Like many people I bought Elden Ring on release day. Having played it for just over eight hours the one worry I had about the game was correct. I was worried that I wouldn’t like the open world.
Now, to put this into context let’s look at Dark Souls. Each section is designed so it has a group of enemies with a boss at the end with one or two Bonfires (checkpoints) inside. There’s a focus there that you can either become skilled at the game or level up to be stronger when fighting, the goal always feels achievable if you put in the effort to Git Gud. There’s also a sense of pride in progression as you pass a hurdle in your path.
Elden Ring has bosses wandering the wilds that can be encountered at any point, there’s no focus in this approach. Nothing says a boss is a boss unless there’s a reason to beat it, a guarded path or treasure but the random ones just feel pointless.
There are also many bosses dotted about in dungeons which function like Dark Souls with an area ending with a boss but the ones I’ve encountered have felt like filler content to pack out the game. I finished one fight in ten seconds which should never happen with a decent boss fight.
You can wander anywhere you wish with the only barriers being enemy difficulty in some areas and one or two ‘proper’ bosses which feel better than the dungeon ones, the problem here is that they can be approached at any point meaning more worry about whether I’d gone in too early. Maybe I should go somewhere else and get stronger. There’s no sense of achievement in feeling like I can’t beat a boss because I’m at the wrong level or don’t have the equipment. I’m doing more exploring than Dark Souls wanted but I’m doing it to find more bosses, not for curiosity’s sake.
Fast travel and the amount of Grace points mean I discover a few areas with easily reachable bosses but get to walk away. I can face the challenges whenever which once again removes the sense of focus, direction and achievement in winning. The choice is worse for my experience.
Then there’s the Seath The Scaleless problem. I quit playing Dark Souls because of the area that Seath is in, there’s an invincible version of the boss and the area must be navigated to find the real boss fight. I got lost, never found Seath and was beaten, not by enemies but by map design. Without the path being set in a fairly linear way I’m just wandering around lost in a world to dangerous for blind exploration, I have to have caution as I move which is right but the which way is right? question bothers me as I constantly feel I’m playing wrong.
There we have it, I don’t like the open world approach. The merchant with notes was helpful but he didn’t have enough notes to reveal enough to satisfy me. I always planned a slow approach to the game, only doing a bit at a time but it’s going slower than expected as I don’t want to feel lost in the game so I struggle to make myself start it up. I will beat it eventually and mechanically it is fantastic however I prefer the Souls approach.