4/5, Xbox Series X/S and PC. Those who buy the PS4 copy (Lazada and Shopee) can get a free PS5 upgrade while the Xbox One version will offer a similar Series X/S upgrade.

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Note: Review copy provided by Bandai Namco Entertainment Asia.

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Big and beautiful, an open world action RPG masterpiece.

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