Elden Ring is a masterpiece. If you’ve read my review you’ll know I see it as one of the greatest games in recent memory. FromSoftware has managed to craft an enthralling open world epic that surpassed all of my expectations. Even almost two weeks after its release I’m still itching to jump into it each and every day, hoping to make new discoveries and raise my second playthrough to new heights. It’s a stone-cold banger and was well worth the wait.
But goodness me is the discourse surrounding this game exhausting. I don’t even check my Twitter timeline much nowadays because it’s a detriment to my mental wellbeing but a bunch of toxic gamers and meaningless discussions have managed to bleed through into my lap as I’m encouraged to engage due to professional courtesy. People have talked about the user interface, difficulty, approachability, world design, storytelling, character design, and pretty much everything else you can think of. Nothing is safer from the ether of takes.
The thing is – a lot of criticisms towards the game, even if I don’t agree with them, come from a valid perspective and deserve to be heard and talked about. I’m of the opinion that the subtlety in Elden Ring’s aesthetic and user interface is deliberate and makes the game better as a result, but the addition of certain features and other ideas to make it more accessible to a larger number of players will never be a bad thing. But some fans believe it is simply a matter of ‘gitting gud’ because they fail to understand some form of lofty nuance.
Shut the fuck up and let people enjoy things, or allow them to walk away from something you view as a masterpiece if it doesn’t agree with them. I think it’s worthwhile pointing out when a criticism is coming from a toxic place, or is merely trying to be a part of the discourse to rile up the wrong subset of fans who thrive on confrontation. There is no winning when people like this want to rile each other up, and they are often the source of discourse with a gravitational pull so strong that they pull thousands of enthusiasts into the fold. It’s exhausting, and we’ve seen this surface several times since Elden Ring’s launch.
Media is made to be criticised, and is more compelling when we’re willing to dissect something we love and learn exactly what makes it tick. FromSoftware titles have been constant sources of discussion, with the world, characters, mechanics, and lore being so densely uncompromising that fans have spent decades now unearthing exactly what they mean and how to better understand them. However, a piece of fiction this sprawling inevitably attracts elitists, those who put themselves above all else.
This is where the mantra of ‘git gud’ emerged from, shorthand for hardcore players laughing in the faces of newcomers who found themselves struggling with tough enemies and obtuse systems when learning the ropes of FromSoftware’s masterful vision. This was back when Demon’s Souls was first released 13 whole years ago. Yep, it really is that old. Elden Ring isn’t a niche Japanese PS3 exclusive that would struggle to be localised, it’s a global juggernaut that easily rivals the likes of Horizon Forbidden West and Red Dead Redemption 2. The conversation has moved on, meaning millions of people have bought a copy of this game not expecting a game so challenging. Many have taken this direction in their stride, while others are justifiably disheartened that The Lands Between offers little recourse.
Like I said before, these are both valid perspectives, but hardcore fans still hold the outdated opinion that you need to ‘git gud’ to hang out with the cool kids, while failing to realise that we aren’t in school anymore and FromSoftware has long graduated with top honours. To say a game can’t be made accessible or changed to appeal to a wider audience without compromising its artistic vision feels like a moot point nowadays. We’ve seen countless games introduce extensive options for us to customise while still offering a core experience that doesn’t strip away any form of challenge as a consequence. I understand why some fear the FromSoftware formula might be diluted if features like this were developed, but the studio is talented to bolster its overall philosophy while keeping up with the times. Some games just aren’t made for everyone, and I think Elden Ring has made that point clear.
Over the weekend we saw a developer who worked on Horizon Forbidden West lock his Twitter account after he and a couple of other devs made comments about Elden Ring that could be seen as bitter, but could also have been just a harmless joke. It’s a massive success despite not trying to be approachable in its UX and other factors, a valid criticism to be honest. Unfortunately because this industry is a hellscape, this casual conversation was uncovered by hardcore fans and resulted in ample harrassment. Cue locked accounts and silence from the associated parties as they wait for the shitstorm to subside.
It’s impossible for Elden Ring comments to overlook comments that might hold the vaguest criticism about their precious masterpiece, like it’s a personal slight on their identity instead of a casual conversation about a game and things that we should be discussing. Gamers are too sensitive, especially when it comes to studios like FromSoftware who occupy an almost ethereal position because of how many classics it has created. It deserves this pedigree, but I wish it didn’t result in a growing cabal of toxic idiots who can’t take a joke or believe they are mightier than thou because they beat the Asylum Demon without taking a hit. Good for you, nobody cares.
There is a silver lining to this though. Elden Ring’s unparalleled popularity has brought the nicer fans out of the woodwork, adorning the game with wholesome messages of advice and fun jokes which perfectly encapsulate the sense of community that FromSoftware games are capable of expressing. We’re all discovering this vast and beautiful world together, and using elitism to turn this journey of discovery into one of isolation is an awful lesson that will only resign those who embrace it to misery. Games like this don’t come around very often, so try your best to ignore the fans who want to ruin its brilliance for everyone.
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