Alden Ring is probably one of my favorite sports contenders of all time. Why would I be waxing lyrical about it nine months after its release? Well, it didn’t quite catch me at first.
From the moment my character shone in the sunlight of Limgrave, I understood the glow of the Alden Ring. There’s a whole world out there for me to explore — and I really want to explore, without festooning markers on the map like in a Ubisoft game. There was a real sense of adventure. But I’m a coward.
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I’ve only finished one FromSoftware game in my life and it’s the excellent Bloodborne. It was a tough, but fascinating, slog. But my sense of what a soul-like game is would only begin after playing a quarter.
My problem, as many other gamers have pointed out, is that FromSoftware’s recent games clutch hard. Sometimes very difficult. Like, “throw-your-controller-deep-beyond-disappointment” hard. I love a challenge, but I constantly feel like I’m on the backfoot, especially in a world where the story and gameplay are so opaque, which means I’m not immediately enamored with the Soulsborn games.
In Alden Ring, I had my virtual backside a few times by a chunky knight or rogue dog. And the fear of losing my hard-earned runes, the currency of Elden Ring, meant that I made glacially slow progress in the early part of the game. Add in an intimidating array of items, abilities, and systems to learn — some more obscure than others — as well as a massive map, and I found myself a little intimidated by the Elden Ring.
The game also came at a time when I had Horizon Forbidden West to play, as well as other games grabbing my attention. I often find that I need to be in the right mood to play Alden’s Ring, as it’s much easier to dive into the Forbidden West and complete some side quests than it is to make your way through a forest with giant bears. Terrifying speed.
My character build didn’t help either. I chose to use a sword and shield, increasing strength and dexterity in what I later learned was known as a “quality” build. It was fine, but something was missing. My two-handed sword-and-shield combo was solid, but unimpressive.
While I haven’t closed Alden Ring, being stuck, playing other games, and the scorching summer heat have kept me from sitting down and sinking all my gaming attention into Fromsoft’s epic RPG.
Dex’s Joy (and Magic)
But then September came and I decided to break my self-imposed rule of finding an Elden ring for myself. I decided to run through some guides on the game’s best builds and weapons.
I learned at some point that I could “honor” my character, allowing me to reassign stat points so I wasn’t stuck with my sword and shield. And I found the Bloodhound’s Fang Sword, which does “bleeding” damage and scales up in favor of skill stat.
After using a few other items and tools, I was suddenly drawn into the Alden Ring. I then indulged in some lore videos, such as those from YouTuber VaatiVidya, who bring to life the lore and lore of FromSoftware games. Now, I was getting hooked.
After a certain point in the game, I managed to make my character a dexterity-and-intelligence-focused spell-slinging, katana-wielding warrior.
Now, I was able to do a lot of damage in a variety of ways. I was still playing cautiously, but I took a few more risks and started to progress a lot through the game. The Alden Ring grabbed me, and wouldn’t let go.
Sure, I still get flattened by some enemies and I’m hopeless at fighting dogs. But killing giant crows with Loretta’s Greatbow spell, then dealing quick damage with the Uchigatana and Moonwell Katana, feels incredibly satisfying.
When the action slows down, the world of Lands Between is simply a joy to explore. It’s not as bleak and dark as the destroyed world of Dark Souls, offering a more high fantasy element, with a mix of dark horror and occasional existential dread. There’s always something interesting around the corner, often telling you more about the story through speculation and information.
Speaking of which, the story feels a little easier to grasp compared to other Soulsborn games, and George RR, Martin’s influence is evident in some of the backstory. It’s fascinating stuff, and it doesn’t hurt that many of the characters have Welsh accents, which bring a smile to this Welshman’s tired face.
I also have the excellent God of War Ragnarok, who will no doubt have my full attention before too long. But this weekend, Alden is calling, and I can hear that deceptively bombastic menu music in my ears.