It may have taken a grand total of 82 hours, 42 minutes, and 42 seconds, but here I stand with the Platinum Trophy for Elden Ring – that is to say, I have done everything the developers, FromSoftware, have deemed award-worthy from its plethora of content. I – and my character ‘gary of indiana’, a samurai who looked like she’d come straight from a child’s scribbles – am done with Elden Ring, at least for the moment.

Elden Ring is a fantastic game, one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had playing a video game in a long while, and now, as the credits roll, what thoughts do I have about the game as a whole? Here are some of them, dispensed in a very Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen) manner.

Elden Ring has some of the most visually stunning boss battles out of any Soulsborne game, with some, like Malenia Blade of Miquella/Queen of Rot gaining worldwide recognition in the gaming community, even outside of Soulsborne players. However, with this comes the fact that the bosses are just given a lot of bullshit. Like every Soulsborne boss, the fight largely comes down to learning timings (and a certain amount of luck), but you also need to beware of the sheer amount of bullshit moves Elden Ring’s bosses are given. From broken grabs with uncertain hitboxes, stupidly massive area of effect attacks, and rapid status effect attacks, you need to constantly be on your guard once you traverse that boss wall fog. A lot of early attempts on the bosses will leave players yelling out enraged ‘What’s, and ‘How is that even fair’s because at points, it doesn’t feel fair.

Commander Niall, a late-game boss in West Mountaintops of the Giants starts the fight by summoning two incredibly powerful ghost soldiers while he focuses on you with incredibly strong elemental buildup attacks. With every hit the aforementioned Malenia lands, she recovers some of her health, so if you don’t die to one of her Waterfowl Dance attacks, your progress in the fight could be undone. That’s why I recommend spirit summons – especially if you live in areas with poor internet connectivity – if even to momentarily draw aggression away from you to heal or use an item or spell. Spirit summons are sometimes looked down on in the Elden Ring community as an ‘easy mode’ cop-out. Spirit summons are such a help during difficult fights it’s almost ridiculous, especially once you’ve levelled them up somewhat with Roderika, so, don’t knock them until you’ve tried them.

One of my favourite things about Elden Ring is its stunningly beautiful open-world map with FromSoft’s trademark brand of environmental worldbuilding. Unlike previous Soulsborne games, running into a boss you can’t beat doesn’t mean you’re stuck bashing your head against a wall for untold hours, you can simply just go somewhere else. Elden Ring’s map is absolutely massive so it offers near-infinite possibilities through its varied areas and character questlines. This was such a refreshing innovation to the traditional formula, allowing me to go effectively have a training montage in an area hundreds of miles away from wherever I was previously until I felt secure enough to go back and take on what was challenging me.

What I think sells Elden Ring most compellingly is that at no point does it ever feel too hard. This comes in part from the help of multiple playstyles and weapons and the openness of the map, but everything in Elden Ring feels so much more rewarding than in FromSoft’s previous titles, and therefore more accessible to the new player. The Lands Between feel like an epic fantasy world – no doubt due to George R. R. Martin’s writing contribution – that’s simply calling out to be explored. The various landscapes – the plains of Limgrave, the waters of Liurnia, the harsh rockiness of Altus Plateau, the stately splendour of Leyndell – are so varied that reaching them makes you feel like you’ve achieved something. Each one is that large that it also gives you more than enough time to become used to the area’s peculiarities, and how its enemies function before going onto the heavy hitters of bosses like the Shardbearers.

Elden Ring feels like a crowning achievement in a series firing on all cylinders. It manages to perfectly mesh the single-path narratives of previous FromSoft games with the open-world choice of games like Red Dead Redemption 2 without sacrificing the soul of its predecessors. Elden Ring is an amazingly beautiful and incredibly well-structured game, and, without a doubt it’s my game of the year.