Since the start of the new year, outside my regular Marvel Snap sessions, the two games I am spending the most time with are Elden Ring and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. For the latter, I am trying to finish it before Tears of the Kingdom releases in May. As I’ve been playing, I am seeing many similarities. Unsurprisingly in both cases, it’s the exploration that keeps me engaged.

My map in Elden Ring, showing the regions I've been to and have information on. It is about 50-75% complete

I don’t know what I’m doing

Elden Ring isn’t my first attempt at the Souls genre (I honestly don’t know what else to call it). I played a couple of hours of Bloodborne back on the PS4 but lost interest pretty quickly. I even got in a few hours of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. Sure, that’s not quite the same thing, but it has a lot of the same elements. Speaking of that game, I’d like to go back and try to finish it before its sequel launches later this year.

At the time of this blog, I’ve put in close to 30 hours into Elden Ring and I still don’t know what I’m really supposed to do. Yes, I know I need to secure the titular ring, but how, exactly I’m not sure. I’ve spent the majority of my playtime wandering around, doing my best to survive and collect runes, so I can improve my character.

I’ve died a lot. Not only that, but I don’t know how many runes I’ve lost, I’m certain it could have helped me early on. After spending time walking into a new area, I’ll encounter a boss or strong enemy I wasn’t expecting and die because I wasn’t ready. In most cases, I’m using my time attempting to find as many of the Lost Grace sites as I can because, for me, they are the most important. If I’m not close to one when I die, I’m incredibly disappointed.

My Elden Ring character looking up into the sky and gazing upon the big tree glowing

It’s all about the wandering

As someone who loves narrative-driven games, except for most sports games, I shouldn’t be enjoying Elden Ring as much as I am. I enjoy open-world games, but they still have the plot to follow. Sure, you have room to deviate a bit, you have an objective that you must complete, and that drives me.

Elden Ring doesn’t really have that. There are no quest logs and no clear story that’s easy to comprehend. Yes, some Lost Grace sites give you hints on the direction you should go in, but they don’t explain why or what you’re supposed to do.

With Breath of the Wild, it’s a bit different. Yes, you are very much encouraged to wander around and see what you can find. But at the same time, you are given objectives that you need to complete. I’m far enough in the game that I only have one of the remaining Divine Beasts to obtain. Once I’ve completed that, I’m more or less at the point of the game where I can attempt to fight Ganon.

Zelda holding the Master Sword in a cutscene from Breath of the Wild

Let me do as I please

Honestly, I’m not sure how many actual hours I’ve put into Breath of the Wild at this point. I got that game nearly six years ago, and I probably have another 5-10 hours remaining. My latest struggle was trying to get to Goron City so that I can attempt that last Divine Beast. I finally got there, but it was a challenge.

By accident, I managed to find Master Sword, so that’s already in my arsenal. There are still a lot of Shrines I still need to find and complete. I could do a few of the many sidequests I’ve unlocked. At this point though, I just want to finish the game.

But even so, I’m enjoying the exploration. I don’t mind spending another 10 hours if that means I discover something cool along the way. Accidentally entering the Lost Woods and getting to Master Sword was a treat because it came as a welcomed surprise. I think that’s also why I’m enjoying Elden Ring as much as I am. When I find something cool, it just encourages me to continue looking for more stuff.

Link in flame protection armor wandering north of Goron City

Far from perfect

Going back to Breath of the Wild, I remember why it’s a game I’ve dropped off of a few times. I am not a fan of its combat. I’m not sure if it’s the Switch control setup that frustrates me more or the weapon degradation and enemy types. Again, I’m nearing the end, so I’m willing to push through to see the game’s conclusion. Meanwhile, with Elden Ring, since I have no idea where I am in the game’s story, I’m just going to continue to play and see where it takes me.