The hardest thing about Elden Ring? Ending it
Eritrea was on fire. I beat the penultimate boss just a stone’s throw away from his entrance and transformed Leyndell into an ash-white valley of soot and ash. This charred, burning world would soon be mine to control. I had explored every catacomb and dungeon to find this place, just minutes away. I was done fighting bosses; there were no mountains to climb — both literal and metaphorical — but I was still at the site of grace, searching Wikis desperately for any other content that I could mine from the game. I couldn’t or was unable to complete Elden Ring and then move on.
It is not unreasonable to get attached to a videogame. At least, that’s what my brain keeps telling me. The last 200 hours spent with Elden Ring have included a review period in which I called the game a masterpiece. Since then, the game has been a consistent and consistent activity that deferred bedtimes to allow for one more cave to be found or another grace to be discovered. The magic of Elden Ring is the feeling of discovery that you feel when you find new things or stumble across an enemy or area you have never seen. It would be much less fun and even worse without these things. However, the same excitement of discovery can become addictive. It’s like a hit to the brain that makes it feel numb.
It didn’t surprise me — I could tell when the game was ending. My long journey was ending, and characters started to refer to it. I could sense myself searching for anything, any other thing. I would tell myself that there was still the Haligtree, and I would venture further north to meet a fantastico with whom I had never had a dispute. I won’t finish the game unless I complete everyone’s NPC quest. I would say this while pinching my nose to fulfil the demands of the evil Dung Eater. Hey, I wonder what happens to that guy when he dies. I wouldn’t ask anyone in particular while swinging the sword. It turned out that he was of a lesser kindred of Rot when his death occurred, which was enlightening.
There came the point when I could not find the right things on my own. This was when I changed my relationship with the game from discovery and delay to one of the desperate last attempts to extract all the content so that it didn’t become too obvious to me and allowed me to move on to another game. My phone was also essential to my play experience. It became a small magic rectangle in my hands attached to Google and wikis and able to show me the little bits of gaming I have yet to discover in the Lands Between. It was a Maiden that became so indispensable that Varre would be jealous.
However, this use comes with a price. The novelty of discovering things by myself was what I loved about Elden Ring initially. I could either bang my head against a boss for an entire hour or find something new to make me stronger and wiser. There’s nothing new at the end of the game. I don’t have any more wisdom or strength to gain. I had only the boss to help me, and they wouldn’t last forever. So I dug into the depths of the item guides to find the last cave I could explore or the side boss that I should have killed 100 levels ago. Although it was empty and hollow, it was a victory.
The last few weapons were mine, and I could get the rest of the talismans that I thought would be useful. I also got armour I wouldn’t wear, with lore I don’t know how I understood. I looked at the map, wondering if I hadn’t explored it enough or if there weren’t enough points to travel. Standing on the Liurnia cliffs, I looked out at the sky to see something new. Although I’m unsure if it hurt my experience using a guide to numb the last few hours, it was less exciting than the first few hours.
It was not long before I was back at the Elden Throne. My Tarnished sat at the last site of grace, one leg bent up and the other flat. It was not over. I was sure there was something else that I could find, kill, collect or kill again. I knew that there was, but I decided to move on. While it does not diminish my love for the game, it does free me from trying to distort any feelings I felt to get a few more drops.
Eventually, my Tarnished had to walk the 15 seconds between grace and the stairs. Equipment was checked once more, the controller batteries were charged, and trophies were lined up. I pressed triangle to move through the golden fog and confronted the boss. Since then, I have not looked back.