We're so close to the release of Elden Ring that longtime FromSoftware fans can almost smell the game. New interviews and community posts have teased features and interesting information about this new soulsborne in the lead up to release including one provocative quote from producer Yasuhiro Kitao. You can apparently finish Elden Ring in about 30 hours. And although I'm sure that's possible, I'm here to say that you shouldn't.
With the release of Elden Ring barrelling towards us, I played a hefty six-hour preview of the game to get one last long look. And though six hours, on paper, seems like a long time, it flew by. I can't believe that that is in theory a fifth of the game. Basically, I'm calling bullshit: I think that 30 hours will be the run time for a very focused and experienced player, perhaps a player of that calibre on their second playthrough, rather than a normal person's meandering experience through the game.
Although I haven't played Elden Ring in full yet, I am ecstatic with what I got to experience in those six hours. It took me from nonchalantly enthused about the game all the way to declaring it my most anticipated game since being a teenager. Just those six hours were some of the best hours of gaming I've had in recent memory. To suggest that the game could be completed in 30 hours seems extraordinary as it felt like this world could go on forever. Though beating Elden Ring in 30 hours may be possible, I feel it would be doing this game and yourself a disservice.
See, exploration is at the heart of FromSoftware's games. Whether that be hitting a suspiciously placed wall or toying with the idea of dropping off a ledge, asking questions and taking small risks with your gameplay is absolutely what souls players are rewarded for time and time again. It's even a regular prank to exploit that curiosity by leaving notes implying treasure awaits down mysterious drops when death is the only trinket to be found. And Elden Ring wants you to explore and question its world in its entirety.
There was a hiccup in my preview that exemplified this. The notes we got about finding the steed, Torrent, in the game said that we should head to three Sites of Grace outside of the main tutorial area to obtain the magical beast. Sites of Grace, by the way, are this game's bonfires or lamps, letting you take a load off or teleport to another one. The first was easy to see, as it was right out of the gate, and then the second was located in the ruins of a church. The third I found after getting through a thicket, speckled with a few enemies near a cave. Or, as I like to call it, an invitation to adventure.
Heading into that cave revealed not just a Site of Grace, but an unexpected boss fight at the bottom of the path. It was a good warm-up and a lot of fun to encounter a boss that early. Once I'd bested the beastman, I returned to the Site of Grace to collect my reward. But nothing happened. No cutscene, no steed.
The actual third Site of Grace was way up the main path. The one I encountered near the boss battle was unrelated, even if it was the third one I found. I'd seen something that piqued my curiosity and hopped, skipped, and jumped right into an optional fight because it was fun. Not because it was necessary. And this game is going to be full of these choices and moments.
I doubt that anyone, on a first playthrough, will know the path to allow them to get through the game in 30 hours. Elden Ring does have mechanics to nudge you in the right direction—the Sites of Grace leave trails in the direction of what you might want to see next. But along the way, events both good and bad will distract you.
Are you going to tell me that you'll see a mysterious portal on a platform and not go through it? Of course you're going to mess with the portal—we all would. But it might throw you across the map to a new place you've never seen with even harder enemies that will beat your ass into the ground.
Teleporting to any Site of Grace is easy in Elden Ring. You could definitely warp back to the part of the map you were exploring before, but this new area you've been flung to is intriguing. And there are three bodies hanging from balloons over a swamp. What's that about? Oh, and an enemy patrol. I wonder what they're carrying? And boom, suddenly you're having a great time exploring and your main objective has fallen down your list of things to do. Oops, now you're getting chased by a giant bear for a terrifying amount of time across misty fields. Seriously, that guy can move.
Elden Ring could probably be beaten in 30 hours if you strapped blinders to your head. You could strut past that tearful NPC, dismissing her concerns as none of your business. You could find a boss, decide that he's not harming anyone, and you could just leave him be. Just in the first hour you could gallop past guarded treasure and turn your nose up at ancient stairways leading to god-knows-where if you liked. But what would be the point of playing an open-world Dark Souls if all you wanted to do was beat it? It's full to the brim of curiosities and questions you should explore to the fullest extent. 30 hours will be a fraction of the time I'd recommend anyone spend with the game.