Elden Ring's mechanics encourage greed on a whole new level

Image for Elden Ring's mechanics encourage greed on a whole new level
(Image credit: FromSoftware)

I talk to myself a lot when I play games. I blame it partly on streaming, because you have to verbalise every cohesive thought you have to entertain a live audience. But it's mainly a way to chastise myself... how better to kick a bad gaming habit than to shout like you're your old Year 7 teacher, eh? When I play Souls games, there's one line I find myself repeating over and over: "Don't get greedy Imogen. Don't you dare get greedy".

FromSoftware games encourage greed. There is something about the desperation of its boss fights and the compulsion to go for that last hit just before an enemy counterattacks with its own killing blow. I wonder if the developers tuned enemies to somehow always have that last sliver of health, or if it was just a happy coincidence of the games' notorious difficulty. 

When it's a boss, you can get frantic. Just a few more hits, just a little bit of lifebar left, just one more push. You have no stamina, you're low on health, and risking it all in those manic seconds may finish your enemy off once and for all. More likely, however, you'll find yourself splattered. That's desperation greed.

Elden Ring - The Prisoner

(Image credit: FromSoftware)

Then there's complacency greed. You may have seen this one monster a thousand times before, so you charge in with just an ounce of hubris. In frustration or boredom you keep swinging and ignore that they've hit you back, and before you know it a flurry of attacks from some damn skeleton has stopped you in your tracks. 

FromSoftware knows how to build greed into its games. In Bloodborne there is a fully dedicated mechanic to encouraging players to attack after taking a hit, which rewards you with some of your health back. And now in Elden Ring, FromSoft has decided that long-term greed is the name of the game. And it's deliciously cruel. Health items in exchange for finishing a pack of enemies. 

A little way into the six hour preview of Elden Ring I played last week, it's explained that if you keep pushing and finish an entire group of bad guys, you can be rewarded with a partial refill of your healing flask of crimson tears. It means that if you come across a camp or a patrolling group and get hit hard, you have an option: Run away and try to do it all again from the beginning, or keep pushing on to scrape through. 

Elden Ring storyteller

(Image credit: FromSoftware)

It's a more considered approach than the vicious 'rally' mechanic in Bloodborne but it's just as dangerous, if not more dangerous, in what it's daring you to do. With Bloodborne you get to see the payoff of your decision instantaneously, and just one tap on your enemy could be the difference between life and death. For Elden Ring, you might not ever be rewarded for sticking out a fight. 

You've taken down six of eight men. You could hop on your spectral steed and bail right now, happy with your moderately successful winnings, and come back fresh in 10 minutes to try the whole group again. But that's you admitting a little bit of defeat. There are just two baddies left, right? You've cleared the rest. These guys are no different. You're low on health but you could theoretically take them on, right? Leaving now hurts your pride. Leaving now is letting them win. Leaving now may be wasting your time. FromSoftware is waving the equivalent of a red napkin at a bull and whispering "I dare you". You could beat them. Could.

And the greed's got you. 

As a proud woman, I'm going to fall for these tricks a lot. It's a chance to push on. It's a chance to keep going and keep my momentum up. I can do it if I just believe. But there are going to be cases where I see a familiar enemy and hubris intoxicates me once again.

Find me streaming Elden Ring next month to say it along with me: "Don't get greedy Imogen,. Don't you dare get greedy".

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Imogen has been playing games for as long as she can remember but finally decided games were her passion when she got her hands on Portal 2. Ever since then she’s bounced between hero shooters, RPGs, and indies looking for her next fixation, searching for great puzzles or a sniper build to master. When she’s not working for PC Gamer, she’s entertaining her community live on Twitch, hosting an event like GDC, or in a field shooting her Olympic recurve bow.