Elden Ring joins names like Zelda, Elder Scrolls or Red Dead Redemption to offer a great equestrian adventure. Today we remember some of them.
After years of waiting and a small last minute delay, Elden Ring will go on sale on February 25, 2022, taking up a formula, that of Souls , which has made From Software one of the most influential studios of the last decade. . However, this new work is not only willing to learn from its direct predecessors, but also to embrace another playable tradition inaugurated and popularized by older sagas such as The Elder Scrolls, The Legend of Zelda, Assassin’s Creed or Red Dead Redemption. We speak, of course, of the use of horse to explore wide maps and even fight without having to get off our mount .
This Thursday, Bandai Namco (producer) offered a new and extensive look at the game, which will soon have a private beta . Lumbres to use as control points and teleportation, limited flasks to recover life, summons from other players to fight as a team … Some items may return with new names or functions, but everything is more familiar than our equine assistant, useful not only to cover great distances , also to clear steep cliffs jumping from whirlpools of air or to have a fair chance in front of large enemieslike dragons. For that reason, and because these animals are faithful companions who deserve tribute also in their virtual incarnations, today we will dedicate a space to remember and celebrate some of the best adventures with horses
Straddling the two and three dimensions
Like almost any other imaginable concept, from cars to ships, to aliens, ghosts or Nazis, horses have been around in one way or another since the dawn of video games. In 1981, the Stampede of Atari 2600 and we let go of rodeo, and jumping an exact decade forward, Sunset Riders became one of the Recreational most memorable Konami to the combine their skills in the run and gun with Wild Westwhere there was no shortage of cowboys, outlaws, cattle stampedes, or intense sections of horse-drawn shootouts along the railroad tracks. However, we would still have to wait a while to see these animals as something more than a thematic complement. So that the games give them enough space to become real companions. Allies with whom to create a bond of dependency and, who knows, maybe also affection.
In 1996, ten years before Oblivion went down in history for spurring the fever for paid accessories with precisely a horse armor , the inordinately ambitious Daggerfall already let us buy one of these animals to ride – and fight – through of the hundreds of thousands of kilometers that the map covered . Despite the important technical leap since its predecessor (Arena, 1994), the second installment of The Elder Scrolls saga still filled its 3D world with 2D characters, animals and other beasts.(which included, of course, the horses themselves) but it was as rich in role-playing options as it was in scale: thanks to the procedural generation of terrains, villages and dungeons , the game was overwhelming, several times larger than that of any other delivery since then.
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Obtaining a mount, therefore, was practically essential to move at a reasonable speed, whether in crossings between cities or within its confines, sometimes so large as to discourage walking. This overwhelming breadth was both one of the greatest strengths and one of the greatest weaknesses of Daggerfall , a game capable of selling the feeling of being in a more realistic fantasy world because for the most part it remained oblivious to the prowess of the player although this spent hundreds of hours in it, but also lacking that degree of distinctivenessthat the design by hand would provide from Morrowind. The horse was a faithful and necessary companion, but still a utilitarian instrument above all else and, like most of the world, its unique personality was one that each player projected based on their own experiences.
The legend of Epona
It is a case opposite to Epona , a mare from the Zelda saga who debuted in a game that could have done without her, but left her mark on those who rescued her to gallop through the Hyrule countryside . Getting it was not mandatory to complete Ocarina of Time , the obstacles it helped to overcome (the fences to Lake Hylia and the broken bridge to the Gerudo fortress) had alternative methods to be circumvented, but the game naturally pushed towards it . It was no coincidence that during the first foray into the capital to meet the princess, after crossing the imposing central plain, our path crossed that of young Malon.. Nor that seven years later, after leaving the Temple of Time and seeing the bustling market destroyed, Lon Lon Ranch stood as the first friendly place to return to discover that the moody Ingo was the new foreman and serving Ganondorf .
The scale of Hyrule, admirable for the time, but very concentrated next to Daggerfall or any modern open world , made it easy to end up immersed in this subplot despite being optional beyond the first meeting. The child’s curiosity rewarded with a melody to gain the confidence of the filly ; and the dexterity and sense of justice of the adult, prompted us to call her and challenge Ingo with her , who lost her in a bet to get the necessary humility cure. That was after escaping their confinement, of course, at which point we could finally ride outside the walls and speed across the countryside to complete the time trial errands destined for the Biggoron sword., participate in the shooting test of the Gerudo fortress or return to the ranch so that the grateful Malon proposed us a jumping challenge with which to get our own cow.
