Elden Ring Impressions (PS5) – The title that has sustained a rapidly growing subsection of the gaming community is almost here, and many people, myself included, were lucky enough to play Elden Ring over the course of this past weekend.
Even in just the roughly eight hours I was able to play, Elden Ring has shown to be an absolutely impressive entry into FromSoftware’s catalogue, though the sheer quantity of what I haven’t seen makes me hesitant to prematurely award Elden Ring the honour of top dog.
So after a weekend of playing, what’s the deal with the game whose fans are mostly insufferable to be around when it comes up in conversation? Well, quite a lot it seems.
Elden Ring Preview (PS5) – A Seminal Work In The Making?
I’m quite the FromSoftware fan, having played each of their games – my personal favourites are Bloodborne, Sekiro, and Demon’s Souls – so I’ve been intensely excited for Elden Ring since its announcement.
Now that it’s almost here, I’m still excited, and now that I’ve played it, I’m even more excited. The short answer for why, is that Elden Ring plays very well and is clearly a finely tuned culmination of FromSoftware’s previous work and fan feedback over the years.
The long answer is that while what I played was very good, there’s so much we still haven’t seen, and in an open-world game as expansive as this one, there are far more pitfalls for game design flaws. Before we get to that though, let’s talk about what’s familiar, and what’s improved.
If you’ve played any of the Dark Souls games or Bloodborne, then the combat will instantly feel familiar. The old adage “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” applies well, as the combat still feels extremely tight and quick, while also being slow and methodical.
I went with the Enchanted Knight class for the entirety of my time playing this weekend, trying out some magic and melee combat. I made it through one optional boss and one non-optional boss, along with a bunch of weird standard enemies.
My favourite bar none however was just a falcon with two swords attached to its talons. It looked like the realistic equivalent of someone daring to ask what a Pidgey would look like with swords on its talons, and it was hilariously bewildering when I first saw it.
Magic in particular seems greatly improved, not only in casting animations but the speed at which you can cast certain spells, which now allows for an almost rhythmic fire rate that can go on for three, four, or five casts in a row so long as you have the magic and stamina for it.
The boss fights are once again the same high quality we’ve come to expect with FromSoftware games, though both the bosses I fought felt more familiar from previous games. That’s not entirely bad, in fact it’s more nice to see comparisons, whether they be from an aesthetic design to the design of the boss itself.
All this is to say that while a large part of my time with Elden Ring felt very familiar, I don’t think that’s at all a bad thing. What’s there was already really, really good, and what’s more exciting is that the new things in Elden Ring only make an already great system of game design better.
At least that’s how it appears so far. As much as I would love to gush about what I played the past weekend for the entire preview, I can’t honestly do that. This is after all, only some impressions based on the few hours allotted during the Network Test. What I’ve seen of the game feels like less than a percent, even though that includes three boss fights, one of which I ran away from in sheer desperation (It was the dragon, for those wondering).
New And Hopefully Improved
What’s new in Elden Ring is frankly quite a lot. For one, you have a horse for the first time in a FromSoftware game. There’s never been a steed of any kind, but the addition of one is greatly appreciated in what is clearly a vast open world.
That’s why I have an overwhelmingly cautious feeling about being overly positive. Yes, the horseback riding looks and feels great, even when combined with combat, revolving around your movement and timing just as much as if you were on your feet. But I fear FromSoftware’s open world ambitions could cripple a seemingly otherwise excellent game.
There are pitfalls in open world game design that even the best sandbox titles can fall into. Currently my biggest worry is how empty the rest of the open world will or won’t be. Part of what players love in FromSoft games is the exploration and sense of discovery lurking around each corner. I doubt those tentpole design pillars are fully removed from Elden Ring, but they’re already inherently stretched out by the game’s nature.
Much as I am worried though, a memorable moment from my time this weekend was when I walked by a bush, only to have it call out for help. When I punched it, a monkey appeared, and thanked me for releasing it from a spell that made him a bush. So it’s safe to say you’ll have at least some incredible discoveries like that – the hope is that they’re not few and far between.
Fast travelling across the map feels wild to do in a FromSoftware title, but not out of place for open world games. What feels wilder than fast travelling is jumping, but it again is a most welcome addition to the game design, and at this point is hopefully a mainstay from here on out.
Your fall damage also really has been nerfed quite a bit, taking absolutely no damage from falls that would have annoying only done a little bit of damage in previous FromSoft titles. Another lovely element that I’ve chosen to call a quality of life improvement rather than a feature added due to the open world is no consumption of stamina outside combat.
Get Ready To Praise The Elden Ring
Elden Ring, despite what FromSoftware fans may say, was never guaranteed to be good. It would be shocking if it was an absolute train wreck given the people behind the game, but that was never guaranteed. I’m not even properly convinced it’s guaranteed now, but maybe I’m just cynical.
The fact remains that if FromSoftware is truly able to deliver on the promise of an open world done to their standards, then Elden Ring’s level of depth, world building, and player immersion could very well skyrocket it to the top of all game of the year lists for 2022, potentially even close to the top for any “games of all time” list.
FromSoftware has shown time and again that they are masters of game design, and they are a juggernaut of talent capable of continuing to influence the games industry for years to come. Elden Ring already feels like the culmination of all their best parts, and hopefully is also the best aspects of what makes open world games really work.
Elden Ring will release on PS5 and PS4 on February 25, 2021.