If Elden Ring Isn’t Your Thing That Is Totally Okay

Whenever an all-encompassing blockbuster rolls around, it can feel like you need to be a part of the discussion, to pick up the game as you try to understand why so many are so endlessly enamoured with it.

I remember when Horizon Zero Dawn launched it was hailed as a PlayStation classic, while all I saw was an impressive open world adventure that failed to innovate, its characters and storytelling unable to carry the weight of an experience that would soon be eclipsed by Breath of the Wild. Failing to understand the appeal of something can make you feel left out, or questioning if everyone around you is merely lying or overhyping a game that is far less than it claims to be. Or, it just doesn’t click with you, and that outcome is totally valid.

Life is filled with games, films, books, shows, music, and so many other things that only appeal to certain people, and for good reason. If we all loved the same thing without a difference in taste or acceptance the world would be a very boring place. Debate and criticism are what makes being a lover of media so interesting, at least when it doesn’t devolve into toxic criticism or harassment purely because you don’t vibe with something.

This is sadly far too common in gaming, a hobby where many have turned a love for the medium into an aspect of their identity so precious that whenever someone seeks to dissect it by unconventional means they are met with vitriol. Yet to be conceived as an artform we must be subject to the same standards, and that means learning to accept when such things happen. We will see it happen with Elden Ring once its fervorous launch has passed us by, with many already hailing FromSoftware’s open world epic as an all-time masterpiece.

I am one of these people, giving the game a perfect score in my review and even after my first playthrough I’ve already returned to The Lands Between with a new perspective, one with a greater focus on freeform discovery and close-quarters combat without worrying about cramming in hours to meet the review embargo. I am able to explore this world driven by my own desire, and this perspective allows it to come alive like never before. To me it is one of the best games I’ve played in years, but to others, its impenetrable gameplay and cryptic narrative will turn them away once again. They won’t see the hype, or aren’t in a place or even willing to invest a huge amount of time into learning how every little thing works.

I personally believe this investment results in worthwhile rewards, but that is once again a subjective stancethat will be difficult for absolutely everyone to grasp. Elden Ring is easily the most approachable Soulsborne title ever conceived, but it still abides by tenets first introduced in Demon’s Souls while expanding upon them. You still can’t pause it, the narrative remains alluringly cryptic, and progress comes from patience and a willingness to understand enemies and the world in which they inhabit.

It almost has to follow in these footsteps to exist atop the family tree it inhabits, while Hidetaka Miyazaki has a core design philosophy that doesn’t want to hold the player’s hand, entrusting them to explore The Lands Between and to embrace its ample freedom with open arms, picking it apart piece by piece until they come to appreciate everything it has to offer. Yet once again, this ambiguity won’t be for everyone. Some prefer a guiding hand, while others aren’t keen for a game that punishes as much as it rewards you, yet in this case Elden Ring explains the majority of its gameplay mechanics while providing an oddly straightforward understanding of its wider lore.

A sight much more than Dark Souls and Bloodborne anyway, which even after multiple playthroughs I still have trouble deciphering. But like my attitude towards Horizon Zero Dawn, a lot of people won’t click with this, or agree with the perfect scores being showered upon it. It’s okay not to like something, it’s even okay to hate something, and the conversations that emerge from these conflicting ideologies are always so interesting to bear witness to. I just hope when these conversations surface around Elden Ring that people are civil, or hardcore Soulsborne fans don’t act all high and mighty since not everyone vibes with an experience that is oftentimes driven by masochism.

I’ve disagreed with the consensus and been met with death threats before since this is a very normal job, and I can picture passionate FromSoft fans being more than willing to trade in this toxicity. I have friends, family, and colleagues who aren’t gelling with Elden Ring, and so long as their outlook is driven by the right reasons, I’m not going to get wound up about what is ultimately little more than an opinion. We are all our own people and we all love different things. I love Elden Ring, and you might not. That’s awesome, and don’t fear that you’re missing out.

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