Instead of getting lost in the Elden Ring, I’m just lost
After spending a few hours with the latest from FromSoftware, I can say that Ring of Elden is not for me. A combination of its intense difficulty, lack of direction, and clunky menus meant it didn’t immerse me in the same way games like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild or even Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice.
“Immersion” is a buzzword often associated with open-world games, as developers do their best to captivate players in the dense universes they create. FromSoftware’s Souls titles always try to captivate players through macabre fantasy worlds and intense difficulty curves that require players to dedicate themselves to the game to get the most out of it.
Mix this formula with a breath of the wild-like world works for many people, but for me a few things in my first hours of play Ring of Elden made it pretty hard to worry about completing this experiment.
Ring of Elden has a dark, dreary opening that isn’t afraid to dump a bunch of game-specific knowledge and terms on the player before pitting them against an enemy they’re destined to lose against. FromSoftware designed this opening intricately, but playing it in the days after launch meant these opening areas were adorned with lots of bloodstains from people jumping off ledges and helpful messages like “try the fingers, but the hole.”
Any intrigue this opening had was immediately dispelled for me when I saw several posts saying some kind of variation of this same lewd comment with tons of positive rating. Yes, it’s kind of funny, but I found it hard to take George RR Martin’s dense world and lore seriously as I was bombarded with player-led trolls from the very start of the game.
Messages and Bloodstains, admittedly, are optional features that players really concerned with world-building can turn off, even if it comes at the expense of other fun-to-use online features. It was the game’s non-optional quirks that really bothered me.
Ring of EldenMenus aren’t great. The text is small and their intricacies are not explained. It took hours of playing and consulting with friends to learn how to use summons or call Torrent without going through multiple menus during combat. This is not discovery; it’s frustrating. Players also can’t pause, which is a series staple but still downright annoying.
Developers could add features like quest tracking or a mini-map that would render Ring of Elden more accessible for people like me who bounce back quickly. And adding them wouldn’t negatively impact the experience, especially if they’re implemented optionally.
The last speech surrounding Ring of Elden came from a doctored image showing what the game would look like if Ubisoft had developed it, with a dominating UI. While the joke image definitely overdoes it with a flood of on-screen text, I certainly wouldn’t mind if players had the option to toggle at least some of them. They might even be disabled by default, but I would like at least more accessibility and accessibility options.
"If Ubisoft Developed Elden Ring" via https://t.co/ZhRK3Oz2zY pic.twitter.com/N0np0yyFlh
—Jason Schreier (@jasonschreier) March 6, 2022
The lack of direction outside of Sites of Grace is meant to encourage players to take notes and explore the world at your own pace. Unfortunately, this ended up leaving me confused and directionless after early game bosses like Margit blocked me before. Ring of Elden could really ride.
While I respect those who appreciate the lack of direction in Ring of EldenMenus and cards, for me, can be demoralizing. breath of the wild was a bit easier and had a quest tracker that players could refer to if they wanted a bit of guidance. I would actually like Ring of Elden more if he held my hand a little more. Yes, a guided path pointing me in the direction of an objective on a minimap isn’t very immersive, but neither is it possible to stop the game and search for a cryptic side quest on my phone so I can find out what the game wants me to do.
One day, I might overcome these user experience frustrations and experience the gripping and immersive FromSoftware game that everyone on social media is obsessed with. But right now I just don’t have the energy to invest myself in a game where the user experience for uninitiated players is so poor.
I’m happy for those who like it, but Ring of Elden just don’t immerse me, even after giving him enough time to do so.