It's Elden Ringmas, the one year anniversary of our 2022 GOTY (opens in new tab)'s launch, and I'm here to tell you it's time for a replay. Wake up, Tarnished, we've got an Erdtree to burn, these 107 unique bosses (opens in new tab) aren't gonna beat themselves!
My first Elden Ring character is one of my favorite guys I've ever made in an RPG—I started with the Samurai class, and opted for a sort of Sekiro shinobi look with dual katanas (including my beloved Moonveil) and the surprisingly stylish altered Preceptor Robes. When I finally beat the game after 100 hours, all I wanted was to keep going with this same guy in New Game Plus, but therein lies a problem: the supposed expansion pack.
The lonely DLCwatch (opens in new tab) continues, an echo of the long wait for Elden news after that first cinematic trailer in 2019. FromSoft expansions are often the best parts of their respective games, the studio let off the leash to create something wild and surprising in a context they're already familiar with. When the best part of Elden Ring finally arrives (and I do think it's still coming, even one year later) I want my #1 best boy to be ready to experience it day one, and not with souped-up megahard NG+ versions of all its enemies.
So, time to make some new guys, and I think this was a blessing in disguise. Even with overpowered outliers like Comet Azur, the Blasphemous Blade, or, I can't deny it, Moonveil hogging all the spotlight, there are so many viable ways to play Elden Ring. It demands experimentation with alternative builds and playstyles.
This is demonstrated masterfully by the YouTuber Ongbal (opens in new tab), who's made a series of videos showcasing an almost virtuoso playstyle switching between disparate weapons mid-fight in the far reaches of NG+7. Just a month after launch I tore through most of it again with a strength build-adjacent guy—Bernahl's Beast Champion Armor makes for a great fit, and Blaidd's Royal Greatsword is one of Fromsoft's best interpretations of its "big ole' Guts sword" weapon category.
I've been having more fun with my third run though, thanks to one weapon: Eleonora's Poleblade. The Darth Maul wannabe twinblade weapon category was an inspired addition to Dark Souls 2, and like so many ideas from that game, it reached its full potential in Elden Ring. Much as I love the idea of going full General Grievous with dual twinblades, I think single weapon, two-handed is the way to go here—it's a phenomenally satisfying moveset, and the crazy Jedi flip weapon art is difficult to time correctly, but oh-so-satisfying when you pull it off.
And after almost 200 hours in this game, I'm still finding stuff I missed: Stillwater Cave, Sainted Hero's Grave, Tomsbsward Catacombs, and I'm sure even more areas all flew under my radar the first time around. Paradoxically, I couldn't help but stumble into the Three Fingers Frenzied Flame side quest that first playthrough, and the path to Elden Ring's crazy hidden, crazy evil ending is well-worth seeing if you haven't. So too is its potential reversal with Miquella's Needle, an obscure sidequest that unites disparate plotlines ranging from Milicent's story to the history of Farum Azula.
So join me in returning to the Lands Between, I don't think you'll be sorry. There's bound to be something you missed or an alternate path for you to take. You won't catch me choosing anything but the Age of Stars ending though—no one can convince me it's not the only actually happy ending, and it looks like most other players agree (opens in new tab). I just caught the other ones on YouTube—that Frenzied Flame ending is a bummer.