It has gotten to the point that a new Soulsborne release coming at the hands of the developers at From Software, and it has been especially so for Elden Ring, especially thanks to how tight-lipped the developers have been on the title. Now, From Software and publisher Bandai Namco has let many players preview Elden Ring during limited windows as part of a closed network test, answering some of the questions fans have had.
The technical test began with players selecting from a handful of character archetypes familiar to fans. A warrior with heavy armor, a pilgrim that could use faith spells, a sorcerer, a fire-magic wielder, and a faster melee-focused fighter. From there, players walked through a procession of detailed hallways until an elevator took them to the surface where a door led into the game’s proper world.
Walking out into Elden Ring’s world was breathtaking in a way that is rarely achieved by video games, similar to emerging from the vault in Fallout 3 for the first time or discovering just how large of a world was waiting after leaving White Orchard in The Witcher 3. It immediately implicates a grand scale that is difficult to not get excited by through imagining the possibilities that a developer like From Software could utilize that space for.
To help, the world is also strikingly beautiful. The Soulsborne games largely feature iconically desolate worlds that are sublime reflections of the struggles and desolate history of their settings and the player’s experience. Elden Ring turns this approach on its head. A massive golden tree shimmers and is visible from anywhere on the map while plants of red and white fruit are scattered around for players to harvest for crafting while the majority of the map showcased in the network test is dominated by vibrant green plant life.
This is not to say that Elden Ring feels cartoonish or relatively happy, however, as locations across the map are crumbling ruins of a previous civilization that are being reclaimed by nature while also housing camps that have quickly been thrown together to house groups of enemies. The visual design coalesces to create an atmosphere of a world being reclaimed and moving on to a new phase of its existence.
From the preview of Elden Ring, it seems that this sense of evolution and progression is also present in the game’s mechanics and structure as well. Of course, there are still the tentpole features that fans have come to expect, such as a bonfire-like system, a punishing stamina-based combat system, item-fueled multiplayer, and a delicate balancing act of ability scores and equipment.
By keeping the core tenants of From Software’s games consistent Elden Ring manages to give fans exactly what they have hoped it would be. My time in the preview of Elden Ring showcased a deep dedication to what has made so many players passionate about the Soulsborne games while giving just a small tease of what new features will be explorable at launch.
One of the biggest new features is Elden Ring’s exploration. Of course, the Soulsborne games have always put a large emphasis on exploring its environments to find shortcuts, items, resources, and find one’s way through the plot. But Elden Ring takes this one step further, with an entirely open-world setting that pushes players to wander and determine their own progress. Players are assisted by two new mechanics, a summonable horse that can race across the land and double jump, as well as a new guidance system that helps points players in a recommended direction in case they aren’t sure where to go.
Exploration is also encouraged by the game’s new crafting system that allows players to purchase and find crafting recipes for pieces of equipment like throwing knives and firebombs. The new crafting system offers players a way to gather the supplies they want to use without having to dedicate resources that could be used to level up while also letting players attain supplies without needing to revisit merchants.
The closed network test also highlighted the multiplayer systems of Elden Ring by giving players as many multiplayer items as they could want to tackle its challenges with one another. Elden Ring has three different items that players can use to place their iconic sigils on the ground, with one to be summoned to help other players, one to invade another player, and one to invite another player to a mutual PvP duel. For players who want to team up with friends, there are options to make matching up with one another easier, but it still requires resources to do so.
All in all, the preview of Elden Ring has shone a light on just how adaptable and flexible the Soulsborne formula is. Only the game’s full release will ultimately reveal how well it can handle its new progression, pacing, and structure, but it seems to be in a very strong position as it currently sits, and it will most likely please all of the Soulsborne fans who have waited so eagerly for its release.
Elden Ring releases on February 25, 2022 for PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S.
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Arron is a writer and video editor for But Why Tho? that is passionate about all things gaming, whether it be on a screen or table. When he isn’t writing for the site he’s either playing Dungeons & Dragons, watching arthouse movies, or trying to find someone to convince that the shooter Brink was ahead of its time.
March 20, 2023