Maidenless: An Elden Ring Review
“Fine, I’ll play Dark Souls”
Dark Souls was released in the fall of 2011. Intentionally or not, it provided the Internet and gaming culture as a whole seemingly endless memes, and its players earned a certain reputation.
Dark Souls, for the uninitiated, is a difficult exercise in patience and brutality. Every enemy you face is vastly overpowered compared to your player character and can kill you in as little as one or two hits.
Success in combat entirely depends on your willingness to learn each enemy type and its move sets to correctly time your attacks and dodges. An all-too-common screen associated with the game series is the “YOU DIED” screen, which you’ll see countless times even if you’re a veteran Souls player.
When Elden Ring, the latest in the Souls series, came out recently, it sent shockwaves through the industry. FromSoftware, Inc., predicted it would sell 4 million copies in its first month, and that number has been exceeded by 3x in the 18 days since its launch.
My social media feed was bombarded with memes and some of my friends had purchased the game, so I figured I’d give it a shot.
So, is Elden Ring worth the hype?
Limgrave and its occupants
After creating your character, you enter the first stage of the game’s overworld, Limgrave, and are tasked with seeking the titular “Elden Ring.” Much like in any other Souls game, the majority of the game’s characters are actively trying to kill you in some way.
The cool thing about Elden Ring as opposed to the previous entries is its massive open-world environment. Players can go wherever they want, stumble upon treasure, fight enemies of varying difficulties, run away from challenging bosses, and die over and over at their own pace.
When you kill enemies in Elden Ring, you gain souls, which can be used to level up your character. Killing tougher enemies gets you more souls, but, if you die, all the souls you had collected will be dropped at the place you died. You can return to the site of your death to collect those lost souls, but if the location is at a boss fight that you can’t win, you can pretty much consider those souls to be lost forever.
If you’re persistent and stubborn enough to keep playing, you can learn some cool combat spells and wield increasingly more powerful weapons to aid in your fights against the unholy abominations this game considers enemies. If you’re struggling with a particular boss fight, you can summon both spirits to help distract the boss and call in a friend online to help you take them down.
Gaming and memes: an aside
No less than two non-player characters mention how you are “maidenless,” which has become a self-referential meme in the gaming community. The stereotype of single gamers is alive and well, made even funnier by the actions associated with getting to checkpoints in the game.
Elden Ring’s checkpoints are called sites of grace, and to unlock them, you have to approach the yellow beacon and hit the button after seeing the prompt to “Touch grace,” which is remarkably similar to the phrase “touch grass,” used to tell someone to get outside or come back to reality.
The reason I had avoided the Souls games for as long as I did was because of a self-imposed mental block; when I play video games, I go to them for stress relief and to have fun, not to repeatedly die to enemies I feel powerless against. The exception to this rule is Call of Duty; while I die over and over, I am on a relatively equal playing ground with the other players online in terms of killing abilities.
The Dark Souls series, since its release, has earned a reputation in the gaming community as one of “the hardest games ever.” Professional games critics started using the game to describe any kind of game that was even remotely difficult. As a recent example, a GameRant article referred to Pokémon Legends: Arceus as being “Souls-like.”
Elden Ring isn’t easy. There are no difficulty settings to alter, there is only one mode, and it’s hard. I have yet to beat a single boss on my own.
But, after spending a great deal of time with the game, I’m starting to see its appeal.
I stumbled upon a castle south of the starting area with a checkpoint closeby. The castle features two monkey creatures, a guard with a large crossbow raining fire down on you as you approach the castle, lots of guards, giant rats, zombies, and two mini-bosses.
At first, I couldn’t even make it to the castle entrance without dying. But I slowly started learning the attack patterns of the enemies, learned when to dodge and heal, and just the right time to strike. I was getting better and better.
I’ve learned how to assault and almost have successfully captured the castle but have repeatedly died to the last mini-boss. While I still haven’t felled the last enemy, I haven’t felt a sense of pride and accomplishment in myself in regards to the progress I’ve made in a game in a long time.
While Elden Ring might not be my go-to game to relax, it has broadened my horizons and made me appreciate the genre more than I had expected.