After years of build-up and hype, Elden Ring – the latest game from Dark Soul’s makers FromSoftware – is finally here… and it’s a bit of a mess, quite frankly.
I’ve never played a FromSoftware title before, but I certainly knew their reputation as critically acclaimed atmospheric games that are punishingly difficult. The leadup to the new game’s release certainly grabbed my attention, with brilliant artwork, a change to an open-world layout and collaboration with G.R.R Martian, the author behind the novels that inspired the Game of Thrones TV show.
With the game launching simultaneously on PC and consoles (both new and previous-gen), and coinciding with the launch of the Steam Deck handheld gaming PC, my mind was made up: Elden Ring was going to be the first FromSoftware game I was going to play. The fact that it launched to absolutely glowing reviews certainly helped cement my decision.
Now, after a weekend of playing the game on both my high-end gaming PC (you can read about how well I got Elden Ring to play at 8K) and the Steam Deck (I also talk about how Elden Ring plays on the Steam Deck), my feelings are mixed. The world, lore and design are phenomenal. However, I was also left frustrated, disappointed and even a little bit insulted.
OK, so some of that was due to the game style. Elden Ring, like the Dark Souls games before it, is hard. One of the first enemies I met in the open-world killed me in one shot. Even small packs of ‘lesser’ foes would take me down easily. It was a far cry from some of the games I’m used to, which offer a challenge, but one that gradually ramps up.
The lack of any major guidance about where to go and how to do certain things was also a culture shock (I actually had to look up a guide on how to open the map, as I don’t think the game tells you). A few hours in, and I quickly learned that I was going to have to drastically change the way I play this game.
No more playing the game the way I wanted to play it. I needed to change my approach and play it the way the game wanted me to play it. I respected the game for that. As I slowly got to grips with how to approach the game, I found many of the frustrations starting to fade away, and the appeal of the game became clearer.
However, there were still some major issues that are preventing me from loving this game.
It’s a mess
Quite frankly, the PC version of Elden Ring is a mess. I am playing on a high-end system with an RTX 3090 GPU, 32GB of RAM and an Intel Core i9 CPU. This is a system that would usually handle any game with ease at 4K – and even at 8K.
However, Elden Ring performed poorly on it, with notable severe drops in frame rates – sometimes to single figures. This often happened near large moving objects, such as big enemies, and when fighting those, the last thing you want is for your frame rate to drop. While fights in FromSoftware games are difficult, they should always be fair, so if you die – and lose progress – because of framerate issues, your enjoyment of a game is going to plummet.
Even worse than unstable framerates is the almost constant stuttering that freezes your screen, then quickly speeds up, as if the game was on fast forward. These happen throughout my time playing Elden Ring and can happen at any moment. Again, they seriously impact my enjoyment of the game, especially when you’re taking your time to enjoy exploring the world.
While these issues could be down to a game being run on hardware that’s not powerful enough for it, my PC easily exceeds the recommended system requirements for Elden Ring. And, while the game’s art direction is great, this is a game that’s also clearly been designed for working on older consoles, and there are better-looking games that run a lot more smoothly on my PC.
The stuttering issues were also present when I played Elden Ring on the Steam Deck, and Valve has said that it’s working on a fix. Meanwhile, a glance at various forums and on Reddit shows that I am not the only PC gamer who is having an issue with the game.
Strangely, it looks like the best way to play Elden Ring at the moment is to play the PS4 version on a PS4 Pro or PS5. Something is obviously not right.
FromSoftware is promising patches and fixes for the game, so hopefully these will address a lot of the biggest problems. However, FromSoftware doesn’t have the best reputation when it comes to supporting and fixing its PC releases, which is concerning.
Back to the dark days of PC ports?
The Elden Ring release unfortunately reminds me of the dark days of poor PC ports, when games makers would concentrate on console versions, then rush out a PC port that lacked features and performed poorly.
Gaming PCs and gaming laptops offer an almost unlimited number of hardware configurations, and I can see why focusing on the set hardware of consoles is more appealing. However, PC gaming is more popular than ever, and both the Xbox and PlayStation 5 now use hardware very similar to PC, which should make poor PC ports a thing of the past.
To its credit, Microsoft now releases pretty much every one of its games simultaneously on Xbox and PC, with the PC versions running as well as – if not better – than the Xbox versions. Sony has also started releasing its games on PC. While these often come a few years after their PlayStation appearances, they often come with enhanced options for PC.
God of War is an excellent example, with the critically acclaimed PS4 game coming to PC with support for uncapped frame rates, ultrawide aspect ratios and performance-enhancing tech like Nvidia Reflex and DLSS and AMD FidelityFX Super Resolution.
With those kinds of improvements, PC gamers won’t mind waiting longer for a game. It shows a bit of respect.
The Elden Ring PC port, however, is – to put it bluntly – a bit of an insult. Not only are there the aforementioned performance issues, where the game really shouldn’t have been released in this state, but the PC port is also extremely bare bones. As I point out in my 8K feature, there’s support for DLSS or AMD FidelityFX, and frame rates are capped at 60fps. Along with the absence of higher graphical settings, this all feels like a game designed for consoles first and foremost, and the PC version is an afterthought.
I’d love to be wrong about this, and FromSoftware doesn’t just fix the issues on PC, but adds additional features to allow us to take full advantage of our hardware. Until then, it’s sadly put me off the game, and it hasn’t made a good first impression at all.
- These are the best PC games you can buy instead
Sign up for Black Friday email alerts!
Get the hottest deals available in your inbox plus news, reviews, opinion, analysis and more from the TechRadar team.
Matt is TechRadar's Managing Editor for Core Tech, looking after computing and mobile technology. Having written for a number of publications such as PC Plus, PC Format, T3 and Linux Format, there's no aspect of technology that Matt isn't passionate about, especially computing and PC gaming. Ever since he got an Amiga A500+ for Christmas in 1991, he's loved using (and playing on) computers, and will talk endlessly about how The Secret of Monkey Island is the best game ever made.