A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this game.
Perseverance and a sense of pride arise organically through play. Tough battles demand tenacity. Beating an epic boss rewards players with sense of accomplishment. Online cooperative play, meanwhile, encourages teaming up with and helping others achieve shared goals. But keep in mind that the heart of the game is sensationalized, bloody combat.
Positive Role Models
Game's hero intends to become the Elden Lord, a quest that involves a lot of brutal fighting. They don't speak or reveal much in the way of emotion or motivation, but instead display an unshakable dedication of purpose with matching tenacity.
Hero's gender, skin tone, and voice can be modified. The world is populated by fantasy creatures and humanoids, appearance largely obscured by helmets and clothing. Most non-player characters are light-skinned.
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Ease of Play
Extremely challenging game with difficult-to-master combat, potential for significant loss of progress whenever the hero dies. Tutorials available through help menu cover basics, but many mechanics feel mysterious and must be riddled out through experimentation.
Violence & Scariness
Players engage in medieval-style combat from third-person perspective, using swords, axes, hammers, bows and arrows, and magic -- sometimes while atop a horse -- to attack a variety of fantasy creatures and humanoid soldiers. Blood often splashes from wounds, coating hero's armor, turning it red. Bodies of the dead litter the ground.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
One of the game's enemies is partially nude, with only scales to obscure her breasts.
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Profanity appears infrequently in text and spoken dialogue, including words "hell" and "s--t."
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Elden Ring is a fantasy role-playing game (RPG) for Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and Windows PCs. A collaboration between Japanese developer From Software (makers of Dark Souls) and renowned fantasy writer George R.R. Martin (of A Song of Ice and Fire fame), this open-world RPG is tough and intense. Assuming the role of a customizable hero -- you can select gender, skin tone, and voice -- players quest to restore the game's titular ring, a powerful artifact shattered long ago. Players spend the bulk of their time exploring a world filled with aggressive humanoids and monsters, including goblins and trolls as well as fantasy animals such as huge crabs and massive bears. Combat -- sometimes from atop a horse -- is frenetic and bloody, involving swords, axes, shields, bows and arrows, and magic. Red blood sprays from wounds and coats the hero's armor, and bodies are seen strewn on the ground. The fighting can be very difficult, with death potentially resulting in lost progress. Themes of perseverance and pride in accomplishing difficult tasks emerge organically through play. Limited online play encourages players to cooperate with each other to achieve objectives, as well as engage in friendly competition against others. One of the enemies appears partially nude, with only scales obscuring its breasts. The words "hell" and "s--t" appear in dialogue.
Is It Any Good?
It's a bit reductive to suggest that this is just a Dark Souls game set in an open world, but when you get right down to it, that's exactly what it is. ELDEN RING preserves just about everything that From Software's fans love about the studio's games, including a punishing level of difficulty, ambiguous yet weirdly compelling storytelling, the ability to leave messages for other players and help strangers having a tough time, and a host of mysterious artifacts, the purposes of which need to be gradually riddled out through play. At times Dark Souls players will feel like they're simply playing a sequel in that series as they tread cautiously through dark towers. They'll peer around corners, heart pounding, looking for hidden enemies that can kill in just one or two swings of their massive swords, and hope to spy a save point where they can safely spend all of the experience points they've accumulated before dying and losing them all. The fighting is tough, but it's also fair -- especially once you've mastered various skills and attacks and gotten to know your enemies' patterns. And the reward is that taking down harder foes carries with it a sense of accomplishment not felt in most games. Players are forced to earn their victories, and that means something. In other words, it's largely business as usual for a From Software game.
The big change, of course, is that these familiar features are set in a sprawling, more or less ungated open world that players can freely explore. But whether this open world makes for a better experience than the Dark Souls games -- which feature meticulously designed and mostly linear environments -- is an open question. The free-to-roam world adds elements novel to From Software games, such as the ability to summon a steed to get around a little more quickly and fight enemies from a mounted position -- which can be a real advantage in some battles. There are also changes to the purpose and type of enemies encountered. For example, you'll find easy-to-dispatch animals all over the world and may be tempted to simply ignore them, but skillfully dispatching an entire group will refill your restorative health flask without forcing you to find and use a save point, which would respawn all the enemies you've defeated. Tactical consideration is built into everything. But do these modifications improve upon the traditional Souls formula? From Software's trademark nonstop intensity is significantly ratcheted down when roaming about open spaces, where it's easy to escape or simply avoid most enemies. And the exquisitely handcrafted, labyrinthine environments the studio is known for are limited to keeps, caverns, and dungeons found within the open world. These don't make up the bulk of the game, which may disappoint some. In the end, Elden Ring knows what it wants to be and it fully embodies that game. Players will need to determine for themselves whether it's an improvement.
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