Ahead of the Elden Ring Closed Network Test going live this weekend for specific users, we had the change to go hands-on with it a little early. Elden Ring feels familiar, yet different and here’s what we learned during our time with the game.
This world feels huge
The worlds of From Software’s Souls style games have always been sprawling and intricate, but this feels totally different. Rather than connected paths between areas – Elden Ring’s preview area is expansive, full of roaming monsters and dotted with caves and decaying architecture to explore. My fears of wide open fields of nothingness between interesting areas have been mostly put to rest – as much as the world has expanded it still seems deliberately designed.
There are heaps of options to get around
Walking, running and awkwardly jumping are what you’d expect from a Souls style game – but with this expanded world comes new ways to move about. Some time into the Network Test area you can acquire a spectral steed named Torrent. They’re basically a ghost horse and you can summon them any time you’re out in the field to explore the world quickly or get yourself out of a nasty situation. You can even fight on horseback, though you have to be careful not to be knocked off!
Bosses aren’t always confined to boss rooms
While you’re exploring you will have to keep your wits about you. Besides the more run of the mill creatures you’ll find on your travels you might run into devastatingly powerful named bosses just out wandering their areas in the world. They’ll chase you around the area once you catch their attention.
Combat is a bit faster paced than a typical Souls
Souls games are known for their slower pace to combat, with every move carrying heavy weight and potentially a heavy price if mistimed. Though the same is true of some combat in Elden Ring, the addition of an honest-to-goodness jump button changes things up considerably. Taking a leaf from Sekiro’s book, you can jump around to avoid attacks and to set up overhead attacks to catch some enemies off guard. There’s a little taste of Bloodborne too with the option of a quick counter-attack after a successful block.
Easier to experiment and customise equipment
Unlike most Souls games, in Elden Ring you can customise your equipment without permanently locking in your choice. During your journey you’ll come across Ashes of War, items that can be attached to your equipment to change it’s properties anytime you rest at a Site of Grace. You can give your blades elemental, magical or other special qualities, and each Ash seems to come with a special ability as well. I came across moves like lightning strikes, healing circles and quick multi-thrust attacks – it seems like there will be a lot of room to play with move sets and weapon properties.
Some systems have been made more approachable
Alongside the more lenient weapon upgrade systems, Elden Ring has made some changes to make the game generally more approachable. You can fast-travel from anywhere in the open field to any Site of Grace. These Sites will shine a light in the direction of where you should next consider heading, giving some general idea of where to go. Your healing flasks can be replenished not just by resting at Sites of Grace, but also by clearing groups of enemies. There are statues around the map that can serve as respawn points if you die – they’re not as useful as a full Site of Grace but help cut down considerably on time to retry difficult encounters after dying. It’s lots of little things, and I don’t think the magic of Souls is lost with them from what I can tell – it should just take out some of the bigger pain points for some players.
From what we’ve seen in the Network Test – I still think the soul of Souls is here in Elden Ring. It’s interesting to see, like we did in Sekiro, the Souls formula being experimented with and going in unexpected directions. Based on this small taste, I’m very keen to see what From Software have in store for the full game in February.