It’s been a long time since we talked about a specific game (MS Flight Sim 2020!). However, most of our office is playing Elden Ring and I wanted to talk about what is undoubtedly the best and worst feature of the game; which is only interesting because it’s the same feature.
And that feature, my audio friends, is the respec system. Without going into any spoilers, there’s a specific item and event you need to happen in order to respec; essentially allowing you to re-allocate your stats. This is the same for Dark Souls 2 and 3, which are arguably the basis for most of what we see in Elden Ring.
The reason this is unusual compared to pretty much every other game that allows you to respec is that the number of respecs is limited per playthrough.
The problem most people have with this system is there are SO many spells, weapons, armors, and play styles that there’s a lot of fun to be had with respeccing and trying new ways to play. In Dark Soul 3 this was limited to 5 times per new game. God help you if the last build you tried was not to your liking, since that meant either starting over entirely or pushing through to the end for new game+ and… well, starting over.
In Elden Ring so far people have found 18 items for respec. That’s a LOT more, but it still feels very limiting since there are even more weapons, more spells, and more secrets than any From Software game before it.
That said, From Software have mastered the art of limits as a feature. We’ve all heard the phrase “Careful what you wish for.” We often want things that actually decrease our happiness. How often, either today or as a child, have you entered a cheat code into your favorite game only to find the game quickly stops being fun? The fun in a game is found within the limits of the rules, and this limit on respec is one of these counterintuitive situations where more is less. Allow me to explain:
Because you know the number of times you can repec is limited, you weigh that decision very heavily before making it. You find builds you want to try, you research weapons, spells, armor, secrets. You dive deep into the game mechanics and, tangentially, the lore before making your choice. This actually makes me physically feel nervous as I stand there about to respec. Am I making the right choice? My heart literally beats faster. I am getting an adrenaline rush from what boils down to pressing the X button! If respec were unlimited this would be no big deal. I’d be doing it constantly. Finding a new item would become less important and impactful.
I will say this, Dark Soul 3’s limit of 5 was simply too limiting. 18 is a huge improvement between balancing what I want and what will feel impactful. I still get the rush of risking a respec without the enormous risk of having to revert immediately and waste 40% of my resources.
This all said, there’s still a part of me that wishes I could respec more and play with more builds. Even knowing it would dilute the thrill of it, I still want it. We are human after all, we often crave the things we know are not good for us.
Kudos to From Software for their use of limits, even though I hate them for it. For anyone on the fence about Elden Ring. Buy it… so you can hate them with me and the rest of the Antlion Audio staff.