FromSoftware's Souls games have a bit of a thing for holes.
They're everywhere, often hidden in the depths of caves or on the edge of boss arenas, and if not surrounded by red splodges of doom, then littered with messages from other players daring you to jump.
It's disconcerting, then, that at the start of Elden Ring you're met with a gaping hole. A ghostly figure sits watch, while your eye is drawn up to a friendly door - clearly the right way to go.
"Nope, I won't be fooled. Not jumping down there," I thought.
Turns out, that hole is the game's tutorial. It's entirely missable.
It's in that hole you learn the basics of attacking, backstabbing, and stealth. I had no idea that guard counters were a thing until I watched someone else play through the tutorial where the new move is detailed in a cheeky boss encounter.
I suspect many players, like I did, sauntered past it, venturing into the Lands Between without a grasp of the controls.
this is probably the funniest level design of the year to me pic.twitter.com/HqZ9rAUarV— Bruno ☠️ Dias (@NotBrunoAgain) March 2, 2022
Elden Ring is a tricky little game, but it's all too easy to set off on the wrong foot. Surely you'd want players to understand the basics of the game before letting them loose in such a punishing world?
On the one hand, an optional tutorial does mean Souls veterans don't need to go through the basics again - though some of us can still miss important details. On the other, it's a remarkable bit of trolling from FromSoftware, especially when so many games hand-hold in their opening hours.
It's also an accessibility nightmare. Elden Ring has been rightly celebrated as the most approachable Souls game yet - despite its lack of any accessibility features - due to its array of combat options and the ability to simply ride off on your horse if you get stuck. But that approachability is thwarted when players can all too easily miss the chance to learn the basics from the off.
You start the game weak with a plethora of bosses and dangers awaiting you. You're already on the backfoot. I don't think a mandatory - or at least more obviously discernable - tutorial at the start would harm the game's opening at all. If anything, it would only add to the game's much-praised approachability. Lure us in from the start and let us get to grips with the basics, then you're free to troll us.
The Souls games are known for their mystery and hiding nuggets of lore in item descriptions. But hiding the tutorial in a hole? That's a step too far.
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