Two years later, Majora’s Mask continued the bond between Link and Epona, cementing its status as an intrinsic new element to the 3D Zelda formula. The mare was here to stay, or so it seemed, because The Wind Waker caught everyone by surprise when he turned to cartoons and swapped the green plains for an ocean and a chattering boat. It was the kind of reinvention that has helped keep the saga fresh for so many years, and time has ended up placing that installment among the favorites of many fans, although then it also left many others wanting to see how a more classic epic would adapt to GameCube . And so when in 2004 Nintendo revealed that the next Zelda was going to be just this, a large-scale adventure.With massive horse fighting , the trailer was greeted with a kind of glee we’ve seen very few times before or since.
Riding among colossi
It is debatable to what extent Twilight Princess managed to fulfill such expectations when it went on sale in late 2006 with as much or more focus on the transformation of Link into a wolf and the Wii sensor controls . What is hardly debatable is that in between, a game from the PlayStation factory won the hearts of horse lovers and the epic with a more original and risky proposal . Shadow of the Colossus did not have massive battles. Neither villages or dungeons. His world, the Forbidden LandIt featured uninhabited grasslands, deserts, forests, rock formations and stone ruins among which to prowl for hours, occasionally raising the sword to the sky and lighting the way for the next colossus on the list. Always silent, always alone.
Only it wasn’t really the case thanks to Agro (never directly referred to as mare, but also female according to Fumito Ueda ). As we explored more corners, marveled at more views and defeated more colossi, the Forbidden Land emptied even more and that bond between Wander , the protagonist, and Agro also grew between the player and the mare . Unlike Epona, Agro was an animal with a certain degree of autonomy in control and decisions : in the race, she redirected herself to get away from obstacles, allowing her rider to even stand on herto prepare a running jump; and in front of the colossi, she also escaped to avoid their attacks if the less considerate player left her in a dangerous situation, where a bad blow made her temporarily limp to limit her movements and feed the feeling of guilt.
After all, she had taken us there through miles and miles of nothing (a nothing as or more metaphorical than literal), and she was also the key to defeating several of the colossi , so ensuring her safety was the least we could do in return. Agro was as essential to the Shadow of the Colossus experience as the giants themselvesthat gave it its title, and the work became one of those paradigmatic examples of the video game as an art for building this relationship with the command, sometimes even contradicting the rules not written by others. Avoiding the perfect control response to preserve its identity as an animal and not a mechanical vehicle, and letting the sound of hooves hitting the ground be the soundtrack for most of the game.
The European delay of Shadow of the Colossus landed him in our stores just a month before Oblivion , the first Elder Scrolls in high definition for consoles by the grace of Xbox 360. After being absent in Morrowind, the horses returned to explore the sprawling province of Cyrodiil , although the increased density of their forests, the more robotic behavior of the animals themselves, the need to get down to fight and the too convenient teleportation between cities prevented them from achieving an impact comparable to Agro on the more limited hardware of the PlayStation 2. Nonetheless, they were a good appetizer of things to come.And not just because of the aforementioned paid armor: Oblivion multiplied the sales of its predecessors and was crowned the best game of the year by more publications than any other, paving the way for the even more successful Skyrim and a rise of the worlds. open that no longer had to focus on motorized vehicles.
Back in the west
Before the generation of Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, titles such as Ocarina of Time or Shadow of the Colossus had offered extensive maps to travel on horseback, and among them, Neversoft’s GUN (2005) had recovered the Wild West to enter a still timid in the sandbox mold popularized by Grand Theft Auto III a few years earlier. But once developers had more powerful machines, scale became the easiest way to impress: after signing acclaimed sagas like Prince of Persia and Splinter Cell on previous consoles, in 2007 Ubisoft Montreal released Assassin’s Creed , a profile game. historical that leftride to various cities from the time of the third crusade . Despite its ups and downs, the proposal succeeded and would soon be succeeded by sequel after sequel, with some stops and reformulations along the way, but keeping ideas such as climbing, the use of watchtowers to complete maps and, of course, horses.
