Elden Ring takes me back to the era of gaming forums
With the latest version of FromSoftware, Ring of Elden, more players than ever have ventured into the world of Dark Souls (in all but name). While trials and tribulations-based gameplay hasn’t been for everyone in the past, Ring of Elden quickly became a mainstream success, pulverizing sales of previous Souls games in just days. With so many people playing and countless stories of how everyone approaches it, Ring of Elden unlocked memories of a bygone era when game secrets were discovered by word of mouth and the name of the game was a constant discovery.
Unlike older Souls titles, Ring of Elden took a huge page out of the book from open world games – more specifically, a critically acclaimed hit you may have heard of called The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Like Zelda, Ring of Elden immerses players in its world and gives them free rein to play exactly the way they want. There is no set route and no rules for advancement besides going to different areas and defeating major bosses, but how you achieve these goals is entirely up to the individual player.
This game philosophy gives each player a unique game identity, apart from its nonsensical custom characters. I remember a conversation I had with a friend where we talked about what we had done so far in the game. He told me how he went under a lake and found an area mystic (who I still haven’t met) and how he stormed Castle Stormveil and found an area of respawning zombies. the northwest of the map could offer.
Meanwhile, I was heading southeast, dealing with the likes of Castle Morne to find a pumpkin helmet, grinding levels by taking down a giant at the third church, and finding a turtle shell shield to complete my build. Ninja Turtle Samurai.
This difference in gameplay persisted when he came to my realm and asked me, “Did you do anything near Castle Stormveil?” I replied that “I had mostly explored the lower areas.” He showed me his card and it had nothing to do with mine. That’s when I realized this game really captured the magical essence of gaming days before the internet was a thing, although the internet could play a role in the experience.
The best part is that not even Twitter and other social media break this magic. I regularly see posts from different players with entirely different experiences. Their conversations and questions about what they’re up to are a total blast from the past, reminding me of old secret internet forums I was too young to even participate in. It takes me back to a time when it was just me, my siblings and cousins - and minimal internet use. All we needed to find secrets in the game was our curiosity for exploration and the rarely obtained game magazine.
This is one of the reasons why Ring of Elden is one of the first Souls games that I might even recommend to those who haven’t familiarized themselves with the series in the past. I still don’t think the controls are best for everyone, the game still feels mechanically aged as always, and the frustration some bosses can cause causes the mileage to vary from person to person. However, the exploratory design, experimentation-based gameplay, sometimes hilarious community aspect, and that “old game smell” I sprung from really makes me believe that even Souls game haters could find some fun. In this one.
For gamers like me who have long missed the innocence and emotions of that bygone era, Ring of Elden feels like a breath of fresh air. Nothing is obvious in the in-game kingdom of The Lands Between and the call to adventure is strong. A little like breath of the wild, there is no one true way to solve a problem. I see everyone sharing their tactics, like we’re playing an old Apple II roleplaying game and saying things like “Oh wow, did you do it like that?” I just parried him and knocked him off the cliff instead. It is done Ring of Elden one of the most unreturned throwback games in a long time, and I can’t wait to experience it even more.
Ring of Elden is available now on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S.