ELDEN RING Critical Response Thread--SPOILER HELL, ENTER AT OWN RISK

### [size=99]9.5/10

…I figured since critical response to Elden Ring was overwhelming the other thread, so much so that was it was spilling out into the Current Happenings thread, that we could use a dedicated thread for responding to Elden Ring.

Also these are the

### SUBTERRANEAN SPOILERING-GROUNDS

...all spoiler ettiquette is suspended herein--spoil as freely and wildly as you wish.

Wow the second last boss is the guy from the first trailer

[“ELDEN RING Critical Response Thread: SUBTERRANEAN SPOILERING-GROUNDS”,“ELDEN RING Critical Response Thread–SPOILER HELL, ENTER AT OWN RISK”]

So, I wrote a big chunk of words on the general purpose thread not knowing this was a thing, so there's a link for anyone who cares about it.

Something I left out that post is an idea that I didn't want to get into there because it required some explanation and would have made what I actually wanted to say more bloated and less clear, but it's something that has been at the core of a good deal of my videogame reasoning as of late.

When Arkane released Deathloop last year they made a couple of videos with the people of Noclip talking about the general design of the game. In one of them they touched upon a pedagogy and cognitive psychology concept that they took into account during development, that to me has been quite opening when applied to videogames. That concept is the one of **cognitive load**. (Here's the timestamped video with the relevant segment).

https://youtu.be/3ra-jkrurR4?t=477

To summarize, the cognitive load of a certain activity, be it a videogame or an university class is the amount of things the person taking part of that activity has to take into account while participating on it. This can be from rules, proper procedures or even social expectations to the anxiety the individual feels due to the pressure or its personal circumstances. The interesting thing about the cognitive load is that it doesn't only pertain to the explicit stuff alreeady known by the individual, but crucially, it also includes every unknown aspect of the activity and the stress derived from that uncertainty. As Bakaba explains, in the context of a videogame, not knowing how a particular set of mechanics work, like for example, not knowing what is the punishment or generally what happens when the player dies, is something increasing the cognitive load of the player, and weighing them down. According to Bakaba, in a videogame ideally you would want to make the cognitive load as low as possible, by removing all unnecessary stressors and communicating properly what the game is about and what the possible outcomes are in order to make the experience as enjoyable as possible.

Taking all this back to how Elden Ring behaves, during my time I couldn't stop thinking about this idea and how it was conditioning my enjoyment and relationship with the game. When I started getting openly bitter towards it, I realized it was in part because of how insane the cognitive load of this game in particular is. The amount of explicit and implicit rules, from the systems and how the game actually plays, to how properly conduct yourself during the exploration in order to minimize the chances of ruining sidequests and npc encounters.

Relating all this to what I wrote about the amount of effort and compromise Elden Rings demands, this is a game that gatekeeps one of its most crucial pieces of information concerning what happened to the world behind a sidequest that requires finding an insanely hidden path located via absurd platforming and proper speedrunner pathfinding skills.

https://youtu.be/-ZDOG1eYCV4?t=57

This, in the context of an open world game as complex and layered as this one is, and I'm sorry for the language, already fucking delusional. But accepting that this is also the legacy of the series and the type of incredibly big secret that justifies the obtuseness of it, and at the same time, exactly the kind of thing the average Souls enthusiast hopes to encounter in any of the games at least once, it can not only be forgiven but even maybe complimented as the right choice.

Here's the thing though: how does this choice (that takes place on the first couple dozen of hours of a 150+ hour videogame) inform the player and what kind of relationship it encourages with the game? Is it a healthy and understandable relationship, or, on the other hand, an incredibly obsessive and compulsive one? How does this kind of thing affect how the player will play the rest of the game, will it make them play more casually and relaxed, or will it enforce abhorrent things like FOMO on relevant parts of the game and the narrative? I think it's already obvious where I'm trying to get at.

