Diary of an Elden Ring Player – CNET

Diary of an Elden Ring Player – CNET

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From Software / Namco Bandai Games

I’ve done all I can to prepare my mind, body and soul for Elden Ring. I’m writing this opening chapter of my diary while reading the many glowing reviews as though sipping a sumptuous glass of wine. I couldn’t be more excited. I’ve been counting the days for months. Now I’m counting the hours. 

For the uninitiated, Elden Ring is a video game that’s being released Friday, Feb. 25, for consoles and PC by developer FromSoftware. The company is known for its challenging action role playing games such as Dark Souls, Bloodborne and Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

To be clear, this isn’t a review of Elden Ring, but CNET does have one of those. In fact, that review provides the valuable perspective of a newcomer to the series, in case you’re thinking of dabbling in a FromSoftware game for the first time yourself. 

I am definitely not a newcomer to the series. Dark Souls is my favorite video game; I’ve even written in the past about the real emotional impact it had on my life. I also loved Bloodborne and Sekiro. The latter’s final boss might be my favorite boss fight in any game. Part of what I love about all of these games is the unique stories they allow you to create with your tales of triumph and defeat. 

With this diary, I hope to tell those stories to give a fuller insight into what it’s like to really play this game over time. I hope to dissect how Elden Ring lives and breathes while I work through its mysteries and challenges. I’m playing it on my own time, and I’ll fill this piece with stories from my journey as I progress.

How the journal will work

With that in mind, I will be including spoilers to more fully round out the discussion, but I’ll note at the top of each of my updates how far I’ve gotten in broad non-spoilery terms, so you have a sense of what I’m about to discuss in case you want to come back after you’ve reached that point yourself. 

You don’t need to worry about spoilers in the opening chapter because I haven’t actually started the game yet. Again, I’m playing on my own time and the game has only just released. Check back Tuesday for my first impressions and initial stories. I’m going to dedicate as many hours of my weekend as I possibly can to this task. (Oh, the sacrifices I make.)

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I can’t wait to see what adventures this horizon holds in store.

From Software

After that, I’ll publish weekly on Fridays with occasional midweek updates if there’s a story I just have to tell. I’ll keep this going either until I finish the game or you all lose interest. Hopefully, it lasts a while.

Like I said, I’m excited. Here are my hopes and fears for the game, as well as my current thoughts on how I’ll build my character and start the journey. 

Great expectations

My hopes for the game are unparalleled, and I’m trying to do breathing exercises on the regular to keep them within realistic parameters so I don’t end up disappointed. At this point, given all the hype and the reviews, I have to work to allow myself to just go into the experience with an open mind.

I guess I’m no longer only expecting it to be the greatest video game ever made. I’m also expecting it to lead directly to a cure for cancer, end child hunger and maybe cook me dinner. The chances that it can do all of that are small — likely less than 50%.

Realistically, I believe Elden Ring has combined elements from all my favorite FromSoftware titles in order to create a singular, expansive masterpiece. That’s why I’m so excited.

Refinement or repetition?

Before the reviews hit, I was holding my breath that the scope wouldn’t cause it to break with bugs, resulting in another disappointment like Cyberpunk 2077. I suppose that could happen as players start flooding the servers, but I now believe the odds of that are pretty small. 

A fear of sequel-itis is now the only thing that has me truly worried. I usually don’t enjoy video game sequels as much as originals. I love indulging in a new creative vision and the feel of a new, elegant control scheme. Good sequels do include plenty to discover, but to an extent it’s a great meal that I’ve tasted before — as opposed to a brand new experience.

To that end, and likely because I knew renowned creative director Hidetaka Miyazaki wasn’t involved, I skipped Dark Souls 2. I did return for Dark Souls 3 and liked it, though it didn’t surprise me the same way other FromSoftware games had. It didn’t fill me with the same fear and, in turn, the game’s moments of triumph were dulled. 

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I think Dark Souls 3 is a great action RPG, but it’s not quite as special as some of the company’s other works. 

From Software

Bloodborne and Sekiro each share many similarities with the Dark Souls series, but their combat and worlds were so different that even though they had surprises that followed similar patterns, they also had their full effect on me. Plus, because combat was distinct in pace and strategy, their respective early bosses and enemies also sufficiently walloped me. They filled me with that trademark fear, so I fully enjoyed the moments where I learned my lessons and rose to the occasion.

Elden Ring uses a lot of the same basic systems as Dark Souls, but it doesn’t necessarily have to scare me in order to be a success in my eyes. I’ve avoided as many spoilers as I can, but I’m still human, so I’ve seen many trailers. Perhaps it can replace that fear with wonder at its majestic new world. Maybe not everything has to surprise me if its promised execution is really that good.

If I could wish upon a star, Elden Ring will surprise me, teach me and fill me with feelings of wonder, fear and eventual triumph. This game will do it all. Deep breaths. I’m trying to control my expectations and make sure I’m OK with it if it’s merely a really good game and not the greatest thing ever.

We’ll see.

Getting started

I believe I’ve avoided most spoilers for myself to this point. I haven’t watched the long gameplay reveals or seen the opening cinematic, and I skipped the network test. (I skip demos for all games I know I’ll want to play at launch.) The start of the game should be mostly fresh for me.

I have looked at the classes and the starting items. Again, I’m only human, but I also wanted to start thinking about my build since it was the one active thing I could do while waiting for release.

I’m leaning toward playing as the Wretch, who starts mostly naked with no armor and a simple club at the lowest possible character level. All of the other Dark Souls games have had a similar starting class, and I’ve never been brave enough to pick it on a first playthrough. It loses some impact on subsequent plays when you know the attack patterns of the initial enemies, where to find helpful weapons and armor and the optimal paths to head straight there. 

If I do go with the Wretch, I’m picking a clearly helpful starting item. Like Dark Souls, Elden Ring lets you start with a choice of magical trinket. Some offer a distinct and understandable benefit, while others are shrouded in mystery. The designers have a sense of humor, too, as roughly half of the ones shrouded in mystery turn out to be wonderfully helpful when you find out their purpose… but the other half turn out to be as useless as they first appear. 

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The Samurai sure looks cool. 

Screenshot by Andrew Gebhart/CNET

I’m also considering the Samurai, because I loved Sekiro and a quick-hitting melee character with plenty of endurance sounds right up my alley. I’m somewhat drawn to the Bandit, even though I don’t really understand it, because I might find figuring out this stealthy backstabber appealing. 

Because I enjoy melee combat in this series so much, I likely won’t make my first character one of the dedicated magic wielders, but I could do that in a subsequent playthrough. I’m also trying to convince a buddy to play alongside me, but he has less time on his hands, so maybe I could use a magic wielder as a dedicated cooperative character to play when he’s available.

I’m actually expecting a lot of trouble when it comes to convincing my friends to try Elden Ring. I’ve tried to get them into FromSoftware games in the past with limited success, so they might be too burned by those experiences to dive back in. I hope it is welcoming for newcomers, but if you want to experience the game secondhand without the agony of defeat, please check back here as I recount my adventures. 

If you are playing the game, comment below with your own experiences, but please don’t spoil anything not already discussed in the post. Again, I’ll be sure to label how far I’ve made it at the beginning of each update in case you haven’t reached the same point yet and want to come back later. With this piece and your comments, I’ll at least feel like I have some way of discussing this experience even if my friends chicken out. 

You see, I’m excited. I don’t know if I’ve expressed that yet. I can’t wait to see what this experience is like. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to begin my journey into the Lands Between. 

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