Best Of 2022: How Stormveil Castle Embodies The Brilliance Of Elden Ring

From the very beginning of the Alden Ring, if you proceed as the game points, you will reach the entrance to Stormveil Castle. At first glance, Stormveil’s Fallen Battle and Crazed Knights are familiar territory for Souls fans. However, its familiar features and enemies are more than just a remake of the Souls games that came before it.

Stormveil Castle is a celebration of how far software has come since its days. Demon spirits. Seeded with secret passages, unbeatable enemies, and brutal gang battles, Stormveil is not only a microcosm of the Elden Ring, but one of the best overall video game levels of 2022.

Currently running: Why Alden Ring is Game of the Year 2022

Protected by early-game roadblock boss Margot the Fell Oman, Stormveil is clearly an extended homage to Demon’s Souls’ first world, the Boletarian Palace. Aside from the obvious visual similarities, some parts of Stormveil seem to be ripped straight from Demon’s Souls – especially the part where you walk up the narrow steps of the castle wall and explore a crumbling wall with exploding barrels and stairs. are The inner courtyards also bear an unmistakable resemblance to later Boletarian castle levels, especially in the open stretch before you bump into the level’s final boss, Godric the Grafted.

In a broad sense, this is nothing new for the Souls series, as From Software often references areas or maps explored in previous games (such as the infamous Blighttown-style “poison swamps”) in their output. What makes Stormveil so uniquely great is that it combines the uniquely open, exploration-driven structure of an Elden ring with the familiar interconnected paths of a Great Souls dungeon.

The first time you approach the gates of Stormveil, you’re given a choice by a mysterious benefactor with a hidden agenda: you can either take the front path, which is surrounded by armed siege guards. Wave after wave puts you against, or behind, the wave. Path along the rocks. Although the front door seemed nearly impossible to me in my initial playthrough, subsequent runs have shown it to be just as viable a path as the ledge – in fact, even a hidden third way in via the stairwell. is encountered in a later area, Livonia of the Lakes. The fact that the game leaves a third path for you to explore is typical of Alden Ring’s design, and one of the main achievements of its open world.

Stormveil Castle is an obvious homage to the first level of Demon's Souls.
Stormveil Castle is an obvious homage to the first level of Demon’s Souls.

Regardless of the route you choose, Stormveil proceeds in a nest of interconnected passages from the outer walls to the innermost peak. However, those who take their time will notice an abundance of locked doors, empty elevators, and seemingly impenetrable areas just begging to be explored. While you can certainly make your way to Godric in just an hour or two, those who prefer to explore every nook and cranny of Stormveil will be rewarded with uncovering many secrets, which Includes a variety of hidden weapons, items and sub-bosses. , as well as bits of game lore.

Stormveil’s rooftops take full advantage of Elden Ring’s new jumping mechanic, hiding valuables behind long climbs and strategic falls. Large birds dive and peck at you, some even throw explosive barrels at you for good measure. One of Stormveil’s most memorable moments comes when you first meet these deadly eagles. If you fall off a certain ledge to the left of the Eagles, the stone below you will break, sending you far down the castle where a tough Crucible Knight awaits. This mini-boss uses a variety of tail wipes and dive attacks to punish you, and he’s no pushover – in fact, he took me harder than Godric the first time around.

Aside from the usual multiplayer messages that are unique to the Souls series, there’s no indication that there are any interesting enemies. Many players are likely to miss it entirely. While playing Alden Ring pre-launch, I was only able to find the Crucible Knight because I was determined to activate the last unused elevator before continuing into this area of ​​the castle, and I found this last hidden area. It took more than an hour to do. .

This sense of domestic discovery applies to every aspect of Stormveil, but especially to its hidden basement section. Sometimes labeled “the secret of Stormveil” by fans, discovering the underbelly of the castle requires a careful eye and several hard jumps — and of course, there are multiple paths you can take down. can go.

This basement contains many rats, a secret Ulcerated Tree Spirit miniboss, and a mysterious face that NPC wizard Roger claims is the remains of Godwin, Prince of Death. Since you can find Godwin’s remains in another location later in the game, this has led to a debate among Ring of Alden fans as to which of the dreaded faces is the “real” one and what it means for the lands. For the world in between.

While I thoroughly enjoyed Elden Ring, I often felt that the game’s “legacy dungeons” failed to live up to the impressive quality offered by standout Souls levels such as Enver Londo, Undead Berg, Central Yehrnam, and Arethel. While I enjoyed Volcanic Manor, Raya Lucaria, and many others, I found myself wondering if the open-world nature of Alden Ring sacrificed some of the flawless level design. Which has put the series on the first place on the map. . This was especially evident in some of the game’s optional dungeons, which often repeat enemies, bosses, and even their overall layout.

To me, that’s what makes Stormveil Castle a standout moment in the Elden Ring. This is one area of ​​the game that manages to strike a balance between the old Souls formula and its stunning open world. And while it’s a shame that none of the game’s legacy dungeons match the scope and ambition of Stormveil–a criticism you can extend to the second half of the game–it’s still one of the best levels. software has ever made, and that’s enough to make it one of the great moments of 2022.

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