Another weekend, another late night playing Elden Ring. It's really had me hooked lately!
I just wish they would stop rebalancing things. For instance, last patch, they increased the distance of the light roll, giving you a real incentive to actually use it. Now, they've brought it back down again. So people had maybe a couple weeks of fun adjusting to that only to have it pulled back not long after. A bunch of things got buffed in elemental/special damage types, but now Golden Vow's damage boost applies to very few things, somewhat breaking a lot of builds, even PvE ones. I was gonna use it in this one but now can't justify it, as it won't boost my later incantations.
Hopefully they fix THAT, I think the Golden Vow nerf was an accident. A lot of the improvements are good. Block-counters are faster, and a lot of weapons got boosts to strength scaling, I think to make two-handing more worth it. Going 2H gives you a big STR boost... that means little in damage output for a lot of the big weapons that you WOULD 2H. Many weapons got a speed boost. They buffed the damage/action of a lot of weapons that people have been shying away from, like whips. But really, all classes of weapons got some pretty significant buffs, enough that some might even be OP now. Maces got upgraded all around. Just all sorts of stuff. My biggest bother is nerfing jump attacks. I can understand doing it for PvP, to atomize the meta away from everyone just spamming them, but in PvE, it's just a handy tool for tanky foes, that is now less useful.
It's seriously annoying to be doing builds and constantly have to be following patch notes to understand why one day, your once perfectly viable build suddenly sucks. It's like they are constantly trying to adapt to the needs of their PvP community... which is good. They even split stats for a lot of equips and such to make them far less effective in PvP. But that really brings me to question why a lot of these changes that make much more sense when you know what's going with PvP, are also applying to PvE. A lot of the nerfs make more sense as PvP-only, and they have this split-stat system already in place... and then just apply global changes anyway. There's seemingly no rhyme or reason for a lot of it. I wish they would just take more time to hash out the changes, stop jostling players around and forcing them to re-adapt to a slightly different game again and again. Again... with PvP, you want that dynamic in the meta - it should be changing in step with the tactics people develop to keep competition fresh and thus retain players. But in PvE, just single-player, there's not nearly the justification for nerfing things the ways that they like to do. It's not like any of those PvE nerfs make the game less exploitable - it's already a hugely exploitable game. So it's really just less fun when they nerf things on that end, not in the spirit of how people are really tackling single-player... which is often to dig around in the systems for huge power boosts and other advantages... that then just get taken out of the game for reasons I don't think anyone gets or agrees with very often. There's a lot of this 'Don't tell Fromsoft about this.' orbiting around PvE build conversations, because it seems like every other thing people like taking advantage of eventually gets nerfed when enough people are using it. Build options that people previously got a lot of enjoyment out of, are just dead one day. And often you figure it out as you're playing in a gradual "Wait, what's going on with my character? Was it always this weak?" kind of way that is really pretty souring.
And again I ask why? Who is that for? Is the enemy AI getting sad? You can't even watch PvE build videos from 6 months ago at this point. Most of them have long been broken by future changes. Nobody out there is ever happy to see their favorite PvE weapon/skill/whatever for a whole build they've done around it, become so much weaker they have to do a different build. That just kinda sucks, every time. Shit ain't an MMO! There is no justification in my book. I run my game offline and still gotta deal with these little punishments to how I'm used to playing, and I really don't appreciate it! It gets tiresome. It makes me want to play with builds less, because by the time I hit level 150 with it, it may already be outdated and less effective. I can't trust that things will still work how they did when I started, making it feel like my plans are always being sabotaged by the hand of god.
Like, if I have one grievance with Fromsoft, it's THAT. The constant tweaking is a detriment to any long time players, who are constantly unlearning and relearning - finding good grooves only to be jettisoned out in sweeping changes. Again, figure out how it should be with more finality. Don't be like me, coming back to edit posts a dozen times in several hours. I am that way because my brain is messed up. Fromsoft doesn't have that excuse. To me, it shows them rushing too much. Still working out the things they didn't have nearly the time to fine tune before the game came out. Now, they have a DLC coming where maybe these changes will make more sense. But if that's true, the current run of back-to-back patching with all of these flip-flops just seems that much more disorganized and whimsical, like they're still testing shit on us a year in.
It's got 'raytracing' now, though I can't find specifics. In-game, it's pretty subtle... looks like it's mostly global illumination, and maybe shadows. The big thing I notice is that the color transitions between shadows and lit areas are much more natural-looking. The images overall better match the light sources that you can see in the frame. You can look at comparisons to the old lighting pipeline and see where say... a building outside has a blue/green cast to it from baked global/sun lighting that is basically all pre-calculated variables baked into textures, responding to parameters on sun angle and intensity. This means that in spite of being lit locally by torches/fires with a color temp of more like 1500K (like, VERY orange,) surfaces near those sources continue to match the bleaker, colder color of their globally-applied 'sun.' Like, even where there IS orange, it kind of looks like an overlay, with the colors of the sunlight still coming through from underneath, when it should be dominated by the much closer and stronger source. Anything being hit by on the ground sources like flames, should predominantly reflect warm light scattering - and where corners occlude, you should also have warmer shadows. Just doesn't happen with traditional methods... not without sizeable costs.
The light and shadows on the architecture and landscapes now better match the lighting that hits them, and it all looks a bit less "video gamey." Everything just blends much better. It's especially noticeable in things reaching from midfield to background. It all mixes more with the fog and atmospheric haze, because they're now being processed under the same RT global lighting engine that better matches the hue and luminance between sources and surfaces. There's a subtle bloom this all brings that I often notice with RTGI, that I've come to like. Most implementations have a 'radiance' feature that simulates the fine particle scattering that occurs when viewing surfaces at a horizontal angle. On the back edge, IRL, you will see light diffusing off of that edge and making it a little less distinct - highly reflective surfaces cast hazes when viewed from steep angles, simply because your eyes are perpendicular to the path of the light, and thus can't resolve detail from it. You see that in RTGI games, too. Just one of those things that makes the images more pleasant, if not also less clear. But honestly, I think we take for granted the many visual phenomena we see with our own eyes when it comes to how light interacts with our environments. So much just goes missed by us in any given moment. By default, your processing filters it all out to give you the most distinct possible image to work with. It's only when you stop and really look around that you see the artifacts of your own vision, and some of the stranger little things light is actually doing. Your brain will do its own little deep-learning operation where it pulls from past visual knowledge in order to recreate what it is missing before you even notice anything is being obscured by artifacts in light behavior and your own perception of it. When you see more 'real' light in a game, it can almost be distracting, because you don't filter it like you're used to doing in real life without noticing.
Personally, I appreciate little touches like these. Sometimes I think of RT like a well-set up subwoofer. If you constantly hear it booming, it's not set or positioned right. Most of the time, you shouldn't notice anything other than the music sounding more solid and balanced. So I'd say it's a good implementation in that regard. Definitely came at the cost of some temporal artifacting, but as long as you're putting up decent frames, the trailing isn't as noticable as it sometimes is in say, Metro Exodus. Unfortunately, it has none of the 3 big upscaling options now avaialable to temper the performance loss. Though personally I'm not dipping under 50FPS maxing it with my 3060 at 1080p. So it's not that heavy of an implimentation to begin with.