The day before Elden Ring’s release, Nikita fled his country.
In the early morning of February 24, an airport in his hometown of Bukha, Ukraine, was bombed by Russian forces. Within days, Russia had broken into the city, ransacked houses, Killed more than a thousand people (opens in new tab)according to the BBC and other media covering the war.
“We woke up in the morning to the sound of explosions. They killed a lot of people in the street trying to find food,” Nikita said. “People were stuck in the city for about two to three weeks without food, water and electricity. They were eventually evacuated, but it was horrible and now a lot of people are suffering from PTSD.”
On the first day of the attack, Nikita, 21, and four of his family members fled Butcha (about 30 kilometers west of the capital, Kyiv), and drove to the Polish border. They chose other paths to avoid encountering Russian troops. “I almost passed out from the stress,” he said. What was left was his gaming computer, which contained a newly unlocked copy of Elden Ring.
As the city was destroyed, several of Nikita’s friends remained. They told him that the soldiers broke the door lock and broke into their home. The house where Nikita left had an armored door, and he said he told friends who remained in town that he hid the keys so they could go in and use the food and supplies left behind.
At the end of March, Bouchard liberated from the Russian armybut Nikita and many of the millions of other Ukrainians who fled their homes remain unconvinced that it is safe enough to return while the war continues.
Ten days after escaping, Nikita resumes his work as a 3D artist Make a VTuber model (opens in new tab) (Used in place of a clear avatar for a webcam) for streaming. For the past five months, he spent about $200 borrowing a flimsy laptop from his sister to make the model. He said it was “not a big dream, but something to watch” as he and his family hopped from hotel to hotel before finding a house in Warsaw.
Nikita has been gaming on PC for about 14 years, and while he’s primarily an FPS player, the Dark Souls game has stuck with him.
“I was still in school when I saw my favorite YouTuber playing Dark Souls 1,” he said. “I didn’t even dare to touch it but I ended up downloading it and it got me hooked. I played all [the Souls games] Except for the console, since I don’t have one. Dark Souls 1 and 2 are my favorites. Sekiro is cool too, but I prefer dark fantasy. “
When FromSoftware announced its open-world version of Dark Souls and Elden Ring, he looked for every detail, leak, and trailer it released. “I just love dark fantasy, and that game was like a dream for me,” he said.
Nikita tried to play Elden Ring on his sister’s laptop, but it couldn’t get past the main menu, so he waited until he could afford a gaming PC. Meanwhile, Elden Ring captures all of gaming culture in a way that few games release. Everyone seems to be playing it and sharing memes, finds and glitches, and even non-players have heard stories like “Leave Me Alone” from the game’s legendary folk hero.
FromSoftware’s mystery action RPGs, especially Souls games, are full of secrets, and draining those secrets is a shared experience. Part of the fun of playing them is sharing discoveries online, and seeing what other people have found.
Nikita missed the rush of community activity around Elden Ring, but he’s determined to make his first gaming experience fresh. He keeps social media off, and while he loves streamers, he avoids watching anyone playing Elden Ring. “It was frustrating for me because everyone was having a good time and I couldn’t be at the party,” he said.
During the first few months in Poland, Nikita still hoped he could come home and start over where he left off.
“I want to play games, work and go to the gym,” he said. “I have to face it, I probably won’t be home anytime soon. I found a job online that helped me with my livelihood and my mental stability because I could focus on something instead of thinking about it every day war.”
Nikita continued to make VTuber models, struggled with frequent crashes of his borrowed laptop, and saved $3,800 to build a PC that would make his 3D work easier and play Elden than the gear he left behind Ring is better. The new PC comes with an Nvidia RTX 3080 Ti, a Core i7 12700k, and 32GB of RAM, packaged in a bright orange casing.
“I chose a smaller case, [Cooler Master] NR200 one, so I can put the PC in a bag or something when I go back to Ukraine later,” Nikita said.
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he published news (opens in new tab) on the Elden Ring subreddit (the post has been classified as “low-effort content” and removed) and quickly detonated. “Get up, Defiled,” cheered some commenters as Nikita prepared to take his first steps into the middle ground. Some expressed sympathy for his experience and solidarity with Ukrainians.
FromSoftware fans are always ecstatic to live through anyone playing a FromSoftware game for the first time – to see what others have to say about their favorite game – and Nikita’s story is about avoiding spoilers to experience a fresh game Aspects are very special. Still, Nikita said he didn’t expect such a backlash to his post.
He said the Elden Ring community was “one of the friendliest”. Still, going back to a hobby he loves feels like a return to normal.
“I had to move five or six times [during the] In the spring, I was very stressed because of it,” Nikita said. “Now I do what is most comfortable for me, which is sitting at home and drawing VTubers and games. Life has returned to normal except that I live in another country entirely. “
Nikita has begun exploring Limgrave, the vast open area of the Elden Ring. He said the patrolling Tree Sentinels and his armored horses had killed him enough times that he decided to veer off the main road leading to Stormveil Castle. He enjoyed the game, but said it’s hard not to feel a little sad given what he’s been through.
“It feels good to come back and do what I love, whether I’m doing it at home or elsewhere,” he told me. He said he would return to Ukraine in the future, “even in 10 years.”
Nikita chooses to play Wretch, a class in the game that has nothing but a cloth wrapped around her. I asked him if he purposely started out as a defiler, and he implied that everything was lost before they woke up. He said he didn’t; he just wanted to keep options open for any weapon or armor he found on his journey.