The day before Elden Ring’s release, Nikita fled his country.
Early in the morning on February 24, an airfield in his home city of Bucha, Ukraine was bombed by Russian forces. Within days, Russia had broken into the city, ransacked homes, and massacred over a thousand people (opens in new tab), according to reporting by the BBC and other outlets covering the war.
“We woke up in the morning and heard explosions. They killed a lot of people on the streets that were trying to find food,” Nikita says. “People were trapped in the city for about two to three weeks without food, water and electricity. They eventually got evacuated, but it was horrible and a lot of them suffer from PTSD now.”
Nikita, 21, and his four family members escaped Bucha (which is about 30 km west of the capital city of Kyiv) by car and drove for the Polish border on the first day of the attack. They took alternative roads to avoid running into Russian forces. “I almost passed out because of the stress,” he said. Left behind was his gaming PC with a freshly unlocked copy of Elden Ring.
Several of Nikita’s friends stayed behind as the city was destroyed. They told him that soldiers shot the locks off doors and broke into their homes. The house Nikita left had an armored door, and he says he told his friends who remained in the city where he hid a key so they could get inside and use the food and supplies that were left behind.
“I had to face reality, that I will most likely not come home any time soon.”
At the end of March, Bucha was liberated from Russian forces, but Nikita, and many of the millions of other Ukrainians who fled their homes, still don’t believe it’s safe enough to return with the war still unfolding.
Ten days after his escape, Nikita restarted his work as a 3D artist making VTuber models (opens in new tab) (articulate avatars used in place of a webcam) for streamers. He spent the last five months working on a flimsy laptop borrowed from his sister to make models at around $200 each. He said it “wasn’t a big dream, but something to focus on” as he and his family jumped from hotel to hotel before they found a house in Warsaw.
(Image credit: Nikita’s gaming PC)
Nikita has already started exploring Elden Ring’s sprawling opening region, Limgrave. He said the patrolling Tree Sentinel and his armored horse killed him enough times that he decided to veer off from the main path toward Stormveil Castle. He’s enjoying the game, but says it’s hard not to feel a little sad given everything he went through.
“It feels nice being back doing what I like, it doesn’t matter if I do it at home or somewhere else,” he told me. He will return to Ukraine in the future, he said, “even if it’s gonna be in 10 years.”
Nikita chose to play as a Wretch, a class in the game that comes equipped with nothing but the cloth wrapped around their body. I asked him if he intentionally started as a Tarnished who is implied to have lost everything before they woke up in the Lands Between. He said he didn’t; he just wanted to keep his options open for any weapons or armor he finds during his journey.