If Elden Ring Keeps Patching Bosses, What Does That Say About FromSoftware’s Vision

It’s tempting to think of the days before patch notes as a golden age for gaming. It used to be that you bought a game from the store, you’d put it in your console, and away you go. No downloads, No microtransactions, no patches, just the full game. Plus, since development time was much shorter back then, you’d have a sequel in your hands just 12 months later. While patches do a lot of good – and gaming has undeniably improved as an industry – seeing games like Elden Ring be constantly tweaked does take away the charm a little bit.

There are some obvious rose-tinted glasses going on here. Those of us who remember the days of buying Tomb Raider on PS1, plopping it in the disk tray, and then raiding tombs immediately were probably children then. Gaming is a young medium, and only recently has it become more of an adult-oriented hobby. With that has come more inclusivity and diversity, plus more progressive and refined storytelling. Gaming still has a ways to go, but it has inarguably improved as an art form. Still, things are never better than when we were children, so we all remember those pre-patch days fondly.

In a way, we’re right to. Yes, gaming and the gaming press is less crammed with sexism, and representation is better than ever, even if it still has a ways to go. But in the most basic sense, it was a better user experience when you could just put a disk in your console and immediately begin playing it. And would we rather have one Tomb Raider game a year at the standard of Tomb Raider 2, or a Tomb Raider game every four years at the standard of Shadow of the Tomb Raider?

It’s a question with an obvious answer, until you realise that likely means gaming never becomes a major mainstream hobby, the billion dollar investments disappear, and envelope pushing titles like The Last of Us and Red Dead Redemption never materialise. This brings us back to patch notes – it’s definitely better that developers have the technology to fix anything broken in their game post-launch, to take on board fan feedback, and, in live-service games, constantly maintain the meta. But when you look at Elden Ring, it’s easy to make the case that the way we use patches still needs some work.

Elden Ring’s most recent patch made Malenia harder to fight, by nerfing Swarm of Flies. Elden Ring’s fanbase likes to crow about the developers’ vision being the reason we have no easy mode, but doesn’t it go against FromSoftware’s original vision to change fights once people begin to strategise? Isn’t the entire point of these games to die over and over again in the quest for perfection? Other bosses have been tweaked previously too, and it’s now perfectly possible that one player could have beaten the game taking on all bosses at their worst, while another has done so taking on all bosses at their best.

It also made certain speedrunning strategies impossible, meaning the world record time is unlikely to be broken unless another patch offers a new shortcut. While I’ve written about the inventive speedrunners who play their own way, the core speedrunning community is all about getting the fastest time possible. Stopping them from doing that, just because some other players were having too much fun, feels incredibly foolish.

Then there’s the map itself. At launch, some complained that the lack of objectives and arcane map made the game too difficult to fully enjoy, while others yet again crowed about the importance of FromSoftware’s vision. Within a couple of weeks, the map was patched to include more guidance, so I’m not sure where that leaves the original vision. FromSoftware clearly views Elden Ring as an elastic game – when players stretch it too far with cheese tactics, it snaps back. When players strain against it too much, it yields and stretches.

Adapting the game to the community’s needs seems like a good idea, until you realise it is making battles harder seemingly for the sake of it. This was not a one-hit kill bug, an invisibility glitch. It was simply a clever tactic that could be used to exploit a single, specific enemy. Given how much FromSoftware has changed the game post-launch, it makes a mockery of the idea that its vision is sacred. Most games will tweak dialogue not triggering, quests that break if played a certain way, or polish animations. Elden Ring instead is watching how we play and deliberately getting tougher.

It feels foolish for a game that has frequently decried the need for an approachable easy mode, especially given that Easy Mode is one of the game’s most popular mods. And no, ‘just play [insert x build]’ does not count as an easy mode, especially as builds are essentially locked in at the start and patches down the line might cotton onto this idea and make it the hardest way to play instead.

As much as we might have preferred the good old days of gaming, as we sat in our bedrooms eating microwave pizza, things have gotten better. If games were broken back then, there was nothing to be done. Now, they can be fixed in a cinch, and devs can listen to the community and adapt the game to its needs. But if this means watching the community rally together to overcome said obstacle, and then making that wall even higher, you have to question why FromSoftware is doing this.

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