Elden Ring softens the blow of defeat with sublime comedy


The often goofy, tragi-comedy deaths in Elden Ring make failures a little less disheartening

The first thing you’ll usually hear about a FromSoftware or Souls-like game is its difficulty. It’s not an unfair characterization, as you will die many, many times playing these. I know I have. But every death in Elden Ring has felt a little lighter thanks to the absurd comedy it can often be.

To be fair, the tough parts of Souls games have always inspired some laughs. Moments like getting kicked off a ledge by a giant skeleton were always a bit funny, in that “oh you got me FromSoft” kind of way.

Something about Elden Ring just feels like it lends itself well to the humor, though. Maybe it’s the open-world structure, where many more elements can interact than before, and combat encounters are less obviously signposted and cordoned-off. Maybe it’s the actual content itself; Elden Ring is full of enemies who are huge, angry, and able to wallop Tarnished to a pulp.

Bruh are you fr rn? @ELDENRING pic.twitter.com/f6lDBFXMc4

— Moose (@nmoose2) February 27, 2022

Something about the way things can so quickly go south keeps me running back in. Earlier this afternoon, I took a “lunch break” (read: Elden Ring break) to check out a beacon that had been on my mind. When I dropped by, I saw a cart nearby, led by giants and escorted by a host of soliders.

“Easy enough,” I thought, in the same way Wile E. Coyote probably thought a roadrunner dinner would be a convenient snack. I swooped in on horseback, spear and fiery Faith magic in tow, ready to slaughter the lot of them and steal off with their treasure.

In the span of about 30 seconds, it all fell apart. I was running in circles, trying to re-summon my horse Torrent as a giant man on horseback galloped around, his blade whiffing over the top of my head. A legion of otherwise throwaway foes were now a slowly closing wall of doom. Oh, and I failed to notice the magical archers perched on the cliffs. Let’s just say they’re a sharper shot than you might think.

As horns blared out, alerting everyone in a five-mile radius that some Tarnished was trying to make off with their candlelit chest, I galloped off a cliff. Somehow, I did not fall to my death. Just to a resting place directly in front of an enemy’s blade. It’s an important distinction.

Elden Ring is just funny at times. It’s a blend of physical comedy and best-laid-plans falling apart that I love. And the massive world of Elden Ring, with so many areas to explore and certain deaths to discover, feels tailor-made for it. Check out this clip from Dragon Age creative director John Epler:

Physical comedy is the best. #PS5Share, #ELDENRING pic.twitter.com/MzkbSRhtbI

— John Epler (@eplerjc) March 2, 2022

That’s good physical comedy. It’s the kind of laughs Elden Ring is very, very good at creating.

The world of Elden Ring, like other FromSoft games, revolves around death. Outside of bosses and some special enemies, many of the enemies are just goofy henchmen, who will die and die again, just like us.

Just a year ago, I wrote about how Hitman also has a comedic tone to it. Agent 47 is Bugs Bunny, always one step ahead of the clueless targets of his ire, waiting to bring down the opera house on top of them.

In Elden Ring, I’m a bit more like Wile E. Coyote. Sure, one day I might catch that roadrunner. But I’m going to have a lot of catapults flip over on top of me first. And honestly, it’s kept me going as much as the excellent world and combat has. It’s fun to just experiment and wonder “what if,” and then find out. If it spells the end of my Tarnished, at least it was a good laugh.