Why start something you know you’ll never finish? An hour into Elden Ring, I already knew I would be playing this game for years. The temptation to move on from something too tricky, the endless number of things to move on to, an ocean of maps, my own limited free time… I could tell it would be another Bloodborne, another Skyrim, another Minecraft , another thing I love where I would never see the credits roll. In this way, Elden Ring is very similar to Berserk, the legendary fantasy manga so closely tied to the DNA of FromSoft games that it can sometimes seem impossible to separate the two. I’ll never finish Berserk either, but not for lack of trying. Author Kentaro Miura died last May at the age of 54. His manga, which spanned more than thirty years, was never completed.
I’ll be blunt: Miura’s death hit me like a truck. Unfair doesn’t even begin to cover it. I will never know Miura and I envy those who did, but through his work I felt I understood him, at least a little. There’s something very adolescent about the start of Berserk. It’s a lot of angst, blood and frustration splattered willy-nilly onto the page. As the series progressed, however, it became something that cautiously reviewed or even regretted the tone of the early chapters. Protagonist Guts – and Miura, through him – seemed to lose interest in avenging what he had lost and instead chose to focus on protecting what he had left. Unfathomable horrors both man-made and Lovecraftian, institutional religion, war, political intrigue, sexual assault, grief, trauma, love, betrayal; Berserk took it all in, while looking the best any comic has ever looked, ever. And you can quote me on that.
It’s also a tough manga at times. Berserk has some of the most heartbreaking moments I’ve seen in any story, and repeat reading doesn’t make it any easier to bear. Instead, these pre-Bad Thing chapters are steeped in anticipatory dread, as you glimpse the trauma to come like a vine-choked tower on a distant mountain. Some pages are a real ordeal. Lots of people get out early, and I can’t blame them. Berserk’s world is sterile, violent, and meaningless. Bad things happen to good people all the time, and the gods, who are very real and very powerful, just don’t care. The hardest part to explain to non-fans is that all this darkness is what makes the comic so joyful to read. Every little victory, every joke, every moment of redemption and kindness in Berserk (especially in the more introspective second half), feels like a big fat middle finger raised in the face of an indifferent universe.
Many video games have given their heroes a massive sword and a monster to slay, but few have captured the feeling of Miura’s story. It is a universal problem. Across all mediums, you can find creators trying to pay homage to a work that moved them without worrying about why that work of art hit so hard in the first place. At worst, these “tributes” sound like regurgitation, the kind a mother bird does in the mouth of a baby bird, a thing of beauty reduced to a pulp and thoughtlessly vomited up. Yes, I’m thinking of the Iron Giant cameo in Ready Player One. No, I don’t want to talk about it. The best thing a thoughtless tribute could hope to be is an Easter egg. And look, I don’t want to poop Easter eggs. Elden Ring is full of little Easter eggs and they are great fun to find. But I don’t think ‘Huh, neat!’ or “I remember it!” is the best emotional response an artist can hope to inspire when conveying their own inspiration.
Here is a brief overview of my first twenty hours in the Elden Ring. I stumbled into a terrifying hellscape and guessed it was the work of gods summoned by vile magic; I arrived too late at the scene of a tragedy to do anything but fight my way to some kind of catharsis; I have sworn to vanquish a deified lord whose gleaming veneer must surely hide a corrupting rot; I threw myself into pit after pit of writhing monstrosities in hopes of maybe becoming strong enough to alter the course of history. I have a big sword and no real plan. I also ignored almost all of my responsibilities in real life. The world of Elden Ring is rich with the kind of beauty that makes me homesick for Scottish borders, a big green out there begging you to call off your wedding, lock your doors, throw your phone in the toilet and dipping feet first, never to be seen again.
I’ve always read Berserk as a story of found family – found, lost, and found – and there are times when the rampant, absorbing solitude of Elden Ring can lose that thread. Worse still, it harkens back to the very early days of Berserk, the chapters of bloodshed and slaughter about one person who chooses, recklessly, selfishly, to wage war against the entire world alone. It is sometimes like that. Then I’ll touch a bloodstain and see a poor bastard rolling down the side of a cliff like I did on a previous run, or snickering and laughing at a message that just says “strong, night “, or sharing a peaceful moment by the sea after a difficult battle. Oh the peace…
Oh the peace…
I feel so much affinity with these players. I also feel a kinship with the developers at Elden Ring, who clearly love Miura’s work as much as I do, and no doubt cried just as hard when he passed away. Elden Ring doesn’t just refer to Berserk. He honors it.
We will never see the end of Gut’s story. Those close to Miura will never see him grow old, really old, as he should have. I will probably never roll credits on this endless bloody game. But we can still savor the journey – and continue to stick it to the gods, one middle finger at a time.
Aoife’s Elden Ring review.
Article source https://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2022-04-02-a-year-after-his-death-elden-ring-is-a-moving-tribute-to-the-work-of-kentaro-miura