Over the course of the last decade, FromSoftware has built a reputation for being one of the most beloved modern action-RPG developers. Fans and critics alike have praised their fresh and wholly unique take on the genre. However, not everyone has found the Souls-like formula they've created to be remarkably accommodating. Let's discuss whether or not Elden Ring is more approachable than Dark Souls.
The reputation of FromSoftware RPGs
Throughout the years, there have been many passionate conversations surrounding FromSoftware RPGs and their difficulty. For quite some time, certain online communities considered Dark Souls the pinnacle of video game difficulty. This difficulty fetishizing eventually led to the wildly overused and generally meme-worthy "This is the Dark Souls of X" comparisons we frequently see used to describe challenging games.
As a self-proclaimed video game masochist, I've never shy away from a good challenge. I enjoy the rush of accomplishment that comes from conquering a seemingly insurmountable enemy. From Demon's Souls to Sekiro, I've played and beaten every single FromSoftware Souls-like so far. However, I've always felt the greatest strengths of these incredible video games don't hinge entirely on their difficulty. Games like Dark Souls and Bloodborne show just how talented this team is when it comes to crafting beautiful worlds with captivating creatures.
Sadly, I know many players who simply find the formula of FromSoftware RPGs too demanding to be enjoyable. Whether they've tried Dark Souls in the past or merely feel intimidated by the reputation this sub-genre has cultivated on social media, for a large number of people, FromSoftware games haven't clicked for them so far. Elden Ring is a brand-new IP promising a new way to enjoy a formula many fans know and love. After playing roughly 10 hours of the Elden Ring network test, I'm here to discuss how and why this upcoming RPG might finally convert FromSoftware skeptics.
What's different in Elden Ring?
Many people have asked me whether Elden Ring drastically changes the gameplay loop of Dark Souls, Bloodborne, or Sekiro. And if I'm being completely honest with everyone here, the core experience isn't fundamentally that different from previous iterations. If you boil it down to its most straightforward mechanics, Elden Ring still involves defeating enemies, collecting a Souls-like currency that drops when you die, and navigating a cryptic and mysterious world.
However, what's significantly changed this time around is the freedom at players' disposal. Some massive quality of life improvements and gameplay enhancements that seemingly reduce a bit of the game's inherent challenge add plenty of modern twists to the Souls-like sub-genre. I certainly won't go as far as to say, Elden Ring is easier than Dark Souls or Sekiro, especially after one particular boss fight, but I can confidently say this team made huge strides in the approachability department.
A world map
One of the tweaks worth celebrating is the addition of a world map. FromSoftware RPGs have always featured sprawling environments with large, interconnected areas. However, to the dismay of some players, they've never featured a map. In Elden Ring, players can view their current location, drop markers at points of interest, and even fast travel to discovered Sites of Grace, which act as Elden Ring's "bonfires." A feature like this should help players more easily navigate this genuinely open world.
Another significant inclusion for players looking to tackle Elden Ring alone is Summoning Ashes. These potent items allow the user to summon AI companions to help them in battle. The Lone Wolf Ashes, for example, summons three powerful wolf companions that can charge into enemy camps to help draw aggro and allow you to cast or attack without nearly as much pressure. In my opinion, these Summoning Ashes are single-handedly the most significant additions when it comes to making the combat of Elden Ring more approachable for new players.
For players looking to embark on their Elden Ring voyage with the help of jolly cooperation, this upcoming open-world RPG also expands upon the co-op experience in meaningful ways. While summoning allies or invaders still requires consumable items, Elden Ring does a much better job streamlining multiplayer and explaining how it works to new players. Previously, you pretty much had to look up a guide on how to play Dark Souls in co-op. They've also made playing as a co-op companion more meaningful by allowing the co-op partner to pick up crafting resources and items. Which somewhat surprisingly wasn't something you could do before.
No more invaders for solo players
On the topic of multiplayer, another controversial change was the removal of PVP invaders for solo players. PVP is a staple of FromSoftware's formula, but for folks simply looking to play through the primary campaign, invaders have been an enormous point of contention. In Dark Souls, not only were you required to overcome the incredible challenge of the game's enemies, but you'd also need to be cautious of other players who could essentially invade your world at will. While you can still be randomly invaded in co-op, your solo adventures should be less grief-filled.
A trusty steed
The Spectral Steed introduced in Elden Ring also offers an entirely new gameplay dynamic. Not only can you use this magical creature to navigate the fairly expansive open-world quickly, but you can take advantage of its speed to flee from overwhelming enemies like golems or fire-breathing dragons. While your four-legged friend can't be brought into most dungeons, it'll undoubtedly be a boon for outdoor travel.
Jumping and increased vertical mobility
Reduced fall damage and the ability to jump are also shockingly beneficial enhancements to FromSoftware's Souls-like formula. While Dark Souls and its counterparts have always featured platforming in some capacity, the series has never really shined in that department. Small ledges and mean-spirited traps have always made traversing elevated environments in these games somewhat nightmarish. Having increased options for vertical mobility in Elden Ring opens up the game in remarkable ways.
More options for healing
The last noteworthy change regarding approachability in Elden Ring is a far more forgiving system for healing flasks. FromSoftware RPGs have always revolved around this idea of reusable healing flasks that can only be recharged through bonfires or similar points of rest. In Elden Ring, players can now refill flasks by simply defeating mobs of enemies. This drastically reduces the need to return to Sites of Grace to replenish healing items. This change is especially forgiving when you consider that every time you return to a Site of Grace to rest, it respawns all the enemies in the area.
Is Elden Ring truly easier or more approachable?
Will Elden Ring be an RPG for everyone? Probably not. Will Elden Ring successfully convert everyone who's had a problem with Dark Souls in the past? Also, probably not. But there are plenty of noteworthy changes that seem to make the point of entry far less demanding. If you're a fan of some of the best open-world RPGs like The Elder Scrolls or Breath of the Wild, Elden Ring wants your attention.
While there are certainly some entirely separate discussions to be had surrounding difficulty options and accessibility, FromSoftware at least seems to be humoring some of these changes through various gameplay options this time around. Elden Ring will still likely be a punishingly demanding RPG. However, there's no denying the fact that FromSoftware is interested in making their games more approachable.
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