With Elden Ring released, there are a lot of walkthroughs and guides for min-maxing and perfecting your gameplay. While all of those are important and complex parts of this title, we'll take a look into the top ten art and the aesthetics. There are a lot of details put into the story-building, and we're here to go over how the game gets us hooked from just the first few minutes.
10. The Slow Introduction of Gold
Gold color and gold light are not only backgrounds but also an essential part of the gameplay. You save the game at golden sites of grace and follow the golden light on your map. However, even before we know how big of a role gold plays in the game, we are given hints from the moment we launch the cinematic.
Before we see the first picture, we glimpse a golden light. A single golden spark is what brings our character to life. When we exit into the first area of the game, Chapel of Anticipation, we see a large tree made of golden light. We can tell how important gold is long before discovering how it helps us in the gameplay.
9. The Intro
Of course, the introduction to one of the best PS5 games is the most basic way to set the tone. However, we need to know the basics to tie in the subtleties. The opening is less of a cutscene and more of a storybook-esque experience. This adds to the feeling of stepping into a fairytale, but more Hans-Christian-Andersen-esque and less Disney-like.
Moreover, the narrator's voice gives us a sense of grandeur. He delivers a speech with incredible passion and truly makes us feel as if we are not only worthy of becoming Elden Lord, but there is no other option for us. This feeling of grandeur is something to take note of, as it hangs over the entire game, but its presence waxes and wanes at intervals and plays a vital part in getting us hooked.
8. Building Us Up, Just to Tear Us Down…
After that intro, no matter how nervous we were before, we are now hyped to get into the game. That sense of grandeur has a tight hold on us, and we're ready to take on the (game) world. We're one of the tarnished, we got revived by a golden spark we don't fully understand yet, and we are going to become the Elden Lord, even if it's the last thing we do.
With that mindset, we go out into the world. Everything looks magical, there's a huge golden tree entirely made of light - how interesting, we think - and the blue mist surrounding us gives everything an air of mystery. It's the perfect setup for heroes such as ourselves, and then: BAM! There's a boss fight, and we lose immediately.
7. The Architecture of the Chapel of Anticipation
Now let's take a moment to further look into how the first area heightened that sense of grandeur. (Take a shot every time we say "grandeur"! Actually, don't; it's a keyword in this article.) We already mentioned the unfamiliar gold tree, how it's juxtaposed with the blue surrounding it, and the mist that hangs over everything. Now, we delve a little further.
The first few buildings we see seem enormous, almost larger than life. Then, we encounter what looks like a triumphal arch covered in statues. We'll tentatively call the style baroque, but whether that's the right word to use or not, everything is covered with different statues. The arch leads us into a once-intricately decorated graveyard that's now more or less in ruins. We barely have time to let our minds wander before we're attacked.
6. … Then We're Built Back Up Again
Our morale and spirits low, we sulk until we realize that we're meant to lose there. The sting of defeat is still present, though, and the devs seem to know this because we have a cutscene where a mysterious maiden reassures her horse (really, she's further reassuring us) that we are indeed still capable of great things yet to come.
After that defeat, we find ourselves underground, almost as low as our spirits. Now, equipped with the ability to heal and replenish our magic, we can go through the (optional) tutorial. The game lets us explore more carefully, feeding us bite-sized pieces of information about the game mechanics. We slowly learn the ropes and get ready to explore the world.
5. Getting Killed by the Boss Was Essential Part of the User Experience
While failing to beat an enemy is a common motif in many games, we would argue that it's not just thrown in for the hell of it here. In fact, it's an essential part of the players' first impression of the game. Much like in Bloodborne, we are meant to lose, showing us how much danger lurks in the shadows of the fictional world.
Moreover, imagine how it would be if we didn't get killed immediately. We start the game, feeling hyped up from the intro, thinking we can take over the world. Show of hands: how many people would just skip the tutorial to get into the game and get killed anyway? Don't lie now. This is a way for FromSoft to purposely create a scenario that would happen anyway.
4. Gradual Buildup of the Tutorial Area
Now that we are defeated, the area around us is equally dark, matching our mood. Just imagine how subtly irritating it would be for the area to be bright while our pride is still stinging from the defeat. We most likely wouldn't notice it, but subconsciously, we would definitely be prone to irritation. By putting us underground, the mood matches on all fronts.
Moreover, the tutorial isn't completely dark. While it does have some illumination from candles and bonfires around, that still isn't enough to brighten the mood of being underground. As soon as we defeat a couple of first enemies, we get a glimpse of sunlight and the green grass. We go back into tunnels right after, but that glimpse is enough to subtly tease what awaits.
3. Then, We're Just Thrown into the Thick of It Again
We've had our peek at the greenery, and we feel ready to continue forward, enemy by enemy. Feeling emboldened, we step into the elevator, through the doors, and… There's a whole world to explore, bigger and more intimidating than everything we might have imagined. The contrast between the cramped tutorial area and the open world is stark and jarring.
Firstly we are overwhelmed with the number of areas we get to explore. Do we continue forward, or do we go back to check for secrets? However, going back reveals more open space than we expected, so we don't really know if it's a good idea to go that way. Yet, if we continue straight on, we are met face to face with an enemy we aren't strong enough for. Once again, we are nervous, excited, and ready.
2. The Teasers for Future Areas Continue
You are spending hours going back and forth, fighting all sorts of different enemies, and hoping you aren't under-leveled for any of them. In the meantime, you come across different chests. Of course, this isn't unusual for this type of game. Where there are enemies, there is a treasure, after all. The treasure might be a trap, but we can't know for sure how to distinguish valuables from tricks.
However, while Dark Souls players might have expected some version of the mimic, they couldn't have predicted what this game has to offer. Some chests teleport us to entirely different areas! Areas we are seriously under-leveled for, if we might add. While this is a fun spin on tricky chests, it also offers us more things to look forward to.
1. The Use of Color for Storybuilding
Let's circle back to that feeling of grandeur, adventure, and how the Elden Ring uses colors to manipulate these feelings. We already talked about the slow introduction of gold, but we haven't looked at how it's meant to instill a sense of greatness. It's present every time we need to feel hyped up or, more accurately, it's absent when we need to feel down.
Apart from the sights of grace, the tutorial area has very little gold. We get a glimpse of brighter colors, but it's all still very bleak. However, as soon as we step into Limgrave, all the colors hit us in the face. The greens, the blues, and most importantly, the golds. We start feeling ready to take on the world as soon as we see the golds.
Like all FromSoftware games, Elden Ring makes you want to find every detail and item from every area. But, to establish that, it has made us hooked from the very first moment, as our top ten list suggests. Whether you're a seasoned Dark Souls player bent on finding every secret, or a newbie playing a cool-looking game, the devs made sure to get our full attention.
How far are you into the game? What's the thing that made you want to play Elden Ring? Tell us in the comments!