Then the hyped Elden Ring is finally released

Git gud! “Getting better” has become something of a slogan for From Software’s ultra-difficult, but oh so rewarding, Souls series. You will not find another game series that hits you so hard several times, in order to force you to learn from your mistakes. Demon´s Souls, Dark Souls, Sekiro and Bloodborne may have some elements that separate them. But they all offer the kind of tough love that is so rare in today’s game.

Elden Ring

Souls games are not something you master on a weekend. Or even a month. Souls are more of a lifestyle. A masochistic one, which allows the practitioner to float between torment and euphoria. The latter usually in connection with having overcome a particular bossfight, or just a difficult passage in one of the games. That feeling is about what we expected from Fromm’s latest title in the series, Elden Ring. But in our wildest fantasies we could not predict what deep open world aspect would give the concept.

Souls of the Wild

The Fire Ring starts much like previous parts. After choosing one of the preset character types, we are dropped into a cave system without having any idea what is to come. We meet occasional antagonists, beat them down easily thanks to our previous experiences and trudge on. When we finally find out from the cave, a whole new world opens up. The camera sweeps past our own character and out over a large and open landscape.

Elden Ring

Imagine the feeling from the similar scene in Zelda: Breath of the Wild, but in Souls stucco. A huge, green meadow with a high castle on the horizon. Next door is the giant “earth tree”, whose golden trunk and branches light up everything we see. Taking the first steps in this new chapter for the Souls games feels great. And pretty soon we become aware that, after all, it is precisely Souls we are playing. We find the first character who does not directly try to murder us. The face is covered with rags to hide the traces of bubonic plague.

YOUR

He paints a doomsday picture in a provocative way and is not afraid to harass us. We do not yet know if this character has a bigger role later in the game, but here and now we draw our sword and go on the attack. However, the antagonist seems to be of a much higher level and defeats us in a few simple battles. Game over. When we wake up to life again a few meters away, our newfound friend is still far-sighted and immediately starts cranking towards us. We then see no choice but to flee for the moment.

No roads are needed where we are going

Our escape ends when we find a couple of bushes to hide in. And here it strikes us that we can actually go in whatever direction we want. Further up the hill we see a stately knight patrolling outside a dilapidated church. The instinct tells us not to take that path yet. In the opposite direction we find a giant lake populated by what is best described as giant sea cucumbers. However, we choose to take the road around the lake, as the low-level cowards we are (right now).

Elden Ring

A fun detail we notice immediately is that the world in Elden Ring is really rich in flora and fauna, despite the gloomy doomsday atmosphere. Just a few minutes in, we have already seen both birds, squirrels and land turtles, to name a few. These peaceful animals can of course be attacked and later in the game we become aware that it is at least needed for the game’s crafting function. While we are planning to attack a couple of rabbits, we are suddenly attacked.

ER2

We have in fact happened to set foot on another part of the map, which happens to be populated by vampire hybrids. However, these are relatively easily defeated, but also become a reminder that the open world also has consequences. Seamless transition also means that new dangers can lurk around the corner. From now on, we sneak carefully and arrive at a major road. Here we see a huge cart with an associated caravan. But the cart is not pulled by horses, but by captured giants with hollowed-out stomachs. What seventeen is really going on?

New time, new battle

The details are few, but what we have sneaked out is that the country in Elden Ring is divided and that war prevails between different factions. And that is well reflected in everything we have seen so far along the way. In addition to patrolling knights and the above-mentioned caravan, we also find something that looks like a labor camp for zombies and a number of sentries. It is probably a war we have ended up in. In the end, we manage to sneak up to a large camp guarded by a dozen knights. Behind the camp is the entrance to the castle courtyard and we realize that it’s time to pick out the Souls skills.

Fight Elden Ring

The control during the battles is as taken from previous parts. But there are a few crucial news, especially the jump button. Of course, it is helpful in exploring the world, but it is the battles that we notice of what game changer it actually is. Instead of just waiting for the enemy to release the guard, we can now make various different jump attacks. These do not always hit right, but sometimes enough to surprise the enemy. The combat system was already perfect, but this novelty gives the battles more depth and variety.

Fight Elden Ring

It is precisely at this camp that we seriously encounter enemies who demand cunning to be defeated. Without being “bosses” for it. So hard is Souls. We tackle one by one, by luring them out of the camp. At the lower levels this is more or less a must, as the enemy is not afraid to chase you along the meadows and up mountains. And if several of them get hold of you, you can count on a ticket to the nearest campfire, which is the place we are transported to when we die.

Explore everything and you will be richly rewarded

After a couple of story-heavy sequences, we get access to a helpful companion in the form of a ghost horse. On its back, it is much faster to get between different places on the map. Since we really want to see everything, we take a detour and ride to other places on the map. First towards the lake, where we suddenly come face to face with a giant dragon. The Souls habit probably knows that we do not really have a chance yet, so we continue. In an open world, it is still easier to escape, compared to the narrow passages that were so typical of previous Souls games.

Elden Ring

We continue on to a beach that houses friendly turtles and unfriendly octopuses. In terms of design, we notice that some monsters really take the turns and are, if possible, even more freaked out than in previous games. Precisely these octopuses have giant beaks that protrude sporadically and which are also its weak point. They also do not hesitate to bus their offspring on you. Disturbing is just the first name.

YOUR

When we eventually think that the beach is empty of more interesting elements, we suddenly find a cave. One of many hidden, it turns out. These are designed in classic Souls style – dark, cramped and full of monsters. We would have needed a torch, but we’re still tough while rat humans do their best to kill us. For the sake of variety, two ultra-difficult antagonists await at the end of the tunnel. And if you are unprepared, the outcome will be anything but bright.

Something for everyone (with patience)

A couple of replays later we reach the other side of the tunnel, which turns out to be a passage to a distant island. There, on top of a cliff, we look out over the rest of the world in the Fire Ring. Then it strikes us what is the main difference from previous works. Namely, freedom. Yes, it is still brutally difficult at times, especially for those who are above playing action games of this kind. And even if you are experienced, you will also learn to get caught up in one of the bigger bosses who live on the map.

Campfire Elden Ring

But you are not locked into doing something, but can instead choose activity according to playing style. Maybe you are the one who prefers to be really prepared and therefore spend a lot of time out to find the best recipes for different brews. Or who wants to do all the side activities first, or explore the whole map instead of going straight to the castle. Of course, there may be limitations we do not know about yet, as it is after all a demo version we play.

What is guaranteed, however, is that the world is gigantic and that danger lurks behind every hill. The question you should ask yourself before the game launches is whether you are prepared for the difficulties that will come with it. Do you manage to die over and over again to explore what in advance seems to be something out of the ordinary? Quite simply, are you prepared to “give god”?

The Fire Ring will be released on February 25, 2022 for Playstation 5/4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X / S and PC.