Elden Ring - Leyndell Soldier Armor Set

I know it’s been said before, and it will no doubt be said countless more times. So you’ll have to indulge me for just a moment and allow me to say it (or type it, rather) myself: Elden Ring is truly one of the best games I have ever played. It is an expertly designed gaming experience that reshapes the way I think about games as a whole — more so than most of the other games I’ve played in the past several years. 

I love RPGs like The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, and the Mass Effect trilogy. But despite how great those games are, there’s always one constant element that drags the overall experience down and makes playing them, at times, a bit of a slog. I am talking about the amount of dialogue the player has to endure — or, at the very least, actively skip past — in order to enjoy the overall gaming experience, whether that be a great combat system or deep and rewarding exploration elements. 

Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a good bit of dialogue, especially when told using incredible voice acting and well-produced animations. But it doesn’t take long before the endless expository dialogue and NPC yammering starts to wear on me. 

Elden Ring - I Offer You an Accord

My normal approach when I start playing a new RPG is to exhaust every dialogue option presented during a conversation to really immerse myself in the role I am playing and take in all of the juicy details and tidbits of the world around me. After a couple hours, though, my playstyle usually morphs into a just-the-facts Joe-Friday approach. This is made all the more helpful if the mainline dialogue options are highlighted from the ancillary ones, or if your responses are purely mood- or tone-based, so no matter what you say, you will always end up at the same destination in the conversation.

If you play RPGs mostly for the story and lore and getting to know each character in and out, then you probably think I’m crazy. And, fair enough. But I play these sorts of games to get lost in the world; to feel like a badass running around slicing and dicing or slingin’ Fus Ro Dahs and mammer-jammers — or to simply spend an inordinate amount of time fishing.

Elden Ring - Peace and Quiet

So Elden Ring‘s lack of hundreds of hours of text and character dialogue is actually quite refreshing. The game told me what I needed to know and gave me the option to eke out a little bit more should I so desire. But, by and large, FromSoftware just let the world and my actions within it do all the talking.

In fact, I feel like, of all the conversations I’ve had in Elden Ring, not including the philosophical musings and utterances of dying bosses, the amount of dialogue I have had to sit through is roughly about as much dialogue for a single questline in a game like Skyrim. Hell, it feels like the “Do come back” shopkeeper in Skyrim rambles more than any quest giver in Elden Ring.

Skyrim - Do Come Back

So yes, gone are the sleep-inducing musings of some Ren Fest-reject of a quest giver who wants to regale you with stories about his wife or some upcoming festival, or having to sit through some errand boy whining about so and so looking for such and such, and how you are their only hope, and blah blah blah…

Most of the time, video-game dialogue isn’t all that captivating — or all that well-written — and the line deliveries are often drawn out. In the case of Bethesda games, the same handful of voice actors are used across dozens of characters, so everyone starts to sound the same. Elden Ring doesn’t bother with that. Or rather, even if a character’s dialogue is drawn out, considering they are likely the first person you’ve heard speak in probably a number of hours, it is more welcomed than, say, listening to some merchant badmouth Geralt for the umpteenth time.

Because that’s really the crux of it: I don’t mind NPC banter and story lore — and sometimes I even enjoy it — but in moderation. I don’t need a soliloquy or monologue every five minutes like this is a Mike Flanagan TV show or something.

Elden Ring - Thou Shouldst Take the Crown

Having now found my Xanadu with Elden Ring, I fear I will never be able to go back to the dark days of encyclopedic jaw sessions just to find out where my next quest marker is.

Thanks Elden Ring. But also, thanks, Elden Ring.

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