You don’t have the right, O you don’t have the right
FromSoftware fans like to recount the story of the origins of Demon’s Souls’ co-op mode – how Hidetaka Miyazaki and a group of fellow motorists helped push each other up a snowy hillside before going their separate ways – and no wonder: it’s a fine illustration of how imaginative designers find inspiration everywhere. What’s never told is where Miyazaki got the idea of allowing other players to simply enter your game and murder you. Perhaps we’re better off not knowing. These two sides of the same coin have been on our minds this month as we’ve watched how Elden Ring has been received by FromSoftware veterans and also newcomers who’ve finally decided to dive in and see what all the fuss is about. Inevitably, both camps made a lot of noise, but not for the same reasons, and seeing the latter group explain why Elden Ring gets so much wrong, from its tutorial to its storytelling and beyond, has been quite the ride.
The reality, of course, isn’t so much that the game does things the wrong way as its own way. That’s kind of the point with FromSoftware games. If you want something that plays and functions like Assassin’s Creed, there are literally 12 Assassin’s Creeds you can go and play right now, with more on the way. Which isn’t to denigrate Ubisoft’s series: at the risk of repeating ourselves, the fact is that we need games to exist in all styles, and to be given the breathing room to be themselves. Because the grey, homogeneous alternative doesn’t bear thinking about. (If the weird upshot of all this is that the official Elden Ring Twitter account feels an obligation to post links to unauthorised tips videos for beginners because so many people are being so vocal about how everything is so unfair, so be it.)
If you need familiar handholds in order to engage with something, cover game Flintlock: The Siege Of Dawn has them in its combat, which has echoes of the classic Dark Souls formula. Critically, though, it embroiders them into a system that is very much its own, wrapped in a fascinating setting that feels largely unexplored. Our exclusive report begins on p50.