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Essays 03 March 2022, 16:43

How Elden Ring Became a Cute Soulslike That Still Kicks Ass

Afraid of jumping into Elden Ring because the level of difficulty might drive you crazy? No need! The developers took care to make the game less stressful and depressing. Most importantly, they achieved this in an exceptionally neat manner.

Table of Contents

The Dark Souls series is famous for its punishing level of difficulty, which hardcore players love for the surges of adrenaline and satisfaction it provides. After all, people trying to convince everyone else that "they're more skilled and know more about games" are a numerous bunch. The challenge is great and I really appreciate it myself. At the same time, I never felt like the entry threshold of Souls was particularly high. The series is more accessible than people think – which doesn't mean these games aren't difficult.

They certainly are. Soulslikes require reflexes, dexterity, composure, devotion to learning, and ability to adapt appropriate tactics to all sorts of inventive opponents. Thus, these games meet all the prerequisites of challenging games.

FromSoftware's earlier projects were hitting the chords of frustration from the first moments on. Many impatient players deflected from them not because of the difficulty level, but because of their stressful nature – dark atmosphere, bordeline unfair mechanics, and very high stakes of every subsequent attempt, which could often feel like arduous grind. While I was very skeptical until recently, I have to admit that some of these things could have been solved better without overly interfering with the difficulty of the challenge itself – and that's exactly what happened with Elden Ring.

Enter the Lands Between

Prior to the premiere, in an interview, Elden Ring's director Hidetaka Miyazaki admitted that FromSoftware's desire was to develop a game that would deliver a less frustrating and stressful, but still challenging experience. I took it as PR talk; the combination of the two extremes seemed difficult, not to say impossible. I did not believe that it would be feasible to strike that balance, and I was sure that it would just end up as another game making the formula easier.

After spending a dozen or so hours with Elden Ring, I know I shouldn't have doubted FromSoftware. The many design changes resulting from the openness of the world have actually made the game a more relaxing experience. In key moments, however, it can still throw down the gauntlet that we all know so well – especially in the case of boss fights.

The predominant feeling when traveling through the world of Elden Ring for me was melancholy. We spend many hours in the saddle of a faithful mount, Torrent, a fantastic beast that looks like a dragon-horse with the grace of a gazelle, and enjoys some really neat skills that allow us to make a mockery of the strongest monsters. These are the moments when we can devote ourselves to unfettered exploration, which is an experience almost reminiscent of the Zen philosophy. Such feelings accompanied me during the first contact with the majestic Shadow of the Colossus – a game that helped me look at gaming from a completely different angle.

Sebastian Kasparek

Sebastian Kasparek

Feels most comfortable in the editorials section at GRYOnline, and sometimes he also writes reviews. A fan of all kinds of culture, who reaches for works from both the top and the bottom shelf. He likes to immerse himself in niche games and productions that are hard to define unequivocally. Appreciates an analytical and critical approach when dealing with cultural works. Prefers unique, strange, visually crazy games that boldly tackle more interesting narrative issues. Addicted to high-octane productions, fighting games, big robots and arcade. Huge fan of Grasshopper Manufacture studio. He likes to catch up on forgotten "hidden gems" from years ago, especially from Japan. Interested in games and the people behind them. Strongly addicted to cinema. A huge fan of Mads Mikkelsen and Takeshi Kitano. He also loves Inio Asano's manga and Tsutomu Nihei's aesthetics.


Soulslike Games That Dominated PAX East 2022
Soulslike Games That Dominated PAX East 2022

I was at PAX East 2022 and played a ton of games. Many of them were soulslike. Here are the most interesting of them.

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