Elden Ring cultivates a way of playing that can be described as totalitarian and uncompromising. It doesn't even blink when it comes to punishing the most uninquisitive and casual players, leaving them out inmensely important parts of its world and narrative. And while this is true to the other games in the franchise, again, the scope, size and structure of this game drastically changes both how the game works, and how it should ideally work at all levels. It would already be bad enough if the game somehow delivered on its promise, but now think about the ways it doesn't, how it betrays this "culture" and ways to relate to its content it teaches with its "clasically Souls" mentality. It's a surprisingly high level of bullshit we have inadvertently normalized and accepted due to how the other games in the franchise work, without consideration to how the new structure of this game modifies and changes that way of playing and relating to it.

We are in front of a game that doesn't hesitate to ask the player to do the most absurd and nonsensical things repeatedly over the course of 150+ hours, always in good faith and with a smile on the face, while at the same time, not even blinking when it comes to incredibly bland and uncharacteristically poor design choices. The laziness and uninspiredness it showcases in its lowest moments is at odds with how it treats the player and the commitment it asks from them, as I tried to convey in that other piece of writing, but maybe it's also a sign of an even deeper betrayal, which is why I wanted to bring this idea of the cognitive load to the conversation, as a clearly defined concept that can represent how unfairly Elden Ring burdens its most generous and committed players.

https://youtu.be/3RSxB2M2EeQ

I love this game but it is way too fucking big. I play every new release game pretty much from before it starts until I‘m finished without talking to anyone or reading anything about it and tend to let myself get snagged or obsessed if that’s what it takes to have a holistic experience. In the case of this game I spent over 40 hours spelunking those heckin' cookie cut caverns and catacombs looking for the equipment that would happen to be associated with the play style and status investment I had gravitated into with absolutely no idea of where the next comfortable adjustment to my stratagem might be located. Literally 100 hours of invasions game time later I locked the first playthrough in, picked an ending and looked online to find out that I had walked straight past two different holes in the god damn ground that had exactly what I needed. Not only that but out of the 6 ending routes in the game I managed to completely fumble 3 of them by complete accident because out of all the crisscrossing, ledge combing, and god damn doom wall-humping I failed to turn around and look down or roll into the level geometry exactly when I was supposed to. Sometimes, I even forgot what a person said to me or where they said they were going, and I never saw them again. After winding through a tangled snarl of level design the length of several actual marathons a part of my brain had shut off and stopped being curious about what could possibly be inside that awesome architecture.

**That architecture is a death trap filled with monsters and it's designed to kick your balls in.** This describes literally every location ||(not actually every location)|| in every souls game that isn't a hub or a safe zone and there is not a single time where I had to actually go to any place to find this out. In that sense, for the love of god, what is the point of putting anything at all in between me and the metaphorical CBT game design that I crave? It _could_ be interesting to explore such a world, if it was actually alive, or used to be alive, but this place never actually feels like that. In Souls, you roam the husk of a long dormant machine that was built for the exclusive purpose of murdering you. >!(Wait, what am I saying? that's actually **awesome.**)!< They're also never, ever going to let you kill the alien computer that deletes your friend's brain and turns them into a cyborg time zombie. They will never reveal the hidden narrative formula that drives this money making machine. You will never fight robot ants in a psychadelic flying glass cyber maze with your _Moonlight Greatsword_ or _Dark Slayer_ like it was still the PSX days. Man, _fuck that._ Fuck this **stupid** lore jigsaw puzzle powered by the inscrutable psychometry of this headswapping philosophical nightmare of a character referred to inexplicably as the _Master of the world_. Is that a joke? Is it ironic? Am I doing all this to torture myself? Is every game in this series the delusions of a sadomasochistic God who can do nothing but recapitulate his own ascension now that every living thing on the planet has become his toy? Is Hidetaka Miyazaki calling _me_ a stupid baby who plays with _dolls_ all day?

**I am guilty as fucking charged.**

So why can they not just do the _exact opposite_ of this and make a game that's nothing but good level design >!shadow tower!< punctuated with irreversible forward movement through _Freudian Anxiety Holes_ >!silent hill 2!< where I am forced to confront actual feelings of mystery and trepidation immediately with exactly what I have on hand? Where I simply _cannot_ slurp my disgusting habits all over every single megabyte of content because there are _two different cliffs_ to jump off of and there is _no way back_.

