Elden Ring is one of the funniest games I’ve ever played

By punishing the player less, FromSoft's wicked sense of humour finally shines through

An Elden Ring player character wearing a scarab beetle as a helmet and holding a whip in their right hand, there's a lilac-hued vista behind them

Around 20 hours into Elden Ring, I stumble across a crumbling old church near a lake. Inside, a giant tortoise wearing a papal mitre greets me and teaches me some powerful new sorceries. Just a short ride from the church I see a gigantic lobster. It seems friendly enough, but it’s facing away from me, so I get off my horse and approach it on foot. Just as I expect the ‘talk’ prompt to flash up, it spins around, snatches me up with one pincer, and then repeatedly snips at my face with the other before casting my lifeless body into the murky swamp waters. As everything fades to black and ‘You Died’ appears on-screen, I let out a chortle that lasts for nearly a minute.

Elden Ring is really, really funny. Sure, the player messages – like signs that point to a tortoise and simply read ‘dog’ – are good for a titter, but the Lands Between is FromSoft’s most overtly funny world to date. It’s packed with humorous easter eggs, internal jokes that run for far too long, and comical little embellishments in its monster design.

There are some small spoilers ahead, so if you don’t want to hear about any NPCs or enemies then click away, preferably to our Elden Ring review.

Admittedly, it doesn’t all seem intentional. Early on you encounter wolves and guard dogs out in the open world. As you progress through the Lands Between the wolves are replaced by larger, more ferocious direwolves, and the dogs by rabid rotten strays. Then you start coming across red wolves and scarlet rotted strays. Eventually, as if it’s the punchline to gaming’s most drawn-out joke, FromSoft runs out of ways to sensibly escalate its canines, and so the crimson-hued region of Caelid is patrolled by dogs the shape and size of Tyrannosaurus rexes – they’re terrifying, but they’re also extremely silly, like a developer got carried away with ‘big head’ modifiers.

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But there are some clear jokes here. One of the earliest Elden Ring dungeons you can clear culminates in a boss battle against a man called Patches. Souls fans will know this character very well: he’s cropped up in various forms throughout the series, usually luring the player towards certain death so he can get some loot.

A very big dog-like creature in Elden Ring

His plot here is more elaborate than ever. He attacks you for stealing from a treasure chest and demands money as recompense – it’s clear he’s been running this scheme for a while. If you hurt him enough he’ll beg for mercy, and if you accept his plea he’ll open up a shop. Spend a few thousand runes on Patches’ wares and he’ll thank you for being such a loyal customer, before giving you the key to another treasure chest, telling you whatever’s inside is yours. Opening that chest will teleport you right next to a gargantuan bear that will spot and kill you the moment you move. Patches plays the long game in Elden Ring – this isn’t the only outcome either – and there’s no way to stop a grin spreading across your face when he finally manages to exploit your greed.

Even the chest itself is a witty nod to the series’ past. Souls games have messed with chests before, most notably with an enemy called the Mimic, which looks just like a normal chest but sprouts arms and legs when you open it, before slamming its jaws shut on you and emitting a creepy cackle as it gulps you down. I spend the first ten hours attacking every chest I come across in case it tries to eat me, only to pry one open and have it send me to one of the most dangerous areas in the game.

Some of the monster designs are hilarious, too. Groups of wooden warriors called marionette soldiers will whir up into a frenzy if you get too close, rapidly flailing their many swords before petering out – they’re like roaming Beyblades of death that twitch and spasm on the ground after a really good spin.

Fighting patches in Elden Ring

The sheep aren’t just sheep – for whatever reason they tuck up into balls and Sonic-roll around the wildflower meadows. Humanoid Albinaurics meanwhile, have heads so large they’re always hunched over, and they use their pendulous pates to start up a deadly cartwheeling attack. It’s all just so… daft.

And then there’s the schadenfreudian stuff, like an NPC who gives you a free consumable item, but doesn’t care to inform you that you’ll have less health for as long as the item’s in your inventory. I had this debuff active for 40 hours. Or the fact that the NPC who grants you the ability to summon spirit ashes can only be found by backtracking to a specific spot after receiving your horse, Torrent – I had to beat Margit and Godrick without these summons, and now I’m watching other players beat the same Elden Ring bosses backed up by poison-spewing jellyfish and packs of wolves.

Games like The Stanley Parable, Psychonauts, and Portal are funny, but there’s a dark, rich, sticky vein of humour running all the way through Elden Ring that’s reduced me to tears of joy on a couple of occasions. Souls games have always featured long-running jokes and tongue-in-cheek humour, but their worlds are just a bit too oppressive for the funny parts to ever feel like more than a necessary stress relief.

Evading death by lobster by dashing with Torrent in Elden Ring

Because there are so many checkpoints and resting spots; because it’s easy to reclaim lost runes by simply charging over them on Torrent; and because there are no mechanics like ‘hollowing’ that punish you for successive deaths, you’re free to cavort in your own blunders and the traps that have been laid out for you.

I’m enjoying being bumped off cliffs by rolling sheep and transported to hellish places by boobytrapped treasure chests, because I’m not really worried about the impact it will have on my progress.

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