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We’re just over two weeks away from the release of Elden Ring, and in preparation for the big day, game publisher Bandai Namco invited GAMINGbible to a short preview on PC. Ever the glutton for punishment, I eagerly descended into the Lands Between to see what the collaboration between FromSoftware and George R.R. Martin has to offer.
It’s immediately clear this is more Dark Souls than Bloodborne or Sekiro. The fantasy aesthetic and weighty combat mechanics make for a compelling sense of continuation from Dark Souls 3, albeit with a stronger sense of fluidity, and a wider variety of playstyles apparently catered for.
See our latest gameplay preview video for Elden Ring here:
There are several classes to choose from when making your Tarnished character, with different stat values, so you can pick one who suits your way of playing. Having said that, I went with the Prisoner because it’s clearly a Berserk reference, and the affection I share with From’s Hidetaka Miyzaki for the work of Kentaro Miura is the main reason I dabble in these games.
Starting off with a light tutorial section, it’s not long until we arrive at Elden Ring’s open world. Visually, this is arguably the prettiest game FromSoftware have made. The gold, translucent Erdtree looms over an expansive horizon, and it’s hard not to feel equal parts excited and stunned by the sense of adventure.
As those who played the beta will know, the land really opens up when you are given your mount. This ethereal creature will carry you to new areas at a mighty pace, and even has the ability to leap from designated areas to clear mountainous barriers. Before I knew it, I was a long way from where I’d started, but the in-game map still had plenty yet to uncover.
However, this sense of adventure is heavily checked by the array of deadly enemies that roam the Lands Between. The many adversaries of Elden Ring are all too happy to interrupt your exploration, with all manner of lethal attacks able to cut you down in your stride. This is especially the case of the numerous bosses and sub-bosses that patrol the open world.
The thing is, your mount makes it all too easy to bolt from danger at the first sign of trouble. Sure, not every battle is so easily escapable, but most of the time you can speed away and leave the grotesque, Tarnished-hunting behemoths trapped in the distance. However, you probably shouldn’t do this.
If you want to excel at Elden Ring, you’ll need discipline. The option to escape is a welcome one, especially when mapping out new areas, but it comes with the caveat of not making you any stronger. Killing bosses not only grants runes - the currency used to level up, and so on - but also teaches you how to play the game.
What I’m saying is you’re better off taking your time when exploring and putting down most enemies as you find them. The rewards for vanquishing these titanic foes are too great to miss, so dig your heels in and see the job through. Of course, you’ll need to tactically retreat at times, but try not to evade challenges constantly or else suffer the consequences.
Not that you always have to fight in Elden Ring. Stormveil Castle, which is considered to be the game’s first legacy dungeon, offers you two clear paths when penetrating it. One option involves walking through the main gate, essentially saying “come at me” to every bad guy in the joint. The other route is a tad less exposed, and involves traversing quieter, more claustrophobic pathways.
Whichever option you pluck for, you’ll ultimately face the same core bosses in the area, so one could argue these alternate paths make little difference. That being said, I found the ability to fight smaller numbers was much easier for learning an area.
There’s still so much more of Elden Ring to see, and six hours of preview play didn’t feel like enough to even scratch the surface. In my short time with the game, I beat a variety of bosses, met intriguing NPCs, died plenty of times, questioned my own existence, and discovered diverse locations.
My main takeaway from Elden Ring is how much influence it has from previous FromSoftware titles. In addition to the Dark Souls vibes I previously mentioned, there are hints of the studio’s other games: a plague-ridden area reminiscent of Bloodborne (which I can’t stop thinking about, by the way), finishing animations that invoke Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, and Stormveil Castle feels like a mini Demon’s Souls remake all of its own.
This combination of other FromSoftware games is a big indication of Elden Ring’s ambition. Add to that the supposed 30 hours it’ll take to beat the main quest alone, and we have a game that could potentially dominate your time for the majority of 2022. I don’t know whether to be excited or afraid of that.
Elden Ring was previewed on PC. The game releases on February 25, 2022 for PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X, PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5
Featured Image Credit: Bandai Namco Entertainment
Topics: Elden Ring
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