Elden Ring is already shaping up to be FromSoftware’s most successful title to date. The game has sold like hotcakes (so much so that Bandai Namco gave employees a pay raise), and hundreds of thousands of Twitch viewers are regularly tuning in to watch other people play the game. However, not everyone is happy with Elden Ring, and even some of FromSoftware’s industry peers are lambasting the title in ways that some agree with and others are chalking up to jealousy.
Recently, three members of prominent game studios voiced their dissatisfaction over Elden Ring. They were Ahmed Salama of Ubisoft, Rebecca Fernandez O’Shea of Nixxes Software, and Blake Rebouche of Guerrilla Games. Salama expressed frustration that Elden Ring scored a 97 on Metacritic despite him thinking the game had a bad game UX (he, perhaps jokingly, claimed it was the result of the game’s developers’ using CRT monitors and smoking on the job), while O’Shea criticized Elden Ring’s graphics and stability, and Rebouche mentioned that they disliked the game’s quest design. The initial response to those opinions was so overwhelmingly negative that Salama, O’Shea, and Rebouche have since decided to lock their Twitter accounts (although sites such as MP1ST have already screenshotted the original comments).
Considering that Salama, O’Shea, and Rebouche are all incredibly talented developers and designers who are putting years’ worth of experience behind views that they’re certainly entitled to in the first place, we have no interest in trivializing their opinions on Elden Ring or encouraging anyone to be hostile towards them or anyone else simply because they have something negative to say about a game. In fact, we find their criticisms to be more than fair and certainly worth discussing further.
Let’s start with Salama’s main complaint: Elden Ring‘s UX. According to Salama’s LinkedIn page, he developed the UI and UX for games such as Horizon Zero Dawn, Killzone: Shadow Fall, Battlefield V, Star Wars: Battlefront II, and Battlefield 2042, which are all games that feature quite a few UI elements that players are able to view and interact with at almost any time. That point also ties into Rebouche’s main complaint, as the UI in games that Salama has worked on typically tells players where to go with quest trackers and other on-screen prompts. Many Elden Ring players (or those who have watched others play the game) have pointed out that the game’s minimalist use of “guiding” UI elements is a big part of the reason why they may not be able to enjoy the title, and there’s no denying the Elden Ring‘s design goes against the grain in that respect so far as modern open-world titles are concerned.
As we pointed out in our review of Elden Ring, though, that’s also part of the reason why the game’s quest design and UI work as well as they do. Elden Ring doesn’t have any quests that ask players to do things like “kill x rats in a basement” (even though those rats are a surprisingly good source of Runes), so it doesn’t necessarily need a persistent UI element designed to track those kinds of tasks. The game channels an older style of mission design that gives players hints and breadcrumbs that lead them to the proper location without holding their hands. Elden Ring’s UI and quest design don’t talk down to gamers and are confident players can figure things out for themselves, which is a common complaint some fans have concerning modern open-world RPGs.
Still, the nature of the titles Salama and Rebouche have worked on inspired some gamers to have a little fun trying to imagine what Elden Ring might look like if it was designed by another studio known for making more…familiar open-world games. The results of that process were…well, this image speaks for itself:
Now, that photo is obviously a piece of satire designed to be an intentional mess that squeezes a quest log, button prompts, and map markers onto the screen. While that image may be a joke that ignores the many ways Elden Ring could theoretically incorporate some of those design elements without them being quite that overwhelming, it also speaks to the idea that Elden Ring was intentionally designed to work around a minimalistic UI interface that encourages players to discover things for themselves while allowing the actual game to take up as much of the screen as possible as often as possible.
As for O’Shea’s complaints…well, those are even more interesting. According to O’Shea’s LinkedIn page, she worked on the graphics of games such as Shadow of the Tomb Raider and Marvel’s Avengers (specifically their PC ports), so it makes sense that her comments naturally target Elden Ring’s PC graphics and performance. Credit where credit is due, the PC version of Elden Ring was more than a little rocky at launch. Many gamers who played the game on their computers ran into screen tearing, invisible enemies, and unstable framerates. Unfortunately, that is pretty much par for the course when it comes to FromSoftware games, but the developers are working on PC performance patches as you read this article. All things considered, though, O’Shea makes a good point when discussing Elden Ring’s performance.
That being said, some of those other complaints regarding the general quality of Elden Ring‘s graphics are understandably much more divisive. While many gamers love titles that push graphical fidelity (as demonstrated by a rising number of games that use ray tracing and similar features), many gamers agree that art style tends to be more important. In fact, Elden Ring’s director, Hidetaka Miyazaki, famously told Edge Magazine (reposted via VGC) that his team doesn’t prioritize graphical fidelity. A similar issue arose earlier this year shortly before the launch of Pokemon Legends: Arceus. Many gamers argued over that title’s graphics, and quite a few ultimately came to the conclusion that if the game plays and performs well, they are willing to overlook lackluster visuals. Of course, those are just a couple of incredibly noteworthy recent examples of a debate that will likely not end anytime soon.
Ultimately, no video game is perfect, Elden Ring included. Every title has problems that are worth criticizing, and while some are surprised to see members of the video game industry so openly criticize a generally well-received game when developers traditionally congratulate and support each other, that doesn’t mean that the criticisms themselves aren’t worth discussing. That said, it’s easy to see why some read these complaints as perhaps being a little bitter.
What do you think about these criticisms? Let us know in the comments below: