Because I positively cannot help myself, I started Elden Ring new game+ almost immediately after finishing its crushing final stretch. It’s a remarkably freeing experience, and bullying early bosses is just the satisfaction I needed after so many frustrating deaths. Maybe I’m just petty, but killing Margit in five hits has brought me inner peace.
I’ve done follow-up runs of FromSoftware games before and the Elden Ring new game plus system is already my favorite of them all. There’s a clear and exciting difference between a normal playthrough which makes the game feel fresh again. The Lands Between are no longer an intimidating, seemingly endless landscape. The second time through, the world feels more like a mixed bag of candy, and I’m free to choose only my favorite flavors as I blast through on my comeback tour.
See the Lands Between with fresh eyes
The genius of Elden Ring new game+ is that it lets you keep your map. It’s the ultimate cheat sheet. The whole world is laid out before me, and all the dungeons and ruins I discovered in my first run are still neatly labeled. I lost all my Sites of Grace, sure, but those are just a quick horse ride away. I know exactly where I’ve been, I know the bosses I want to fight again, and just as importantly, I know which dungeons I don’t need to revisit because I’ve already looted them. If my first clear was a grueling final exam, new game plus is a breezy open-note test.
I ran through Sekiro on new game plus because, after getting more comfortable with its combat system, I wanted to dunk on all the bosses that gave me trouble before. That sentiment holds true for Elden Ring, too, but in addition to my meticulously refined character and play style, I also just want to flex my game knowledge. For example, for reasons known only to FromSoftware, you can only get one uchigatana per playthrough, so I was ecstatic to run right back to the dungeon where you get this sword to grab another for my new game plus run. Now I can dual-wield twin bleed katanas against the bosses that are strong against my usual arsenal of magic swords. It’s a small victory, but a meaningful one that’s only possible because I’ve already beaten the game.
I’ve also made some cool discoveries on new game plus, some of which are laughly obvious in retrospect. There’s almost a fog of war to Elden Ring on your first run. Its world is inviting, but also so threatening that I was constantly on alert and focusing on whatever was directly in front of me, to the point that I’d sometimes get tunnel vision and overlook stuff hidden in plain sight. Ironically, now that I don’t feel the need to pay attention to every little thing, I can see the world more clearly. I’ve found overlooked weapons, upgrade materials, and even Ashes of War simply because my field of view feels wider. Knowing that I’ve been there and done that, I’m also more willing to take dangerous paths instead of trying to flank enemies or find clever approaches to everything, and these are often where I find stuff I missed. It turns out facing threats head-on comes with its own rewards.
Choose your own adventure, then read it back
It’s hugely gratifying to learn a game inside and out and then apply that knowledge to subsequent playthroughs, and that goes double for punishing games like FromSoftware’s action-RPGs. It’s hard to overstate the thrill of trivializing boss fights and dungeons that kicked your ass before. It’s like exercise; the stuff that feels impossible now becomes a warm-up later on.
It’s not just about being a higher level with stronger weapons on new game plus, though that definitely helps if you want to five-hit Margit. It’s amazing what a bit of hindsight and experience can do for your outlook on a game. What was so hard about this? How did I ever get caught by that? What was I so afraid of? Little realizations wash over me every time I curb-stomp a boss that gave me hell, and the confidence boost is electrifying.
Even among the storied Soulsborne series, my time with Elden Ring new game+ stands out because its massive open world is such a memorable story generator. When I look at the complete map, I see much more than bosses and items to cherry-pick for my second run. Every marker has a memory that shapes my perception of that place. That’s where I barely scraped by with zero flasks until I lucked into a new Site of Grace. This dungeon has the ambush crabs that smashed me into atoms. There’s a jump pad there that sent me and Torrent soaring right into the abyss. And on and on.
Oddly enough, this actually reminds me of battle royale games. When me and my friends throw out suggestions for where to go next in a game of Warzone, we inevitably wind up talking about what happened the last time we went to that place – the chaotic shootouts, the close calls, the clutch revives. The same is true for The Lands Between on new game plus: my map key is what happened at these places, not just what they look like.
Great, now do it again
Even after 104 hours, I somehow felt that I wasn’t really finished with Elden Ring. I got the ending I wanted and killed all the bosses I knew of, but something was still nagging at me. I knew I could do better against a few bosses, especially Malenia and the true final boss (though Malenia arguably is the true final boss), and I’m looking forward to fighting them again… sort of. But there was something else too, and as I get deeper into new game plus, I’m starting to realize what.
I’m increasingly convinced that there are three sides to Elden Ring. I saw the first on my initial playthrough, which will always be the sweetest. The immense scale of the world overwhelmed me and I got totally caught up in FromSoftware’s current. I was a bundle of caution propelled by curiosity, a tiny little thing adrift in an impossible world of improbable detail. What I wouldn’t give to experience it for the first time all over again. That said, I can more firmly grasp my own agency on new game plus, and it’s empowering in a way few games are, precisely because Elden Ring is such a behemoth challenge. Obviously I played the game to have fun to begin with, but now it feels like I’m just doing stuff for fun, you know? It’s a highlight reel of my own making. No pressure, no necessities, just a way to test myself and an excuse to spend more time in FromSoftware’s madhouse.
The third side, I reckon, is when you make a new character after beating the game and mucking about in new game plus. Think about it. What would you do differently? How can you get as strong as possible as quickly as you can? Which weapons or spells would you rush to get? Would you use ol’ reliable or an all-new build? What bosses are you comfortable fighting under-leveled? Which NPC questlines would you prioritize? What ending would you choose?
These are the questions that keep me up at night. As we’ve established, I can’t help myself, so naturally I also can’t wait to make a new Tarnished. In my experience, absolutely smurfing a new character is some of the most fun you can have in a Souls game, and I’m willing to bet that’ll be true of Elden Ring as well. I’ve had a ton of fun applying my experiences to new game plus, even though I’m super over-leveled for most of the content, so the prospect of doing the same with a fresh character is tantalizing.
At the end of the day, I’m still just inventing reasons to keep playing Elden Ring, but the fact that I’m motivated to do so speaks to how engrossing FromSoftware’s magnum opus truly is. I don’t want to be done with it. Elden Ring is something else, and I’m gonna wring every last drop out of it. If you’re in the same boat, I highly recommend a boss rush approach to new game plus. It’s a power trip worth taking.
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