I resisted Elden Ring for quite a while. I wouldn’t call myself a Dark Souls hater, because I like a lot about those games. I finished Dark Souls 3 and I tried all of them. They’re not for me, though. Some of the “git gud” mentality those games have built around them brought an ugliness that was largely confined to multiplayer games into the single player realm. Many of the Dark Souls clones and copycats have hidden crap controls and level design behind overly difficult gameplay with the excuse of “git gud”. If you tell me your game is Dark Souls but open world, I’m less interested.
What made me experience true joy in Elden Ring is that it largely ditches “git gud”, namely the forced memorization and blunt force trauma of past games. Elden Ring isn’t Dark Souls; it’s Morrowind.
When I started Morrowind, I didn’t know what to do. I had a paper map and a vague direction to talk to someone. The map in Morrowind is a critical piece of that game. When I looked at that map, I could pick out any landmark, and it would be there in the game. If something looked like a building, a building was in the game. There are countless crypts and dungeons and ruins to explore on that map. In some areas, I came across enemies too powerful for me to defeat. I took that as a sign I needed to do more exploration, or find a way around that enemy.
Elden Ring functions the same way. In the open world, there are hundreds of little locations not on the critical path to explore. If you want to git gud, you can ignore all of this. Just march straight from the opening in the direction you’re given and you will run face first into a meat grinder of angry monsters. What Elden Ring offers me that I never felt from Dark Souls is an option to spend more time exploring the world to the benefit of becoming more powerful so I don’t have to git gud.
It works! It’s great! I had so much fun riding around the open world, jumping into dungeons and caves, and testing the boundaries of my ability. I didn’t succeed every time, but I never felt like I was trying to bash through a brick wall. I had options. I had smarter ways of playing than git gud.
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