From the start of Elden Ring, if you continue in the direction the game points, you’ll come to the gates of Castle Stormveil. At first glance, the crumbling ramparts and mad knights of Stormveil are well-known territory for Souls fans. However, its characteristics and familiar enemies are more than a rehash of Souls games that came before it.
Stormveil Castle is a celebration of how far From Software has come since the days of Demon’s Souls. Littered with secret paths, missable enemies, and brutal group combat, Stormveil isn’t just a microcosm of Elden Ring, but also one of the best gaming levels of 2022.
Guarded by Margit the Fell Omen, leader of the early game roadblocks, Stormveil is clearly intended as a long homage to Demon’s Souls first world, the Boletarian Palace. Aside from the obvious visual similarities, some sections of Stormveil are apparently pulled straight from Demon’s Souls – particularly the part where you navigate the castle wall’s tight strongholds and explore a broken wall filled with explosive barrels and spiral staircases. spiral. The inner courtyards also bear an unmistakable resemblance to later levels of Boletarian Palace, especially in the open portion before hitting the level’s ultimate boss, Godrick the Grafted.
In a broad sense, this isn’t new to the Souls series, as From Software often references areas or motifs explored in previous games (such as the infamous “poison swamps” a la Blighttown) in their release. . What makes Stormveil particularly great is how it combines the unique open-ended, exploration-focused structure of the Elden Ring with the familiar interlocking paths of a large Souls dungeon.
The first time you approach the gates of Stormveil, a mysterious benefactor with ulterior motives gives you a choice: you can either take the frontal approach, which pits you against wave after wave of guards armed with siege weapons, or the back approach path along the cliffs. While the front door seemed nigh impossible on my first playthrough, subsequent runs have shown it to be just as viable a path as the cliff – in fact, there’s even a hidden third way. via a ladder that faces a later area, Liurnie des lacs. The fact that the game leaves this third way to be discovered is typical of the design of Elden Ring and one of the main achievements of its open world.
Whichever path you choose, Stormveil proceeds in a nest of interlocking routes from the outer walls to the innermost cloisters. However, those who take their time will notice a slew of locked doors, empty elevators, and seemingly impassable areas just waiting to be explored. While you can certainly make your way to Godrick in just an hour or two, those who prefer to explore every nook and cranny of Stormveil will be rewarded with several secrets to discover, including a variety of weapons, items and hidden sub-bosses. , as well as fragments of the game’s history.
Roofs of Stormveil take full advantage of Elden Ring’s new jump mechanic, hiding valuable items behind long rises and strategic drops. Large birds swoop down and peck at you from above, some even throwing explosive barrels at you for good measure. One of Stormveil’s most memorable moments comes right after you first encounter these deadly eagles. If you fall off a certain ledge to the left of the Eagles, the stone below you will shatter, sending you well below the castle where a sturdy Crucible Knight lies in wait. This mini-boss uses a variety of tail swipes and dive attacks to punish you, and it’s no breeze – in fact, he gave me more tries the first time around than Godrick. .
Other than the usual multiplayer messages unique to the Souls series, there’s no indication that an interesting enemy is here. Many players may miss it entirely. While playing the Elden Ring pre-launch, I was only able to find the Crucible Knight because I was determined to activate the last unused elevator in that area of the castle before continuing, and it took me more an hour to find that last hidden area. .
This sense of nested discovery applies to all aspects of Stormveil, but especially its hidden underground section. Sometimes referred to as the “secret of Stormveil” by fans, the crypt beneath the castle requires a keen eye and several tricky jumps to uncover – and, of course, there are a number of paths you can take.
This basement contains many rats, a secret Ulcerated Tree Spirit mini-boss, and a mysterious face that the wizard NPC Rogier claims to be the remains of Godwyn, the Prince of Death. Since you can later find Godwyn’s remains in another location later in the game, this has led to much debate among Elden Ring fans as to which Heartbreaking Face is “real” and what it means for the world of Lands Between.
While I enjoyed the entirety of Elden Ring, I often felt that the game’s “legacy dungeons” didn’t live up to the stellar standard offered by exceptional Souls levels like Anor Londo. , Undead Burg, Central Yharnam and Irithyll. While I enjoyed Volcano Manor, Raya Lucaria, and many others to some extent, I wondered if the open-world nature of Elden Ring had sacrificed some of the pristine level design that set the series apart. on the map first. This was especially evident in some of the game’s optional dungeons, which often repeated enemies, bosses, and even their general layout.
To me, that’s what makes Stormveil Castle such a standout moment in Elden Ring. It’s the one area of the game that manages to strike a balance between the brilliance of the old Souls formula and its masterful open world. And while it’s a shame that none of the game’s legacy dungeons live up to the scope and ambitions of Stormveil – a criticism you could extend to the second half of the game as a whole – it’s still there. one of the best levels that From Software has ever made, and that’s enough to make it one of the big moments of 2022.
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