Can our laid-back gamer reporter with no Souls experience learn to love the uncompromisingly difficulty hit?

You might not guess it from his lifestyle of competitive pole dancing, fine dining with beautiful models, and death-defying adventures, but our crack reporter Mr. Sato also like video games…a lot. “I wouldn’t call myself a hardcore gamer, but I like to play the big releases, take my time with them and enjoy the stories” he says.

Sure enough, his favorite games of the past few years are all high-profile titles that even casual gamers can easily enjoy: Cyberpunk 2077, Skyrim, The Witcher 3, Fallout 4, and Red Dead Redemption 2. But even though Mr. Sato self-identifies as “a middle-aged dude who likes games even though he’s not very good at them,” Mr. Sato has put some very beyond-average amounts of time into those games, as according to his Steam records his playtime totals for them are:

● Skyrim: 241 hours
● Cyberpunk 2077: 280 hours
● Fallout 4: 286 hours
● Red Dead Redemption 2: 361 hours
● The Witcher 3: 392 hours

So when Mr. Sato started hearing all the buzz about this new Elden Ring game, he decided to pick up a copy. Like the other games on his list of favorites it’s a AAA open-world title, but there’s a key difference: Elden Ring is hard. As the successor to the Dark Souls legacy, developer From Software has kept the challenge dialed up to a level rarely seen in modern games.

Let’s take a look at some of Mr. Sato’s notes from his first few hours with the game.

“Got instantly wrecked by the first group of grunt enemies I ran into after the tutorial.”
“Why are all the enemies so crazy aggressive and dangerous?!?”
“I’ve died so so so so so so so so many times!”
“What is this game?!?!?!?”

OK, some early panic was inevitable. Despite Mr. Sato’s love of games, he somehow managed to miss Dark Souls, Bloodbourne, Sekiro, and Demon’s Souls, Elden Ring’s spiritual siblings. Let’s fast forward to when he’s put in 100 hours of Elden Ring playtime, to see how much progress he’s made.

“Keep getting murdered by even the weakest enemies.”
“This game is freakishly unforgiving!”

Still, Mr. Sato persevered, and after much blood, sweat, and tears, he managed to Redmane Castle, entry point to the boss fight with Starscourge Radahn. Mr. Sato was feeling pretty proud of himself for this accomplishment. While Radahn is a boss you can reach fairly early in the game, Redmane Castle is at one edge of the map, so Mr. Sato figured he had somewhat of a handle on what the game was going to throw at him by this point.

He was wrong.

Radahn is a giant armored warrior with a humongous sword and a horse fused to his lower body, plus the ability to turn into a veritable meteor for good measure. The fight with him is exactly as bizarre and difficult as you’d expect from a foe with such a diverse set of monstrous equipment and powers, and Mr. Sato muttered “Dammit” each and every one of the 50 times Radahn killed him. That doesn’t mean he only died 50 times, though. It just means that he switched from “Dammit” to “Yep, back to square one” for deaths 51 to 100, and stopped keeping track after his number of deaths hit the triple digits.

But something else happened after he passed 100 losses. The deaths stopped being discouraging, and Mr. Sato’s mood switched from “I can’t take this” to “Let’s go again!” He stopped wasting movement, learned how to differentiate between Radahn’s different attacks, and made smarter decisions about when to go on the offensive and when to back off. His cries of “What? How?” transited to “Ah ha!” and “Gotcha!” His notes at this point read:

“This is what makes this game incredible. It throws things at you that make you say ‘This is absolutely impossible! There’s no way you can beat this thing! It’s ridiculous!’…but then before you know it, you can’t believe how much better you’ve gotten. From Software is incredible.”

Before Mr. Sato could achieve victory, though, he was faced with the sudden arrival of a new enemy: the coronavirus. A positive test confirmed he’d been infected, and he’d need to spend one week at a quarantine center in downtown Tokyo. Since he’d be unable to leave the facility during that time, he figured he’d be able to kill time for a large chunk of his stay settling the score with Radahn. Unfortunately, thogh he remembered to bring his PC with him when he checked in, he forget his controller at home, so he had to order a new one from Amazon and have it delivered.

With overnight shipping, on Day 2 of his quarantine Mr. Sato was ready for Round 100-something with Radahn. He loaded up his save file, marched up the red sand hill towards the boss, and…

beat him in five minutes.

Yes, it seems that Mr. Sato had, as the Souls community likes to call it, “gotten good.” He felt a strange mix of the joy of victory coupled with just a touch of disappointment at a major component of his plans for how to spend the week having wrapped up so much quickly than he’d expected. But hey, with over 100 fights against Radahn, he couldn’t say he wasn’t getting his money’s worth out of Elden Ring, and with plenty of bosses left to beat and mysteries left to solve, it’s hard to think of a better game if you’re not going anywhere for a week.

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[ Read in Japanese ]