Elden Ring’s closed network test begins tomorrow, but some journalists and influencers have had access to the game for about a week. This early access has produced several videos, two of which have caused me to salivate over the game’s January release date for totally different reasons.
First up, the dumpster-diving Souls aficionado Iron Pineapple put together a look at Elden Ring’s new features, tweaks, and overall design. Notable features include the game’s ashes of war, which you can use to modify your weapons, and the powerful weapon arts that accompany them. Dark Souls III introduced weapon arts to the series, augmenting weapons’ movesets by granting each a special ability ranging from mundane to incredibly wild. A shield parry, for example, is a weapon art in Dark Souls III, but so is summoning a wave of ice from your nightmare scythe or throwing a handful of daggers. Elden Ring seems to heavily expand on this system by letting you switch these arts out to suit your particular build.
He also highlights the game’s new and returning combat mechanics. Most notable is the new guard counter system, which allows you to deliver a powerful attack after blocking an enemy’s swing. These counters do a ton of stagger damage, which can stun an enemy and leave them open to a critical strike. He suggests that this new mechanic will allow more shield-heavy, defensive players to have a more active role in the game’s combat.
Both Iron Pineapple and eminent Souls loremaster VaatiVidya are enthusiastic about the game’s mounted combat, which seems more fleshed out than I’d expected. You have both light and heavy attacks on either side of your steed, with the heavy attacks being a bit more involved and flashy than their light counterparts. Additionally, in a brilliant move on the part of FromSoft, your horse can double-jump. All horses, including real ones, should be allowed to double-jump, and anyone who says otherwise is a coward.
VaatiVidya has released a straight-up walkthrough of the network test, shepherding the viewer from the game’s tutorial all the way to its first major boss fight, sprinkling his customary bits of NPC dialogue and lore fragments along the way. I found it a phenomenal showcase of how Elden Ring’s open world design actually comes together.
At one point, he transitions from mounted combat to dungeon delving in a matter of seconds after noticing a door tucked into the base of a cliff. Inside, there are a handful of enemies and traps followed by a small boss. For those of you familiar with the series, the smaller dungeon bosses seem to share scale with the Deacons of the Deep from Dark Souls II, or a Sekiro miniboss. They seem lethal, but not a 15-minute commitment.
The network test’s first real boss, however, seems like a walking nightmare. Both Soulsborne veterans admitted to struggling significantly against this boss, with VaatiVidya choosing to use a powerful sorcery build to mitigate the fight’s difficulty.
These short looks at Elden Ring have been deeply promising, and reinforce FromSoftware’s reputation for strong iteration. I’m still curious to see if Elden Ring can embody the revolutionary inventiveness of its previous work, but I’m becoming increasingly hopeful the game will live up to the studio’s history.