Elden Ring beta hands-on: Potential co-op greatness in FromSoftware’s most open world to date

The Fire Ring is overwhelming. Once released from the usual FromSoftware introduction zone, you are faced with a crippling and unusual question in a Souls game: which direction should I explore now?

FromSoftware’s new RPG throws you into a wide open world with no obvious direction. When you step into Limgrave in The Lands Between for the very first time, your eye will immediately be drawn to more intrigue. There’s a rocky beach to your left, a riding warrior patrolling in front of a menacing forest in front of you, ruined shells of buildings to your right and a swamp complete with a vengeful dragon right behind you that will all take a good few minutes to stroll over to.

Who knows what you might discover in these areas, ripe for exploration? You might find a Point of Grace, Elden Ring’s version of Bonfires, which is mercifully abundant, an NPC that will amaze you with your discovery of them and consider what exactly you are doing here, or a group of armed warriors, who will meet to kick their teeth in. The point is that all of these areas during Elden Ring’s opening hours – from the ruins, the cove and the swamp – are immediately accessible and open to you, and it’s up to you where you want to explore.

It is overwhelming in the best sense. Compare that to the start of Bloodborne, for example. FromSoftware’s gothic action game from 2015 gave birth to the player in the middle of the city of Yharnam, giving you no exploration opportunities outside a single street, surrounded by vicious townspeople and bloodthirsty dogs that honked at tearing your throat out. If you were stuck on that debut corridor – as I did for many days – Bloodborne shrugged and let you bang your head against the wall, but in the Elden Ring there is a feeling that your place in the world, and your direction, is yours for control. If you get stuck in an area, just find another place to explore.

Elden Ring’s Glue Digger immediately feels more open and inviting than perhaps anywhere FromSoftware has ever designed. The large surface of the open world map goes hand in hand with the new spectral horse, which can not only double jump as if it had just left a platformer, but can race around the map and sling you up to areas that are inaccessible. , which makes you feel a little bigger on this huge map. Mounted combat is a bloody madness where you and another warrior on horseback swing violently against each other in a crazy duel, but it’s just another opportunity and style of play that Elden Ring is too happy to give you.

Elsewhere in combat, things will feel a little more familiar to FromSoftware veterans. There is a limited endurance bar to work with, for example, which offers you a precious amount of dodges and attacks in battle, and a short FP bar, the Elden Ring’s magic meter, with which you cast spells. What’s a bit surprising is that Elden Ring’s dedicated jump button barely takes into account combat at all, with a simple death from above, the only path to air strikes. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice also featured a dedicated jump button, which was involved in the fight when the titular Shinobi jumped over an extensive enemy attack, but here, at least in the early hours of the Elden Ring, the jump button feels more geared for exploration than it is. struggling.

The Fire Ring also promotes many of the same ‘play styles’ that previous FromSoftware titles carried. There’s your standard warrior, ready to swing around multiple swords in unison, the Prophet casting spells and spells on both enemies and allies, and an Enchanted Knight, a cocktail of the two. There’s also Bloody Wolf, a combat specialist who’s good at parrying with a fierce shield, and finally the Master, a shattered fight that even enemies want to stay well out of reach. All of these are offered in presets in Elden Ring’s technical test, with zero options in the form of customization.

The genius is how these characters work out of each other in co-op. The Fire Ring allows three players to merge at once, the common-largest number of allied players that a ‘SoulsBorne’ game has ever allowed, and the results are fascinating. A bloody wolf can lead the attack while a prophet hangs back and peppers a boss with various spells, while a team of an enchanted knight and warrior can take turns pulling one boss’s anger while the other sneaks behind it for a quick stab in . the back.

This is how things worked in the last boss of the technical test, Margit the Fell Omen – the creepy, multi-armed monstrosity from the 15-minute gameplay revelation. Our team of a warrior, prophet, and bloody wolf strayed a little too close to the grand entrance to Stormveil Castle, and Margit felt a need to fall down and knock the shit out of us. As expected, Bloody Wolf became aggressive right away while the Prophet hung back to cast enchantments, and the Warrior lurked just out of reach of Margit, ready to rush in and react in a split second. An increased number of players did not diminish the boss at all, and Margit was still able to send each of us into an early grave with a well-placed attack.

We responded to each other’s needs without a single word going between us. If the bloody wolf mistimed an escape and was beaten to within an inch of their life, the warrior would step in to arouse the anger of the boss, while the former withdrew for a cure, and the Prophet would cast a healing circle if they noticed either one of us was out of healing objects and ill health. FromSoftware has found a great way for players to stop and consider who they are calling into their game and why, instead of pressing continue on any old player.

On the other hand, fighting solo is a completely viable option. Just as Sekiro forced a solo world and brutal boss fights on his players without the help of others, Elden Ring’s bosses and the world are a challenge that you can overcome yourself. It requires even more patience, combined with an ability to adapt on the go and learn the enemy’s attack patterns, of course, but when has no boss in a FromSoftware game required this? Elden Ring may offer three-player co-op, but fortunately that does not make it an absolute requirement to overcome the toughest enemies.

It’s undoubtedly early for Elden Ring, but it’s already becoming something special, even by FromSoftware’s high standards. The same electrifying cut and move in the fight is there as always, combined with amazing new aspects like open world exploration and a sense of freedom for an enticing new formula. The Fire Ring does many things differently than past Souls games, e.g. four-player parties and mounted combat, but it feels like it takes careful consideration with how to integrate each one. There is already a feverish hype surrounding the Elden Ring, and this demo will only strengthen that feeling with the launch just three months away.

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