When it comes to Soulsborne fans, some are born by the blood, others are unkindled, and some prefer to die twice. No matter where you started or how many different ways you have died, you have both cursed and praised the mad man known as Hidetaka Miyazaki. It has been 12 years since From Software released Demon’s Souls, and to say there is a giant weight of expectation on their shoulders over Elden Ring would be putting it lightly. These games have almost become a religion in masochism, and for all the infamy surrounding these titles, its fan base only grows stronger with each new release.
This past weekend we finally got to lay our hands on one of 2022’s most anticipated games and it was truly a magical experience. From Software have maintained the third-person action RPG elements that have been a staple of the series from the beginning.
What we weren’t sure of was whether they would create a new gameplay style for this release. Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls are a little more grounded with a medieval sword and shield foundation. They are far from being that simple but compared to Sekiro with its Shinobi theme, and Bloodborne being a fast-paced Gothic nightmare, it’s safe to say they aren’t afraid to experiment.
Elden Ring is officially the first of a new franchise that will be leaning heavily into the fantasy genre based on The Lands in Between. The player will be placed in the shoes of the Tarnished and will venture forth to restore your grace, and the combat system will be modelled after Dark Souls with a few helpful additions. Firstly, you can now jump freely, which opens up a whole new world of possibilities when it comes to chaining light, heavy, and jumping attacks. They have also carried over the stealth elements from Sekiro by being able to crouch to further open up your options for engagement as you traverse the lands above.
So far, it seems the spirit summon system will be the central addition to Elden Ring as you can capture the essence of different types of spirits to summon when you are on holy ground. It felt familiar yet invigorating, complemented by the stunning art design with the landscape being illuminated by colossal-sized glowing trees peppering the land. It’s a subtle art to maintain the look and feel of past projects while making it feel new and exciting. This time around you are even given a horse, being able to summon and dispel Torrent was quick and easy, and even added a layer of combat that was immensely satisfying.
A new map system lets you collect fragments to reveal more locations and allows you to mark points of interest with a beacon system. While resting, you can wait until morning, afternoon, or nighttime to change the setting and possibility of new events. These additions are subtle but ultimately they set this game apart from its predecessors.
We came across two roaming bosses that can quite literally follow you across the plains and it’s notable that this is an addition to the traditional locked-off arena boss fights. The enemies are a healthy mix of knight-type grunts, undead-type ghouls, and all the way to some gigantic and horrifying abominations that you would find in Bloodborne.
For those unsure of the open-world design, you can find solace in the fact that the tight and claustrophobic dungeons are still in play, you just have to find them first. When we felt like we were being beaten up too much in one area, we just left and carried on to the next point of interest, everything was on the table.
So far, every game since Demon’s Souls except Sekiro has included the option to invite a friend along. We’re happy to confirm that multiplayer is back on the menu and that includes the devious invasion system synonymous with the fans. Upon entering a new area there are little beacons you can activate to open up the summoning system. Upon closer inspection, they actually look like they are little sun bros praising the sun, a happy coincidence or deliberate fan service? That’s up to you to decide. It was a familiar system with inscribing your mark on the ground for other players to see and the option to toggle on password protection so you can narrow down who will be able to see it.
We can vaguely remember hearing the rumours around George R.R Martin being involved in an open-world Dark Souls type game. I laughed at the idea as it sounded so far-fetched, but a part of me held onto that hope. This very rumour turned out to be more than a fever dream and after playing Elden Ring, it truly feels like this is the ultimate amalgamation of every idea Miyazaki has ever conjured up. We can’t wait to get our hands on the full game when it releases on February 25th, 2022.