It has been about a month since Bandai Namco Entertainment and FromSoftware’s massive open world action RPG Elden Ring released worldwide. Since launch, it has seen some notable updates, huge sales numbers, and has basically taken over any gaming discussions among my friends online – including those who usually ignore FromSoftware’s releases. I’ve been playing it since release day across Xbox Series X, PS5, PS4 Pro, and even PC testing out different builds, seeing how it has changed with patches, and basically enjoying almost every moment in the Lands Between.
Over the years, I’ve ended up owning every recent FromSoftware game across every platform, but focusing on a single platform for my main playthrough. There are exceptions like Dark Souls: Remastered where I played it later on Nintendo Switch after initially playing it on PS4. With Elden Ring, there were many aspects of the game that made me want to not play anything else and constantly try new things. Having now been a month since release, I wanted to focus on how Elden Ring is a month later on Xbox Series X and how my opinions on some parts of it have changed since early last month.
Despite being a new IP, Elden Ring is very much a big extension of Dark Souls. It builds on its strengths by expanding that formula into one of the best open worlds gaming has seen. Over the years, I’ve enjoyed and spent a ton of time in games like The Witcher 3, Ghost of Tsushima, and recent Assassin’s Creed games, but Elden Ring’s open world feels like a breath of fresh air that also happens to try and choke you right from the start. While some might say Elden Ring is basically “Dark Souls 4”, it feels like the next few entries put together with some smart additions to make it accessible while still very challenging.
With every FromSoftware release, there is discussion about difficulty and accessibility. Elden Ring is the most accessible recent game by the developer, but accessible in how you have a ton of freedom to approach different situations, in building your character, in playstyle, and in game flow. If you run into a wall of a boss or difficult enemy in one part, leave and explore elsewhere. Chances are, you will find a small path leading down into a massive new area you would have completely missed in your playthrough. This is what sets Elden Ring apart from other games. Every part of the massive world feels like it has something for you and is there for a reason.
When you first set foot in Limgrave after playing or skipping the optional tutorial, it will feel impressive in scale, but Elden Ring will continue to surprise you in each new location. These range from gorgeous underground areas to more typical Dark Souls game fare, and even one that looks like something from a No Man’s Sky planet. One village with windmills was straight up nightmare fuel that had a superb boss fight waiting for me. I did not enjoy being teleported there early on in my playthrough. There are, of course, traditional dungeon-like areas and catacombs throughout, but the real joy of Elden Ring is exploring the big open areas that exist with specific enemies, bosses, and secrets.
The openness of Elden Ring extends to how you can progress as well. Having learned the ropes in one playthrough, I was able to skip certain things when I tried a new starting class on another platform. With so much information and so many guides out there showing people how to become overpowered early on, I’m impressed at how people are still finding so many secrets and references in the game. It definitely feels like we will be talking about this open world for a very long time.
Until Elden Ring, I had never really bothered with magic or ranged builds. For my first playthrough I decided to try Astrologer and soon checked out Samurai and Vagabond on different files. The class you pick only really determines your early hours in the game because you can build your character as you want through upgrades, finding powerful and unique weapons just lying around the map in some cases, and even respeccing later on. Jumping plays a huge part here and it initially took me a while to bring jumping attacks and evades into my muscle memory. Some of the jumping attacks that stagger a boss are very satisfying in addition to the multitude of Ashes of War that are this game’s weapon arts.
A big part of my enjoyment of Elden Ring was experiencing it without having everything spoiled for me beforehand. I was glad that the trailers barely scratched the surface of what the game has to offer, but the sheer amount of boss fights is staggering. I don’t want to spoil these for people who haven’t gotten the game yet, but there are two optional bosses that are in my top FromSoftware bosses list already (including one that channels Monster Hunter’s Valstrax for one specific move). Barring some reused bosses with tweaks that were annoying, Elden Ring is easily on par with Bloodborne’s bosses if not better in some ways.
FromSoftware has added many things that make Elden Ring its most flexible game yet in difficulty. Barring the openness that lets you come back later on when you grow more powerful or have better gear, your horse and spirits help a ton. Torrent, your horse, can be summoned in most parts, and it lets you quickly deal with difficult situations and even fight on horseback. Torrent and the environmental “spirit springs” even let you reach distant locations and many much higher than you are.
The multitude of spirits you can summon also help in making many encounters a lot more manageable. The new Stakes of Marika statues act as optional respawn checkpoints in addition to Sites of Grace, but these are usually closer to bosses or difficult areas that save you the trouble of a difficult journey back. I’m glad that these additions don’t feel tacked on, and genuinely improve the overall experience for me. One other mechanic is crafting that you can straight up miss early on. Crafting is a nice addition but one that doesn’t feel fully realized in the game.
