Last weekend we were able to dedicate several hours to a development version of the long-awaited From Software game. The Souls reinvent themselves in the open world.

It takes a bit to reconcile the feeling of eternal waiting for Elden Ring , a From Software game announced in 2019 that didn’t show a second of real gameplay until two years later, with the fact that it is already the fourth game directed by Hidetaka Miyazaki. in the same generation. The head of Dark Souls has not created not one, not two, but up to three new licenses (Elden Ring joins, of course, Bloodborne and Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice) in what has lasted the life cycle of PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, both platforms for a year now relieved by much more powerful successors, but still able to receive their own versions of this game when it goes on sale in February of the year coming.

And it’s something that Elden Ring barely camouflages. Although we have played the beta on an Xbox Series X, where the 4K resolution and a more fluid and stable framerate are used than what From games have accustomed us to in their console releases (there is an option to prioritize graphic quality or performance), models and animations (some inherited from previous games), the geometry in parts of the scenes or defects such as popping or clipping  still reveal their roots in the generation left behind. It is something, of course, that can still improve between now and launch as it is a version in progress, and that also has its counterpart other unquestionable facts: the title manages a much larger scale than the other Miyazaki games , the day cycles -night and changes in the weather give rise to more dynamic environments, and the art direction continues to live up to the best of the studio . So the little details may not always impress, but the big picture does.

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One beta, five classes

Without an introductory sequence that would provide some plot context, the character selection screen left us in a cave with an optional tutorial to familiarize ourselves with the controls (hopefully it will remain in the final version to speed up replaying) before going outside and be struck by the beauty and promises that every good open world offers the first time we set foot in it. This is where Elden Ring begins to forge its own identity among the other From games, although before delving into that it is worth going back a bit and reestablishing the fundamentals that still maintain it as a pure-bred Souls .

The veterans will immediately be located, since the places of Grace relieve the bonfires, the runes to the souls and the vials of tears to the Estus flasks, preserving, in addition, the distinction in two variants released by Dark Souls III : the of crimson tears are used to recover health points (HP) , while those of cerulean tears are used to recover points of concentration (CP), the blue bar consumed by magic and special weapon techniques. Players can use Grace’s locations to change the cast based on their needs, prioritizing heals if targeting melee or increasing the number of waxy tear vials again if they later decide to get more out of the skill or summons system. spirits (we’ll cover this later).

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The five classes available (this time without a face editor) work as starting templates, starting points optimized for different playstyles, with statistics and weapons designed with the intention of stepping us in a specific direction, although then they are quite moldable . Even so, we will briefly stop to detail them to illustrate the flexibility that Elden Ring regains – especially coming from Sekiro – and, incidentally, also help decide those who are going to play the beta this week and still do not know which one to choose.

  • Warrior

Ideal for players who prioritize agility , since its highest starting attribute is dexterity and it starts with a sword in each hand. Pressing left on the control cross serves to remove a buckler (small shield), although its usefulness lies more in the parries (you reject at the right moment and then counterattack) than in the defense, since it does not absorb all the impact and we continue to receive Some damage even if we cover up It is, therefore, an ideal class to play offense . Good option for Bloodborne fans who have lost the fear of exposing themselves.

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  • Enchanted knight

Our go-to class for squeezing the beta has been the spellbound knight, as it offers a nice balance between strength and wisdom. He can carry heavier starting equipment, his shield is valid to play in a more defensive way , the spear with which he starts allows to maintain more distances in the melee (although we end up changing it for a sword) and the staff allows use a couple of pretty useful spells right from the start . Very versatile, and ideal for newbies who are still not very clear where they are getting.

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  • Prophet

The lifelong cleric begins with a club, although his main strength lies in the use of enchantments , magic associated with the attribute faith instead of wisdom. Unlike the vials, its healing enchantment allows you to recover life within an area, benefiting other characters if we play cooperatively; and its beast claw allows more targets to be attacked than the knight’s spells, though in return it requires getting closer and more exposed to danger.

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  • Champion

Another class with magical potential that bets on faith instead of wisdom is the champion, from the beginning possessing a fire enchantment (invoking the head of a dragon that spits flames) to make it clear that it is the character to choose. for those who want to be pyromantic . He’s also very capable in melee , more so than the Prophet, so he’s another versatile pick as the Bewitched Knight.

