I have a problem with Ubisoft. I continue to play their games, although most of the time they leave me disappointed and dissatisfied.
After being deactivated by Assassin's Creed Unity's buggy launch and icon-filled map, I went back to being the useless worm I was when Assassin's Creed Syndicate launched. A few years later, after finishing Assassin's Creed Odyssey's overly long campaign (again filled with an overwhelming map full of icons and non-fun side activities because MORE CONTENT = MORE FUN, apparently), I thought I was worn out and done.
I then opted for Assassin's Creed Valhalla, which somehow had an even more bloated campaign. Once I was finally done with that, I put down my controller and swore NO MORE UBISOFT OPEN GAMES.
No more big maps that look too full and too empty. No more repeated copy-paste missions where you have to collect three items or fight an enemy with your fist. No more useless crafts, useless mini-games, or identical enemy bases that you have to clear for a small reward.
Then Far Cry 6 came out… and I played it. Yes, I hate myself.
(Image credit: Ubisoft)
The good news is that after finishing Far Cry 6, which came with all that Ubisoft open world hassle, naturally, Elden Ring stepped in to snap me out of my complacency and kick my ass.
(Image credit: FromSoftware Inc.)
Elden Ring was the first FromSoftware game I played, but I was aware of its fearsome reputation for difficulty. Sure enough, one of the first enemies I encountered quickly killed me with two shots.
More deaths soon followed and I soon realized that the game was punishing me. Not because it was a bad game, or the developers are bad, but because I played it badly. I was approaching it as an open world from Ubisoft, and that insult was killing me. And again. I respected that.
In Assassin's Creed, he wouldn't hesitate to jump into a group of enemies and take them down. In the Elden Ring, I now know that if I tried this, I'd be deader than a dead thing in no time. Assassin's Creed and Far Cry games give you the chance to get powerful, over-the-top weapons relatively quickly, and taking down enemies becomes trivial. It's fun, but fun and no real challenge. The more overpowered you become, the less useful upgrades and levels become. In the Elden Ring, because you feel so vulnerable, every stat increase is a blessing.
Enemy scaling in Ubisoft's open worlds is also a bit broken, to be honest. Most of their games now scale enemies to your level, meaning bad guys are never too hard or too easy.
Enemies in the Elden Ring have a set level, so when you first encounter one and it kills you easily (which is mostly me), go away, do other things to earn runes (a form of currency) to level up. and make you stronger. it means you can come back to them later and delete them. It takes time but it is extremely satisfying.
(Image credit: Bandai Namco)
With Ubisoft's massive maps, I'm also used to being told exactly where to go, with icons dotting the maps and visuals showing you your objectives during missions. Again, this can take the challenge out of gaming, while also preventing organic discoveries.
With Elden Ring, you are pretty much on your own. For someone used to the Ubisoft method, this leaves them perplexed and lost. I had no real idea where I needed to go, so I picked a direction and headed out. I really found myself lost in a strange world, which is definitely the environment I think FromSoftware was looking for.
The way the game handles death is also a breath of fresh air. In Ubisoft games, dying is pretty trivial and mostly just an annoyance. If you die during a mission in Assassin's Creed or Far Cry, you simply start over at the last checkpoint and try again until you complete it. You don't lose anything, and in some boring missions that just means dying and starting over and over until you pass another checkpoint. To give Ubisoft credit, with Watch Dogs: Legion it mixed things up a bit by introducing permadeath for player characters.
death well done
In Elden Ring, death has consequences. If you die, you will return to the last Lost Grace site visited, any slain enemies will be resurrected, and all runes you had will be removed.
(Image credit: Bandai Namco)
In a fantastic twist to the game, also found in previous FromSoftware titles, you can return to where you died to collect your abandoned runes. This introduces an element of risk where you weigh whether to return for more punishment against the chance of getting your runes back. If you die before reaching them, they will be gone forever.
The lack of icons on the map, while initially disconcerting, also means I'm more careful when traveling the world, keeping an eye out for secrets and places of interest. In a Ubisoft game, I was just looking at the minimap while moving to an icon. That means I missed out on a lot of loving details that game designers gave to the world.
However, Elden Ring isn't perfect and some of its design decisions are puzzling to a newbie like me. While I appreciate that it doesn't take me by the hand like a Ubisoft game and throw a bunch of tutorials at me, the lack of instructions can sometimes annoy me. For example, I had to go online to find out how to open the map because the game never told me. The minimal instructions for upgrading your flasks and weapons also make the first few hours more confusing than they need to be.
But FromSoftware has done a great job creating this anti-Ubisoft game that really defies my expectations and highlights how formulaic Ubisoft games have become. While I'll probably end up playing the next Assassin's Creed or Far Cry, I'd really like to see the company change things and challenge, and respect, their players, like Elden Ring does.
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