I haven’t actually finished Elden Ring yet. When I do, I’ll probably do another writeup on the game. Right now, I’ve played about 70~ hours across various characters, and also a bit of the Seemless Co-Op Mod. My furthest character has about 44 hours on them, just around level 80.
I’m mentioning all of this to give a bit of context. Usually I don’t do writeups until one of three things happens:
1. I finish the game.
2. I quit the game with no intention to return.
3. The game doesn’t have an end/win condition, and is multiplayer, and I feel like I’ve played enough to give an opinion.
None of these situations are true for Elden Ring. I fully intend to complete the game, and despite bits feeling like bullshit, I haven’t quit. In addition, as the game is a single player RPG, it has an end. So why am I writing about it now?
Well, it’s mostly to get my thoughts into writing, and also provide a different opinion on the game than I see most places. The usual take seems to be that Elden Ring is a perfect masterpiece. I don’t think Elden Ring is bad, but I do think that the game feels uneven in tone, and while some parts of it are incredible, others… simply are not.
Bugs, frame drops, and crashes, oh my!
Let’s start with the easiest one to quantify. Performance, bugs, and crashes. On release, Elden Ring was plagued with a massive number of issues. After several performance patches, it is now only plagued with a large number of problems. Playing offline, the game still crashes a ridiculous amount. I was streaming my playthrough for a while. Quite a few of those streams ended when the game crashed, and I couldn’t be bothered to restart it.
If you’re wondering “How bad can it be?” here’s a horror story from a friend. He had beaten most of the game, and gotten to the gate instead of the final boss. He also recently had a kid, and decided to be a responsible parent, and do the last fight later. He went to bed, woke up the next, and found that whenever he tried to load his 60 hour save file, the game would instantly crash.
A patch did eventually fix this, but still.
When From Software makes games, they re-use assets from their previous games. This can include enemies, weapons, textures, what have you. And it’s fine, and not what I’m about to complain about here.
What I’m complaining about here is specifically the parts of the game that re-use the EXACT same boss fights. While I’ve generally tried to avoid spoilers, a large portion of the game focuses around reaching and taking down 5 larger enemies. Of these 5, four are incredible experiences, with incredible design and weight to them.
The 5th is a reskin/remix of an earlier boss in the game. It’s an incredible build-up for a massive let down.
And it’s not the only area guilty of this. There’s one mini-boss I’ve seen 3 times so far, and while the area you fight it in changes, it still feels fairly dull to reach the pinnacle of a brand new area, and see something you’ve found before. In general, I’d say the mid game area feels much weaker in this respect.
A Winding Circular Pattern
The last thing I want to quickly cover, because I’m not sure I’ll get to it in my actual Elden Ring writeup, is the general flow of the game. Having Elden Ring be open world is an interesting choice. On the one hand, it means that if you find yourself smashing your head into a wall, it’s possible to explore and find other objectives, or do something else.
On the other hand, it makes it much easier to get lost, or fail to find a particular location. The in-game map is beautiful and clever, but also not always the easiest to read. And when you do get stuck, it’s hard to tell if you need to Git Gud, or Git Going somewhere else.
The end result that my Elden Ring playthrough has a pattern to it:
- Get to a new area.
- Run into a hard boss, or be unclear on how to progress.
- Explore more, trying to find a way to go forward.
- Find more roadblocks.
- Thrash around with multiple deaths to either hard boss, or roadblocks.
- Get frustrated, and stop having fun.
- Start trying random garbage, or run to random places.
- Finally figure out a way forward, or a way to beat a boss.
- Go back and clear areas/places from step 4.
- Get to a new area.
This has happened to me about 4 times so far. But perhaps more importantly, Step 6 in this process can be a few hours long, and it’s incredibly non-enjoyable.
Elden Ring is good. But I don’t like how the game seems to get near universal acclaim when there a quite a few spots that could be heavily improved. I’m willing to cut From Software some slack on things like their open world design, as it is their first open world game. But the incredibly poor technical performance, and boss-reuse? Not so much. This isn’t an inexperienced indie studio. Elden Ring is a synthesis of years of design and planning, and a literal synthesis in some cases of old ideas, and cut content from their previous games. It’s good, it’s worth playing, but it could be better.