One of Elden Ring’s strengths outside the gameplay and structure, is the lore. I wanted to soak up every little bit of info I could find from NPC dialogues, flavor text, melodies heard in the distance, and in the few bits of dialogue during boss battles. This is very much a game I will enjoy owning a huge compendium for and I hope they release one for it. Elden Ring’s worldbuilding is a triumph and every NPC you help out through vague quest lines and bosses you fight will remain with you long after you finish your journey. The similar names for specific characters definitely make things a bit confusing early on.
Multiplayer returns in Elden Ring, but I enjoyed my time with it solo. Reading messages is of course a lot of fun, but the multiplayer blocking you from using Torrent made it more annoying in addition to the convoluted system in place for playing with friends. Invasions also make a return if you’re in a co-op session, and while they aren’t annoying initially, seeing many use the same build online is disappointing. I hope FromSoftware makes it less annoying to play online with friends in these games in the future. Elden Ring with all its new features for traversal and summons definitely feels geared towards solo play though.
Before getting into the performance right now, Elden Ring’s art direction and most of the visuals are fantastic. This is definitely a game you would want to own a nice hardcover artbook for. The boss designs, varied locations, broken structures spread across the overworld, and some of the dungeon designs in addition to the main hub and NPC designs are all superb. I didn’t like how some things were reused a lot in the game, but the world of Elden Ring is breathtaking and I hope everyone playing it spends time exploring, because there is a staggering amount of optional locations that you will just miss completely.
After a handful of patches, Elden Ring’s performance hasn’t improved much on console sadly. Having now experienced it on PS5, PS4 Pro on PS5, and Xbox Series X both with and without VRR, every version of the game has some caveats. The PC version in particular has not been great and I will be covering that in a separate article after a few more patches. The Xbox Series X version initially was not great, but having access to a VRR monitor has definitely helped make it feel better. All platforms have a few camera-related issues in certain locations and against some larger foes when it feels like the camera is adding to the challenge.
This does not improve the longer load times though. On the PS5 side, Elden Ring doesn’t do much with the DualSense controller and it has no VRR, but the load times are a lot better than Xbox Series X. Performance on PS5 has been less variable than Xbox, but the lack of VRR is definitely felt. This is not to say that VRR is magic that makes Elden Ring feel like it is 60fps because I can definitely tell when the frame rate is dropping on Xbox even with VRR. It also doesn’t help that there is a lot of visual pop-in for foliage in some areas of the game that is very noticeable in performance mode.
Seeing as FromSoftware is patching Elden Ring regularly with fixes for questlines, bringing in quality of life features like NPC locations being visible on the map, and addressing PC port issues, I’m hoping we can get some sort of photo mode in the future. The game doesn’t want you to pause by design seemingly, so I’m not sure how a proper photo mode would work, but this world looks too good to not have it in some form. It is disappointing that the frame rate cap still has issues on all consoles. Even a month later, the only way to experience Elden Ring with perfect performance is the PS4 Pro version on PS5. FromSoftware really needs to improve on its tech if even the new consoles and high end PCs struggle right now with maintaining smooth performance.
I had huge expectations from the audio design in Elden Ring and the game delivered in every way. From NPC voice acting to boss dialogue before and after huge battles to the atmospheric sounds and sound effects during combat, Elden Ring nails the audio. Despite not having as many cut-scenes as some might expect in a big game, Elden Ring’s voice direction and cast are amazing.
One last aspect of Elden Ring I want to highlight is the soundtrack. FromSoftware games usually have great music with the likes of Bloodborne having some of the best video game music. Elden Ring’s mammoth score has a lot of fantastic tunes by various composers, but the real stars of this soundtrack are the songs by Tsukasa Saitoh like the final battle and the main theme, and one specific memorable boss theme from Shoi Miyazawa. Yuka Kitamura’s Dark Souls III and Sekiro albums are still my favorite from her, but she did a few brilliant songs in the Elden Ring score. If you haven’t bought the game yet, I’d definitely recommend grabbing the deluxe edition to get the soundtrack with it since there is no way to buy it digitally as of this writing outside that edition.
It remains to be seen how much I’ll be playing Elden Ring in a few years, but I cannot stop thinking about it right now. Even when I’m playing something else or doing something unrelated like cooking, I’m constantly thinking of new builds, approaching areas I missed before, taking on optional enemies, and looking at battles differently. It is obvious that Elden Ring will change how I look at open world games, but I feel like this is the best one I’ve ever played. Hopefully the few annoying performance issues can be addressed in future updates on Xbox Series X. Right now, Elden Ring definitely feels like a game I will talk about alongside the recent greats of Disco Elysium and 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim as absolute essentials for anyone.