We’ve been awaiting Elden Ring with bated breath ever since it was announced back in 2019, and after a minor delay, we can expect the game to release on February 25th, 2022. As it stands, that’s not too much of a departure from the original January release, so we’re keeping our fingers crossed that this new release date will be the last.
Elden Ring is a collaboration between Hidetaka Miyazaki, the creator of the Souls series, Bloodborne and Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, and George R. R. Martin, the creator of A Song of Ice and Fire. As such, you can expect to see elements from both genres. Players take on the role of a Tarnished – exiles from the Lands Between, summoned back after the shattering of the Elden Ring. To become the Elden Lord, the player must traverse the Lands Between and restore the Elden Ring to its former glory – no easy task in this unforgiving world.
While we’ve still got a few months left to wait, Bandai Namco allowed some of us to try the upcoming game through the Elden Ring closed network test. If you were lucky enough to get your hands on a code for the beta, chances are, like me, you’ve spent the last few days immersing yourself in the perilous open-world of the Lands Between.
If not, hopefully, this will give you an idea of what to expect when the game releases in February.
Upon booting up the game, players can choose from five character classes – Warrior, Enchanted Knight, Prophet, Champion and Bloody Wolf – each with their own unique stats and gameplay. It’s worth trying out multiple classes to see which one works best for your preferred style of gameplay.
Players begin in the Cave of Knowledge, where they are introduced to the basics of gameplay before being thrown out into Elden Ring’s beautiful, expansive world. Despite only having access to part of the map with the beta, the area we were given to roam was impressive in size. There are caves, ruins and forests to explore just to name a few, and there are plenty of optional boss fights to sink your teeth into.
Or, you know, run away from, because as you might expect, Elden Ring is damn hard.
Five or so minutes after leaving the Cave of Knowledge, I found myself running into a horse-riding Tree Sentinel. Unmatched, underpowered and not yet used to the intricacies of combat, after several brief and humiliating attempts, I decided to take more of a stealthy approach until I was able to improve my equipment and get the hang of Elden Ring‘s invaluable Guard counter move. Then, I went back and got my revenge on the Tree Sentinel. It was a proud moment.
You are given some reprise from the dangerous world around you though. Scattered across the map are Sites of Grace, which are essentially the same as the bonfires you can find in Dark Souls. These sites replenish your health and act as a spawn point for you to return to upon death and allow you to level up, memorize spells, distribute flask charges – flasks allow you to replenish either health or focus – and more. You’ll find that Elden Ring features a number of elements from Miyazaki’s previous games often, albeit with a new name. In addition to the Sites of Grace, there are also Stakes of Marika which, if you die in the vicinity of one, you can opt to respawn there instead. You can also fast-ravel to previously discovered Sites of Grace as long as you aren’t in battle, which makes traversing the large map a lot easier.
Elden Ring isn’t a game that holds your hand. While it walks you through the basics, there’s a lot you’re left to find out by yourself. It took me a while to discover that you had to rest at three different Sites of Grace before you’re able to unlock your spectral steed, Torrent, and start levelling up, which is part of the reason I spent a lot of time getting destroyed in my early hours with the game.
If you’ve played Dark Souls, you’ll probably be familiar with player messages and bloodstains – elements that have made their way into Elden Ring‘s gameplay. Players can see how other players died through bloodstains and leave messages on the ground for others to see, which was, in some cases, incredibly useful. I came across messages warning me of danger or leading me to a Site of Grace. On the flip side, I also found messages trying to lure me to my death, so it’s worth taking these messages with a grain of salt.
Throughout my time with the Elden Ring Network test, I’ve only had the chance to experience a small amount of what the game has to offer, but it’s looking incredibly promising, and I’m more excited for its release than ever. The tried and tested gameplay elements taken from Miyazaki’s previous games and George R. R. Martin’s storytelling makes for a great combination, but it’s not going to be for everyone. If you’re a fan of Miyazaki’s previous work, chances are you’ll love Elden Ring. The huge, open world, while beautiful, is just as unforgiving as you might expect from a Souls-like game. That being said, the freedom that Elden Ring allows when it comes to gameplay means that it’s that little bit more accessible for a wider range of players. If you’re not one for charging in headfirst, for the most part, you can take a much more tactical approach, picking enemies off one by one. This freedom compensates for the difficulty of the game without taking away from the challenge – a good compromise, if you ask me, and I’m looking forward to diving back in when the game releases early next year.
Elden Ring releases February 25th 2022 for PlayStation 4/5, Xbox Series X and Series S, Xbox One and Microsoft Windows.