However, the new phenomenon of Ubisoft would soon be overshadowed by a beast in gestation from before its premiere. Another game from the West destined to reinvent the less popular PS2 Read Dead Revolver , which had been essentially a more sophisticated Sunset Riders, but still anchored in a very arcade progression. In 2010, after a long and extremely expensive development, Red Dead Redemption became the “GTA Western” par excellence , and not only because it carried the Rockstar label, but because it culminated an evolution several decades in the process: Redemption put together on the same album the firefights more intense Revolver, the rodeos Stampede, the large – scaleOblivion, the memorable little stories of Zelda, the historical mime of Assassin’s Creed and even the thoughtful solitude of Shadow of the Colossus. Hunting or simply exploring, rider and horse shared hours of life away from a civilization yet to come.
If GUN had left the school of Grand Theft Auto III, Red Dead Redemption made it of the school of Grand Theft Auto IV , delivery now perhaps not as celebrated as some of the previous ones -or the only later one-, but characterized by the turn towards a somewhat more serious and dramatic tone from which this title of cowboys and outlaws benefited to mark even more the distances with respect to other games of the West or of the open world more generally. The pace was slow and the content scattered , with small and widely separated urban centers. But as in the case of the increasingly distant Daggerfall, it was something that contributed to the verisimilitude of the world.. To dilute that artificiality that every video game faces for the mere fact of being a video game.
It was an idea that the next installment took even more to the extreme : in the face of Grand Theft Auto V’s obvious readjustment , crazier in its characters and light in its controls, Red Dead Redemption 2 redoubled in the mundane . Not only on the narrative level, with many more dialogues and transitional rides between the most active parts of each mission, but also in the mechanical nature of our interaction with almost any facet of the game . Wait your turn playing poker in the camp, carve notches in the bullets one by one to improve their effectiveness, carefully skin the game prey or, of course, give appropriate treatments to our horse, stroking it, brushing it and buying the best food.in the local stable; no task was allowed to pass as a simple and instantaneous act if it could be used to connect us a little more to the world. Even if it was through routine.
Great games, great horses
For the later, there is also the unusual recreation of the horse’s genitals at the temperature of the environment, animated to shrink in the cold as those of a real animal would. It is a symptom of both the obsessive attention to small details and the questionable work culture that made such feats possible, although luckily it is also not essential to get the player to create a link with a handful of polygons. Sardine , the mare we ride in The Witcher 3, is another of those characters that can be defined as such and have been loved by the general public without having to be human or mediate a word (at least until one of the expansions) because the work with the script and the characterization of Geralt they have taken care of it.
In the same way, although Breath of the Wild has decided not to put a formal reincarnation of Epona within our reach (unless we use an amiibo), the fact of being able to tame and baptize wild horses serves to reinforce the maxim that this Zelda does not go about following a path predetermined by the developers, but about drawing our own with our decisions, and incidentally making room for missions that put us in search of special specimenslike the elegant white horse of the royal family or the huge stallion of Ganondorf (both, of course, more difficult to obtain than the normal ones). Given the freer exploration in the course to take, the greater breadth and variation of the terrain, and the possibility of using them in combat, their attributes make them more or less suitable for every situation, but becoming attached to one and using it throughout the adventure is still a viable option.
Returning to Elden Ring , time will tell how From Software has undertaken the task of integrating mount into a saga for the first time (if we allow ourselves to group all the Souls under the same umbrella) that until now neither had nor needed it based on its design typology. There have been few who have pointed out , after seeing the trailers, that perhaps it could have been called Dark Souls 4 and nothing would have happened here. And it is understandable: the game makes use of mechanics, classes, animations and enemies that seem directly taken from some of the previous games, or several at once. But he also has a magical steed that requires extra space to run, to explore, to fight.. Something that can significantly affect the other facets of design and tempt fans to end up saying, after spending several dozen hours in their world, that “this is not Dark Souls.”
Because it is easy to speak of Ocarina of Time as one of the most successful games in history, but the truth is that in its day, not everyone liked losing the screen-to-screen density of A Link to the Past or Link’s Awakening , and still now many still prefer them to the increasingly great adventures in 3D. With Elden Ring, Hidetaka Miyazaki and his team have the opportunity to continue a beloved formula of proven success, and at the same time do it on their own terms.. Without more ties than the chosen ones. With no more expectations to fulfill than the ones they propose to promise themselves. What exactly does that translate into, and if it serves to make this new quadruped companion another one of those equine legends in the middle, again, only time will tell. And less and less is missing to find out.