Elden Ring: what makes it unique compared to other open world video games?

Elden Ring: what makes it unique compared to other open world video games?

Elden Ring

We have seen tons of open world games by now. Since hardware has been able to handle these larger and more complex structures, many developers have flocked to unleash their creativity in this new form. Many have used the open world only to lengthen the game's contents a little, adding an infinity of collectible items scattered around the map and a roundup of unoriginal side missions. Other video games, on the other hand, have been able to demonstrate the true potential of this structure, giving us an unparalleled freedom of approach and a mad desire to explore the map full of points of interest, secrets and goodies of various kinds.

History, as we know, tends to repeat itself: in 2017 we were playing a thick "classic" open world, when this was overshadowed by the majesty of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. We are clearly talking about Horizon Zero Dawn and it happens that this year its sequel has been released, in turn overshadowed by another more niche video game, but undoubtedly capable of making people talk about itself.

Elden Ring has proven to be a valid candidate to go down in history as one of the best open world titles ever made, capable of challenging even the untouchable Zelda. Although this is the first interpretation of From Software with a structure of this type, the developers have easily managed to stand out from the crowd, introducing solid elements and game mechanics, perfectly integrated with the typical traits of soulslike video games. We have already talked far and wide about Elden Ring on the pages of our site, where you will obviously also find our Elden Ring review.

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In this special we want to focus on another aspect and try to tell you what makes Elden Ring a truly unique open world video game, starting from its game map, up to the exploration mechanics and the meticulous collection of information regarding the lore. We will then see why Elden Ring is different from other open world games, with some direct comparison with the recent Horizon Forbidden West and Dying Light 2, and why it manages to capture the player in an open map so damn well orchestrated that it has already made us enjoy. dozens of hours of gameplay.

Recompose the game map

Since the first open world titles, the game map was an important element. Over the years we have seen maps become increasingly large and bare, and then return to the more contained ones but full of content or a good balance between the two variants just mentioned. Undoubtedly the most common map structure is what is often called "Ubisoft". This is because historically it became famous at the time of the first Assassin's Creed and then was always picked up by Ubisoft in Far Cry, but also by other developers such as those of Horizon, Days Gone, Death Stranding and many others. This is the classic map divided into different zones (unlockable through towers or elevated points), each with various points of interest marked with icons. Even the untouchable Breath of the Wild uses a similar structure, with the towers gradually unlocking the entire map, but then leaving the player free to explore the rest.

Elden Ring instead takes a different path. First of all, at the beginning of the game we will not have the faintest idea of ​​how big the entire Interregnum (area in which the game is set) is. While in other open world titles the map, albeit obscured, is already present immediately, in Elden Ring you must first go to find the various pieces to understand its size and extension. In fact, at the beginning of the game we do not know how far the map extends to the north, south, east and west, but we will have to orient ourselves by looking around and using the visual reference points so as not to get lost in the Interregnum.

This could also prompt us to immediately move towards each border of the map, in order to collect the various pieces to compose the game world map and have a complete overview of everything around us, even if this would involve inevitably a visit to areas that are decidedly more complex and difficult to deal with. By adopting this approach, we will be able to better understand any information that will be provided to us by non-player characters or object descriptions and give them a spatial location on the map.

A different map from the others

The Horizon Forbidden West map is loaded with icons and tokens to indicate points of interest Once we have collected a few pieces of the game map, we can immediately notice a further detachment from other open world video games. What immediately falls to the eye is first of all its artistic originality. Opening it from the game menu we can see how well it was designed, outlining many small details on the digital parchment. The other thing to note is the total absence of points of interest, typically available through the classic icons scattered along the map. By combining these two points, we can understand what the intent of the developers of Elden Ring was: to make us identify as much as possible in our alter ego which is for the first time in the lands of the Interregnum. Other video games like Horizon Forbidden West and Dying Light 2 (just to name a few recent open worlds) have accustomed us to something else, as you can see from the images in this article.

In Elden Ring, however, We must orient ourselves by looking once again at the most important landmarks, such as the gigantic Mother Tree, the castle in the distance or the large lake in the plains. We have no icons, light signals or other obvious aids on where to continue our journey. The only thing that comes to our aid are the glows of lost grace, but available directly as elements of the game world and not as part of the HUD, to give a greater sense of immersion to the player.

