I’m Done With Elden Ring…For Now

Over the weekend I finally rolled credits on Elden Ring after over 70 hours with the game. It was an exciting moment. This is the first ever Souls game I have ever beaten, and the series has quite the reputation for being a difficult one to overcome. The idea of beating one seemed out of my league – especially the first evening I made the attempt when Radagon and the Elden Beast put me in the ground dozens of times over a period of two and half hours. But after some sleep (thanks Frosti!) I managed to finally roll credits on my first game for 2023, and what a doozy of a game it was.

When thinking about how to send off Elden Ring here on Adventure Rules, I wasn’t quite sure what to do. A lot of what I appreciate about the game has been pretty thoroughly covered in my previous articles. My early experience with the game was heavily defined by how it differed from my experience with Bloodborne, and once I really got going the biggest thing that stood out to me was the aspect of the game that is new to the Souls world: the game’s handling of open world exploration. Writing a typical review or doing an in-depth piece on the game’s combat mechanisms feels out of my depth; these types of articles already exist and they’ve been done by folks with years of experience in the Souls franchise. After thinking for awhile on how to say goodbye to Elden Ring, I realized the reason I was having so much trouble doing so: I beat the game, but I’m not finished with the game.

I described in my previous article how my approach to Elden Ring has followed the path of least resistance. I followed the guidance of grace and did main story content until such a time where the main story felt untenable, at which point I did side content to improve my character. While earlier on in the game this encouraged a lot of exploration, as I went on the main story itself became the path of least resistance, rarely pushing me off into the other things goings on in the world of Elden Ring. This was particularly true as the benefits of exploration began to taper off. As you get stronger in Elden Ring, individual level-ups get more expensive but less valuable. Once your build is settled, new weapons and summon ashes matter less than improving the ones you already have, and become completely useless once you’ve maxed out the main set of gear you typically use in a battle. Around the time I was exploring Crumbling Farum Azula, there was no longer reason for me to go try to get better somewhere else – I needed to focus on memorizing attack patterns and learning where my openings were in combat, because there was little else left for me to improve my strategy unless I wanted to respec entirely and raise a brand new weapon from the ground up.

My path of least resistance approach – along with a dose of sunk cost fallacy – led to a couple of significant facts about my playthrough. The first is that outside of things like mines or ruins, I experienced very little side content in Elden Ring. Specifically, I experienced very little meaningful side content with storytelling to accompany it. I did do the Ranni the Witch questline but I managed to bungle it up in the eleventh hour. (Apparently you’re supposed to fall through a random hole in the Moonlight Altar somewhere? Fuck off with that, FromSoft.) The second impact of my approach is that I did almost zero experimentation with my character build. I chose a samurai as my starting character and used that kit until I discovered the hookclaws after about thirty hours, which I adopted immediately because they leaned harder into a mechanic I was finding very useful: bleed. My plan was to switch to the next bleed weapon I discovered with better buildup than the claws, but I never really found one that worked for me. Eventually, almost sixty hours into the game, I found the bloodhound claws at Volcano Manor, at which point I did a bit of research on the benefits of two-handing a weapon versus power stancing. My research suggested that dual wielding the hookclaws and bloodhound claws at the same time would probably give me better damage and bleed buildup that just two-handing the hookclaws, so I invested a bunch of my accumulated smithing stones into the bloodhound claws and that became my final build. In other words, I used the same fighting style (claws) for 75% of my time with the game, and only meaningfully switched fighting styles one time.

As much time as I have spent with Elden Ring, I have barely scratched the surface of the game. There are major characters I didn’t interact with, regions I basically didn’t explore at all, and plenty of game mechanics that I didn’t experiment with. I’ve never used a heavy weapon, cast a spell, never meaningfully experimented with what it means to block and parry with a shield; Elden Ring is a game that features a wide variety of playstyles and I know how almost none of them feel. The storylines in the game that are actually interesting, the ones focused on specific characters in the world who have interesting things to say about the setting and the other characters, are all still mysteries to me. It wasn’t necessarily intentional, but my first run through Elden Ring was essentially a critical path run, doing only what I had to do to hit credits and nothing else. It was an experience I did enjoy but not one that has left me satisfied.

