Recently, I had an opportunity to dive headfirst into Elden Ring from a somewhat unique perspective. Years of hype and limited but enticing teases had caught my interest like everyone else. Unlike my peers, though, I have never fallen in love with, nor have I overly enjoyed, the painful experiences of Dark Souls or Bloodborne. Persistent death despite my best effort has never been my bread and butter, and honestly, Elden Ring looked like it was going to be more of the same. Jumping in, however, I realise now that I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Truly, Elden Ring is challenging in line with its predecessors. There are several key steps forward in this game that take it beyond a brutal death fest, though. The ability to call for assistance from peers, to explore the vast world at your will and to avoid some dangers rather than being stuck before them through hours of attempted battles made the whole experience feel more free and allowed me to take my time and learn the laws of the world. Boy, is there a lot of learning though! Elden Ring has complex lore and terminology behind items, activities and everything in between. Those more in tune with the wider FromSoft meta may find this more familiar than I, but I spent a good deal of time trying to work out what things meant or did, as well as what this world was all about. Certainly, in this test at least, there was very little introduction to the world or its story. A few vague comments from rude NPC bystanders and a flurry of large glowing trees are the only signposts that you enter the world with. Then, like me, you are liable to be destroyed by a large, golden armour-clad opponent riding a horse towards you with extreme prejudice…
A couple of hours after having been dropped into the deep end, things began to feel more familiar. Part of the problem appeared to be that my choice of the class did not suit me well, and after restarting with another I realised how crucial a comfortable playstyle was for succeeding in this game. Elden Ring offers five class options. Enchanted Knights, whom I tried out first, unite close combat with ranged spells to control enemies throughout the fight. I didn’t get on with these folks, but I can see their merits for more able combatants. Prophets bump up the spell factor a step further and can be a great asset at range as proven by many allies I called in for aid. The Bloody Wolf, my ultimate class of choice, combine a big heavy sword with a workable shield which saved my soul more than once when ranged enemies or groups of foes were concerned. The penultimate choice is the Champion, a formidable combatant with awesome area control abilities. Finally, the more traditional Warrior seemed to be a frequent pick by co-op partners; fast-moving and quick striking with a lot of your classic rolling employed as a powerful technique. There is not a HUGE range of difference between classes, but it is well worthwhile playing around until you find the one that suits your playstyle. Landing on the Bloody Wolf was a real bonus to my enjoyment of the game, as I felt comfortable in my abilities and employed them to relatively good effect versus more complex class choices.
Taking full advantage of the open world in Elden Ring, with its extremely (albeit grittier) Breath of the Wild feel, I began trekking to various corners of the explorable zone in the test before opting to follow the “beaten path”. The design of the world and its various corners and dungeons is impeccable, enticing and daunting. Bright open spaces transform into dark, unkempt dungeons with instantaneous transitions into these new environments. The world makes you feel differently in its different domains, and that is outstanding design at its best. Obscure creatures quietly go about their business in mines. Large birds perch with no interest in your presence. Enemies patrol and chatter until they spot you where you shouldn’t be. The world is alive with peaceful mundanity and you do not belong. I fell swiftly in love and became more explorer than a warrior for many hours of my time in the game test. Perhaps most notable from a design perspective, of course, were the gargantuan bosses that frequently stood on my path…
Elden Ring‘s bosses are formidable, fierce and, most importantly to me, fallible. Now don’t get me wrong, I understand that nothing in Dark Souls is impossible. But none of the bosses in Elden Ring made me feel depressed, angry or exasperated in trying to defeat them. Instead, a powerful but wholly defeatable foe felt worthy when they beat me and like an achievement when they instead fell at my blade. I use the term “my” somewhat loosely, as in most of the major combat situations that were testing me I was able to quickly and politely call for help from other players. Co-op made its way into the Souls game at one stage, but in this game, it felt swift and natural to employ. A player would appear in my world, help me to defeat a large foe, communicate their satisfaction to me via emotes and dissipate into the ether. It was a quick and quiet exchange but one which significantly enhanced my overall experience. It made the bosses exciting and tactical to defeat and the wider game feels more accessible than anything which had come before. Suddenly, I was enjoying a souls-like game from every aspect; be it the world, its inhabitants, the challenging combat or, indeed, the customisation.
Progression and customisation were elements that, again, confused me slightly. There is a lot at play data-wise and not all of the language comes across straightforwardly. Nevertheless, taking a moment with one element at a time I was able to make key decisions to consistently enhance my character. From a simple levelling system to imbuing my sword in powerful and magical Ashes of War, I constantly felt as though I was becoming at least slightly more powerful. Combined with the brewing of custom potions and the use of rune-type upgrades alike, there is a lot of deep and complex strategy at play even in the background choices you make. I can’t claim to have comprehended all of them, but the fact that I progressed (with enthusiasm no less) so much further in Elden Ring than in any Souls-like game I have played before gave me the firm impression that this game is not merely your average FromSoft death-fest! This is something I truly, deeply want to play more.
In my excited description of how everything fits together and the fact that I can FINALLY see what everyone has been excited about for all of these years, I must not neglect to mention gameplay. Gameplay is highly adapted to the class of characters you play. I did not get on with the Enchanted Knight, but playing as a Bloody Wolf with a shield to help me negotiate ranged-attacking enemies and a bow to return fire myself made me feel like I had a comfortable chance in combat. Traversing the world is largely walking, riding (once you acquire the double-jumping phenomenon that is the Spectral Steed) and the much-heralded method of jumping. It is a fairly standard affair for an open-world game, notwithstanding the fact that your horse can effectively fly under the right conditions. More of that in the game’s full release, I’m sure. Combat is what everyone playing these games wants to know about though, and for many fans, it will feel wholly familiar. The need for careful timing supersedes any essence of becoming an all-powerful force of nature. Your weapons and armaments can be upgraded to devastating effect for smaller foes, but when fighting a larger boss or more technical enemy, a combination of timing, parrying and of course, rolling is still the key. Big hits from larger enemies can be devastating, though there were notably fewer one-hit wonders in what I experienced of the game. That being said, the sudden appearance of a MASSIVE dragon did intimidate me enough to jump off the sofa, exclaim “nope!” rather loudly and Spectral Steed I was out of that area for good!
My thoughts on this game are likely unconventional given my prior experiences with the developer’s library of titles. That being said, no new game is aimed purely at existing fans, so I hope my perspective holds some merit and value to those outside the know. Elden Ring is, in fact, much akin to Dark Souls and Bloodbourne in mood, style and mechanics, but certain changes and additions give you a fighting chance no matter what your experience level may be. The game is still vastly more challenging than your average RPG; don’t go in expecting Skyrim from FromSoftware! But in Elden Ring you can progress at will, enjoy the world as much as the challenge and ask for help when you need it. The pace is slowed, you are in control of your adventure and you are not alone. For a relative newbie, this made all of the difference to me and I truly cannot wait to play more of the game upon release. Keep an eye on this on folks, both fans and intrigued fresh faces alike. Elden Ring could be the RPG to unite both parties under its magnificence. This is, potentially, a real winner.
For more on Elden Ring Head Here – https://en.bandainamcoent.eu/elden-ring/elden-ring
Did you enjoy reading our preview of a game before the game gets its final release and its final version? if yes, click here to find more early previews.