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Elden Ring's platforming is so bad it's good

Falling for you

A cloaked warrior looks up at a large monster on top of a cliff in Elden Ring
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/FromSoftware/Bandai Namco Entertainment

I think "platformer" and my next thought is "slick". Hollow Knight springs to mind, as does Ori, as does Celeste. They all have precise and snappy movement, with upgrades and new abilities that add complexity without stodge. As for 3D platformers, Super Mario 64 remains a glowing example of how movement makes exploration joyful. String together rolls and jumps and you're not just navigating a world, but bounding through it like a gymnast (who's also a part time plumber to help pay the costs of serious competition).

Elden Ring is a terrible platformer. It's stiff and awkward and less gymnast, more Gimli on the Buckfast. But this is what makes its platforming sections good. They force you to embrace your limited toolset and channel your amateur longjumping, golfing, and climbing skills you definitely don't have.

Souls games have always had the odd platforming section. And by "platforming section", I mean moving from A to B where A) is a ledge and B) is all the chuffing way down there. Unlike other games where characters tumble and pirouette in mid-air, Souls often gives you character the ability to... fall off a ledge. Oh! And do a jump... after a massive run-up.

I'm not saying that Souls should've given your character more movement options, oh no. I'm saying its lack of options makes its rare platforming moments (terribly) good. Take a game like Ori, for instance. With your magic squirrel abilities, you've got many ways you can tackle the snapping vines and the hanging ledges. Jump – dash – roll, or dash – jump – roll? But in Souls you've got one route, and one way of going about it. Don't execute the falls and awkward jumps perfectly and you'll plummet to your death.

Now we've got Elden Ring, and its addition of a dedicated jump button. Suddenly there's no need for a massive run up. Ledges can be scaled with relative ease. But make no mistake: that jump is a torturous hop when you're faced with a sheer drop. Jumping isn't that easy to steer, either. It's not floaty or easy to correct in flight, but a proper hoist into the air that'll have you coming down just as fast. So, when there's a gap, you must channel the mentality of a long jumper who does those pre-jump rituals as they sprint towards their pits of sand. A look to the sky, a prayer, a deep breath, and off you pop. Ah, but before you jump! Perhaps another look? Utilise those camera angles and scan that gap one last time. Here you must channel the mentality of a golfer and survey the terrain.

Platforming in Elden Ring is a risky business, partly because your Rune purse scatters all over the floor if you die and it's a massive pain having to run through an army of skeletons to gather up the pieces. But it's your limited toolset that makes the game's platforming so awfully good. You're a long jumper, golfer, and I'd say a bit of a free climber too. You've got fine margins to work with, lest you plummet to your death with one slip. And it doesn't take much, since FromSoftware makes its wooden beams slight and widens gaps to make things doable - but only just!

With every hop or fall in the game, you must COMMIT. There's no backing out, no ways to recoup your losses if you get things wrong. And as you dive into a well or scale a dodgy peak, you've only got three things latched onto your carabiner: the ability to fall, the ability to jump, and a spectral horse that's capable of double-jumping but is also a horse that requires space to spawn. Space you don't have. Make it through in one piece and it's almost always a miracle.

The sense of relief that washes over you when you do bridge the gap encapsulates platforming in Elden Ring. It's not often you're called on to do a spot of it, but when you are it's about embracing your amateur long-jumping, golfing, and climbing credentials and winging it with heart. You're not Ori or Celeste, you're just a Tarnished person on the Buckfast. And somehow you're making it work.

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Elden Ring

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About the Author
Ed Thorn avatar

Ed Thorn

Reviews Editor

When Ed's not cracking thugs with bicycles in Yakuza, he's likely swinging a badminton racket in real life. Any genre goes, but he's very into shooters and likes a weighty gun, particularly if they have a chainsaw attached to them. Adores orange and mango squash, unsure about olives.