Backtracking is for _ants._ I am >!reputedly!< a human being and when I see something the first time that is _enough._ I promise you, I took a good long look at it. I don't have time to care about an imaginary inanimate object twice. _I probably have a **backlog** and I will literally **die** before I can ever get through it._

I have three favorite things in this series. One of them is _owning freaks._ The second thing is walking off a cliff knowing that I do not know how to go back. The third thing is climbing up or down an extremely long ladder or taking an extremely long elevator ride knowing that I will never have to go back. I understand that not everything in this game is for me, and maybe it's actually a great and relaxing time for someone who doesn't crave ownership of every single weapon that they will never use. It is not the game's fault that I am not a zen master with an infinite amount of time to not worry about stuff. I forgive this game for being an open world.

What I do not forgive it for is having music that fucking **blows.**

_Elden Ring_ is the _Daggerfall_ of the Souls series and I rate it **two out of four stars.**

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@“Venus Emperor”#p66101 After winding through a tangled snarl of level design the length of several actual marathons a part of my brain had shut off and stopped being curious about what could possibly be inside that awesome architecture.

This resonated with me and what I was trying to say on the other thread, I see [self-quoting between threads is not a thing so I'll do this:](https://forums.insertcredit.com/d/1341-elden-ring-launch-jolly-co-operation-thread/776)

>

This is a game that actively teaches you to always be trying extremely weird bits of platforming that almost resemble classic speedrunning sequence breaking in its first dungeon (Stormveil Castle), then randomly switches gears to that other mentality with regard to its open world design. It’s very authoritarian when it comes to its secrets, npcs and wanting you to find all of the classic “Soulsian” stuff, while at the same time expecting you to not take everything in the open world too seriously. There is no real coherence between both mentalities/philosophies and expectations and it almost requires to surrender your first playthrough to luck because there is no clearly delineated “correct” way to play, everything you choose to do has its downfalls.

That moment of shutting off your brain is something I also went through and it represents that point where you give up and surrender your journey to the whims and incoherences of this game.

In the end it feels like they essentially transplanted the Souls design into an open world format and did zero adjustments between the two styles and formats. The open world traversal and exploration serves one mood and specific attitude that suddenly gets discarded and smeared over when it comes to the traditional Soulsian stuff like the npc interactions, questlines and exploration of the more specifically designed levels, where it seems to switch to _"Don't you fucking dare not to try to drop from every single ledge and bit of geometry, you stupid asshole. Oh, you didn't? Then boom, you just broke 3 of the most important storylines, get fucking rekt"_

@“JoJoestar”#p66110 The use of ledges and fall damage in this game is painfully weird. There are cliffs with visible platforms and sections underneath that you simply cannot explore because the devs just block it with invisible boundaries or dishonest geometry and every single one of these areas is drenched in dozens of blood stains depicting other players just horse double jumping into a callback gag from the road runner cartoons. Over a 150 hour save file I found more stains from people jumping off cliffs that had nothing beneath them than all of the game's bosses and gotcha moments put together. The most lethal threat to any player of elden ring is simply the belief that you might be able to get over there or something.

I honestly don't even know why fall damage is in the game at this point, a contiguous environment that just lets you navigate what you can actually see and just like fall down there man would have done so much more to create an actual sense of freedom, but I guess the rules of the game's design are needed to make pvp areas and castles work properly. There's that poison castle where you can kind of just climb over stuff and it just sucks. Leyndell feels more claustrophobic to me than any of the castles in the previous games even though it's ostensibly more free form and permissive. It's like being in a room filled with a bunch of boxes and actual trash everywhere and trying to calm down about it.

Really made me appreciate DS2's shameless use of idiosyncratic set pieces and closed off area maps to just dial in on the cool visual vibes and sound design and put together actual levels that work.

I‘m sort of circling back on my thoughts about ER and DS2, and why some of us are more sympathetic to DS2 fragmented arbitrary aspects, but less patient with ER. Both show their videogame seams but in DS2 it’s budget and time constraints and ER it's big huge $$. So maybe for me, speaking for myself, I think I might have a partial attitude problem

The New York Times has uh……this to say

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@“TracyDMcGrath”#p66131 I was thinking about dragging that article over to the local McDonald's. Lots of, uh, unique takeways to be found in this thing…

did tom friedman buy a gaming rig?

