Never mind New Game Plus, the most thrilling way to replay Elden Ring is a fresh file

After two run-throughs of Elden Ring on PC, I finally decided to pick the game up on Xbox and begin playing it through over there. I wanted a change, and I also thought if I was going to somehow inexplicably keep playing this game past the 200 hour mark, I may as well do it on a different platform and get more achievements. So, Xbox it was. 

Elden Ring isn’t cross-save or cross-platform, however - so that meant it was a truly fresh start. But you know what? I think that might’ve been for the better.

Don’t get me wrong - I really enjoyed my New Game Plus save where I marched straight to Margit and smacked him off the face of The Lands Between in a couple of minutes. There’s something satisfying about beating down an opponent who took hours of exploration and grind to beat the first time, after all; it’s a reward for all your suffering. But an all-new character, with a totally different build - I’m finding that hits quite different.

I guess this might not work if you wait a long time between play-throughs and let the memories fade - but in the situation I’m in now, this is a blissful new way to experience Elden Ring yet again. In my current mindset, I’m an Elden Ring master. I know where most stuff is. I’ve memorized where some of the best weapon options are, and still have vague memories of most boss attack patterns. The little I don’t know I can remind myself of by consulting Elden Ring guides and walkthrough pages. 

It’s surprising to me how much this changes the game. This feeling can of course happen with other games; I’ve always felt like there’s a real rush of power to bombing through classic Zelda games knowing all the puzzle solutions, for instance. But among open world games, I’m finding this reaction pretty unique.

Perhaps it’s due to Elden Ring’s soulsy difficulty level. In your first play-through, you’re practically naked and powerless, and get beat down a lot. By the time NG+ rolls around, the tables have turned. Playing a new file with all these memories splits the difference: you know how the game is played, understand how to min-max it better, and so can focus on the challenge. It’s still hard, of course - but it’s a different kind of hard.

In doing that, you’re given a sublime reward. Bosses that were roadblocks before topple easily, even though you’re playing a different, unfamiliar build. I went from a club-wielding knucklehead to an intelligence attribute driven mage, inspired by the mega-op build Bryan used during the review period. This meant I was going in a completely opposite direction to the build I was familiar with, however. As I leveled up and picked a direction for my stats and attributes, it also felt more earned than simply using a character respec in NG+. 

Additionally, I was able to use my knowledge to plot a very different route through the game world, pushing legacy dungeons back and gobbling up side content and optional quests eagerly first, including ones I'd accidentially dead-ended in my main save. Before this file, I’d been stumbling around cluelessly, or focusing on the critical path to power to a different ending. 

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The result of playing Elden Ring this way is that it often ends up with the feel of a breezier open world experience, more akin to noodling around in Skyrim. But, in a slight contradiction, it also feels as if you’re playing with precision - because all of the knowledge you’ve accumulated in past in-game lives means you’re slicing through the world like a scalpel.

I knew I loved Elden Ring, but I never would’ve imagined I’d be embarking on a third play-through after just a month. But I haven’t just embarked - I’m pretty sure I’ll finish it. That’s a shocker - and is further proof positive of how cleverly this game is designed. When credits roll, know that the New Game Plus power fantasy is cool and all - but a new save might be even more satisfying still. 

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