With February’s release window getting closer by the day, it was a real treat today for Soulsborne fans. Showing off a meaty 20-minute Egameplay presentation, this provided the deepest dive into the game so far. But is Elden Ring looking like a promising venture forward for FromSoftware?
It is no doubt FromSoftware’s most ambitious game, but from this presentation, it could well be their most accessible. The Soulsborne games have been at the epicenter of the conversation surrounding difficulty and accessibility but what was shown in this extended gameplay session could signal and change for the series. One of the most obvious additions is that of the ‘Guiding Light’ that pulses from the Site of Grace (Elden Ring’s version of the iconic bonfire) pointing players to their next objective. Whereas in previous games, the player was left to find their way through the world without any guidance, Elden Ring seems to reach out a helping hand. The explorative nature of the game still exists, however, with the guide merely being optional assistance that can be ignored.
Elden Ring also features an impressive map that offers a fairly detailed look at the world, another first for modern FromSoftware games (bar Sekiro’s basic area maps). Beacons can be placed within the map, aiding exploration in a dauntingly large world. The map does seem to act as though it will offer a surface-level view of the world, allowing hardcore fans to uncover its secrets while offering those that may be new to the franchise a rough guide to the various areas in the game.
To traverse this wild landscape, Elden Ring introduces horse traversal that will take the edge off of the long journeys that will be at the core of Elden Ring’s exploration. Usable both in and out of battle, the horse is a welcome addition to the game, particularly when it comes to the arduous runs back to boss arenas. Spirit springs add some vertically to your movement, allowing you to rocket up the side of mountains. What’s important to note about all of these additions is that they are optional. You can ignore the Guiding Light and map for a more exploratory experience and fully role play in a world without horses if you like. These aren’t forced on you, but if you want to use them, they are there.
Spirits big and small were showcased lending a hand in fights. Calling spirits isn’t instantaneous but they can offer a wealth of benefits. A gang of wild spirits is summoned to aid in a battle with a group of guards. The gang is wily and frantic when attacking which seemingly provides an advantage over the slower defense-based guards. During a later boss fight, a large lumbering spirit is called upon which acts as more of a punching bag, allowing the player to get some hits in safely. One particularly interesting application of the spirits is when they are tied to a weapon. When performing an overhead slam, the player summons three skeletons that attack the oncoming foe, who then promptly disappear. These spirits are unlike other ones we’ve seen before, who usually stay until they are killed.
What stands out about Elden Ring’s combat is the level of freedom you have. We see the player switch between various different weapons along with a wide variety of spells and even a bow. All of these have been available in the mainline Souls series before, but you may have been locked into a certain style of fighting due to how you level up your character. This doesn’t seem like it’s the case in Elden Ring, which allows you to play the way you want. FromSoftware showcases a plethora of stunning spells, featuring one that looks a lot like an attack of a certain Devourer of Gods. Magic looks and sounds satisfying, which will hopefully help make it a viable strategy throughout the game. Crafting is also coming to the series for the first time. Crafting items on the fly may become something of a staple in order to survive. We see different types of arrows in the showcase too, but I think there is going to be a FromSoftware depth to this system which will be extremely gratifying.
Dungeons, caves, and caverns are going to play a huge part in Elden Ring, acting as a treasure trove of valuable items. They look like they will be taking some influence from Bloodborne’s Chalice Dungeons, which were met with a mixed reception at launch. I’m hoping the more natural inclusion of the areas will allow them to flourish and be a more integral part of the Elden Ring experience. The length of the dungeons varies in complexity, from simple trap ladened interactions to giant castles featuring boss fights. I can’t wait to be wandering around, hitting all the walls insight in the hope that one of them may disappear.
Hardcore Soulsborne fans should be excited, and there is a lot to love here for newcomers to the genre. Elden Ring launches with four different editions, February 25th.