Elden Ring is the new Soulslike game from Bloodborne and Dark Souls developer, FromSoftware. I had the opportunity to play a few hours of Elden Ring during the closed network beta test, and I was only allowed to explore a smaller area of the large open world. Right away I noticed that this game is headed in the right direction and all the hype around the project will be worth it.
The preview starts by taking you through a cave where you are taught the basic controls of the game. From heavy attacks to how you can wield the sword two-handed, pretty much everything is covered. Since the game borrows most of its combat from Dark Souls, you won’t be learning anything new here if you’re already familiar with the controls except for the new terminology; the checkpoint-bonfire is now called ‘Site of Grace’, and the healing flasks are now called ‘Flask of Crimson Tears’.
Although the combat is mostly borrowed from Dark Souls, it is expanded to accommodate more playstyles and to possibly attract a wider audience. The best addition to combat was horse-mounted skirmish; whilst this follows the same mechanics as regular combat, but sitting on a horse makes it a lot cooler. If you come across a foe who is also mounted, make sure to kill their steed first so you have the mount advantage.
Once over with the tutorial, you’re free to explore the breathtaking world of Elden Ring. I only had access to a small slice of the open-world map and even that had so much to explore. You start in Limgrave and see a huge, golden-armoured, horse-mounted warrior that you do NOT want to challenge, because I did and failed thrice. After realising I’m too weak to challenge him, I started exploring and noticed some changes from other Soulslike games.
Since FromSoftware is taking the open-world approach for Elden Ring, they’ve also made it much easier to travel swiftly across the map. You can fast travel throughout the map by using the aforementioned Sites of Grace (quite abundant in number), you also have your own on-demand horse that can double jump (and you can jump now, too), and travelling by foot is also much faster because stamina is now only used when you are in combat. The world also feels a lot safer to explore; you can easily sneak past the mini-bosses or run past them with your horse.
Other than that, there are also sites known as the Stakes of Marika which also act like checkpoints and players can revive themselves there. The catch is that over here, players are not able to upgrade or customise equipment like at the Site of Grace. Stakes of Marika basically save you from the frustration of walking through places you already have countless times, allowing you to continue from where you died.
Another new feature is that the Sites of Grace guide players to the main quests. You can still explore the map and do whatever you want, but this is a welcomed addition as it prevents you from getting lost in the very vast open world.
The last new feature that I noticed is the crafting mechanic; players can now collect natural items by harvesting flowers and hunting animals to craft items such as throwing knives. However, you cannot craft from the beginning, as first you have to purchase a crafting bag from a merchant. Other things you can purchase from merchants are ‘spectral packs’—these are packs of summonable wolves and other animals that you can use to help you during your combat.
The world itself is extremely beautiful, almost as if something pulled out of a fantasy movie; it is incredibly diverse and dynamic. The biggest highlight has to be the golden tree that shimmers across and is visible from every area of the map alongside other landscapes such as mountains, caves, a whole lot of greenery, and creepy bosses.
If you’re expecting Elden Ring to be easier than the other Souls games, it kind of is. This game (to me) felt a tiny bit easier than Dark Souls III, but you should still be prepared to die countless times. Mergit the Omen was the first boss I encountered and possibly the toughest one throughout the demo. I was playing carelessly during my first few tries with Mergit until I finally paid attention to his movement, and then after several more attempts I managed to kill him. After that, the bosses I faced were not as frustrating as I remember some bosses from Dark Souls III being, but still frustrating enough to qualify as a Souls game. Also, worth noting that I managed to kill the aforementioned golden-armoured boss in Limgrave as well, but it was only possible after I upgraded everything and used spectral packs.
The music and theme song are amazing. I am a huge fan of OSTs in videogames and I wasted a small chunk of the already limited playtime just sitting in the menu and vibing to the theme track. In game as well, the audio really adds to the game’s ambience.
This was only a beta test, but the optimisation of Elden Ring on my Xbox Series X wasn’t impressive. Despite the game looking phenomenal, I had texture cuts, huge frame drops outside of combat, and resolution drops throughout my playtime. This was pretty darn frustrating, but I assume this is an earlier build and they still have a lot of time to fix this before launch.
All things considered, Elden Ring is on the right track and is shaping up to be a very ambitious game. If you’re a Soulsborne fan, you will absolutely adore Elden Ring. This honestly seems to me FromSoftware’s finest work yet; the game will be something special and a treat for fans of the genre when it launches on February 2022 for PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation 5.