Elden Ring is finally out and we have one piece of advice – ignore the ‘Souls gatekeeping and enjoy it how you like. First though, let’s back up. Elden Ring is the talk of town. From Software’s Magnum Opus, a large and intricately detailed open world RPG, is finally out. Most of the team here at Any Button Gaming have played it. We haven’t reviewed it yet because it is a beast but suffice to say, it is a good game. A very good game.
Which is great right? It’s doing gangbusters in the sales department. Youtube is filling up with guides and videos. It’s being pretty heavily played on Twitch right now. Memes are being churned out at an unfathomable speed. Then there is the gamer discourse on the game and… oh boy.
You see, there is a massive community around Elden Ring and Soulsborne games in general. This series of games are… challenging (more on that in a bit). Very little is explained to the player. Secrets are hidden everywhere. Because of that, there has sprung a great element of community around From Software’s games. People like to share tips on how to defeat enemies, character builds they found useful, what to do, what NOT to do.
A game of cooperation and sharing.
This has been an aim of series mastermind Hidetaka Miyazaki – create community via adversity. The games literally gives you the tools to call other players in to aid you. You can leave notes to help your fellows. The successes (or failures) of other players manifest as ghostly apparitions. In the words of the man himself in a January 2022 interview, he wanted ‘players [to] embrace that idea of receiving help from others’.
There is another type of community though. A minority, of course, but an actively loud one. These are the people that believe that playing a game like Elden Ring is a badge of honour. It’s not about playing in a way that you enjoy. Even if you spent your hard earned money on it. It’s about playing their way.
Use magic to snipe from a distance? Not a true player. Manage to find a way to cheese a boss? Coward. Have a build that’s all over the place? Idiot. Have any criticism of the game or genre? You don’t get it. Stuck and frustrated? Git Gud.
For these people, Soulsborne games are not about community but bragging rights. It’s some sort of weird validation of their status as gamers. Like a badge of honour. Oh, you play games? Have you completed Dark Souls? Sounds mad, but I’ve had this exact conversation more than once. If I answer no, does that mean I have to sell my PlayStation?
Which, look, we get it. As mentioned, these games are difficult. Elden Ring is tough. The central gameplay mechanic is failure. Failure that leads to enlightenment. It requires a lot of the player. There is, without a doubt, a question of accessibility (if you are interested in that, check out our podcast where we discuss difficulty in games). If you aren’t the kind of player that can speed run a game after a few hours with it, you are probably going to end up investing a LOT more time into it.
The confusion that a lot of gamers have is between a designed gameplay mechanic and some sort of gatekeeping philosophy. Elden Ring gives you a variety of tools to play the game in a way that suits you. If you are a hardcore player, play naked with your fists. If you struggle, summon in NPC’s or friends or randoms. Heck, jump on a building and magic the living crap out of the Tree Sentinel while he gets confused about why his arse is on fire.
If you can do it, it is part of the game.
The game is literally DESIGNED to allow you to do this. Which means it is designed to let you play how you want. I’ve seen a couple of tricks that give you level up boosts on twitter just this afternoon. I can’t wait to try them out.
Because, to be clear, I suck at these games. I don’t enjoy the difficulty per se, I like the world. Love the creature design. I love the weird English accents that are so unnaturally creepy. It may be sacrilege, but there are even things in From Software games I’d like to see changed. I mean, please let me pause the game. I have kids that wander in and the bladder of small rodent.
Another refrain you may see is if you have qualms with the game or get slightly frustrated then this game just isn’t for you. Which could be true. But this is true of any game. Anyone that can complete (or even 100%) The Witness is a natural aberration to me. I have tried countless times to understand Smash Bros. I have no idea why Pokemon is popular.
What does ‘it’s not for you’ mean?
Because the ‘it’s not for you’ is usually deployed as another form of exclusion. Oh, you think that game element XXX isn’t great? Oh, you just don’t get it. That is rarely true. All games aren’t for everyone but not because there is some associated weakness with that player. It’s down to choice.
So what’s our point? Well, Elden Ring is a very good game. It has a lot of mechanics and is the type of game most people are really going to need to sink an awful lot of hours into. You may need to spend time to find your rhythm. You might want to get your mates in to help. Try scouring the net for neat little tricks to get past a challenge. You could decide to play it all naked and finger all the enemies rather than use a weapon. It may be you find that you don’t enjoy it or don’t want to invest that time into it. That’s cool too.
Try Elden Ring, ignore the ‘Souls gatekeeping’ and enjoy it how you like.
If, however, you are on the fence because of the reputation surrounding From Software’s games take our advice. Try Elden Ring, ignore the ‘Souls gatekeeping’ and enjoy it how you like.
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Rudy Manchego has been gaming since the days of the BBC Micro Computer and spreads himself thin with a love of retro, indie and mainstream gaming. He’s one half of the Jambags Comedy Gaming podcast and likes nothing better than kicking back with a nice pot of lapsang souchong, a good game and a background podcast on the intricacies of Spanish cheese making.