From Software’s Elden Ring delivered one of the most expansive open worlds ever seen in a hardcore action RPG when it launched in February 2022. The Lands Between offers dozens of hours of exploration across stunningly diverse biomes and dungeons. For fans of imposing boss battles and meticulous combat, Elden Ring fulfills those expectations while introducing open world mechanics new to the notoriously challenging genre.
A Vast Realm to Explore Elden Ring
Upon first arriving in the Lands Between, the scale of the open world is immediately apparent. Lush rolling hills, thick forests, and grand castles stretch out in all directions. Unlike From Software’s famously linear Souls games, Elden Ring gives players the freedom to choose their own path through the realm.
The world features six main areas including Stormveil Castle, Liurnia of the Lakes, Caelid, Altus Plateau, Mountaintops of the Giants, and Leyndell. Each contains unique enemies, environments, and lore. You can ride your spectral steed across grassy fields, ominous scarlet swamps, and frigid mountaintops. Or delve deep into legacy dungeons like Stormveil Castle for tense, intricately designed areas reminiscent of Dark Souls.
From Software handcrafted the open world with the same care and detail of their previous titles. While expansive, it avoids feeling repetitive or empty like some open worlds. Around every corner, you may discover one of hundreds of mini-dungeons, enemy camps, roaming beasts, hidden secrets, powerful weapons, or challenging NPC invaders.
Diverse Paths to Take
Elden Ring doesn’t force you down a set sequence of objectives. After departing the starting area, you can explore the six regions in any order. Your journey through the Lands Between will be completely unique based on where curiosities and challenges take you.
Maybe you’ll want to immediately take on the difficult Caelid area or seek out advanced spells in Liurnia’s academy. Or if Stormveil Castle proves too challenging at first, you can venture elsewhere to the Altus Plateau or Weeping Peninsula to gain more strength. This freedom was completely new for FromSoftware’s typically linear formula.
In true open world fashion, getting from one point to another sometimes proves an epic quest in itself. You really feel the immense scale traversing between distant points of grace. Some locations contain higher level enemies and nightmarish dungeons suited for returning later at a higher power level.
Satisfying Combat Intact
The move to open world could have diluted From Software’s meticulously challenging combat, but that remains wholly intact. Enemies are placed thoughtfully across the world and each crafted to provide a unique threat.
You must learn their attack patterns, tells, and openings to succeed. Strafing around a giant dragon’s claws and slashing at the right moment captures that classic Souls feel. Massive foes like Starscourge Radahn and the Fire Giant present intense, drawn-out battles as well.
While giving more freedom, Elden Ring stays true to the series’ DNA. Cryptic lore, imposing boss fights, and stamina-based melee remain at the core. The Lands Between simply provides a bigger, more awe-inspiring canvas upon which to experience these signature elements.
Crafting and Customization
New RPG mechanics expand your options for customizing your hero. Crafting allows combining picked materials to fashion useful consumable items. Cookbooks discovered across the world let you craft health restoring dishes or status effect curing tonics.
An upgradeable flask can also mix HP restoring crimson tears and FP restoring cerulean tears. Deciding the balance between these depends on your playstyle. Faith builds may want more FP restoring tears to cast incantations for example.
The upgrade system from prior games returns with greater flexibility. Weapons have unique Ashes of War that can change their affinity and skills. So a sword can switch from dealing standard physical damage to magic or frost damage instead. You can really tailor gear to your optimal playstyle.
While daunting in its scope, Elden Ring succeeds in retaining the finely tuned combat and challenging progression of From Software’s pedigree while venturing into the unfamiliar open world territory. Rather than diluting the experience, the added freedom only complements and expands on what makes these games special. Elden Ring fulfills the potential of what a darker, more mature Legend of Zelda game could look like. The Lands Between represent the perfect evolution of FromSoft’s masterful level and game design.