Elden Ring is murderous. Everywhere the next horror lurks, turning off the light within a heartbeat. Nevertheless, the action RPG is the purest oasis of calm for MeinMMO editor-in-chief Leya Jankowski right now. Elden Ring completely changed their perspective on “relaxed” game design.
I’ve never touched a Souls game as the whole DNA of the series doesn’t appeal to me one bit. Grinding my teeth from monster to monster, getting stuck again and again, losing everything repeatedly, dying a thousand deaths – that’s not how I imagine a fulfilling gaming experience.
I understand the appeal of fighting through a tough game and feeling the euphoria of having made it. But I like to leave that to others. Because especially in the last few years, in which my job and private life have become more demanding, I have developed more and more into a casual gamer.
Give me quest markers, preferably an entire navigation system, a foolproof tutorial, a linear experience that leaves me little risk of misstep and wasting my valuable time afterwards! That’s the only way I can relax and lose myself in a game today and switch off.
Oh how I have deceived and wronged myself for years.
My biggest fear: An open world that doesn’t tell me what to do
Actually, I had no intention of playing Elden Ring. But after the gaming press rolled over with top ratings, I was seized with the professional ambition to understand this phenomenon and to put my hands on the controller. The download was already started.
Especially the open world, so highly praised by critics, scared me. In so many tests it has been stated that the world of Elden Ring is so free that one can go anywhere at any time outlawed. Now you have to know that I’m a pretty disoriented person and I get lost all the time.
A game world without my beloved quest marker only triggers a feeling of uneasiness in me instead of freedom. And yes, the thing with endless freedom: How can that not lead to total overload? Without a helping quest diary to hang onto.
After I chose the Astrologer in the class selection, I found myself in a dungeon. A small tutorial taught me basic functions like jumping, sneaking or attacking. Before I had even a shred of insight, the Elden Ring threw me out of the nest like a fledgling chick and I had to leave the dungeon.
I stood outside alone. In the big wide world of Elden Ring.
What I feared happened sooner than I would have liked. I immediately didn’t know what to do with myself. I stood there dazed for a while, looking at pretty glowing trees in the distance.
Desperation grows with every death
I didn’t want to give myself the bareness of failing right at the beginning! So I headed out into the unknown, roaming through the tall, deep green grass that slowly swayed in the wind. An old ruin peeked out from behind a hill and I headed towards it.
At the edge of the ruin I saw three farmers kneeling in the grass and working. Surely they would talk to me and maybe even have a quest for me! I run towards them happily. Suddenly they get up and run towards me. Seen up close, the capable farmers suddenly turn into rotting zombie figures. They’re not running towards me, they’re chasing me!
I heard myself cry out in terror for the first time in Elden Ring. Death.
Stabbed by zombie farmers.
Many more screams of shock and unexpected deaths were to follow.
Like all Souls games, Elden Ring has the ability to hurl unexpected dangers at you from all sides:
- Fierce riders who will rain down lightning on you from afar.
- Esports Extrasntic crabs that crush you from behind with their claws while you wanted to look at something in the inventory.
- Undefinable things that fall on your head and kill you so fast you don’t know what’s happening to you.
I could list many more such moments. You understand what I’m getting at. My experience in Elden Ring up to that point consisted of getting terribly scared of surprise attacks and dying instantly.
In Elden Ring, you gain experience points through runes that enemies lose when they die. The runes can be exchanged for leveling up. If you die yourself, you lose these runes and can try to get them back. This only works to a limited extent in the vicinity of difficult opponents.
The few small enemies I was able to defeat didn’t help much here. I’ve been playing for hours and haven’t even climbed a mere level.
The only thing Elden Ring has given me up to this point has been frustration, desperation and the feeling that I’m just too stupid for this game.
Elden Ring: The best way to quickly level up and farm runes to start with
How a burden becomes a powerful liberation
The atmosphere and vastness of Elden Ring pulled me back in despite my frustration. I sat around the fire with my astrologer for a while and thought about what to do next.
I remembered what my dear colleague Irie said to me on our Elden Ring podcast: Actually, it doesn’t matter what I do. You can just go somewhere where you can get ahead. This is the strength of the open world of Elden Ring. For those who don’t care about following any quest line.
Something clicked in my head. Determined, I rose from my campfire with a goal in mind. On my journey I have encountered egg-shaped, spongy beings that stood in water. The only threat they pose are deadly spores. They spread if you hit the egg heads. Not harmless, but doable. That’s why they don’t drop much runes.
Using my wand, I killed aggressive crabs that were near the sponge creatures. My mana was empty. I didn’t know how to refill this without resting, which brings all enemies back.
So I took my second weapon, a sword. For half an hour I did nothing but slay one weak sponge creature after another.
blow. Waiting for the spurs to settle. blow. Waiting for the spurs to settle. hit and win!
Using this method, I finally scraped together enough runes to level up to my first! I’m sure this isn’t the smartest or most efficient way to level, but it was MY way.
I suddenly understood what the open world can mean to me without a foolproof guide.
The subconscious stress disappeared
Initially, looking at the world map of Elden Ring irritated me. I slowly began to see her through different eyes.
Nowhere do markers flash for the main quest and numerous side quests. I don’t have to feel guilty because I promised an NPC that I would find his lost son and suddenly got distracted by another quest.
My quest log isn’t filling up with uncompleted tasks. There are no collectibles flashing at the edge of the screen that I will never finish collecting.
All these unfinished tasks, which my games constantly remind me of, actually also cause stress. It took a while to understand exactly that. But now that’s what I enjoy most about Elden Ring.
Nothing has changed about the fact that I keep crying out because an opponent scares me and I walk through the world of Elden Ring with a certain paranoia.
In the meantime, however, I understand the whole thing more like my evening walk, during which I get a fright every now and then. Deaths aren’t that frustrating anymore. If I don’t want to bite down on an opponent, I just go farming small monsters or explore a new area.
My inner pressure to move forward quickly is gone.
I believe that’s one of the reasons Elden Ring’s ratings have been so extremely high. We’re not really used to such a game desEsports Extrasanymore. For my part, I had forgotten a bit how to enjoy a game that doesn’t constantly take my hand.