Elden Ring’s closed beta network session will be playable this weekend, but a number of publications have released previews and hands-on for the upcoming hardcore action RPG from From Software.
Here’s a feature that collects all of the previews and thoughts so far, so at least you know what you’re getting into when the game is out next February.
If you’ve played through Dark Souls, Bloodborne, and Sekiro, you know how well From Software handles combat. Elden Ring is essentially a refined version of Dark Souls 3’s combat. Positioning still matters, you will die pretty fast if you just spam attack without much care and thought, and you still have to play the defense/parry game. Still, the Elden Ring’s Tarnished main protagonist controls a lot faster and is a bit more manoeuvrable than past iterations.
The best new addition to the From Software dungeon crawler is the guard counter. You can now block an attack and respond immediately with a heavy hit that deals more damage than your standard attack. You still need to parry attacks for bigger counter damage, but at least there’s another option available.
The Jump Button
It’s so nice to have a Jump button in a Dark Souls game. It really is. Sekiro has spoilt many of us, so it’s only fitting that the spiritual successor adds this feature and create levels that take advantage of it. Best of all, your main character doesn’t take much fall damage since the entire Elden Ring landscape requires you to jump and ride a steed around to explore and head to special story dungeons.
The jump button is also useful in combat, since landing a jumping attack deals more damage, especially to certain bosses who stagger from getting their weak bits hit with such force.
The Spectral Steed
Many journalists who had hands-on with the game talk about how awesome it is to summon a ghost horse to walk through the game’s open world. And it is! The horse is snappy and “videogame” like to control, and isn’t cumbersome to control. Plus, the horse can double-jump.
Mounted combat? Not so much. Just like most open-world games with unrefined horse combat, all you do is ride circles around enemies and awkwardly swing at them. At least it looks unintentionally hilarious. And jumping off a horse to do a powerful jump attack? Very cool!
Class Flexibility & Customization
Throughout the many videos and playthroughs out now, one thing is apparent: Elden Ring has the most flexibility out of all the existing Dark Souls game. Elden Ring has an Ashes of War system going on that’s similar to Dark Souls 3’s Weapon Arts, where you can unlock specific weapon abilities for certain weapons. Elden Ring takes out the “specific” restriction, now letting you use abilities and attaching them onto weapons of your choice.
So if you want to have a magic class in the game use a giant club that’s powered up with INT stats? You can now do that in Elden Ring. Ashes of War is available pretty early in the game; all you need is Ash and you’re good to go with customizing the build of your dreams.
What’s Not Great
Elden Ring’s test preview session isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Here are the few gripes it has according to folks who played the closed beta test version early.
The Open World Itself
Elden Ring’s open-world idea is great and all. In practice? Not so much. There’s a lot of open ground for players to ride past. The interconnection that was in Dark Souls isn’t really apparent from Elden Ring’s current design. That may change with the game’s Legacy Dungeons which are basically Dark Souls’ open sprawling dungeon designs.
Boring Mini Dungeons
The open-world bits of Elden Ring also hosted a number of mini-dungeons. They’re not terribly exciting when compared to the rest of the game. Most of them are just corridors with a few enemies, a boss chamber, and a reward. Kind of like Code Vein’s extra dungeon sections.
However, this bit may work for multiplayer. Have a friend join you, conquer enemies in a linear stage, and beat the end boss for loot. Perhaps if From Software cranked up the difficulty, it could work.
The Fact That It’s Just Another Dark Souls
You’d think that with the trailers and hype going for the game, Elden Ring would have been a major gamechanger. Based on the closed test network session, it isn’t; kind of.
While thematically it’s grander, mechanically it’s Dark Souls in everything but name. The stat pages in the menus, the inventory, the sound effects for counters and backstabs, the text on the screen that says “YOU DIED”. It is all there, and it has barely changed.
This isn’t a bad thing, especially for folks who want more “non-accessible options-filled” punishing action RPG after Dark Souls 3. But we are pretty sure the most ardent fans want a bit more creativity from Elden Ring. Hopefully, there are surprises in store for the final game, but for now: steel your expectations and don’t expect many innovations apart from a ghost horse and a cool shield counter.
Dark Souls 4 Elden Ring will be out on 25 February 2022 for PC, Xbox Series, PS5, Xbox One, and PS4.