Why Elden Ring is the best 3D platforming game this year
Elden Ring is the latest brutally hard masterpiece developed by From Software, and this go-around the Souls-like game makes terrific strides in the 3D platforming genre.
First and foremost, it’s impossible to overstate my affinity for 3D platforming games. Super Mario, Psychonauts, and A Hat In Time are some of my all-time favorite titles because of their mix of wonderous storytelling and tight platforming.
Having spent a massive chunk of the last 25 years addicted to the genre, I like to think of myself as an expert on the genre. So when saying Elden Ring is a fantastic platforming game, that shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Elden Ring is a traditional souls-like through and through, but it’s also so much more. And despite all-time greats like Kirby and Zelda releasing this year, here’s why Elden Ring is the best 3D platformer of 2022.
Elden Ring’s platforming surprises players
It’s nothing new for a Souls-like to let go of a player’s hand almost immediately and let them figure out everything on their own. Elden Ring follows in these footsteps but on a whole new scale. Its open world is an overwhelming landscape littered with in-game activities.
Some of these activities are sections of platforming that take the player by surprise. It’s not normal for souls-like games to have real platforming sections let alone a dedicated jump button.
When players come across these jumping puzzles it feels so out of place that it becomes such an exciting part of the game.
Elden Ring masters player-lead exploration
But what’s most exciting is when players stumble across a section of 3D platforming that feels unintentional. I first experienced this feeling when I was in Stormveil Castle. While traversing the castle’s chambers and battlements, players will notice nearby rooftops they can jump onto.
Jumping from rooftop to rooftop feel like the player is breaking out of bounds or going somewhere the devs hadn’t intended. This feeling that players are getting away with something is usually reserved for speedrunners who intentionally break the game’s walls.
But it wasn’t until I found my first hidden item on the rooftops that it clicked. This rooftop escapade was actually brilliant level design disguised as an oversight. And this feeling continues to repeat itself in Caelid and Lyndell, and everywhere in between.
The greatest platforming section in Elden Ring
First off, spoilers ahead.
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In addition to platforming, Elden Ring is the first souls game that has made me care about side quests. And it was during the quest to help Hyetta become a Finger Maiden that players can find the game’s best-level design.
I won’t bore you with the specifics of the quest, but essentially players feed this woman grapes until she hides in a sewer cult. You’ll encounter Hyetta five times during this quest, but the last encounter is something special.
Players are tasked with traversing Lyndell’s underground labyrinth of infrastructure until they find Hyetta and the “chaos fingers”. But the last stretch between a high-level boss fight and finding the maiden is astounding.
There is a vertical platforming section in a tomb filled with dead soldiers. The player is serenaded by a solo violinist. And your job is to jump from jutting coffins to reach the bottom. But one slip and you’re dead. Below is a short clip of a portion of the platforming puzzle.
The entire time it felt like the player wasn’t supposed to be platforming. Surely there had to be a hidden passage behind an illusory wall. But no, the reward for completing the puzzle is immense and so it has to be locked behind an equally stunning obstacle.
Elden Ring’s platforming feels good
Above all else, Elden Ring’s platforming controls well. If you miss a jump, it’s rarely the game’s fault. Trust me, the Hyetta quest will make players want to rip their hair out, but it’s because your jumps won’t be timed correctly.
Like many of the bosses, you’ll eventually learn the correct way to jump and control your character. This practice will go on to help players in many portions of the game where precise platforming is rewarding.
Elden Ring is by no means a 3D platformer, but it is the best 3D platformer this year. If other non-platforming games could incorporate this type of intelligent level design, they could evoke the same feeling of discovery as Elden Ring.