B!KE
Statement House
Theatre Trent 2022
Arthur News School of Fish
Still from 'Elden Ring'

Binary Sea - Elden Ring Review: First Impressions

Written by
Cameron Noble
and
and
April 7, 2022

This is part one of a three-part review of FromSoftware’s 2022 release, Elden Ring. Part one consists of an overview of the experience, part two will dive into primarily mechanics and combat, enemy design, etc. and part three will focus on story and lore.  

Binary Sea - Elden Ring Review: First Impressions
Still from 'Elden Ring'

There are only a handful of cultural moments over the course of my life that lay bare their own inner-workings, that retain unmistakable marks of time and place; that demonstrate a remarkable quality to form a nexus point for existing threads in game design so as to demonstrate a clear projection of possibilities for the future of gaming. I can think of two other times, namely Breath of the Wild and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, which changed the way that I approach gaming as a hobby. Elden Ring is truly a triumphant moment for video games. A declarative statement on contemporary gaming in its negative space, and an immensely articulate gaming experience in its positive space.  

There are many games that share the highs of Elden Ring, whether that be in art direction or the execution of combat mechanics; many games also excel at tying these systems together and creating experiences more than just the sum of those parts. What demarcates Elden Ring, in my eyes, from simply doing that just very well, and what I think elevates it as a totalizing experience; a remarkably triumphant moment, is the poignant critique of open world games that underpins the entirety of Elden Ring; an unrelenting statement on the past 20 years of video games.  

It’s a combination of a subversion of trope and cliche, but in the void Elden Ring makes itself something truly special.  

Over the last decade or so of open world experiences, curating a world that feels truly ‘immersive’ has been a particularly elusive quality, at least in my own experience, and I’ve had a tremendous amount of difficulty grasping the idea of ‘immersion’ in video games.  

Games like The Witcher 3, Rockstars Grand Theft Auto (and particularly their most recent foray in Red Dead Redemption 2), Skyrim, and of course Breath of the Wild, have all broached immersion in completely disparate approaches.  

But to keep this section short and avoid having to explore how all these different games approach immersion, allow me to explain my thinking concisely.  

It’s not new thinking to say that there are sub-genres of open-world games. Those that, for better or for worse, find themselves in the lineage of the ‘Ubisoft canon’ of open world titles, as it has been popularly associated.  

This includes Ubisoft properties like Farcry and Assassin’s Creed, namely. But it is certainly not an approach exclusive to Ubisoft. But those games that adhere to that lineage, have accomplished worlds that ‘feel lived-in,’ a descriptor often deployed in analyzing the contextual efficacy of communicating immersion in open world games. What I would say to that, is that, unlike Elden Ring, these ‘Ubisoft Canon’ games have not accomplished conveying a world that feels like you are living in it.  

I think the starkest comparison I can make is between Elden Ring and Rockstar’s Red Dead Redemption 2. Although I can appreciate aspects of the latter, Elden Ring accomplished an infinitely more immersive world than Red Dead Redemption 2, in every way, despite immersion being the central all-encompassing focus of Rockstar’s vision, going as far as to painstakingly integrate that vision into every aspect of the game experience.  

It’s not an original take by any means, but in this respect, I experienced Red Dead Redemption 2 as an exceptionally expensive animatronics show. The world is beautifully crafted but puddle-deep, repetitive, and the systems that hold up that world are outdated and frankly, boring.  

I can appreciate the craftsmanship of Red Dead Redemption 2 but as a gamer I don’t really care that much about that. I look for those qualities elsewhere, but in games, I’m chasing a slightly more arcane or elusive quality only elucidated at the intersection of entertainment, immersion, interactivity, accomplishment, etc.  

Elden Ring, more than any other game in my living memory, understands what makes the games unique in this sense.  

I really am enraptured by Elden Ring. It’s a gaming experience like no other and draws out an authentic curiosity in me that no other open world experience has been able to. I really look forward to being able to explore the ways in which Elden Ring evolves on the series’ signature combat mechanics, crafting systems, boss encounters and enemy design, story and lore, in the subsequent parts of my review.  

For now, though, Elden Ring is beautiful. A masterpiece that marks time and place. Exit music to how we’ve enthusiastically engaged with the game’s medium for generations, at once an unshackling of preconceptions of what digital worlds can make us feel, leaving in its place an overburdening sense of possibility for the future.  

B!KE
Statement House
Theatre Trent 2022
Arthur News School of Fish
Written By
Sponsored
B!KE
Statement House
Theatre Trent 2022
Arthur News School of Fish

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