elden ring just goes on and on. Arguably the most impressive thing about it: This is one of the densest open-world games out there, yet manages to deliver that richness without feeling like opening the map invites an overwhelming surge of stress-inducing symbols. It is carefully and brilliantly constructed.
The most impressive thing about it, however, is not its size. For my money, the most amazing element of Elden Ring is how adeptly it reuses content, how often it gets away with putting the same things in front of you repeatedly, and how despite quite a bit of copy-and-paste work, the game never feels old .
It’s just a truth of modern game development that assets need to be reused. Everything you see in a game – world geometry, enemies, equipment – everything is expensive. When creating a game the size of Elden Ring, there’s practically no choice but to reuse a lot of things. Often what makes or breaks a game is how that reuse feels; if it reaches the end consumer forgivably and forgetfully – if noticed at all.
In Elden Ring, similar small elements are scattered throughout the world. Pretty much every shack you find that has vendors, NPCs, or loot is one of two or three designs, like The Lands Between has a big tarnished IKEA offering these ramshackle buildings in flat-pack form. The easier optional side dungeons are divided into one of a few different archetypes – Catacombs, Caverns and Mining Tunnels. The geography in each of them is broadly the same with subtle differences depending on which area you’re in – but you never really notice enough to really care.
In a way, this works partly because it’s often contextualized within the world. All of Elden Ring’s churches are identical in design, often with Sacred Tears upgrades found in the exact same location in each individual church. But while they’re all identical, a developer has quietly meddled in the world editor and tweaked each basic template ever so slightly, with things like the crafting materials and general junk around the church being subtly different in each area, helping to make them as not for sale an area copied from elsewhere but somewhat embedded in the area of the game world where it is found.
The side dungeons mentioned above are probably the biggest culprit for where the game feels the same. Catacombs, in particular, are built modularly from box-shaped rooms. In one dungeon, content reuse was made more evident by the fact that a room that would normally have three guillotine-type blades as hazards has been repurposed to have just one blade – but the markings in the walls and floor for the others both blades were still there. The level designer has just eliminated two dangers. Which is fair enough really – but I’m noting this because it was the one time I’ve actively noticed and mentally noted content reuse.
Just really noticing one instance in a hundred or so hours is very good, isn’t it? Of course, I’ve noticed things like enemies getting subtle variations, or the game’s dragons all having the same broad movement set, but each having a different elemental affinity (one might breathe fire, another freeze, another rot, and so on ). – but none of it was prominent enough to pull me out of the experience.
As always with things like this, it’s quite difficult to articulate or even pinpoint exactly what it is about this world that makes this type of content reuse work. But if I have to say something, it’s about balance.
Yes, a lot of stuff is reused in the world of Elden Ring – but rotate the camera a few degrees in any direction from inside one of those reused churches or whatever, and you’ll always have a beautiful, impressive, fully bespoke building or see piece of geometry in the distance. And of course you can go there. These aren’t just cute skyboxes in the distance: it’s all real world. It’s all within reach. And so much of it is full of bespoke beauty and horror that when you see something too familiar, it’s always easier to forgive.
Few games really capture that feeling – but Elden Ring is one of them. Considering it’s FromSoftware’s first open world, it’s an incredible achievement. When I start a third save, this time on console, I don’t care that I’ve seen this whole world before. Somehow it still feels fresh, which is amazing.
https://www.vg247.com/elden-ring-content-resuse-masterclass Elden Ring is a master class in content repurposing