Elden Ring Colosseum
From Software

Elden Ring Colosseum DLC Breathes New Life into Open-World RPG

The first 'Elden Ring' DLC is finally here. What does that mean for the
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The sprawling open-world RPG Elden Ring is many players’ top choice for Game of the Year 2022. It’s a truly epic adventure that tasks players with making some sense out of a broken and doomed world. You know, classic From Soft storytelling. Players will be faced with towering gods and monstrous enemies at every turn, and only the truly determined will ever see the end credits.

As huge and awesome as the game’s single-player story is, though, it’s only a matter of time before players see everything it has to offer and want more from the game. While rumor has it that some single-player DLC might be on the way, From Soft has already unveiled something exciting: player-versus-player-focused DLC aimed at giving players more tools for duels. 

Dueling is a favorite pastime among Elden Ring players. The game has a brutally difficult combat system that makes it extremely satisfying to pull off the meanest combos. It’s also fun to just show off your build and school your opponents in a structured, organized duel. However, players who want to engage in PvP fights are at the mercy of their opponents to play by the informal set of rules agreed upon by the community. That is, until now.

PvP Mode

In the base version of Elden Ring, players can “invade” someone else’s game. The idea behind a classic invasion is that you try to ambush the host and defeat them, which allows you to gain a significant advantage back in your own version of the game. It’s not meant to be a fair fight. In fact, many players enjoy the challenge of having a dangerous invader sneak into their game–for them, it heightens the tension in the already-tricky RPG.

However, many players prefer a more pitched battle in which both sides are on equal footing. This allows both players to stake their reputations and glory on the battlefield, with no one being able to say they were blindsided or caught off guard. This has led to a massive, byzantine system of rules for duels.

The idea is simple: a player who wants to host duels can post on a looking-for-game board, like a Discord server or subreddit. Then, players interested in dueling them can “invade” their game, but with the express intent of fighting fair. Then both players meet at an agreed-upon venue in the game, typically a flat, open area that offers no places to hide or differences in elevation. Some rules might include banning the use of summoning, healing, or other particular exceptions to make the fight “fair”. 

Co-Op Mode

Elden Ring
FromSoftware | Bandai Namco Entertainment

Similarly, the core version of Elden Ring also allows for some limited cooperative play. If your friend wants to join you on your quest, they can come to your aid during some pivotal boss fights. Notably, activating this mode also means you have to open up your game to potential invaders, however, which could eliminate some of the intended difficulty mitigation that players intended to gain from this technique.

Notably, once players defeat the boss in question, their co-op session is ended and their friend is booted back to their own instance of the game. You can’t explore the Realms Between with your pals and discover its various mysteries together. Instead, you’re only able to join forces in short bursts against the game’s toughest challenges. There’s no companionship for the Tarnished, after all.

Many players have noted that this is as much a concession to From Soft’s aging game engine as it is a statement about “difficulty in video games”. While the company is notorious for making grueling games with zero difficulty sliders, it’s also known for its (often purposefully) antiquated design decisions. Rather than letting players seamlessly drop in and out of multiplayer, Elden Ring forces players to use a particular series of items to access their friends’ games. The entire system, despite its popularity, feels somewhat bolted onto the experience. 

Colosseum Update

The Colosseum Update goes a long way toward streamlining the game’s multiplayer experience. The free update, which went live today, December 7, allows players to join each other for seamless co-op in the Realms Between. That functionality was perhaps the most-requested game mechanic following Elden Ring’s launch, behind only requests for an easier difficulty mode. Players are able to have up to two friends join them on their quest to save the world, which can make some encounters much simpler.

The debate about “difficulty in From Soft games” boils down to authorial intent. Does the game get to be tough if that’s part of the narrative? After all, the Tarnished are meant to feel like they are always outmatched by their opponents. Defeating the monsters that populate the Realms Between should feel like a major achievement. Why would a player want to rob themselves of that feeling of accomplishment?

On the other hand, many players simply don’t have the patience (or ability) to battle through such brutally punishing games. For them, the act of playing the game for the story is closed off completely because, as they see it, From Soft stubbornly refuses to add a difficulty slider to the game. The Colosseum Update helps tremendously, as bringing a couple of friends with you into the Realms Between can make completing the game remarkably more feasible for some players.

Enter the Arena

Elden Ring Screenshot
From Software

The star of the show in the Colosseum Update is the titular arena. This new area was actually found by data miners back in March, as they noticed a forbidden area set aside in the game’s code that could only be reached by hacking. This area was clearly set aside for a later update, and that update is finally here!

The Colosseum allows players to have tighter control over how and when they want to play PvP. It offers a much more structured experience than just asking strangers online to play by the rules. Indeed, the Colosseum can simply turn off some mechanics to allow players to have their grudge matches in peace without worrying that their opponent will violate the social contract by taking a swig from their healing flask.

What’s more, the Colosseum also supports matches of up to six people competing in chaotic three-on-three battles. These add a wide variety of new strategies to the mix, as you now have three times as many opponents to juggle–and even more allies who can try to pair their builds to work well off of yours.

Embracing the Fantasy

The Colosseum Update goes a long way toward making Elden Ring feel even more like the definitive iteration of a tabletop RPG in video game form. Classic Dungeons and Dragons adventures prided themselves on their difficulty, their moody atmosphere, and the air of mystery that hung over their foreboding ruins and forgotten temples. Elden Ring is clearly cut from the same cloth, inviting players to explore a genuinely sprawling world full of frightening monsters.

By allowing players to party up with their friends, Elden Ring has introduced a critical element of tabletop games that it’s been missing up to this point. Dungeons and Dragons is a social game that you play with your friends. Tackling the unknown horrors deep under a forgotten castle is well and good, but doing so with an audience is all the more memorable. 

This system also allows players to use their builds to complement one another. One player might prefer to fight in close-range combat, using heavy armor and shields to tank the biggest hits from monsters. Others might prefer an agile style that relies on small weapons and critical hits. These two players would benefit greatly from a third friend who loves to sling spells from afar, rounding out an iconic RPG party of a fighter, a rogue, and a wizard. 

What’s Next for Elden Ring?

Elden Ring Featured
From Software

Elden Ring was one of the biggest games of 2022 and it’s easy to see why players are still excited about it, almost a year after its initial release. It’s a one-of-a-kind game that captures a very particular element of tabletop RPGs that hadn’t quite been translated into a AAA game before. And, if the rumors are true, Colosseum won’t be the game’s final update.

Prior From Soft games like Dark Souls have received plenty of post-launch support from the developers. These single-player expansions have added hours of playtime to the critically-acclaimed games, giving them more time in the spotlight and offering some of the series’ most compelling fights. There’s no reason to believe that Elden Ring, the developer’s best-selling game so far, won’t get the same treatment. After all, it’s got the broadest install base of any From Soft game by a wide margin.

Many players have been clamoring for a story expansion to shed more light on the history of the Realms Between. After all, the game’s high-fantasy setting was created with help from George R.R. Martin, the legendary writer of the Song of Ice and Fire series. With any luck, players will get another excuse to venture out into the Lands Between very soon.