A few seconds out of my six-hour playthrough with Elden Ring made me more excited for it than everything else I’ve seen, combined. All of its boss fights, exploration, and even its expanded combat system with more player choice.
Just a few seconds.
But allow me to set this up first, for context. After a few previous play sessions, the world of Elden Ring had slowly expanded until the point where we could travel from shore to shore on its continent.
We knew there would be some instanced dungeons with main questline bosses, but we didn’t know how large the surrounding areas would be for these.
Meanwhile, we kept seeing more of the starting continent, and the more we saw, the more we found. There was a lot more here than you’d expect – seemingly every hill had hidden Hobbit-holes with optional encounters and rewards within.
I started to get a bit comfortable with the idea that this “main” continent would be most of the experience. That idea was reinforced when the developers said the game could be finished in 30 hours, with extra optional content.
For many people, a first playthrough of a Souls game takes around 80 hours. That much content is crammed into a smaller world than Elden Ring’s starting area.
So if Elden Ring was limited to a map like the one below, that wouldn’t be the end of the world. Perhaps with some islands, some instanced dungeons, and some expanded bits of castles. Maybe lots of underground areas.
There’s been some new info regarding map expansions and also some interesting speculation, but I don’t think I was the only one starting to think that it wouldn’t be so bad if this was pretty much “it”.
Then, the more recent play session rolled around. I started exploring and fighting, and accidentally stumbled on something puzzling.
While checking the map, I pressed back on the joystick and the map zoomed out to a level which I don’t remember being a feature in the earlier multiplayer test.
Suddenly there was a long, thin bar making up the world, and the known starting continent occupied the middle of it. We weren’t allowed to take footage, but it looked something like this:
Both the nearby representative and I were confused by this. Did it mean the world was stretched out up and down, but not sideways? That would be odd. Did the world stretch out in all directions but it wasn’t showing some of it yet? That also seemed odd. Was it just a mistake and we shouldn’t be able to zoom out that far?
Then the thing happened. The ceiling on my hype level was already barely visible, but this thing raised it into the stratosphere.
Are you ready for the thing?
(Title of my sex tape?)
While running straight to one of the areas that was blocked during the multiplayer test (natch) I found a half-destroyed tower with a ballista on top. After climbing the ladders, killing the undead ballista marksman, there was a chest as a reward.
I did the thing one does when one sees a chest: I whacked it with my club. Okay, good – not a mimic. I opened it, and a fog came out of the chest which teleported me to a mysterious location.
The aesthetic here was completely different. This was a city of the gods, polished marble everywhere, no nature to be seen. The most direct comparison I could think of is Anor Londo.
So I checked the map. Guess where I was?
All the way here:
So yes, zooming out all that way wasn’t a bug, wasn’t a mistake, wasn’t a trick. Teleporting to the new area turned the map into a square again. It seems Elden Ring’s world actually is that big.
The continent we saw in the multiplayer test – the one people were about ready to settle for as the full game – could be around 1/9th of the wider map.
It appeared that the new area I was in was an island, so there’s no telling at this stage how much of the map is full of water and how much is explorable landmass. Anything could change before release as well.
Mathematically, the map could be anywhere from two to eight times bigger than we thought. But that’s accounting for extremes, such as literally the rest of the map being covered in water, or land. Realistically, I’m wondering if the explorable landmass is 2.5-4x what we previously thought.
The real kicker is if Elden Ring can jam-pack the rest of the explorable territory in the same way. If it can make those new lands just as dense as the starting area, that’s an incredible achievement.
The developers might’ve said it’ll take 30 hours to finish the game, but that sounds to me like going straight down the main questline. If the world is really this big, there could be hundreds of hours’ worth of optional content. And that’s before I get to my challenge modes like the Level 1 Run.
Those are quality hours, too. Souls-like hours. There’s no filler here. If you’re grinding in a Souls game, you’re doing it wrong. It’s about levelling up yourself, not collecting 10 boar tusks.
Needless to say, I’m frickin’ jazzed about this. The week off I was planning around Elden Ring’s release might need to be extended. It’s not just about the additional playtime – it’s knowing that there will be that much more in terms of NPC intrigues, exploration, and memorable boss fights.