Elden Ring Surprised Me

Elden Ring

There are three popular things I haven’t been able to catch up with — JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, The Witcher, and Dark Souls. I’ve been aware of the first one since the 2000s, but never really got into it as I barely watch anime since I got more into combat sports. I missed out on playing the second one, as I have with plenty of other games, so that’s not unusual at all. As for the third one, I had plenty of chances to get into it, but never caught the bug until now with Elden Ring.

Unlike other Souls games, I’m actually enjoying this one. It’s a peculiar feeling to be able to go along with the trend for once. Many are obsessed with this game as of this writing, and that’s usually something I tend to only observe in the periphery. However, the great thing about Elden Ring is the openness of its world and gameplay. It’s not that it’s easier as it’s being described as the hardest game yet by From Software, but it’s a bit less strict in how it can be played.

I Really Tried to Get Into Dark Souls

I don’t know everything about the lore of Dark Souls, but I know enough to follow the story and get a feel for the setting without having played the games in their entirety. I know what Anor Londo is, I know the tragedy of Knight Astorias, I know what the phrase “Praise the Sun” means. Perhaps that’s why I’ll never experience the magic of Dark Souls the way many of its fans have as I’ve already spoiled myself by watching let’s plays and reading wikis.

It’s similar to knowing about Harry Potter from reading wikis instead of reading the books and watching the movies. I can say the same thing with Warhammer 40,000, which I know entirely from wikis since I never read the novels. Perhaps that’s what helped me get into other stuff like The SCP Foundation, which is entirely a wiki compiled through online collaboration.

But Dark Souls isn’t just a piece of fiction, but a video game that’s meant to be played and experienced. I own a copy of Dark Souls II for the PS3, which I purchased back when the game first came out. I would learn much later that it was perhaps the worst entry in the franchise to introduce a newbie, but at least I supported From Software with my money and gave the game a fair shake. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get into that one either.

That also meant Dark Souls III was a no-go. And since I never bought a PS4, I couldn’t get into Bloodborne either. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is a whole different can of worms, so I also didn’t get into that. It took a game like Elden Ring, which is now agreed upon by fans as the pinnacle of the franchise, to pull me in because it added even more ways to play. Once I found those other ways to play, then it started to sink in and make sense.

I’m No Stranger to Challenging Games

Many would say that I just have to “git gud,” that I suck for not being able to get into the franchise, and that I only play baby games. However, I’m certainly no stranger to challenge. I know with enough persistence, I can get into something once I finally find what makes it click. That was exactly how I got into StarCraft twelve years ago.

Perhaps some people will say that it’s not as difficult as Dark Souls, and I will fight those people forever. StarCraft was and still is tough, especially as a competitive multiplayer game with a steep learning curve and a high skill ceiling. People who knew me were surprised that I was into it as I was not known to be mentally sharp enough for such a game.

But while I wanted to get into Brood War at first due to the Korean pro scene, I couldn’t get into the gameplay well enough to be invested as it already passed me by. It already had a decade of history behind it, which made me feel like I was already too late. I still watched the esport scene, but a part of me still wanted to “get it.”

Then in 2010, StarCraft II came out, and that’s what made it click for me. A new game meant a fresh start, and its quality of life improvements over its predecessor made it easier to pick up and play. There was still a learning curve, but at least I could select and group more than twelve units at a time. I would play that game seriously for five years. While I haven’t played it seriously since 2015, I’m still fond of that special time in my life.

The only reason why I haven’t picked StarCraft II up again, especially now that I have really good keyboards to play it with, is due to the sexual harassment lawsuit against Activision Blizzard. If the company culture improves and they’re able to redeem themselves, especially once Microsoft finalizes their acquisition of Activision Blizzard, then perhaps I’ll play it again.

I wanted to get into StarCraft because I knew real time strategy games can help me overcome a lot of my weaknesses in mental speed and clarity. I’ve always been more on the slow side, but I didn’t want to just live the rest of my life without trying to turn a weakness into a strength. It’s exactly why I got into martial arts in the first place, and I think I’ve done pretty well with that.

Two years ago, I got into DOOM Eternal, which is also quite difficult. Due to my previous obsession with StarCraft II, the gameplay previews intrigued me as DOOM Eternal had the same elements of juggling priorities, managing a mental checklist, and constantly struggling with the controls in real-time while fighting against numerous enemies.

