In this edition of A Hunter’s Diary, I have a hole to dig myself out of. A very large, fifty-hour deep, ring-shaped hole. You see last time around, I mentioned that I was feeling dissatisfied, starved even, whilst waiting for Elden Ring to drop. Well dropped it has, and it’s pretty much been the only thing on my mind. When I haven’t been playing Elden Ring, I’ve been thinking about playing it, cautiously reading about other people playing it, and damn near overthinking every aspect about how I’m playing it, since the game is so monumentally massive. At the time of writing, I am at around 53 hours played and have a whopping 11 trophies in the game, which equates to about 18% completion. As a completionist, this game terrifies me.
Elden Ring is exactly the kind of game that breaks all of my normal rules. Normally with games, I would double-check to see what is expected, how many playthroughs I would need for a platinum, or if any NPCs are critical for missing content, and along with it, precious trophies. That works completely backwards to how Elden Ring wants to be played, and frankly, how I want to play it. The game unleashes you on this world with very little to hold your attention other than “Become the Elden Lord” and what you do from there is up to you. What starts as a very small map will continue to grow as you explore, and frankly break your brain multiple times if you’re anything like me. I was 40 hours in when I discovered what function clicking the right stick does on the map screen. That moment changed everything about the size and scale of the world and honestly made me giddy with the thought of what else this game could be hiding. Elden Ring is full of moments like that.
Tragic, yet hilarious way to lose 50k runes. pic.twitter.com/2m3FrQfpaO
— Mike Mclaren (@UchihaMiek) March 12, 2022
Those feelings are made all the better whilst playing the game at this very moment in time. Nothing is solved, the community is piecing things together one day at a time. This is the first time since 2015s “Bloodborne” that I’ve played a Souls game at launch, and this time I’m making the most of that by embracing the messaging, summoning, and invading antics the game offers. A lot of it is fluff, ‘hidden path ahead’ notes written next to a 100-foot death drop, ‘Liar ahead’ warnings scribbled mere feet behind it. But sometimes you’ll come across a message that warns of oncoming danger — or hints at the solution to an environmental puzzle, that makes you feel like you’ve genuinely found a solution within the game’s limitations, rather than looking up a guide.
There has been a wrinkle to my time with Elden Ring though and that is the usual souls game frustration. Sometimes after a long day, the last thing you want to do is bang your head against a brick wall. And whilst Elden Ring is much better at alleviating that feeling than previous games in the series (it’s open-ended nature rewards exploration after all), sometimes just the anxiety of what awaits in the next undiscovered, foggy portion of the map can be enough to put me in a mindset of “not tonight”. Sometimes I just want to turn my brain off. And for the past few weeks, that’s where Taiko no Tatsujin has come into play.
I love rhythm games, I was a huge early adopter into the Guitar Hero and Rock Band series and I’m always on the lookout for something to scratch that itch. Well, “Taiko no Tatsujin Drum Session” was recently on sale on PSN and I decided to just throw caution to the wind and give it a try, a real impulse purchase, but one I was sure would come good. It ticked quite a few of my boxes after all. And with a couple of play sessions on the regular controller under my belt, I was then led down a rabbit hole of ordering a Nintendo Switch “Tatacon” (short for TAiko no TAtsujin drum CONtroller) and a converter so it would run on my PS5. That impulse purchase suddenly became a lot more expensive, especially since the series is kind of a rarity outside of Japan and only really starting to see localisation efforts in the past few years. I’m used to both the cost expense and barrier to entry for rhythm games though, so it was kind of to be expected. And I think it’s safe to say the game has clicked with me massively.
Drumming has always been a passion of mine, so thinking on it, Taiko no Tatsujin seems like a no brainier. It’s hard to find the room to have my e-drum kit setup for sporadically playing Rock Band 4, but the Tatacon is comparatively tiny and much easier to set up for a session than store away at the end. It’s been the perfect chill-out game to accompany Elden Ring; if I’ve been feeling stressed or flustered at a boss fight, I will just take a break, smack my little plastic drum to some anime or J-Pop tunes, and then soon enough be ready to take another crack at whatever monstrosity Elden Ring was unleashing on me. Rhythm games also break my normal completion habits, in that I know I’m probably not going to be good enough to complete them (some of them have truly ridiculous requirements for trophies after all), so I just resign myself to playing them casually and I’m content with that. It’s been a long journey to this mindset from say 10 years ago, when I was sitting down to complete the entire Rock Band 2 setlist (all 84 songs) on expert, in one sitting — without pausing, for the “The Bladder of Steel Award” achievement. Yeah. I’m getting too old for that shit.
Next time on A Hunter’s Diary: More Elden Ring shenanigans. More expensive impulse purchases. And maybe, just maybe, we will complete a game? In this column from a self-proclaimed completionist?