Why Does Elden Ring’s Open World Never Get Boring?

Elden Ring as you’ve no doubt heard, is an insanely popular open world game. I, like many other people, have been enjoying it since the day it came out. It’s pretty much all I’ve done since I got it and that’s quite surprising. I mean I love the whole “souls” series but I’m not a big lover of open worlds, yet I’ve put over 60 hours into Elden Ring. I still have a while to go until I get to the end but I’m loving every minute of it. Why is that? What is it about Elden Ring that’s kept me hooked when I can’t even finish most open world games I play?

The best thing about Elden Ring is how it avoids overwhelming the player. This can be seen in how the world map grows as you progress. At the beginning, you can see very little of it and each time you get to a new area it zooms out a bit to show how much more there is. This has two advantages. On the one hand, not knowing how big the world is instils in the player a sense of mystery. Remember that a huge part of what makes Elden Ring so enjoyable is a exploring and discovering a whole new world. Until you’ve actually found it all, you’ll never know how much there is left to discover. There are always new mysteries ahead.

On the other hand, it’s not overwhelming. If you had access to the full map right from the start it would undoubtedly be daunting. You’d take one look and say “I have to go through all that?!”. But that’s not how it is. Rather, the map is presented in small chunks. The world never seems too big because you don’t know how big it is. You only know the size of the part you’re currently in, and that there might be something more ahead.

Yes, there are map icons but they only show up once you’ve reached them. They’re more like progress trackers.

Another element that makes the map less daunting is the lack of overworld icons. People often point to the Assassin’s Creed games as a bad example of this, and rightly so! I remember playing Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey. When the map opened up, I saw all these icons of enemy encampments, caves to go in, forts to capture or whatever. Seeing it all laid bare like that really put me off. At that point, the game wasn’t giving me a world to explore but showing me a list of activities I could do. It’s too much all at once.

That leads into my next point. Elden Ring lets players choose their own pace. Despite not showing icons on the map or even having an in game quest log, there is actually a ton of stuff you can do from the outset. However, with a few exceptions, all of it is optional and can be done out of order. For example, the game points you towards Stormveil castle at the start but I got lost and ended up discovering 2 other huge parts of the world before I found my way into the castle.

And I didn’t even have to go back. Out of the 150+ bosses in the game, only 13 are mandatory. The fact that the game never tells you that you need to go somewhere or do something specific means that all the time you’re playing, you’re only going where you want to go and doing what you want to do.

The game’s story and the way it’s told also lend to that sense of freedom of exploration. You’re only given one basic objective to complete; become the Elden Lord. Apart from side quests, that’s pretty much the whole plot. In this way, Elden Ring avoids the narrative dissonance present in other open world games. Usually, they have a main character who needs to save the world and a villain that needs to be stopped, but of course the villain only moves on with their plan when you do the next main story quest.

Look at all this stuff I can’t use… for now

In many open worlds games, everything that isn’t part of the main quest just kind of exists in a bubble. If you’ve ever played Skyrim you’ll know how silly it feels when the dragons are invading and the Greybeards call you from the mountaintops but you go off to pick flowers for potions instead.

In Elden Ring you never feel like you’re taking a non-canonical detour off the beaten path because there is no beaten path. You’re only ever doing what you want to do in its world.

And that pretty much sums up why Elden Ring is so addictive and entrancing in a way so many AAA open worlds are not. You are always going at your own pace. It is truly a sandbox in the sense that it offers you a world and just lets you go nuts, while rewarding you constantly. Even if some things are repeated like mines and catacombs, they’re all varied and contain unique items. Even if they’re weapons for builds you can’t use you can re-spec your character later or at least, learn a little of the lore in the item description.

Elden Ring just lets you enjoy its massively detailed world and doesn’t expect anything back. It perfectly encapsulates the idea of a free roaming sandbox RPG.

I’d love to hear your own opinions about Elden Ring and any other open world RPGs that give you that same feeling of freedom. If you liked this article, check out this other article about other games that focus on Exploration and Discovery.


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