[Game: Elden Ring, FromSoftware, 2022]
Tarnishing:

A Thorough Critique Detailing the Few Mechanical Flaws of FromSoft’s Elden Ring

 

Introduction:

Imagine sitting next to a friend and looking out over a majestic seaside vista. The sky is clear and there are birds in the sky. The sun warms your skin and occasionally a soft breeze sweeps through. Now, over the gentle sound of the waves, your friend turns to you and says, “Look, someone left some litter on the beach.” In this context, I am that friend. That remark is the equivalent of what I am about to do. Welcome to my article on Elden Ring!

Elden Ring overflows generously with quality, beauty, and entertainment.

Despite its incredible boss and enemy variety, it includes several of the best boss fights that are present in any game, FromSoft or otherwise. Despite the staggering number of weapons, weapon arts, shields, and magical abilities in the game, genuinely novel methods of attack and defense are found from the start of the game to the end. And despite the immense size of its map, it contains multiple individual areas, such as the Volcano Manor and Elphael, which stand alongside earlier creations like the Painted World of Ariamis and the Boletarian Palace as some of the best level design FromSoftware has ever done. But you don’t really need me to tell you that. If you’ve encountered any review or other type of media about Elden Ring since its release, then you already know all of that.

In setting out to write an article about the game, I wanted to approach it from an angle that would be different from the thousand others in existence, while also providing something valuable. There’s really no sense in me just throwing my praise on the praise pile. So, instead of talking about Elden Ring’s overwhelmingly large number of mechanical (and other) strengths, I’m going to dig into its vanishingly small number of mechanical weaknesses. For reference, prior to writing this article, I played through the game three times with drastically different builds, racked up well over a hundred hours of playtime, gathered 100% of the game’s achievements on Steam, and (as far as I know) beat every single unique and repeated boss that is present in the game.

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[Game: Elden Ring, FromSoftware, 2022]
Tarnishing:

A Thorough Critique Detailing the Few Mechanical Flaws of FromSoft’s Elden Ring

was last modified: May 10th, 2022 by Daniel Podgorski

[Game: Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, FromSoftware, 2019]
Immortal Severance:

The Pros and Cons of FromSoft’s Action-stealth Hybrid Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

 

Introduction:

By almost any metric, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is a terrific game. FromSoft risked a big departure from the settings, systems, and nearly stealthless, nearly jumpless, stamina-defined gameplay that had made their name across the preceding decade. And the risk paid off! They turned out an exceptional game that really doesn’t slack in any of the conventional categories by which games are judged: it plays well; it looks good; it sounds good; it tells an engaging story. It’s fun! So . . . if that’s all that needs to be said about From’s action-stealth hybrid, then why don’t I love it? I do like it a great deal. But why do I have this nagging feeling that Sekiro, despite its incredibly high quality, will never be listed among my absolute favorite games?

For starters, you can rest assured that the answer to those questions has nothing to do with the game’s difficulty. If you’re here for the next chapter in the ongoing saga of people opining about challenging games, you’ve come to the wrong article. But if not that, then what? Well, perhaps a promising way to go about this is to do what I’ve done in the past when there is an arguable flaw or set of flaws that I think is worth discussing within an otherwise excellent game: draw a clear line between what I like about the game and what I don’t like, in the simple layout of a pro and con list.

Now, when this discussion gets to the cons—to what I consider to be the flaws of Sekiro—they will not be flaws that most people care about. Even calling them flaws will be contentious. But you have to remember that, not very long ago, there was a stretch lasting over half a decade (beginning with the release of Demon’s Souls) during which the majority of the games FromSoftware released were among the greatest games of all time. This article is about gauging how well Sekiro measures up to that very high bar FromSoft set for themselves.

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[Game: Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, FromSoftware, 2019]
Immortal Severance:

The Pros and Cons of FromSoft’s Action-stealth Hybrid Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

was last modified: February 16th, 2022 by Daniel Podgorski

[Game: Dark Souls, FromSoftware, 2011]
Unchosen Undead:

A Thorough Existentialist Philosophical Analysis of FromSoftware’s Original Dark Souls

 

Introduction:

Dark Souls, FromSoftware’s dark fantasy masterpiece, is a seemingly impenetrable work from an interpretive and thematic standpoint. First, famously, much of its worldbuilding and story can be reached only by careful attention to environmental set pieces, optional character interactions, and item descriptions. Second, and more of an obstacle for our present analytical purpose, Dark Souls is a game which seems to be about death, decay, and annihilation—but which is simultaneously a game starring a prophecy-driven character who survives death, and in which souls are demonstrable realities.

But would-be Souls scholars should not despair. As for the subtlety and density of its worldbuilding, this is no rarity in the wider world of art. While it’s nowhere near as complex as a Modernist novel, I would contend that Dark Souls is similarly rewarding to careful study as are, for instance, the works of Virginia Woolf and James Joyce. So, obviously I don’t consider the difficulty of accessing its story to be an insurmountable detriment. And as for the seeming thematic contradictions of the game, these are not intractable.

A reading of Dark Souls as being in conversation with the canon of existentialist philosophical thought yields a relatively straightforward path toward interpretation: Dark Souls, especially through its story and gameplay mechanics, is an allegory for the human condition in an entropic universe with no inherent meaning. That might seem vague and insubstantial, but hereafter I intend to provide support for it (and eventually specificity) through careful attention to both the game and the relevant philosophy.

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[Game: Dark Souls, FromSoftware, 2011]
Unchosen Undead:

A Thorough Existentialist Philosophical Analysis of FromSoftware’s Original Dark Souls

was last modified: May 17th, 2022 by Daniel Podgorski