Greetings Tarnished, by grace you have been guided here. FromSoftware’s latest game Elden Ring was released on the 25th of February, and in covering it we wanted to capture the excitement currently coursing through players’ message groups, subreddits and pub chats; to acknowledge that FromSoft games are simultaneously played by individuals and solved by communities.
So we bring you The Tarnished Diaries: A regular series in which the voices of those currently exploring The Lands Between arise to share their stories of adventure and ruin; of turtle popes and hoarfrost nerfs. You can enjoy the first installment directly below.
*Spoilers up to and including Raya Lucaria Academy*
Dangerously close to Elden Ring’s starting area, one of the game’s many ruins seems to promise treasure like any other. You clear it out of enemies, find the entrance to the dungeon and descend the staircase. Behind a door is a treasure chest, a nice little treat for your efforts. You lift the lid as you’ve grown accustomed to doing, only instead of finding an item, a puff of smoke consumes your character and you wake up in a cave with nothing recognisable in sight. You look on the map. Fuck. You’re miles away. Further even than you thought the game’s map would stretch. Fuck. If you’re a Souls veteran, you kick yourself for forgetting the one rule – never let your guard down. If you’re new to FromSoftware, well then welcome, this is what it’s like.
There’s a number of teleportation traps in Elden Ring. Being caught by one is frustrating. You’re taken off course, forced to confront a new situation you’re entirely unprepared and likely underleveled for. But there’s something exhilarating about them too. You’re whisked away to uncharted territory, forced to comprehend the initially unbelievable vastness of the Lands Between. The odds seem stacked against you, the game almost delighting in your despair. It’s mechanics like this through which FromSoft build a world that feels truly inhospitable. It’s a world that forces you to pay attention, and punishes you if you don’t. Most ambushes throughout their games can be telegraphed if you pay attention – even Dark Souls Mimics had a couple of tell-tale signs to look out for. But even if you’re observant and considered, you can’t see everything coming. In fact, sometimes it can be your undoing.
As you make your way through the Raya Lucaria Academy you’ll find a giant water wheel reminiscent of Blighttown, only here it’s grand, made of solid stone instead of ramshackle boards of splintering wood held together with rotting strands of rope. You can ride it up to continue the level, but riding it down uncovers a new area with some loot. Jackpot. What happens if you ride it down again, though, aaaaaall the way to the bottom? Surely there’s more treasure to be found for your inquisitiveness. You wouldn’t be wrong in thinking this, but it comes at a cost. At the bottom of this vast ravine you’ll also find an Abductor Virgin, a new enemy with a wicked grab attack. Get killed this way and you won’t wake up back at the Site of Grace as you may be expecting, but instead on a rocky outcrop surrounded by molten lava. Fuck.
You read some of the messages on the floor, perhaps past players have left some pointers. Mostly, though, they are expressions of despair, others simple messages of encouragement. Even here, in the midst of a volcano, surrounded by enemies and swirling magma, you’re not alone. “Don’t give up”, reads one. You pick yourself up and soldier on. What else is there to do? At first there doesn’t even appear to be a path forward. But jump across the lava and a cave shows the way onwards. Soon enough there’s another apparent dead-end, but walk deeper and the floor will cave in.
The way out isn’t as simple as that, though. You’ll have to face up to a boss version of the very enemy that sent you here, and it comes alongside another similar foe with different weapons and a varying moveset. Fuck. The Abductor Virgins aren’t the toughest boss of the game, though they may give you a bit of trouble, but once again the game has so carefully constructed a sensation of overcoming great odds. When I first woke up here I was pissed off. The game wasn’t playing fair. I was busy making progress elsewhere and eager to get back to it. But now I’m emerging from this sub-basement of Volcano Manor with a cocky swagger. Fuck yeah, I made it out. Now let’s get back to it.
Words: George Parr
Intro: Luke Jackson