I finished the game after around 120 hours. I spent all that time trying to explore as much as I could, hoping that I would not miss anything in my first playthrough. I was happily disappointed to discover that I missed quite a lot, which means that a second playthrough at some point in time will provide me with enough extra content to explore.
If you're not familiar with Elden Ring, you might've heard about the category of games that are too unfair and too hard for people to beat, to which this game also belongs. It's made from the same company that made all the Dark Souls games, and if that name is familiar to you at all (or the category souls-like), you might understand that this game is a tad more difficult than other games, even though it isn't as hard, in my opinion, as the third Dark Souls.
Anyway, I recently played it for the first time, after being away for 7 months and having no way of exploring the vastness of the Lands Between on my laptop, and considering that I put 120 hours into the game, you can deduce that I had quite a lot of fun. If I were to come up with a list containing all the things that I like about it, we'd be here for a while.
Aside from the game being difficult pretty much... everywhere, this particular feature is more obvious when it comes to its awesome bosses, which were always, to some extent, the main feature of such games. The bosses are always hard to beat, especially the first time you play the game, and they require both skill and persistence to kill them.
Having previously played and beat all the other souls games, I pretty much knew what to expect. I am not an amazing gamer by any means, so I was aware of the fact that I'll struggle here and there. I did better than I expected, but I still got stuck sometimes. My refusal to use any aid expect my ability to get better (such as summons) made things both harder, but also more enjoyable.
As I progressed through the game, one thing that stood out more and more was that the bosses I encountered became more difficult to deal with. The Godskin Duo, Malenia and the insufferable Mohg were the ones I struggled with the most. They are notoriously difficult to beat, or at least annoying as hell (I'm looking at you, Mohg, you disgusting creature), so I mentally prepared myself.
One thing that I learned from playing the previous dark souls games however, is that regardless of how difficult a boss is, and regardless of how much you die, you will, eventually, beat them, if you simply persist. Our brain is capable of learning to do quite a lot of things, if given enough time and enough practice. This means that I always managed to beat a boss, if I simply kept calm, understood that the process can take a while, and allowed myself to just get better at hitting and dodging.
With this in mind, I went into those fights fully aware of the fact that I'll die, again and again, yet completely confident that if I keep calm and I just persist, I will, eventually, be victorious. And so it was.
The Godskin duo wasn't as hard as I expected, but tedious as hell. Mohg was annoying, but I managed to beat him in a few hours. And Malenia? Well, that took longer. Way longer. After around 3 days of trial and error I finally beat her. Not long after that I finished the story and beat the game.
In each case, persistence alone was key. Sure, I was consciously trying to always get better, avoid all attacks and deal as much damage as possible. But I didn't blame myself, or the game, for dying too many times. I died for a reason - the game is difficult. There's no reason to blame myself for not being good enough or the game for being too hard (after all, that's one feature of From Software games). All I needed was to get used to the fights, and to be better. I achieved that, always, in every souls game, by just not giving up.
I wanted to highlight this important factor that goes into playing such games because although we are aware of it there, we completely choose to ignore it in our day to day life. Getting demolished by Malenia again and again is fine, because you will eventually beat her. But failing that interview? Making a mistake at work? Not coding a program perfectly for the first time? How dare you? What is wrong with you? Why can't you focus and be better?
We criticize ourselves so much when it comes to things that we do in real life, but we are way more patient when we play video games, especially the ones that are made with difficulty in mind. That's not really fair, is it? Everything that we do, especially for the first time, is going to be difficult, to a certain degree. And in order to get past that, we always need to get a bit better at that particular thing. The concept is always the same. And yet, our behaviour isn't.
That's what I finally realized while playing Elden Ring. I can be patient and allow myself time to get better when dealing with a very difficult boss. Why can't I do that with everything that I do outside of a game? Why can't I be just as patient with working out, instead of giving up after two weeks because I don't see any results? Why can't I be just as patient when I'm trying to write an article that just doesn't seem to be as good as I want it to be? Why can't I be just as patient when getting my life together? After all, with every single one of those things, persistence will get me there.
One of the factors might be time. You know that in a game you will, eventually, beat the boss within a day or two, a week at the latest. And even if you don't, there are ,usually, other things that you can do aside from that boss or that difficult part in the world, so you're never really stuck. With life, things are different. Mastering a skill can take decades. Getting good at anything can take months. And more often than not, all that comes with a degree of frustration from not knowing, exactly, what you need to do to get where you want to be.
Obviously, you can't compare real life with video games too much. Things take way longer, you have responsibilities, serious problems that you'll have to deal with that appear unexpectedly and much more. You don't really have all this in a video game. But it doesn't necessarily mean that life being more serious than a game means that you have to be so much harder on yourself and to blame yourself for things that don't go your way. After all, life's complexity means that things are even harder than in a game - therefore, you should, in theory at least, be nicer to yourself.
One of the many reasons why games are so fun is because you can just fail, again and again, without suffering any real consequences. Not being mean to yourself, therefore, isn't that hard. Failing doesn't necessarily come with a wave of self criticism that destroys your self esteem and puts you into a depressive state from which it is very difficult to get out. Failing is taken lightly, because you can always try again, and you know that success is just a few tries away.
Although the obvious differences between real life and video games should serve as argument for why we're more critical of our failures in our day to day life, we could at least try to make and effort and treat progress in the same way we do in a video game. Of course, you should try hard to improve. But failing shouldn't be considered as "proof" of your incompetence, followed by criticism and, eventually, giving up. Failing is natural and more common than success and the only way to get better is to persist in your attempts, until you become good enough to not fail any more.
This topic is way more complex than this.
But learning to be more patient, and to trust that repeated attempts, even if they are followed by repeated failure, is, more often than not the only way to get what you want, is much better than beating yourself up for every mistake. Failing, in this case, is just part of growing, regardless of how cliché it might sound. Even if you feel that you're not moving forward, you are, even if you're not aware of it. All it takes is for you to be patient enough, to fail enough times, until the moment when everything clicks and you can overcome whatever obstacle you're facing.
Therefore, it might be a good idea to be kind and understanding when you fail, and persistent enough, without getting frustrated at what appears to be futile attempts. Every time you try, you get a bit better, even if you don't notice it at first. Try for long enough, and you might just make it.