Elden Ring vs the internet

When I tried to play the original The Legend of Zelda as a kid, it felt like one of the most obtuse, secretive, and difficult games I had come across in my early video-game-playing career. It seemed like you would either need to call Nintendo (they did have a tips hotline), get a guide (which was a physical book back then), or rely on word-of-mouth tips and tricks from friends and strangers alike. There was something magical about accidentally discovering a hidden passage beneath an otherwise-mundane-looking statue or bush. The Legend Of Zelda was a thing of, well, legend.

Over the next couple of decades, it would be dissected, poked, and prodded until all of its nebulous secrets were teased and disseminated, but in those early days, it was truly something special.

This is how I feel about Elden Ring. It has so many secrets and hidden items and passages, and so much of it is deliberately opaque or unclear or flat-out silent when it comes to what you must do to get a certain item that will open a secret area that will then give you access to another secret item.

Elden Ring - Forest-Spanning Greatbridge

But thankfully — and also unfortunately — we have the internet, where the answer to every question is just a few keystrokes away. Don’t know what to do with the Deathroot you collected? Google it. Wanna know where to get the best shields? Google it. You want to know more about those turtle-looking things with the bells on their bellies? Google it. (Or just check out our own guide.)

No longer does anyone need to be reliant on the kindness of strangers or know-how of friends and co-workers; it’s just all there, somehow, as if by magic. Some poor soul did the work and posted it, and within minutes, if not seconds, their findings are plastered all over YouTube, Reddit, and any number of video-game websites, publications, and clickbait cesspools. 

Now for someone like me, this is a blessing. I have been able to locate decent early gear and have knowledge of at least three decent rune-farming locations. I knew how to access Roundtable Hold super early, and also how to find secret caves and teleportation locations. I knew not to just run past that thing without doing X, Y, and Z so I wouldn’t have to return later. 

And sure, I could’ve avoided all of that outright, but the information exists and is easily accessible. Plus, I don’t want to spend the rest of my life trying to figure out all this, or lose any more of my hair from ripping it out in frustration. It’s a convenience, and one I have taken advantage of. I regret none of it. Knowing where to find something doesn’t take away the cool feeling of obtaining and using it for yourself. Much in the same way I don’t care about spoilers — knowing what’s going to happen is usually far less impactful than actually seeing how or when it happens.

Elden Ring - Armorer's Cookbook

However, I can’t help but to feel that the magic of a game like Elden Ring, which is very much rooted in the sense of exploration and discovery, is not as pure in the era of the all-knowing internet. It might have been better had it been released in a different, earlier time.

Obviously, it is impossible to know for sure. Just as it’s impossible to say that a game that uses (for the most part) the technology of the year 2022 could’ve been released in any other year, let alone decades in the past. So this is just a thought exercise at best. But considering how much Elden Ring actually reminds me of the original The Legend of Zelda (way more than it does The Breath of the Wild), I can’t help but wonder, “What if?”

What do you think? Would Elden Ring have been more magical if its secrets were relegated to the discovery of determined souls, shared more intimately between friends and cohorts? Or does the fact that the internet renders it accessible to all make it better? For me, knowing more about it made it feel far less daunting, and I might have never purchased it otherwise. And then, I guess, I wouldn’t be having this conversation at all.

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