As Elden Ring approaches, we got to take one last step into The Lands Between to try and uncover what little we can about the game’s expansive, daunting world.
In our last preview of Elden Ring, we were given roughly 6 hours to play the start of the game, unencumbered from the huge white walls of mist that locked players in the opening area during the Closed Network Test. This preview was conducted over a stream, as has become the norm since the pandemic, meaning that even with great streaming technology, which allowed for excellent picture quality throughout the experience, there was still some noticeable latency, which is just about the last thing you could possibly want when previewing a Souls game.
Also, between our first preview, the Closed Network Test and this final preview, we’ve played through these opening zones 3 times, so we thought, why regale you with tales of the incredible Dragon fight in the watery basin (which is still breathtaking), or the horrific multi-armed crab monster that haunts the halls of the castle on the hill, when we can instead go on an adventure into the uncharted territory of The Lands Between.
Elden Ring is FromSoftware's most incredible world yet
The map in Elden Ring feels enormous. When you open the map screen, you’ll be greeted with the majority of the area shrouded in grey, and by exploring the world, you can find pieces of the map to fill it in. We enjoyed this as it made finding a piece of map almost as exciting as finding a new weapon. Sure, you can gain a vantage point and physically see the area in front of you, but Elden Ring is a game that’s full of valleys, and hidden paths that aren’t easy to spot.
The world is deep, not just from a lore perspective, but from a literal one. When riding towards an area in the far east of the map, we didn’t notice any great change in the elevation of the terrain, but, upon leaving our mount, Torrent, we looked down to see a huge cavernous walkway, filled with enemies. Elden Ring isn’t only the largest map in Souls history in terms of landmass, every inch from the sea level to the peaks of the castles are filled with places to explore.
This is a game that you’ll play to completion, then return to the very first area, take a slightly different path, and run into a sub-boss that you had no idea was even there. As with our other preview, it does make us wonder if there’s going to be a situation wherein players significantly over level themselves by hunting down everything in an area before moving on to the next.
However, “souls-farming” spots in these games have always existed, so turning that grind into meaningful, unique content is a change that hadn’t actually occurred to us until we sat down with the game for the third time.
It will be extremely interesting to see, once the game is finally out and millions of players have picked its bones, just how much freedom Elden Ring will afford the player during a playthrough. While From has said that the game will take around 30 hours to beat, we’re curious just how many of the game’s bosses will be required on the golden path. If you include sub-bosses, from our experience a player could have faced 10-15 goliath creatures before ever taking on Margit The Fell as part of the main progression.
Players may have already met Alexander, the huge pot who’s stuck in the ground early in the game that asks you to remove him from his predicament by smashing him with a two-handed weapon, and we’re happy to confirm that the weird From humour that has given us Siegmeyer of Catarina and many other icon Souls NPCs are present in Elden Ring. We wouldn’t be surprised to see a few familiar faces pop up, as is From tradition.
Another element of the game we were struck by on our adventure beyond what has previously been shown was the sudden, stark differences in colour. While many players will have experienced the lush green forests of the opening area, just beyond them in any direction are vastly different environments, including some unlike those that have been seen in Souls games previously, which is some achievement considering this is arguably the 7th title in the From family of games that kick your teeth in.
“It will be extremely interesting to see, once the game is finally out and millions of players have picked its bones, just how much freedom Elden Ring will afford the player during a playthrough”
Even the areas that evoke older games, like the castle which calls to mind Demon’s Souls, feel unique enough to not simply be a case of Elden Ring “playing the hits”. This is aided by environment design that has never looked better. The halls of the castle are bathed in warm firelight, there are long drawing tables covered, untouched for years, perfectly set up for you and your foe to roll around in and smash to pieces.
From our experience, Elden Ring’s gameplay and world feel like they’re going to deliver on the almost unprecedented expectations players have for this game. The variety in combat and precision with which it’s delivered is a hallmark of a team that’s been marking incredible games for over a decade, and refining a formula that was already exceptional when it debuted.
While From has delivered many iconic worlds before, Elden Ring delivers them at a scale that’s utterly unlike anything that’s come before it in the series. Souls fans have plenty of reasons why one game or the other in the series is their favourite, but it feels like Elden Ring might finally achieve a common ground, by learning from everything that’s come before.
Elden Ring doesn’t want to copy the best bits from Souls and string them together in a compilation without cohesion, it wants you to feel the way you did when you had those moments. The first time a dragon flew over your head in Demon’s Souls. Your first foray into Blighttown.
We are extremely excited to get our hands on the full game and immerse ourselves in every element of it. The one real question mark is how the larger narrative will play out, and if From takes steps towards making the lore and story of Elden Ring more prominent. From games are famously absolutely teeming with story, but often it’s hidden in books or item descriptions that require hours-long YouTube videos to explain.
From the narrative elements that we got to take a look at, and won’t spoil, we’re confident that the game takes a step in the right direction when it comes to explaining what’s actually going on, without losing any of the mystery that captivated players in the first place.