I carefully make my way through a deep underground cave, the path ahead of us only illuminated by an impossible canopy of stars hanging in the sky. I have no idea what I’m supposed to do in this place – I didn’t even know the Siva River even existed until a few moments ago. I can’t easily escape to more familiar areas, everyone here wants to kill me and is very good at doing it. So far, so Elden Ring, right?
right. But. The difference here is: I neither hope to find sweet loot on some withered corpses dangling over the edge of a dilapidated monument to the forgotten gods, nor do I make an effort to “complete” another area while I carve a ruined path through the lands in between. I’m here because my curiosity, guided by a map more deliberate than instructive, led me here. I don’t know what I will discover here or what I will do when I find it, and that makes every shaded corner an unexplored corner of my own adventure even if it is a dead end.
And here I find myself fighting the archenemy of Elden Ring once again. You’d expect a huge demigod riding a small horse or a mighty dragon to be able to roast me from above, but I’m really fighting a feeling – the feeling that by taking such a casual approach to the Elden Ring I’m not playing it the “right” way.
git gud can be lost
I’m supposed to be “good” at games, right? Especially FromSoftware games which are famous for their difficulties and exploits that players use to beat them. I’m supposed to want to efficiently de-select puzzles, defeat their vicious enemies, and then see the credits roll in time to move on to the next big thing the internet wants to talk about. I shouldn’t spend “unnecessary” time digging around where I don’t need to be. If I played for 100 hours and then decided to quit long before seeing the final boss, I was definitely doing something wrong.
Managing my hardware load at Elden Ring is nothing compared to the weight of expectations on my shoulder when it comes to community games like this. Watching talented players break into places I may never see is good – it gives me a virtual walk if nothing else – but it is another to stumble and ask for a little help, only to discover fan-created guides and wikis have a very different idea of what ‘A little help’ ensues.
What building are you aiming for? Well, kinda m- What weapons do you use? I found this powerful employee a while ago, he’s the- What hands do you hold those weapons in, and how many smithing stones did you use on them? Ah, I’ll have to separate- What condition impact do you hope to have? Death, I suppose- At what point in the boss fight are you now? Wait, you’re telling me there’s more than x- Have you tried rolling? yes boo-
The game may change — a popular MMO, a chart-topping F2P adventure, a competitive strategy game, whatever disease-ridden world FromSoftware has cooked up this time — but the pressure remains the same. Playing is often not enough, and for some it is not enough to win: the dominant way of analyzing and discussing games like Elden Ring is around optimization. efficiency. If I’m not interested Breaking the game at the mechanical level, Then, anything I achieve often feels like a poor approximation of how to do it “right”, based on conversations across Reddit, Discord, and social media. My time at Raya Lucaria Academy, I spent a lot of it turning around corners and muttering “Please pleaseplease Don’t hit me ‘Under my breath I felt like the best thing was hidden from the internet unless I wanted to see my social media feeds full of advice on how I ‘should’ play, no matter the outcome.
Another way to look at Elden Ring is, however, a less efficient and improved one, which the game actively encourages. The outside world allows you to be anywhere you can get to, regardless of whether you’ve earned the right to be there or not. Elden Ring herself doesn’t care what I do or when I do it; The lands in between will still be there, trapped in post-apocalyptic amber. So, when a game offers that much freedom, why not choose to be free?
When I started Elden Ring, I vowed to focus on spending time in his world just for fun, even if I didn’t “do” anything. It’s time to stop viewing unfinished accomplishments as a general list of things I haven’t done but should have. Instead, I chose to cherish the quiet ride through waterlogged forests and often fatal explorations to darken the depths for their own good. I need to give these virtual worlds, this amazing amalgamation of art and technology created by armies of talented people, the space to be more of the next game to conquer.
Although it’s not that easy, is it? You can’t just be amazed to exist. Resident Evil: Village has tried so hard to make good guy Chris Redfield look like the villain on the front line of murdering his wife and kidnapping children, but as with most attempts at surprise in games, there’s clearly more going on than you’ve been told. It’s not shocking behavior from the protagonist, it’s just a plot point that awaits an inevitable explanation.
It is quite difficult for a moment of discovery to evoke true joy, even if you are ready and waiting for happiness. Final Fantasy 14 these days incites time travel and interdimensional navigation with the press of a button, although the convenience of action can reduce your daring adventures through reality to searching for the closest Aetheryte and “!” the correct. on the mini map.
The Elden Ring, by contrast, is a world of untold possibilities, shaped by my hand. The list of places I should never visit and things I should never do is long, yet the rewards of doing them can shape the future. I can get stuck in conversations and agree on things I don’t quite understand, and find myself having to live with the consequences. The characters might get me really excited, forcing me to kill them before they do the same to me, or they might die and leave behind some unknown items, their deaths as a result of something I did or didn’t do, but now it has to be dealt with.
When playing without outside knowledge, these are constant changes in a world that does not revolve around me. It is too vast and old to be condescending to explain itself to a dull, humble person. The moment the broader gaming community lays all the possibilities bare and uploads best practice videos, all that’s left is to check the end result and decide if the reward is worth the effort I have to put in to get it.
Which is why it’s always worth asking if there’s another way we can handle something as big as distinctLike the Elden Ring. If there is something more interesting to do here than to be strong, correct, or effective.
Discover the missing blessing
Elden Ring is a lot of things to a lot of people – a culmination of the unique successes of FromSoftware, the latest game everyone should be talking about, a grand challenge to overcome in the most difficult of ways possible, another world of fragmented lore carefully pieced together – but it’s also a perfect reminder that we We don’t need to master a game or even finish it to consider our time with it worth it.
There are completely decaying cities I’ve only glimpsed from Torrent’s back where frustratingly accurate magic spells have been cast from afar or chased down by some rotting monster with lots of teeth (mostly both at the same time, because Elden Ring). There were times when I tried to outsmart my enemies only to realize in hindsight that I had been so focused on sneaking up on the bound beast in front that I didn’t even notice it coming down from above. I may never know if I am within inches of the start of another mysterious mission, or one turn left away from a sprawling dungeon, or about to collect something valuable when I die – perhaps none of those things and I simply saved myself a great deal of trouble by Falling dead and wandering elsewhere. But the memories of those unplanned, inactive Encounters that rarely shine all the brighter for not trying to force these self-events to serve a more productive purpose.
I still don’t know where I’m going or what Elden Ring will be waiting for when I get there, but I enjoyedand it’s enough.