Elden Ring, ruthless and fascinating pinnacle of Dark Fantasy

Based on a universe whose foundations were laid out by George RR Martin, the Japanese studio From Software delivers an extraordinary game in an open world, ruthless and fascinating, enthralled by a hypnotic artistic direction.

From Software / Bandai Namco

It is always with a certain fear mixed with the humility of the layman that we approach a production from the Japanese studio FromSoftware. A studio whose video game creations have a reputation for demanding works, with sometimes implacable difficulty. The founding game Demons Soulsthe trilogy of Dark Souls, Bloodbornand Sekiro: Shadow Die Twiceare indeed renowned for their difficulty, and for bringing to an incandescent point the concept of Die & Retry. Since, moreover, one qualifies the plays leering towards this approach of souls like.

But the real engine of these games is not so much to make the players suffer, in a mixture of elegant perversity and consented sadism. It is always, above all, a question of rebuilding the relationship that unites the player to the game. Learning through failure, with the intense satisfaction of having, ultimatelymanaged to overcome an obstacle that seemed insurmountable.

Jewel of Dark Fantasy

Since the time of the release of Demons Soulsthirteen years ago, it is an understatement to say that the studio FromSoftware is largely a past master in the art of deploying a fabulous universe of Dark Fantasy. Always bathed in a disturbing and deeply melancholy, depressive and nightmarish climate, the player evolves in a difficult journey in the heart of a world often in full decay; where the frontier of notions between Good and Evil is always porous. A pessimistic, dark and violent universe, populated by a bestiary filled with demonic and often gigantic creatures, which the player has no choice but to face, sometimes with fear in his stomach, and with great concentration.

It is in the light of these considerations that we plunge with delight into Elden Ring, released on February 25. In 2016, the studio had the idea of ​​asking George RR Martin, the author of Game of Thrones, to collaborate with him as lead writer on the creation of the very first game of FromSoftware in OpenWorld.

“They wanted a world from which the game could graft” explained the author; “And we’re not just talking about the characters and the plot. The setting is almost as important as anything. I came up with a pretty elaborate background for them, and then they took it from there.” It is difficult to say or define what remains of the initial foundations laid by Martin. The creator of the game, Hidetaka Miyazaki, having for example explained that some of the initial characters created by the author, still too human, ultimately became much more monstrous and deformed. Somewhere more in line with the DNA of the studio’s creations.

From Software / Bandai Namco

As often with games of FromSoftwareeven if to a lesser degree than previous productions, the narrative remains sufficiently elliptical to encourage us to immerse ourselves in the tortured history ofElden Ring.

This takes place in the realm of the Underworld, some time after the destruction of the Circle of Elden and the dispersion of its fragments, the major runes. Once honored by the presence of the Circle and the World Tree, the realm is now ruled by the demigod descendants of Queen Marika the Eternal, each possessing a shard of the Circle of Elden that corrupts and poisons them with their power.

The player embodies a Shatterless, an exile from the Underworld who has lost the grace of the Circle, recalled after the Shattering, who must traverse the realm to find all major runes, restore the Circle of Elden, and become the Lord of Elden.

Yes Elden Ring does not quite shine in the technical firmament, it more than largely compensates for this state by its artistic direction, absolutely fabulous, and above all of great coherence. Between the castles silhouetted in the distance in the mist, the forests adorning themselves with the colors of autumn, its ravaged battlefields or the buildings offering an often sublime architecture of the ruins, the player crosses a world of desolation where the marvelous imagination rubs shoulders abundantly with the horrific dimension; two closely related aspects in Dark Fantasy.

The opportunity also to measure to what extent the teams of FromSoftware have a boundless admiration for the work of the Polish painter Zdzislaw Beksiński, as it irrigates the game through its influences. An artist who often depicted in his paintings ravaged landscapes, tortured bodies, images of death, decomposition and degradation. We also strongly recommend that you take a look at his creations.

More accessible, but not easier

In this high-flying setting, was there not a risk of dissolving the twisted exemplary level design of the studio’s past productions, and the related gameplay mechanics, in an Open World? How not to alienate the fans of the first hour while seeking to make the gaming experience more accessible to laymen who would be tempted without daring to take the plunge? Difficult balancing act.

Thereupon, the teams of FromSoftware quietly take care of anesthetizing the slightest doubt. If the gaming experienceElden Ring turns out to be much more accessible and less punitive than before thanks to many elements, such as the possibility of resurrecting a boss right away, the possibility of summoning the spirits of creatures that can lend a hand in combat, potions healing and magic that can self-replenish after defeating a certain number of enemies, horseback combat allowing escape, etc… It is not for all that simpler; far from it. Because the world of Elden is full of overpowered creatures, vicious traps, sometimes with peaks of difficulty that will really give you a hard time.

Immersive, often demanding total abandonment from the player who will be rewarded for his perseverance and self-sacrifice, remaining faithful to the studio’s mantra, Elden Ring is a masterful title of which we have not finished exhausting all the riches, for hours and hours. And if our preference remains on a past production of the studio, –Bloodborn not to mention it, which was certainly not an Open World-, no reason to miss the new title of FromSoftwaredefinitely one of the best games of the year.

Below is the launch trailer…

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