Earlier this week, Bandai Namco invited me and Sky down to their offices to try out a near final build of Elden Ring at the Elden Ring Preview Event for a couple of hours. Having never been to Bandai Namco Singapore’s offices, it was also a chance to take a look at how they looked.
That is to say…I was a kaypo.
Turns out their offices looked every bit like I imagined! Walls upon walls of figures, statues and other merchandize from Bandai Namco releases! It’s like I was back in Akibahara all over again…except nothing’s for sale!
Anyways, enough about that…back to the preview.
Being the Souls (and Bloodborne and Sekiro and The Surge…and all the other ‘inspired’ bys) expert, I tagged along to see how Elden Ring has evolved since its Technical Closed Beta last year.
The answer? Not a lot.
That’s not a bad thing by any means considering that the beta was already pretty polished, even if it was all kinds of buggy. The good news here is that the version we played (which was the final or near final build that’ll be released at launch) at the Elden Ring Preview had zero crashes or any glitches save for one cutscene not triggering. The game just went to a black screen that time and we had to skip the cutscene to continue.
No biggie, it’s probably going to be patched out.
The rest of the game’s still great.
It felt like a much more forgiving Dark Souls. especially as you could reassign how many flasks you can carry. Like in Dark Souls 3, you could just carry health restoring ones or ones that restored mana or a mixture of both.
Despite bringing as much health as we could, we still died a lot…as expected. We got stabbed, we fell off cliffs, I got smashed by a giant club when I was invaded by a Red Phantom…we died all sorts of deaths and got really familiar with the loading screens in between respawns. We were playing on the Playstation 5 and death reloads took around 6 – 8 seconds. A bit too lengthy for my tastes but I’m going to reserve judgment till the final version’s in my hands.
Being revived at Stakes of Marika lessened the pain a bit as they served as mid-area checkpoints. I got so used to them that I don’t know how I’ll be able to play the Souls games again without them!
One thing that surprised me was how empty the huge environment was.
Enemies were peppered throughout in small numbers (unless you stumbled upon a camp) but traversing the world on the spectral horse (Torrent) made them seem trivial. I’d thought that the enemy numbers would’ve been buffed up from the beta, but it doesn’t seem that way at all.
On the flipside, the environments are beautiful. We only got to explore the early areas but what we saw impressed. Visually, the art design’s more in like with Dark Souls than Bloodborne’s gothic look so if you’re into medieval castles, ruined forts, you’ll definitely be at home in the game.
I love that there’s more platforming (in the form of ledges) integrated into the world now. With Torrent’s double jump, you can easily use shortcuts to navigate quickly, though fall too high and you’ll still die.
Height’s much more of a problem in Elden Ring than in most other From Software titles…maybe apart from Sekiro. Being able to jump (or double jump with Torrent) means you’ll frequently need to go vertical to progress or escape your enemies.
Speaking of progression, the open world is a major departure from similar games in the genre. Right off the bat, you’re free to wander around. It’s a refreshing change from the linear nature of past From Software games to be sure, but it’s not all perfect.
There’s also a ton of foliage and object pop-in, a rather unwelcome surprise.
Grass and other foliage will fade into view as you get closer, leading to plains that look barren from far suddenly becoming a garden when you get closer. It’s jarring to say the least and I’d have thought the SSD in the PS5 would’ve eliminated this entirely.
It’s the same thing for objects too.
In one area of the game (Stormhill), torches on the wall would fade in and out of existence depending on how far we were from them. It’s especially irksome at night when they’re much more noticeable.
Thankfully, that didn’t affect gameplay at all.
One thing Elden Ring has over its other Souls (and Souls-like) cousins is that enemies aren’t shy at all to gang up on you. There’s an option to stealthily kill (like in Sekiro) but once the baddies are alerted, they’ll summon everybody nearby. At times, it feels like you’re in a Warriors game instead!
In my playing, I’ve been swarmed a ton of times by groups of 8 or more on a regular basis! That’d never happen in the Souls or Bloodborne games where combat was mainly a solitary affair.
The lock on was solid though I wish that you could target individual parts (like in The Surge). Some enemies have weakpoints (especially the huge troll things), but hitting them can be a tricky affair because you can’t pinpoint your strikes.
Overall, we came away from our preview session of Elden Ring much impressed.
The lore was in full effect (we’re not going to spoil anything) and it was much more coherent than in any other From Software game. The difficulty being easier isn’t too much of a departure, and I actually hope future games (whether they be Elden Ring 2, Bloodborne 2 or whatever) incorporate the checkpoint revives provided by the Stake of Marika.
I do hope that the pop-in and enemy quantity in the open world gets eliminated and beefed up respectively as they’re the only weak aspects of what is a phenomenal game. With the full release more than two weeks away (I’m writing this on Feb 9), there’s certain more than enough time for some last minute patches. Hell, maybe it’s already been done and the version I played didn’t have it yet!
Either way, I (and Sky) definitely can’t wait for February 25 release of the game. The Elden Ring Preview’s certainly did it’s job…and then some. If you’re a fan of From Software’s Souls or Bloodborne or Sekiro games, you should be too.