I was prepared for Elden Ring to try to horrify me with monstrosities. What I did not expect was for the game to make me the biggest monster of them all. It did so with drips of poisonous ambition, the desire to become Elden Lord, the commitment of having come so far already, and the urgings of other people you trust, both from the gaming community and NPC’s.
Far from an indictment, this is a recommendation. The game deserves its 10/10 reviews. Great media make you feel something. Not only did Elden Ring create wonder at the setting and triumph from beating foes that at first seem impossible, but also it pushes you to do the unspeakable, to be shocked and (hopefully) disgusted. From there you can self-reflect and guard yourself against similar paths in real life.
(Light spoilers follow for settings. I will not divulge the shameful things I did more central to the plot.)
No, I’m not talking about the various questlines Elder Ring offers you. You have the option of being something called a Bloody Finger, where you invade the games of other people trying to work cooperatively. And you murder them. I’ve no doubt some endings of the game are gruesome, depending on your choices. Further, it’s a dark fantasy, meaning the setting is screaming with horror.
With all that in mind, here are atrocities I committed in Elden Ring:
- Killed a clan of demi-humans worshipping in nature and their elk god too.
- Backstabbed a knight praying on the grave of his beloved.
- Invaded a multi-species sanctuary and slaughtered them all for loot.
If these sound bad on paper, trust me, the game makes it all far worse. Watching someone do this would be horrifying, and that’s the point. You spend days struggling to get inside a sealed-off city. When you finally achieve that goal, you slowly realize the citizens inside are all grieving. They just barely survived a battle. They are tending to their sick and mourning their dead. And now they must face an even greater evil: you.
To get past them, you have to kill at least some. And because this game is so hard and terrifying, you are primed to backstab these poor souls out of panic.
Fear drives people to do the unspeakable. And I’ve never played a more terrifying (and beautiful) game. Not only are some of the monsters scary, but so is the difficulty. After dying to the same boss ten times in a row, often in a matter of seconds, you can become desperate.
To find help, you may well check the community wiki and online guides, where you will see everyone talking about critical items found in the Haligtree. Only, when you get to that setting, you’ll slowly realize it’s a bastion of safety and beauty for species to come together in common worship. And you’ll feel like you have no choice but to carve a path of death through it to get those items.
Because if you fail to find the loot, all the blood, sweat, and tears you’ve already shed in this game will be for nothing.
But don’t let all that hold you back from you playing Elden Ring yourself. Having these experiences and coming to terms with them are important. We should talk about it and be clear-eyed what fear and desperation can do to people. Yes, we should be posting those memes of “Are We the Baddies?” That’s a question you should never stop asking yourself.
While Elden Ring has a great combat system, let’s remember that in real life the sword isn’t the only answer. Let’s be wary of single-minded pursuits of power. Let’s play horrifying games and build a beautiful world.