Elden Ring Review - Page 3

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Eschalon: Book II

Release Date:2022-02-25
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Imagine you're fighting this big tree spirit with a big hammer, but it's not actually a tree spirit, it's essentially Asylum Demon. And there are quite a few of those in the game. Everyone's favorite Capra Demon also makes a few appearances in a new form. At some point, you just get bored of fighting the same bosses, but now with extra poison, and start running past them. Thankfully, they tend to be entirely optional. And at the very least, very few of the game's boss fights are jokes or gimmicks where you need to solve some puzzle before you can damage a boss. Off the top of my head, I can only name one fight like that, and that's a very welcome improvement from some of the earlier Souls games.

Regular enemies can also be a bit suspect, however. While there's no level scaling of any sort in this game, there's enemy scaling. So for example the humble rat that harmlessly bites your ankles in the early game, when encountered in a late-game area, would generally be able to withstand a couple of hits from a decently-upgraded weapon and do enough damage to kill an under-leveled character in a single bite. Though admittedly, the game's enemy variety is pretty good and most areas have unique foes for you to tackle.

In general, the game's later areas, especially the optional ones, seem a bit overtuned. Just about anything there tends to kill you in one or two hits regardless of how much health you have. Enemies like to swarm you, and terrain seems to be designed with the express purpose of getting you stuck on some rock to make the monsters' job easier for them.

It honestly feels like those late-game areas were designed by the Dark Souls II team. Thankfully, Elden Ring never devolves into the nonsense that was Dark Souls II, because it gives you all the tools you need to overcome these "unfair" challenges.

First of all, you can summon and ride Torrent, a spectral steed that makes you hit harder and allows you to just not be there when monsters try to hit you back. Challenging areas also allow you to summon spirits. These range from mildly useful to extremely overpowered and can help turn the tide of many a battle. Defeating enemy groups or tough enemies in the world also restores your healing supplies, of which you usually get a limited number per rest. If all else fails, certain spots allow you to summon other players to help you out. And it's only up to you which of these options you deem too cheesy.

The one area where it legitimately feels the developers just gave up is the Dragonbarrow. It's essentially tuned like an optional end-game area, but you can visit it in the early game, and have to explore in mid-game to advance. Well, you don't have to, as there are ways to progress without going there, but they feel sequence-breaking, and chances are you won't find them on your first playthrough anyway.

So basically, you have to find a key in this area where enemies all have ridiculously bloated attributes. Some parts of it are just filled with copy-pasted dragons Lost Izalith-style, and right around where the item you need is located sits a giant dragon that does absolutely nothing but has obscene amounts of health. But if you have access to an attack that does percentage-based damage, you can kill that dragon in no time and get a ridiculous number of Runes for that point in the game, completely trivializing the next few areas. Basically, if you want to have a good time in Elden Ring, avoid the Dragonbarrow. Get in there, get the key, and get out immediately. That place is no good.

Another tool you have at your disposal in Elden Ring is the new crafting system. Basically, finding or buying recipes and gathering enough materials allows you to craft various stat-boosting items, throwable pots, arrows, and so on. Much like every other game with a crafting system, Elden Ring would've been a better game without a crafting system.

Here, it's not just that I don't like crafting in general, which I don't, it's that having crafting in the game means that crafting materials now pollute the item pool. Until you've played the game, you can't imagine the disappointment of going off the beaten path, engaging in some precise platforming, or maybe fighting some tough enemy, and on the other end of it, you get some flower or three mushrooms you'll never use.