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  • Bloody Wolf

Just as the warrior is the recommended option for those who want an agile experience, the bloody wolf is the ideal one for those who want to maximize the force of each blow . The most used class in trailers is a beast with more health, stamina, and attack power that wields a greatsword as a starting weapon. Naturally, its use requires calculating well the rhythm of the blows, slower and, therefore, also prone to leaving us exposed if we miss or are surrounded. But in right-handed hands, it is a killing machine.

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Having said all that, afterwards nothing prevents you from ending up using greatswords with a warrior, teaching spells to the bloody wolf or enchantments to the enchanted knight. It is a question of how we manage the attributes when leveling up and the equipment that we buy from merchants or find when exploring and defeating enemies.

The beta, obviously, does not give rise to exploit this malleability too much, since it covers a tiny percentage of what the final game will be. But the foundations, at least, are there. Elden Ring is once again an action RPG with as much focus on action as it is on the RPG ; And although sometimes it may be familiar, interesting tweaks appear in the middle, such as the greater weight of the weapon skills introduced in Dark Souls III (those special techniques that consumed PC): now they are much more customizable thanks to the Ashes of War , goods that we find in the world and change both the elemental affinity of the weapon in which they are appliedsuch as the executable special ability (lunges, electrification, air blasts, etc.).

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Exploration and crafting

Another notable novelty is the creation of various objects such as throwable bombs, arrows or poisoning remedies , a task that is carried out from a dedicated menu at any time – as long as we have previously purchased the manuals that unlock the recipes – and it gives us the way to start. Let’s talk a little more in detail about how the jump to open world design conditions the formula. Given that the world is much wider and more open, one of the first consequences that we notice is the presence of vegetation to collect (flowers, moss, mushrooms) and animals to hunt (sheep, birds, turtles) beyond the typical minerals for upgrade weapons, introducing a crafting component relatively optional – at least as far as the beta illustrates – but useful so that exploration can always bring us something even if we are not fighting or riding towards a new goal.

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In fact, an important change with respect to Souls is the apparent – if we are based on the beta – disappearance of the ring slots , which means that if we now want to get typical bonuses such as more attack power, less vulnerability to certain elements, faster regeneration of resistance or increase in runes achieved by defeating enemies, we depend on the creation, purchase or location of these consumables with temporary effects .

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It is a decision that may be more or less pleasant depending on the player, but it fits with the proposal because it encourages paying more attention to the surroundings and taking advantage of an environment for the most part is not imposed. The path to the great fortress where progress stops (through a message that urges us to wait for the final game) can be covered in less than half an hour and has no possible loss , since the places of Grace emit beams of light that guide us by the main route . However, the entrance of said fortress is guarded by a rather tough boss if we dare to face him without prior preparation, so, without the need for such direct indications, the game also invites us to see what is there for the other sites.

To fight against other enemies to accumulate runes and level up. To find materials to improve the weapon in the forge . To locate new spells, enchantments, clothing, weapons or Ashes of War. The map , included for the first time in this series of games for obvious reasons, appears after finding the relevant document and is only updated to point out some key points and the places of Grace reached. There are no mission indicators or other icons that tell us where to go or what to do. That is our thing. And when we think we are ready, or just want to try our luck, the teleportation functionHe lets us travel from anywhere — as long as we are outdoors — to the closest place in Gracia to the boss to try again. Easy and comfortable

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On the back of Torrentera

This map, as you might expect, does not have the density of the scenarios of a Dark Souls or a Bloodborne, but the area delimited within the fog walls for the beta – we insist that we have barely scratched the surface – does not sin either from the dispersion of content that plagues other open world titles . The Torrentera steed , a horse with horns that we can summon in just a second using an item, allows us to cover distances quickly and overcome obstacles thanks to the double jump , but the game never makes us spend more than half a minute without finding something .

The wider plains are prowled by giants or other horsemen who challenge us to duels ( combat on horseback requires practice , since it is easier to miss than on foot if we do not measure the spaces and rhythms well). The main road is crossed by a caravan from which we can steal its cargo. The ruins hide descents into cellars with loot . Cannons lead into caves or dungeons where new types of enemies and even some mini-bosses await . We can also go down to sea level and ride along a beach, where a merchant awaits that at first it is easy to miss and access to an island that is related to the dragon against which we can fight in the nearby swamp (find out what it depends on you).

