So, I consider myself a reigning champion of all things FromSoftware. From Demon Souls to Dark Souls, to Bloodborne, back to Demons Souls for the remake, I have conquered them all. (We do not speak of Sekiro). I have stood tall and proud atop the hard-earned credit rolls of each and every title. And I am blood-crazed ready for more. I even played Echo Night as a young en’ many, many, many times. Partly due to having a crazy aunt who loved the game but was too scared to play it herself, I was forced to live the same ghostly horrors over and over again. But I digress. This is, of course, not a review for Elden Ring, but more so of a ‘what to expect’. Did I offer to write this as a way to finally write about a game I have been foaming at the mouth over for years? Quite possibly. But you are here, you are reading and most importantly: we both must share a love for all things Miyazaki.
Dark Souls 4 or Sekiro 2?
Let’s get this one out of the way first and foremost. There have been many people complaining lately that the gameplay release footage just looks like Dark Souls 4. This is mainly due to reused animations. And to that I say: who freaking cares? If this was called Dark Souls 4, you would be just as excited for the release!
I have also seen some grumblings that this is going to be a Sekiro 2 due to the verticality of the movement and the inclusion of stealth mechanics. And to that I say: (you guessed it!) who freaking cares? This game looks fun as hell man, stop being a gatekeeper and just enjoy games for what they are: entertainment.
Yeah, the game looks like it could be labelled as the next Dark Souls game, and it looks like it has been heavily influenced by the movement of Sekiro. That is a good thing. Taking all the little things that have worked for each title and creating a new IP with the results? This is exactly the kind of innovation we have all been dreaming about in the gaming world. And, it hasn’t just taken inspiration from these two titles. It also picks out what worked for the black sheep of the family: Dark Souls 2.
Dark Souls 2 Mechanics… Really!?
So many would argue (including myself) that Dark Souls 2 never really felt like a Dark Souls title. It felt like a bumbling mess of a copycat developer who stitched together some ideas that they thought would make the game more ‘interesting’. Curse damage anyone? My god was that game hard to get through. And weirdly not because of the sub-par difficulty. But yes you read correctly. There is a mechanic that was implemented in (and only in) DS2 that is making a comeback in Elden Ring. This is because DS2 actually did have some decent ideas strewn amongst all the weird NPCs, copy and pasted bosses, curse pots and what-have-you.
Powerstancing is what is returning to Elden Ring, and honestly, I am glad that it is. It was a pretty cool concept. The idea behind power-stancing is that you can dual wield two of the same weapon/same weapon type for a unique move set and playstyle. The fact that FromSoftware has plucked this from DS2 and implemented it into Elden Ring means that they must have taken a long look at each game in their line-up. It would be interesting to see if hexes make a return in some form too.
We have now seen plenty of gameplay for the game, but it is only from the first main area of the game. So, it is entirely possible that we could see returning mechanics from other games in some form or other too. Perhaps some sort of buff or item that allows you a small window of opportunity to recover lost health like in Bloodborne would be interesting if implemented well. But that is just a bit of speculation.
More Stuff We DO Know
So there has obviously been a lot revealed for the game at this point. We have seen gameplay footage from the network test, we have seen a slew of trailers and there are many videos out there from Youtubers who have had behind the scenes access etc. One thing we can all agree on is that it looks like a heck of a game!
We know that there will be a crafting mechanic in the game. This is hopefully a little fleshed out past the point of simply crafting arrows. Although, the ability to craft arrows on the fly would make bow builds so much more viable. Not to mention the fact that you can manoeuvre and even jump whilst aiming the bow now. We know that sleep arrows will be a prominent feature in the game, especially for those looking to take full advantage of the stealth mechanics. Speaking of the stealth mechanics, it has been proven that enemies have a reduced sight window at night, you can use sleep arrows on bigger enemies, and you can actively change the time of day. I am hoping for a whole range of interesting arrow types to be able to craft.
You can summon your friend in to help you as in other FromSoftware games, but more importantly, you are no longer restricted to one portion of the game. Previously you were prised apart after defeating the boss of the area, this is no longer the case. Also, you would have seen that you can summon the souls of defeated enemies to help you. This is a fantastic addition to the game formula. I imagine this will be the saving grace for people who are playing the game in 5+ years when there is not an active online community anymore. And one further point to make, you can no longer be invaded by people willy-nilly. You can only be invaded if you currently have a friendly summon in your world. Another great decision.
The main thing we know about Elden Ring is that it is going to be open world-ish. It will feature 6 massive open areas to explore. I imagine this is reminiscent of Dragon Age Inquisition. The world areas feature dungeons that are more intricate and formulated like the areas we are more familiar with in FromSoftware games. It is also heavily suggested that you take the time to explore these areas, as you will find all manner of helpful items, summons and NPCs that will easily go missed otherwise.
The map looks incredible. The closest we have got to an actual map in these games have been the cartographer's floor mural in DS2. And let’s be honest, that was crap. The attention to detail in the Elden Ring map looks absolutely stunning. Adding the option to add our own waypoints makes it something I will be using a lot in-game.
Traversing this world is made easier by your spirit mount, which you have all seen plenty of. I will spare you the details.
It’s been 13 years since the release of the original Demons Souls. That is more than half my life. But we will no longer be stopped by knee-high walls! (Again, as I said, we do not speak of Sekiro)
So, we know quite a lot about the combat due to the network test. We know that it is not just the tried and tested combat formulae for DS games. It is an evolved version of that formula, with vertical style jumping combat elements inspired by Sekiro, a splashing of DS2 ideas, a sprinkling of weapon arts from DS3, mounted combat courtesy of your new spirit mount and I am sure many other details I am yet unaware of.
Magic is also featuring as a prominent supplement to your melee action. With the ability to charge up your magical powers for added effect at no extra cost I should add! Or at least that is the case as of the network testing. Some of these magic abilities look truly great too. From magical claw abilities to the summoning of a dragon head to spew flames everywhere, it seems that we have finally had a wealth of options given to us. As opposed to just varying levels of a blue dart or ball of fire.
This article is already starting to reach capacity. I haven’t even mentioned all the small stuff such as the new bonfires, the bosses, the ‘tarnished’, how the mythos was written by Game of Thrones creator George R. R. Martin, items to help with invasions etc etc etc. But maybe discovering some of the smaller details will be a better experience in-game, when you finally get your hands on Elden Ring on the 25th.
So, in answer to the question of what can I expect? I would say the simple answer is an incredible gaming experience. A culmination of all the experience the developers have had over the many years delivering gaming marvels like none other. A game that might just set a new standard of how open-world RPGs can be viewed. We can expect a challenging and engaging piece of entertainment that will still be getting played and talked about for years to come.
The questions we SHOULD be asking however are these:
Where is Patches going to be? And, how soon into the game will I have to endure a god damn poison swamp!?
I hope and pray that Elden Ring is every bit the game I hope it to be. We should be finding out in just a few long, long weeks.