Shadow Of The Erdtree Confirms I Don’t Like The Look Of Elden Ring

Elden Ring is FromSoftare’s most popular game, but it can’t match the aesthetic brilliance of Bloodborne.

Shadow Of The Erdtree Confirms I Don't Like The Look Of Elden Ring

Elden Ring is an excellent game. It’s the most densely designed open world I’ve ever explored, one where, even in areas you’re ridden through a hundred times, there are always more secrets to uncover. During my time with the game, I would sometimes walk a few meters further in a direction than I had before and find something entirely new waiting for me. If you love to explore, there are few games better.

But I would sure want to explore more if I actually liked the way the Lands Between looked. The reveal trailer for the upcoming Shadow of the Erdtree expansion confirmed what I already knew, even if I didn't want to admit it. Elden Ring's aesthetic does nothing for me.

There’s cool stuff in the trailer. A big cocoon thing with a withered arm hanging from it, blood dripping over a domino mask. The Erdtree, which shone bright during the base game, is now dead and glowing orange. A manor house surrounded by dead trees, which drape decaying foliage in the sky above it. A cyborg lion is there too. This imagery is undeniably cool.

But I’ve spent the first few months of 2024 returning to Bloodborne. I know I said that game looked old, and it does. It came out nearly nine years ago and it shows. But Bloodborne holds up because its atmosphere and level design are unparalleled. FromSoftware’s 2015 masterpiece makes you feel like you’re completely alone, wandering a gothic Victorian city on the most dangerous night of the year. The sky is blood red, the streets are cobblestone, the enemies range from basically normal looking villagers to eldritch horrors. It’s an evocative game, with a specific and perfectly realized setting. I respond to it viscerally. I’ve always primarily played games because I love the feeling of being immersed in a world, and Bloodborne's Yharnam is an all-timer.


I feel this way about other FromSoft games to varying degrees. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice ended up not being for me, mostly because of its intense difficulty and the lack of RPG elements which would have let me overcome that difficulty over time. But its Sengoku-era setting combined with mythical monsters felt really specific. If I achieve my 2024 goal of finally beating Bloodborne, Sekiro is the From game I’m most eager to try again.

With Elden Ring, I'm not nearly as compelled by the aesthetic of the setting. Some of this may be a problem of scale. There are wonderful areas within the Lands Between. Raya Lucaria has a terrific aesthetic, and the moment I first made it past Margit, the Fell Omen and into Stormveil Castle felt as good as uncovering a new area in Bloodborne. But, the world is so broad, so spread out, that those memorable areas end up counting for less than they do in a smaller game, where you’ll pass through each location time and time again, working it into your memory.

All of this has me hoping that wherever FromSoft goes next, it’s a smaller world that I can get fully invested in. Wishing for Bloodborne 2 seems like a lost cause at this point, but a game that manages to capture the same feeling of exciting discovery in an aesthetically interesting, intricately constructed, dangerous world is all I want.

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