Typically, hitting credits on a game is the moment I am confident I am finished with it. I’ll say that I intend to go back and play DLCs or do postgame content but I can look back on quite a few of my games from last year and see that this isn’t the case. I haven’t returned to Persona 4 Golden to do the Golden-exclusive content, I haven’t picked up any of the DLC yet for Get in the Car, Loser! and I haven’t returned to the free additional content added to Toem. But the last time I felt the way I do with Elden Ring – with the desire to jump immediately into a new playthrough – was with Fire Emblem Three Houses. I learned a lesson from Three Houses: ignore that instinct to jump immediately into a new playthrough. Take some time, do something else for a while, and then come back during a slow period to see the new things in a game you’ve already experienced. The timing works out because had I spent longer than I did on Elden Ring, I wouldn’t have hit credits before the release of two games that are about to consume my attention: Persona 3 Portable and Fire Emblem Engage. It has worked out perfectly in that sense; I’m saying goodbye to Elden Ring for now with my first completed playthrough, and I can come back and do a second playthrough sometime later with a clean slate.

Next time, Shabriri. Next time.

I’ve already been doing some research to help me prepare myself for my eventual subsequent playthrough of the game. I looked up how getting the different endings works so I could see how many of the side quests I can do at once without locking myself out of anything significant. I will most certainly plan to use guides during my second run of the game. FromSoft’s side quests are famously esoteric, with little signposting as far as how to progress them. You have to talk to NPCs multiple times or leave and come back to an area to trigger new dialogue, and sometimes they just disappear with no hints about where to find them on the giant map of the Lands Between. Leaving my ability to see story content to chance did not go well the first time, so I’ll be utilizing help to make sure I see everything my second time around.

I also looked up how new game plus works to get an idea of whether I would want to take that approach versus starting with a new character from the beginning. New game plus allows you to carry over your character with their current stats and items to the beginning of the game in exchange for upping the difficulty and the rewards. Now I could respec my character before doing this to bring a new build over to a new playthrough so I could start with a selection of weapons and spells I have already accumulated, but because his starting stats leaned towards a dex build I’d be doing myself a disservice trying to make anything else happen. Not to mention, upping the difficulty when my goal is to experiment with stuff I haven’t done yet doesn’t feel suitable to my purpose. And while I’m not much of a roleplayer in my Elden Ring experience, I do draw the line at turning my sneaky claw fighter into a wizard or a berserker or whatever. I’ll start a new character’s journey instead and enjoy the process of building a new playstyle from the ground up.

Elden Ring has so many builds I have not even begun to mess with

As far as what kind of playstyle…well that’s going to be a big decision. My favorite area in Elden Ring is Liurnia of the Lakes, a magic-focused region that includes the magic academy Raya Lucaria as well as the Carian Manor where Ranni the Witch is found. It’s tempting for that reason to make an int-focused character so I can learn sorceries. However, the faith stat has a lot of really interesting abilities attached to it, including dragon transformations, as well as neat weapons to experiment with like the cipher pata (essentially gauntlet swords made of light). I can already see a story arc for a character who was meant to be a finger maiden but was tossed from the Golden Order, whose faith journey then leads her to alternate belief systems and ultimately to the Three Fingers and the flames of frenzy. I’ve got time to reflect on which mechanics interest me the most before my next playthrough, so we’ll just have to see what the future holds.

So for now I am done with Elden Ring, but I know this isn’t goodbye. I’ve experienced one version of what the game has to offer, but there are many other versions to see and I’d like to do a run focused on doing many of the things I never got around to this time. I don’t know when this year that will come, but it will be something to look forward to during a slow time where not many games I’m interested in are available to me for whatever reason. Despite my frustration with the way certain events panned out (the Ranni ending was RIGHT THERE dammit) I’m ultimately satisfied with my first run of the game. I’m glad I finally pushed past all the “git gud” bros keeping me away from this series so I could experience what this game has to offer…just don’t expect me to pick up Dark Souls next, haha.

3 thoughts on “I’m Done With Elden Ring…For Now

Add yours

  1. Glad you enjoyed the game! And congrats on rolling credits.

    I had similar feelings to you when finishing Elden Ring, but I don’t realistically think I’m ever going to go back. I really want to – the faith based spells looked really fun, and I was constantly jealous of my inability to use them over standard sorceries. However, after spending 115 hours with the game, slogging through a mountain of repetitive side content, I don’t know that I have the will to actually play through Elden Ring again. I think you actually did yourself a huge plus in avoiding most side content as I found a lot of it really repetitive personally.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well the good thing is now that I have beaten the game, if I jump back in eventually and the side stuff does get boring I can just stop without the sunk cost fallacy of “but I haven’t hit credits,” so that’ll be nice. I know there are a lot of rumblings about potential single player DLC as well so I may wait for that to be formally confirmed/released before I jump back in, depending on the timing.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think the big thing for me was that there was like 1 out of every 15 places I went where I actually found something relevant for my build so I was like “well I just gotta keep looking for shit cause maybe the next pebble I overturn will have a spell instead of a crusty lump of white dog shit”. I am my own worst enemy in that regard XD

        I hadn’t heard that, but maybe that’ll convince me to go back. Big maybe tho.

        Like

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