A reader explains his emotional reaction to completing Elden Ring and how much it meant to be playing alongside other people.
Elden Ring is, as you may know, very difficult. It’s also very, very long and many people take upwards of 300 hours to complete it all. That’s exactly what happened with me and it’s interesting to see so many people finishing at around the same time, staggering bleary-eyed into the summer heat, after having had a deeply emotional gaming experience.
I’m not a big fan of stories in games. I don’t want to stop playing to watch a cut scene or, even worse, just walk or drive along doing nothing as people babble away, stopping me from getting to the actual gameplay. A linear game like The Last Of Us, which might as well be a movie (or in fact a TV show) for all the difference it makes does not interest me, so I certainly never got emotional about that kind of thing.
Elden Ring does have a story but it’s very obscure and open to a great deal of interpretation, especially as you can miss entire chunks of narrative, and whole characters, if you don’t pay careful attention. I think I understand most of it now but that is also not why I got so emotional about the end of the game. I cried real tears, not so much from the relief of beating the beast (literally) of a final boss but the game as a whole. And I suspect my fellow cooperators might have been reaching for a hanky too.
If you’re not familiar with Elden Ring or other FromSoftware games I’m assuming that knowing it takes 300 hours to beat already says a lot, but it is a very long journey to the end. Not only do you want to explore everywhere but you kind of have to, in order to level up enough to take on the various enemies. There’s a flurry of boss battles towards the end that are especially arduous and given the size of the game you’re never quite sure when it’s going to end.
But when you return to a certain location, that I shouldn’t spoil, and find that this time you can proceed through it you know the end is nigh. Then the theme music kicks in for the final boss fight, as the last pieces of the plot begin to click into place. It’s an awe-inspiring moment but you then run into the grim reality of Elden Ring once again: beating the final boss on your own is nigh impossible. If you’re not a gaming superhero you’re going to need friends to help you.
There’s a corridor leading up to the final boss fight and when I used the item to reveal co-op signs from other players, allowing you to bring them into your game, suddenly the whole area lit up with golden symbols. Elden Ring is primarily a single-player game but every step of the way you’re accompanied by messages from other players. You can see them, ghost-like, for a few seconds as they battle in their world or examine bloodstains on the floor to see how they died. Even in the hardest moments of the game you’re reminded that everyone else is suffering the same problems but when it comes to a boss battle you get the chance to help each other out.
With ordinary bosses this can be a fairly clinical affair, with other players appearing, maybe offering a curt bow, and then getting on with business. With the final boss though you could tell the atmosphere was different. Players linger longer before starting, using emotes to twirl and dance or pump the air, or using a Prattling Pate to say hello or thank you.
Everyone looks different, from wizards and witches in their giant hats to heavily armored knights and people with strangr armor that you can’t help wondering where they found it and how you missed it. Many begin complex preparations, sorting out weapons and activating magical incantations to buff and protect themselves – and often you as well, since many protection spells can cover multiple people.
Then you start the battle and it is, as ever, a nightmare, where even the smallest mistake can spell instant death. Inevitably you end up back at the checkpoint and call for more help, which often turns out to be the same people, their air pumping now replaced with dejected emotes acknowledging defeat or calls of ‘Apologies!’ from Prattling Pate.
But you knuckle down and try again and then, finally there is victory. Not just about the final boss but the entire game. The victory dances are the same as always, but you sense they’re not just of joy but gratitude to the fellow players whose lives they have briefly touched. It’s a moment I’ll never forget and, yes, I did cry. Not rivers of tears but an outburst that was half relief and half happiness.
I spent long minutes pondering over which ending to activate and then, finally, it was over. I may start a Journey 2 one day but it’ll never be the same. Elden Ring has been a part of me for months and now it’s finally over. That’s the real reason why I shed a tear and I don’t regret any of it for a moment.
By reader Kakoon
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