Elden Ring impressions: A blend of FromSoftware's best
A hardcore gaming icon attempts to up itself once more.
Elden Ring is one of the most anticipated games in the world. Developed by FromSoftware and published by Bandai Namco, it's a game that seems to promise the pinnacle of FromSoftware's experience, marrying the combat of Dark Souls and the horrific creatures of Bloodborne with the high fantasy writing of A Song of Ice and Fire author George R.R. Martin.
I spent several hours in the Elden Ring network test, exploring the world and taking on bosses, both alone and in co-op. While it's only a slice of the game not completely reminiscent of the full release and with multiple sections walled off, it still gives a taste of how the studio has married its classic interconnected world design and tight gameplay encounters to a wide open world. All in all, it could end up being one of the best Xbox RPGs available.
Elden Ring evolves the formula, but doesn't lose it
One of the biggest questions I had going into Elden Ring was how the game would actually handle its open world design. FromSoftware is known for weaving different paths and carefully-designed fights together. Could FromSoftware's design work in a more open setting? The answer is a resounding yes.
Instead of walling off large-scale fights with dragons and other monsters, the open world provides the opportunity to simply stumble across these threats. Some even roam the map, meaning you might encounter them at a different location depending on the exact time of day (more on that later). FromSoftware's past games always benefitted from a sense of discovery and the open world here doesn't hinder that; if anything, it aids it. Instead of choosing one or two narrow paths to head down, you can quite literally stomp off in any direction, never being too far away from something interesting.
There are also more gameplay options than ever before. The open world design is also aided by the introduction of mounts, which can be used for transportation and new approaches to combat. It's extremely fun to run circles around packs of does, slashing and taking them down while escaping with ease. My coworker Miles Dompier believes Elden Ring is the most approachable FromSoftware game yet, and I heartily agree.
Special attention has gone into Elden Ring's magic systems. While FromSoftware has always handled combat fairly well — provided you're OK with the animation-based style — magic has always lacked a certain flourish, having a stiffness compared to the smooth blocks and swordplay other combat styles provided. That's not the case here, as magic users flourish spells fluidly, quickly casting incantations with aplomb. More than ever, it feels like a magic-focused build is not only viable, but encouraged.
The time of day is far more than just cosmetic. As previously mentioned, certain enemies and even bosses wander through the world, while other enemies only come out at night. Going through the technical preview, I noticed several new foes attack along a cliffside that weren't present earlier in the day, meaning players might be encouraged to study the environment and plan their trips based what time it is.
The map is another big new feature. Once map fragments are found, players can start marking locations, noting the exact spot for rare resources or particularly dangerous foes. It makes things less confusing to keep up with, as despite the size of the game world (even trimmed down for this network test) I never felt like I was lost or unsure of where I'd been before.
At the end of the day, the challenging boss fights and jolly co-op are what most players come to FromSoftware for and I'm very happy to say Elden Ring doesn't let down in either regard. On the latter, co-op is simpler than ever, with a dedicated multiplayer tab breaking down exactly how to summon other players, be summoned, or even invade their worlds. You'll still need consumable items to access many of these features, but it's less eclectic and simpler than ever to understand.
The boss fights have been great so far, with several odd new foes unlike anything FromSoftware has done before. I don't want to spoil anything not shown in the trailers, but there's a high fantasy aspect here not seen in the studio's prior games and it leaves me extremely excited for what the full game may hold.
Elden Ring holds great promise
All in all, I'm thrilled with Elden Ring so far. Despite spending several hours in-game and defeating multiple bosses, it feels like there are plenty of other secrets and challenges hidden away. If the rest of the game is as good or better than what I've played so far, it'll be one of the standout titles in 2022.
Elden Ring is slated to launch on Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S, Xbox One, PC, PS5 and PS4 on Feb. 25, 2022.
A brand-new adventure
Elden Ring ... oh, Elden Ring!
Elden Ring is FromSoftware's next fantasy epic. Based on what we've played, it could the studio's most approachable title yet.
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Samuel Tolbert is a freelance writer covering gaming news, previews, reviews, interviews and different aspects of the gaming industry, specifically focusing on Xbox and PC gaming on Windows Central. You can find him on Twitter @SamuelTolbert.
The Two Trees, were Laurelin (the Gold Tree) and Telperion (the Silver Tree), which brought light into the Land of the Valar in ancient times. They were destroyed by Melkor and the primal spider Ungoliant, but their last flower and fruit were made by the Valar into the Sun and the Moon.