Dear ELDEN RING, I Hate Your Arenas
I remember walking into the area where you fight the Grafted Scion for the first time. I was wary and scared; I knew it was a boss arena by the wide space, and I could almost watch into the future me rolling around in a panic, like a ghost from the future warning me of my failures to come. Cautiously I walked in, expecting my foe to appear at any given moment, but a sense of relief washed over me as I saw a door with a golden mist falling from it; I assumed I'd need to cross it to enter the boss fight. I relaxed and ran around the arena, searching for something to pick up when this grafted monstrosity landed from the sky, a mutant-looking creature with too many arms for me to count in the midst of battle.
Our battle was fierce...ly short. Aside from the obscenely high amounts of damage, the Grafted Scion did this attack where it strikes the ground repeatedly with its numerous swords, and I got stuck against some weapons decorating the arena. I chalked this up to an unfortunate event, and, dejected at the impromptu ending to my face off against the Grafted Scion, advanced through my story.
Facing off against the Tree Sentinel, I found myself struggling with this problem again. Apart from the performance issues that the boss still gives me, the foliage and different levels in the mountain made it impossible to properly dodge some attacks. At this point, my worries began to stockpile.
Time and time again, I found myself facing enemies that had less than favourable arenas. If not for the inconvenient placement of some decorations (like weapons stabbed into the floor), then I'd die due to hills that my character could not walk on top of; this problem continued even when I fought bosses whilst on Torrent's back.
I reached my breaking point when I fought against the two Mad Pumpkin Heads in a very tiny and circular arena, paired with two other enemies whose attacks were wide and covered half of the battlefield. At this point, I decided that it was enough; a hate letter needed to be drafted.
Dear ELDEN RING, I hate your arenas.
Twice as many tears of joy as you've given me throughout my adventures in the Lands Between have been spilt in genuine pain and desolation as I have died time and time again. I haven't died to the incredibly difficult attacks to dodge, nor the criminally high amounts of damage some of your bosses do, no-no. I've perished solely at the hand of your terribly frustrating arenas. I have now learned to roll and destroy every object present on the battlefield before I even dream of fighting the boss; I will possibly do so for years to come thanks to the habit becoming ingrained in me with every battle due to the trauma I've faced in your boss battles.
I hate to love you, and I love to hate you.
Jokes aside, the arenas in ELDEN RING continue to be one of the harshest aspects I've faced in the game when it comes to the boss design. Although I am not genuinely upset at the frustrating nature of them, I wanted to make a warning to anyone that reads this and plays the game — be careful with the battlefield. Items are scattered throughout it that are meant to be decorative; however, I wouldn't put it past Hidetaka Miyazaki (the game's director) to have mischievously placed them in places that we would be rolling away into in panic.
That said, once you anticipate this, it stops being as much of a problem and you realise it's meant to be part of the difficulty. Is it a fun mechanic to deal with? With the Mad Pumpkin Heads, no. However, as grim as I made it sound in my hate letter, it isn't as prevalent a problem as I might have made it seem; often mainline bosses have more clear areas that aren't as difficult to traverse, and it can be a fun obstacle to overcome. As with most things in ELDEN RING, it is only as fun or frustrating as you let it be.