Another example of a typical map of open world games At this point there are two possible ways to go: either let's explore every square centimeter of the map on foot to look for any secrets, caves or other places of interest , or we rely on the map. We have said, however, that the map has no indication and we will not deny it at all, but we can rely a little on our explorer intuition and try to interpret it better. In fact, on the map there are clues, intelligently hidden to be noticed only by those who observe well, like any bewildered traveler who does not know where to go. In fact, looking closely we can see some small indentation in a rocky wall, which could indicate the presence of a cave. Similarly, trees indicate a wood, probably with some precious object or a particular place of interest. The roads instead show us what are the main routes, where perhaps we will meet some other traveler like us or at least they will take us to another point to be explored in detail.

Talking with some characters in the game or buying certain items , you may get additional information and clues. For example, you may hear about a cave south of a hill next to the lake. Said so it means little or nothing. The first question that can come to our mind is: but which direction is the south facing? Following the initial amazement and after a few deep breaths to find calm, it is enough to combine the information of the compass present on the map, the map itself and the visual references in the game, to make the exploration in Elden Ring something truly fascinating. Of course, the player is asked for a greater commitment, an analysis of the data in possession and in general it is more difficult to orient oneself. At the same time, however, finding a secret place by combining various clues gives us a satisfaction not even comparable to other games where with the GPS guide we are able to directly reach the treasure sought.

But why should I explore?

Elden Ring's first mini-boss All extremely cool: find clues, study the map and explore the game world to uncover the next big secret. But why should I do it? This is certainly a question that many have asked themselves, not only in Elden Ring, but also in other open world video games. In fact, these often turn out to be optional activities and consequently lacking interesting content or enticing rewards. The player is typically allowed to continue directly with the main missions to advance with the game and reach the ending without too many frills. Even in Elden Ring it is possible to do it, but there is a factor that hinders this choice not a little: the difficulty.

While in most open world games the difficulty tends to be low (and can be further lowered with the appropriate settings), in Elden Ring we are not allowed to choose the game difficulty and it is definitely above the average of any stock on the market. This, in addition to giving us a lot of satisfaction in defeating the hostile boss on duty, strongly pushes us to explore the environment.

The central hub of Elden Ring, where we will meet many NPCs Every small object, weapon, shield, information, clue, advice or simply every downed enemy is able to increase our chances of continuing in the game. On the one hand we will collect precious objects to equip on our protagonist, on the other hand we will learn to master the combat system to also improve our skills pad in hand. Without forgetting the precious clues that we will be able to collect, such as discovering that the frustrating boss with whom we are losing our minds can be easily knocked down with the use of fire.

In short, the game does not push us to explore as many titles with a similar structure do. It does not guide us to search for plants in the woods via a side mission or the urgent rescue of a non-player character in a cave along the coast. Everything is left in the hands of the player, who will have to decide whether to explore or not. And although he does not feel forced to do so, we are sure that many wish to discover every little secret in order to make their character stronger, discover some interesting details about the lore and therefore continue in the fascinating Interregnum.

The diary, a precious travel companion

The huge explorable area of ​​the Interregnum In Elden Ring, the developers have included practical tools to help you explore the lands of the Interregnum. The map is undoubtedly the most useful for this purpose. However, greater participation is required of the gamer, since the map tends to be bare. The numerous icons, points of interest, collectibles, position of non-player characters and other references must be marked directly by the player, using the practical tools offered through the map menus. This is another game mechanic that pushes us to identify with our alter ego, manually marking the things that most interest us. Often you will also find yourself facing inaccessible points or simply too difficult to be addressed at your level. These should be marked on the map, to maybe pass them again in a few hours of play.

However, there is one thing that is actually missing in the video game and that we believe is really useful in order to improve your experience with Elden Ring. We are talking about a travel diary. Yes, you got it right, a diary, a digital notepad or if you prefer the classic pen and paper. While in other open world games most of the information, side missions, tasks to be performed or other information are collected through a special game screen, here, by choice of the developers, we wanted to give more responsibility to the player, who must keep to mind what it does. Always under the banner of immersion, just as if we were venturing into the Interregnum, we must take notes if we want to remember the information acquired.

Exploration in the lands of the Interregnum Keeping a diary and taking notes will not only give you a better overview of what has been done and what remains to be done, but will also help you to better understand the game world. In fact, at the beginning you will find yourself lost in a completely unknown world of which you know absolutely nothing. As per tradition, in soulslike games you will find clues in the descriptions of objects, non-player characters or other visual elements in the game. Also in this case keeping a diary, a collection of information or if you prefer, a kind of Wiki, will help you immensely if you like to deepen the lore of the game. Keeping track of the various information acquired and from time to time, between game sessions, calmly reviewing it in your journal to make conjectures or assumptions about what happened, could lead you to find out some things in advance and get a better insight into what happened. game world to face it better or to make certain choices in the future.

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