Arguably one of the most anticipated games coming in 2022, Elden Ring will once again treat FromSoftware fans who have been looking for another crushingly difficult experience. Although it was delayed to February, a few lucky players will be able to experience a piece of the action as early as this week.
A Closed Network Test will go live on November 12 for lucky registrants, and we got the chance to explore The Lands Between a bit earlier than others. While it ended just as quickly as it began, our time was filled with pillaged treasure, explored dungeons, and a lot of expected deaths.
Skyrim x Dark Souls? Dark Souls 4? Sekiro 2? Whatever the case may be, we are absolutely floored by it, and we think you will be too.
Upon starting the game, you immediately notice that this version of Elden Ring does not feature any character creation sequence, which may disappoint fans looking to create their own character. Instead, there are 5 available classes to choose from – Warrior, Enchanted Knight, Prophet, Champion, and Bloody Wolf.
It’s not quite clear yet whether there will be more classes in the final build or if there will be an actual character creation feature (its existence was implied before in an interview with IGN), but it would certainly be surprising if these don’t make it to the final game.
Players may recognize the Bloody Wolf from the recent gameplay reveal, but all of the classes are certainly worth looking into, each with its own specialty. Of course, builds are still highly flexible and is not restricted by whichever class you choose, but in particular, the Enchanted Knight could be an easy favorite among newbies and veterans with its selection of magic-based attacks that have been beefed up and given more importance in Elden Ring compared to previous Souls games.
We got to try out all of the classes offered but seeing as we loved a no-frills type of setup, the Bloody Wolf was a no-brainer. It was nice to see the class be able to equip a shield for defensive purposes, but also dual-wield their weapon for additional damage. Dual-wielding is not limited to this class but doesn’t make as much sense to do for the others due to the need to equip something else on the off-hand.
Elden Ring will certainly be familiar to FromSoftware fans – The intense and deadly battles, the dark fantasy setting, and balls to the wall difficulty. But this isn’t just another Dark Souls game, and while it certainly has callbacks that fans will recognize, Miyazaki’s latest will feature evolutions of proven concepts that will immediately impact the way you approach the game.
Flasks make a return and you’ll have 2 types to use – Flask of Crimson Tears and Flask of Cerulean Tears. These flasks will recover your HP and FP respectively and you’ll only have a maximum number of uses shared across both, which you’ll be able to re-distribute at Sites of Grace (2 HP 2 FP, 3 HP 1 FP, and so on).
This may be upgradable later in the game to increase the number of total uses available to you, but Elden Ring also encourages you to take on various enemies in the field as clearing out groups will give you Flask refills, ensuring you stay in fighting shape longer.
Exploration and traversal are arguably more important now than ever, and Elden Ring will provide you with a spectral steed to assist, adding notable verticality to the world. The Lands Between is vast and visually stunning, and while the Closed Network Test only showcases a small chunk, the sense of scale within this singular area alone is jaw-dropping.
Shifting to an open-world setup, you’ll stumble upon optional dungeons that may contain treasure or bosses, and even collect crafting materials to create helpful items. You’re not penalized in any way for not attempting any of these side activities but Elden Ring highly encourages players to stray from the obvious path, rewarding players who take the time to do so with relevant rewards.
Exploring every nook and cranny of the world will introduce you to a number of world events, like the appearance of the Flying Dragon Agheel that will surely give players a challenge they won’t soon forget, nearly filling up the whole screen with its majestic wingspan and fiery attacks.
Elden Ring feels like a mix of all the best aspects of FromSoftware’s previous titles, showcasing a tried and tested formula that has been sharpened and refined over the past years.
Learning from the past
Elden Ring keeps the main combat structure from Dark Souls but borrows a few key aspects from Sekiro – the dedicated jump button, stealth, and stances. In particular, stances act like Sekiro’s posture system but without the gauge. You can break enemy stances using certain attacks, which leads to a highly damaging critical attack, but there’s no meter to whittle down for a deathblow like Sekiro.
As expected, combat feels very crisp and responsive. Playing on the PS5, as much as Resolution mode helped to show off the stunning vistas of Elden Ring, the 60fps Performance mode is tough to give up, especially during the sweaty situations where rolling in and out is of utmost importance.
Blocking in Elden Ring serves an obvious defensive purpose but can also set up an immediate direct counterattack that can break your opponent’s stance, opening them up to more damage. There’s a distinct sound effect that plays when you do it correctly, and this addition alone makes the combat pace much faster, allowing you to attack more times than you would normally do. It’s surprisingly easy to pull off and doesn’t require split-second timing, so even newcomers to the game will be able to make use of it.
Sekiro’s mobility aspect is also back with a vengeance, and the dedicated jump button alone allows for a level design not seen from previous titles. Ledges that you would have normally ignored are now within reach, leading to other areas with more treasure or your death at the hands of a powerful foe, if you’re curious enough.
Speaking of mobility, Elden Ring also introduces mounted combat, where you can strike foes while in your mount. Summoning your steed is very seamless and can be equipped as a shortcut for easy access, letting you charge in and out for easy damage. Quickly summoning it in and out of battle has combat implications that will give you the option to either flee or take on the enemies on the fly, a strategy that you can use during unexpectedly tough encounters.
Your toughest encounter in the Closed Network Test will arguably be with Margit The Fell Omen, a boss with sweeping attacks that can easily cover ground if you’re not careful enough. There will be a lot of lessons learned and deaths to be had in this encounter due to its fantastic design, but the satisfaction of beating it to the ground is truly second to none, a FromSoftware specialty.
FromSoftware’s expertise is in full display here, and their attention to detail is simply amazing. Elden Ring is looking to be like another masterpiece from Miyazaki and the team, and quite possibly even an early contender for GOTY in 2022.
There is a natural evolution in gameplay and not a full reinvention, so a lot of the systems will feel familiar. Instead of opting for brand new mechanics, FromSoftware is taking their past experience and fine-tuning it to perfection, with Elden Ring being the culmination of that vision that is set to blow our collective minds away next year.
Elden Ring is scheduled for a February 25, 2022 release for the PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series, and PC.