@“yeso”#p66127 You already framed this as a strictly subjective thing so there shouldn‘t be much to comment but I’d like to take it as a wider statement because I feel you're onto something.

And yes, I agree some of us are maybe resisting ER a bit unfairly, but at the same time, while it's interesting to point out the asymmetry in the reception of both games, there is also the context of what each of them asks of the player, what is the time investment and the general attitude of both games. DS2 is a comparatively dumber action game that takes 40-60 hours to beat, while ER is a 150 hour long massively ambitious terraforming behemoth that will probably reshape the whole videogame landscape moving forwards. So what I'm trying to say is it's kinda easier to have sympathy for the first's mistakes but not for to the second.

>

@“Venus Emperor”#p66101 What I do not forgive it for is having music that fucking blows.

If I could put on an option to have only boss music play I would have it enabled 100% of the time. Or even if I could just have it so that each atmospheric loop of just kind of okay modernist-but-not-too-modernist film score music had like 3-5 minutes of silence on the end, that'd be much better. I don't know if it blows, per se, but it's not nearly as interesting as it should be for the length of time you spend in those areas, and it makes me really miss the austere, isolating feeling caused by the uninterrupted lack of music in _Dark Souls_ and _Dark Souls II._ Only to be sucker punched in the gut by some ripping _tutti_ ass orchestral banger intro as a boss falls from the sky. I wish I could send [this ](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T4SlLHTLaLc)to whoever is composing the music for the next one...

Actually, if any of these games had the best balance, it was _Bloodborne--_where there _is_ a single non hub area with music, and it helps it's a good piece and an area you're not in for very long normally, which makes that particular area all the more unsettling because of it.

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@“Venus Emperor”#p66115 I honestly don’t even know why fall damage is in the game at this point

Oh, it's worse than that it even still persists in the game at all, if you ask me.

Ignoring spiritwindthings or whatever they're called, and scripted falls from platforms breaking and such that grant you immunity to the resulting fall damage, and I suppose using the same sort of measuring tools for distance and physical space in the game as represented by polygons or whatever, the minimum amount of height the player can normally fall from before fall damage will be 100% fatal is the exact same in _Elden Ring_ as it is in _Dark Souls._ Worse even than that, for some reason as well, the minimum distance you can fall in _Elden Ring_ and take _any_ damage is much less than in _Dark Souls..._ meaning there is really just a big window where you take no fall damage at all, a very small window where you will take a lot of damage, but the place where fall damage kills you is still the same.

The height at which you can and cannot survive a fall from in _Elden Ring_ made no sense to me until I learned that, and it's totally unintuitive. Basically, if you took damage from falling, you were very, very close to dying from that fall.

If that made no sense, watch this:

https://youtu.be/Fm-QA4rZPYk

_Elden Ring_ is disappointingly paranoid of its own Y-axis.

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@“Gaagaagiins”#p66162 there is a single non hub area with music

remind me...

@“captain”#p66184 Hypogean gaol!

@“captain”#p66184 No better reminder than putting it on:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EcNNijfPHOo

@“Gaagaagiins”#p66162 Wait, does Elden Ring have bad music because Square Enix baited Sakuraba with a Valkyrie Profile and Star Ocean sequel in the same year? God, what a devil's bargain if I ever heard one

@“Gaagaagiins”#p66194 https://youtu.be/lcf7EkFu2uA

Yeah, that‘s one of my biggest criticisms of the game personally. I around 20 hours in any area I realized the enjoyment of the game was actually being ruined by unpleasant music. So I started putting on my own. Then with patch 1.03, they added several tracks. Sheesh. Still unless I wanna constantly “pass time” to night to hear a slightly different rendition, it wasn’t enough. But it‘s probably a good habit to play my own music while playing dark souls from now on anyway.

I really miss From Software’s old music though. That track you posted from Bloodborne was such a pleasant surprise, but too little…… Seemed like a fluke. Like WOW we have this ONE TRACK…. LETS USE IT!…… We should have way more than that. Miyazaki & From Soft have been doing good stuff, but the gaps are really, really getting tiresome at this point…… BotW2 is set to blow up real big when it comes out with beautiful music……