It just so happened that this game was in first-person perspective while the other one was from a top-down perspective. Other than that, I saw them as very similar games. I still enjoy playing DOOM Eternal to this day; it had been my companion throughout the pandemic. While I’ve yet to finish all the campaigns on Nightmare difficulty (I’ve only finished Ultra-Violence thus far), I think that’s better than a lot of people already, and I can still get better over time.

Elden Ring Made Me Finally Get It

I have two good friends who were excited about the release of Elden Ring. I can say their enthusiasm had been infectious because that made me excited for it by proxy. It also helped that the game was coming out on 25 February, a fairly important Philippine holiday. It was like they were fated to get immersed in it for at least a whole day.

At the very least, I wanted to get into the setting and the lore. I planned to watch the let’s plays, read the wikis, and enjoy it from afar. That was the plan, but I then had to give it a try.

Elden Ring: Grafted Scion

It was at this moment when I knew… I fucked up. Again.

Let’s just say I dipped my toes into the game via “trial version” and leave it at that. This was my chance with a whole new game to try getting into the franchise and genre again. It also helps that the world and story were written by George R.R. Martin. By happenstance, A Song of Ice and Fire is yet another piece of fiction I mostly know about from reading wikis.

Elden Ring: Flying Dragon Agheel

Of course, since I haven’t played the previous games enough to have the mechanics for the gameplay, I died a lot when I went through my first new game with a vagabond. It was much like my experience with the first Dark Souls, hiding behind a shield and panic-rolling with no rhyme or reason whenever a big enemy would take a swing at me. Once again, it wasn’t working.

Elden Ring: Character Creation

Then after watching a YouTube video about the magic in the game, I started a new game with an astrologer. And that’s when it finally clicked, after years of futile attempts to “get it.” Being able to reliably attack at range with magic makes this game a lot less difficult, thus letting me actually enjoy a soulslike for once. I leveled that astrologer to level 28 near the Gatefront Ruins before making the decision to actually buy the game on Steam to play it for real.

Elden Ring: Gatefront Ruins

This is more or less when I finally “got it.”

Elden Ring, more than any other game in this blasted franchise, allowed people play however they wish. More than the advice of “git gud,” playing cheap and cheesy seem to be encouraged even more due to how hard the game is and how creativity and self-expression are apropos for this series. I know that people have encouraged that over the years, but there were also “purists” who have expressed sentiment on the contrary with great vehemence.

However, particularly for this game, there’s no excuse for playing Elden Ring just one way, even if people like the creator himself prefer playing it raw and hard with no buffers or shortcuts. Especially with its open world, exploration is the most important aspect of its gameplay. I’m starting to explore not just the Lands Between, but the whole genre and franchise as well. Therefore, I’m obligated to play it “the baby way” first and work my way to “the manly way.”

With all the different classes, endings, and optional content, as well as potential DLCs, this won’t likely be a one-playthrough game. Much like DOOM Eternal before it, I’ll likely go through it more than once and play it differently each time. While I’ve spoiled myself pretty hard at this point, I wouldn’t say that can ruin the experience for me; knowing what’s ahead of me may actually make it better as I know the pain and suffering that I must prepare for.

I know well that without foresight, I tend to bash my head through problems like a battering ram until the obvious actually gets through to me. Therefore, knowing that most players hit a wall with Margit, the Fell Omen means that I’ll remember to grind hard before facing that boss. I’ve heard enough from veterans that if I hit a boss who seems to be too tough, I can always opt to level up some more in order to beat it with more power later on.

Of course, I would want to reach the skill level that will allow me to kill the Grafted Scion at the start of the game with a level 1 character. There are a few who’ve already done that and more, thus proving that the game can indeed be beaten with skill. That’s a really high skill ceiling for sure, but I’ve played games with such stratospheric skill ceilings before.

Conclusion

Yeah, I’m a wuss for not getting into Dark Souls like most of its hardcore fans. But as the saying goes, “The best time to plant a tree was a decade ago. The next best time is now.”

Perhaps once I get truly familiar with the gameplay, then I’ll finally play it “the old-fashioned way” with a melee character. If I somehow manage to finish the game with that, then maybe I’ll then get to some unfinished business and finally get through the old games.

Don’t hold your breath as I may just renege on this promise, likely due to frustration from either the game or life itself. But in the meantime, I will do my best to work my way through Elden Ring and enjoy(?) every masochistic minute of it.

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