Elden Ring has perfected the disgusting little freak

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I love Elden Ring’s bosses. I’ll never forget fighting Radahn for the first time. Charging up the hill with your ragtag militia to wage war on a demigod under a blood-red sky, and don’t get me started on the meteor. Nearly all of the bosses in Elden Ring are spectacular and certainly deserve their plaudits. 

For me, however, what makes the game so special isn’t these colossal set pieces. It’s walking into some random dungeon and being confronted with some wretched affront to God and knowing that it’s up to you to put it out of its misery. Where bosses like Radahn look incredible, they are designed to be threatening. On the other hand, it’s the insignificant mobs you find between bosses where the designers can let loose and create something truly bizarre.

Elden Ring has perfected the disgusting little freak: A player standing on a large tree branch with two enemies blowing horns in front of them.
Play that funky music, white boy. Image captured by VideoGamer

Take, for example, the Oracle Envoys. They’re the little guys wrapped in white cloth playing their kooky horns. You first come across them spinning around aimlessly in Leyndell. It feels a bit harsh to call these fellas disgusting, but you can’t look at one of them and tell me that’s not a freak. I adore these guys, and a major part of the joy I get every time I see one is that I have absolutely no clue what the hell they are.

And they’re far from the only example, the Lands Between are chock full of weird and wonderful beasties just waiting to taste the steel of your blade. There are the bipedal dogs with massive heads you find in Caelid. The Vulgar Militia are knee-height gremlins who chase you with miniature swords and sickles. Every time I see an Albinauric cartwheeling around me with their chubby little frog-alien faces I can’t help but love it.

Elden Ring has perfected the disgusting little freak: A player standing in front of a group of red, frog-like enemies in a stony area.
The Moghwyn Palace gymnastics team prepping for Paris. Image captured by VideoGamer

But as completely batsh*t as many of Elden Ring’s enemies can be, I’ve never encountered one that looked out of place in Elden Ring’s world. Elden Ring is ostensibly a medieval fantasy world filled with knights and castles, and when it comes to enemies, knights are the plurality of what you’ll come up against. But for the rest of the enemies, it feels as if Miyazaki gave his designers a blank slate and let them go wild.

A game in a fantasy setting like Elden Ring could have been content with just coming up with different variations of knights, dogs, wolves, and other fairly bog-standard enemies and scattering them across the world. On the ramparts in Leyndell where you first encounter the twirling Oracle Envoys, I stepped back to take the time to appreciate how strange they are. 

If those ramparts had just been another set of knights, I’d have just blitzed through the area and not thought twice. These enemies are more than just faceless, voiceless NPCs, but have their own distinct character. What makes them weird is what makes them so memorable, and by extension, what makes the world they exist in so memorable. 

Elden Ring has perfected the disgusting little freak: A player talking to a jar with arms and legs that is sitting on the ledge near a door.
Me and my homies love Jarburg. Image captured by VideoGamer

This gets taken to a whole new level with the Living Jars, giant pots with arms and legs filled to the brim with human viscera. A few will aggressively whirl towards you on sight, but the majority you come across, be it the noble Alexander or the denizens of Jarburg, are genuinely charming. They could just as easily have been human, but the decision to make them sentient pots is genius. They retain the human aspect that makes them so likeable, but their very nature makes them fascinating and unforgettable.

And just when you got so attached to your little jar pals that you forgot what’s inside them, Shadow of the Erdtree comes along. In one of the first dungeons you may come across in the Realm of Shadow, you see first-hand what literally brings a Living Jar to life—quivering, mutated lumps of flesh oozing pus and blood. A haunting reminder that the delightful jars you’ve come to love were once humans, torturously rendered into a mass of unrecognisable gore.

Elden Ring has perfected the disgusting little freak: A pink, fleshy enemy crawls out of a pot with another crawling in the background.
Ew. Image captured by VideoGamer

Both the Living Jars and the Mutated Prisoners they were made from are not just well-designed individually, but together they create such an uncomfortable yet intriguing aspect of Elden Ring’s lore that simply would not have been possible without that design. It’s the Living Jar’s design, the fact that it contains human remains, that makes the existence of the Mutated Prisoner possible. One freak begets another, making each greater than the sum of their parts, and Elden Ring is better for it.

The design of each enemy is purposeful, too. There isn’t a single one that looks as if someone has just thrown together a bunch of random elements for the sake of making something strange. Each enemy fits their environment. They’re strange, but never over the top. It’s clear that with every enemy, Elden Ring’s designers know how to capture the absurd, without overdoing it to the point that it looks out of place. It’s just as important to know when to take something away as it is to know when to add. This is best illustrated by an enemy that appears so mundane that it may be the single most interesting enemy in the game – the Silver Sphere.

Elden Ring has perfected the disgusting little freak: A player stands next to a large open doorway with a giant sphere stuck in it.
Try knocking me over now, idiot. Image captured by VideoGamer

I truly believe that the vast majority of developers would kill to create an NPC with even a fraction of the character of the Silver Spheres. When you first encounter one, it’s just a giant ball rolling down a slope towards you. You probably get hit trying to dodge it, but who cares? You’re past it now and can keep going. But then you notice that the ball has stopped. You stop for a moment to admire its sheen and question why it’s suddenly ground to a halt in front of you, before it flies towards you again, breaking every bone in your body and sending you back to your last checkpoint. 

FromSoftware has added a Marx Brothers skit into their most successful game ever, and the vehicle for its delivery is a giant, featureless metal ball. Despite not having a face – or any discernible features at all – they feel expressive and weirdly human. When I look at them, I can feel them looking at me, as threatening as they are comical, and it’s that balance that makes them, and all those other enemies so strangely charming.

Elden Ring’s world is a special one for an endless number of reasons. And while that world is largely shaped by the deep lore, recurring characters, varied environments, and challenging bosses, for me it’s the little guys that make all the difference. Without my beloved jars, spheres, and twirling oddballs, Elden Ring would still be an incredible game. But all the same, for me, there is no Elden Ring without my disgusting little freaks.

About the Author

Alex Raisbeck

Alex is a Guides Writer for VideoGamer. He is an indie gaming obsessive with a soft spot for Zelda, roguelikes, and Football Manager, as well as an unhealthy relationship with his backlog.

Elden Ring

  • Release Date: February 25, 2022
    • - 25 February 2022 (PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S)
  • Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X
  • Genre(s): Action, RPG