Boss Rush Banter: Does FromSoftware Get a Pass on Bad UI?

By the time I tracked down my second uchigatana, I was deeper into the meta of Elden Ring than I’d ever been for a previous Souls game. Tucked in a pretty basic minidungeon, that blade gave me a whole new moveset and even more motivation to let the world of Elden Ring take me where it wanted. Normally I’d settle into a favored sword and board early on and just plow through the game as best I could. Now, instead, I find myself keeping my phone handy for Fextralife and Discord advice. And yet! As often as this game blows me away with brilliance, it fails me with fundamental failures at good user interface.

Take status effects for instance: whether you’re running with a buff or debuff, Elden Ring‘s UI informs you with the graphic design equivalent of a sleepy shrug. Is that red square below my health bad? How about the gold one? The diagonal arrow? Who can truly say?! Other times my character’s body will glow with colored fumes. At least here the color coding gives a solid clue to what’s happening. Only a clue, though. And neither of these is given even a cursory explanation by FromSoft. Even on menu screens that offer a “Help” option! Sure, this is in keeping with FromSoftware’s cryptic reputation, but come on. The Lands Between would lose none of their mystique if I could have a basic understanding of what their developers were trying to convey.

But what crystalizes FromSoft’s commitment to bad UI is trying to quit a play session of Elden Ring (or any Souls game going backwards). This is a game, in the year 2022, that will scold you for booting up after failing to choose “Quit Game.” That alone is quaint, and would have felt outdated 15 years ago. And here’s one of the most lauded games in modern memory treating you like your save file is on a floppy disk. And guess what? To appease this save nanny, you need to dig to the bottom of not one, but two menu screens! And when you do find the option to save and quit, it defaults to “no” when asking if you meant to be on the exit screen. I love you FromSoft, but get your act together. I can have fun getting good at your game, I should not have to get good at navigating your outdated UI design.

What’s your experience? Do you find Elden Ring‘s UI clunky? Do you give it a pass on the glowing merits the rest of the game has to offer? Tell us about it in the comments or over at the Boss Rush Discord!

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