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Needless to say, it is early to know if this density and variety will continue throughout the hours, as we move from area to area throughout the rest of the world. But this test area does strike a good compromise between the kind of scale that helps revamp the formula and the discovery rate that warrants further exploring and delaying the boss encounter if we haven’t already defeated him. Navigation, yes, is still very horizontal beyond the aforementioned descent to the beach or the occasional use of whirlwinds of air to go up or down with Torrentera between terrains at different heights ; although being one of the first areas, it is to be expected that the complexity will increase later on.

The same goes for on-foot mechanics more deeply rooted in Sekiro such as stealth (the character can crouch and hide in the undergrowth to catch unsuspecting enemies) or the platform (we can jump and resist falls from higher heights than in Souls), which at the moment they receive a punctual utility and almost always optional . Again, the beta practically ends when it starts to get interesting – the first of several promised strengths – so we are looking forward to seeing how the design evolves and to what extent all its possibilities are taken advantage of as the hours go by. and let’s discover the rest of the world created by From.

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Easy mode? No, invocations

Speaking of Sekiro, perhaps someone has wondered if Miyazaki has decided to implement the many times asked easy mode . And the answer is no, at least for now, although Elden Ring is emerging as the best example of how their games integrate systems to modulate the difficulty in a more organic way . In addition to the flexibility that the classes recover and the cushion that puts a level rise absent in the last game (badly, you can always accumulate runes to break through with brute force), the game distributes more control points for the world (some statuettes called effigies of Márika allow rebirth from them if there is no place of Grace nearby) and online invocations also return, more practical thanks to a new menu with several objects dedicated to different purposes .

In addition to the possibility of leaving or accepting collaboration invitations in front of bosses , as well as invading other players with malicious intentions – a practice that can even be countered by automating the summons of defenders -, the game has other statuettes, called altars of invocation , which are also distributed around the world and are responsible for grouping in a key place all the cooperative or competitive online invitations sent within that area . Thanks to them – and to the use of passwords if we want to join friends and agree to the code beforehand -, players can not only help each other against bosses, but also to defeat other mini-bosses that roam the world or simply explore together (with the possibility of up to four simultaneous users).

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But let’s say, for whatever reason, you don’t have online at hand or no one shows up at the time (we have managed to connect successfully several times during the beta, but these things are not always an exact science). Well, there would still be another alternative, because in the world of Elden Ring there are even more statuettes, and some so-called monoliths to rebirth make a small blue rune appear on the left side of the interface when we are within its area of ??effect. This sign means that in that area we can also summon other types of allies , a series of spectral creatures that can be bought or found while exploring and are used as objects in exchange for a certain amount of CP.

These spirits can soon be groups of wolves  like a warrior , a sorcerer or a jellyfish , and although their value as combatants may not always be remarkable – especially against bosses or mini-bosses who can dispatch them in a few seconds – they do provide vital aid. when it comes to grabbing attention and diverting it from the player , allowing us to heal ourselves or catch opponents from behind in situations that would otherwise be much more difficult. The truth is that in some cases this help can even trivialize the fighting: The mini-boss of an optional small dungeon, for example, bases his challenge on harassing us with almost continuous attacks, so he falls quite easily if a spirit takes him off us.

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A measure to prevent them from destabilizing the playable balance too much, in addition to their lack of forcefulness as attackers and general resistance, is that each spirit can only be invoked once per combat, although if we have several we can rotate. It’s one of those issues that the studio will need to watch out for so as not to push the game too far in one direction or another when it comes to difficulty, although its presence as such is a welcome addition for offering more tools to players and encouraging exploration in search of new invocations . Either because we really need them or because we are curious to see their different forms and effects.

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Moving to an open world, with greater freedom in the order in which to face places and enemies, poses challenges that other Souls have not had to face . At least not on this scale, and it is a word that here refers to something more than the physical space encompassed by the map. Once we get out of the confines of this beta’s fog walls, things will likely be even more complicated for From Software, although hopefully they will also be more fun for players. It remains to be seen, among other things, to what extent the day-night cycle is used, what complexity the more advanced dungeons offer or if the hand of George RR Martin is noticed in a narrative that at the moment barely offers half a brushstroke of plot context. Butthe first step has been taken on the right foot . Now we have to wait a little longer for the next ones.

Source: Elden Ring