I've been playing, the upcoming game from developer FromSoftware, for over a week now and am currently more than 50 hours deep. Thinking back on a journey filled with small victories and the occasional humiliating defeat, it's apparent I've still got a long way to go until I finish it.
The world of Elden Ring, which is set for release Friday, is split across six distinct zones, each with its own dungeons and story threads. So far, at over 50 hours, I've explored around four regions. Despite my adventure taking a lot longer than expected, I've thoroughly enjoyed exploring Elden Ring's impressive world. And yes, that includes all the time I've spent dying.
For the uninitiated, Elden Ring is the latest release from FromSoftware. Notorious for creating difficult games like Dark Souls and Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, Elden Ring is easily the most ambitious title the developer has produced to date. Moving away from the enclosed, interconnected settings of past games, this is the first FromSoftware game to venture into an open world, bringing its uncompromisingly challenging gameplay with it.
Similar to games like Skyrim or The Witcher III, Elden Ring is an open-ended role-playing game in which you trek through a large world filled with monsters, friendly and not-so-friendly characters, and a plethora of loot to uncover. The experience stresses freedom of exploration, letting you loose in a world where you can uncover the story and build your character at your own pace.
But in Elden Ring your character, the Tarnished, can easily be killed by enemies and traps, sending you straight back to your last save point -- minus your hard-earned currency. The only way to get it back is to retrace your steps to collect your lost resources without dying.
This live, die, repeat model isn't novel for video games, but Elden Ring, which shares DNA with Dark Souls, emphasizes that every death you experience matters. It's a game that encourages you to learn from each death, but those deaths invariably make traversing Elden Ring's universe all the more time consuming. Your mileage may vary, but this game is long.
There's good reason why my hours have added up. Not only have I spent time building up my character's strength, but I've also invested time working with other people figuring out the best ways to accomplish my goals. One of my favorite moments from Elden Ring was exploring with another player using the game's co-op feature. We helped one another take down a mad king named Godrick the Grafted, a thrilling excursion through his crumbling kingdom.
Those hours were spent in an expansive dungeon, which makes up a small part of Elden Ring's giant map. This game is filled with these types of moments, and they add up.
I can't stress enough that Elden Ring is a really big game, almost too big for its own good. I've spoken to a few colleagues who've played the game with me; many have already ventured past the 30-hour mark and feel they've only just begun. There's honestly two games' worth of content in Elden Ring, and seeing just how the game ramps up as you find secret dungeons in increasing more awe-inspiring environments always managed to impress me. Even now, after 50 hours of playtime, I'm shocked at the volume of new areas and monsters I've seen but also ones that -- according to colleagues also playing the game -- I've missed out on entirely.
For games like Elden Ring, there's an expectation that you will have to invest a lot of time and patience. It's a difficult journey fraught with cunning enemies and ruthless traps, yet overcoming those steep odds with your seemingly outmatched character can give rise to some spectacular feelings of satisfaction and accomplishment.
That drive to expand my arsenal of weapons and skills to prepare myself for the next dangerous foe kept me going. I'm so glad I spent that time doing it, and intend to continue the journey -- probably for at least another 50 hours or so.
As one of 2022's, Elden Ring succeeds in offering an intriguing world to explore and combat that will give you a satisfying grin when taking out tough foes. The journey is much longer than you'll likely think it is. But it's one worth investing yourself in.
Elden Ring will be released Friday, Feb. 25, for PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S.