This laissez-faire preview was written by our American colleagues and translated by IGN Benelux.
When I interviewed Hidetaka Miyazaki about the Elden Ring in June, one of the things that most stuck in my mind was that many of the answers on the Elden Ring’s main topic revolved around freedom and choice. Now that I’ve seen 15 minutes of gameplay from different sections of the game, I totally understand what Miyazaki is saying, and how Elden Ring offers more options and flexibility than anything else From Software has worked on in the past.
The gameplay demo opened with a shot of the first open field of the Elden Ring, with several POIs easily visible in every direction. A small watchtower could be seen to the left, the glowing giant Erd Tree could be seen in the distance, and in front of it was a rickety spot. This will act as fire checkpoints from the game. Interestingly, some of them even turn on lights to lead the way to the recommended route. Of course it is up to the player whether or not he follows that path.
One of the things that I took with me from looking at the open gameplay was the feeling of bumping into anything as you explored. In one of the sections, the player faces a group of enemies gathering around a campfire. Out of nowhere, a giant dragon descends the way you know it from the Souls series and takes out the entire group in one fell swoop, only to end up in a massive boss battle. In another section, a group of passive enemies walked down a path to escort a large chariot that appeared to be about to be ambushed. Perhaps the player needs certain skills to survive this. In another area, another vehicle was locked, but this time near a camp where the player slipped through safely without alerting anyone. This went so far as to allow the player to use a drag arrow to neutralize a guard.
One of the things I took away from watching the open field gameplay was the feeling of bumping into anything as you explored.
Of course, to navigate this large open field, you can summon Spirit Steed, who can jump over cliffs via special jumping platforms. As a result, there is also a large vertical aspect to open world design. A big difference with previous Souls games (but makes sense for a big world like The Lands Between) is that you can access the map. The map is updated by finding parts of the map in the world and looks like a real parchment piece illustrated by a real cartographer from the world of The Lands Between. You can drop signs to indicate the locations of devious enemies, NPCs, treasures, or entrances to dungeons. As you might expect, flagging also places a beacon that is easily visible in the game, so that you can mark your waypoints when looking for new places to go.
Dungeons can be found all over the open area and are of course filled with enemies, traps, treasures and even imaginary walls. The only dungeon I saw was very basic in design, with a room with a number of guillotine traps and a treasure trove guarded by a few enemies who were willing to kick you as soon as you tried to get the treasure. But since I showed the gameplay being broken into pieces, I had no idea what it was or how big it actually was.
The Legacy Dungeon made me feel good, and it felt huge. The ancient dungeons are the main attraction for each of the six main areas of the lands between the dungeons. And I was able to see the first of those, Stormveil Castle. Legacy Dungeon starts with a choice, you can go through the main gate and get a very difficult path with enemies aware of your presence, or you can sneak from the side through a secret entrance that is less guarded but still very dangerous, with narrow paths where one wrong evasive lap can make to fall to death.
Stormveil Castle was definitely reminiscent of the Politarian Palace of Demon Souls. For example, there were quite a few explosives on display with a nearby enemy that could attack anything. With these kinds of tributes, I was motivated to think of all the ways not taken during the Raising Hands demonstration. From afar, a house could be seen standing near a narrow cliff, and I wondered how I could get there. When the player looked back at that cliff, I saw all kinds of platforms and treasures lying there. Thanks to the ability to jump, I kept wondering if I could jump over the holes and find something on the other side. I was told that Legacy Dungeons were built with that kind of freedom in mind, and that they were designed with complex ideas and different layers, something I really wanted to hear.
Built with this kind of freedom in mind, Legacy Dungeons are designed with intricate ideas and different layers.
Legacy Dungeon ends with the moment the player reaches the rooftop and can see the main path that has been traveled so far. The enemies did not realize that the player was there, so it was possible for the player to use the “sleep arrow” and put the giant guard into a state of sleep. This allowed the player to sneak undetected.
I ended up getting some teasers out of a fight with a boss. This was the enormous multi-weapon lord I had seen in the trailer. It was the boss who made it sound like a game of souls. Huge attacks, ground strikes and counterattacks activate when you collide with the creature. Of course, the boss has a second stage where the monster’s arm turns into a fire-breathing dragon and an unlockable attack sets the player on fire. It looked really brutal and I can’t wait to try to fight it myself.
To return to the topic of player choice, it was reminded of the great amount of freedom the player has during the presentation. The freedom to choose which way to go from the start, the freedom to fight – or avoid battles – and to choose to run or fight when the dragon lands, or choose to use stealth or a lot of violence to attack the enemies camp. Choose to proceed through the main entrance or the side entrance to Legacy Dungeon. It’s not new elements in an open world RPG, but in an action RPG from From Software, it’s an unprecedented amount of options. On top of that, there are all the different options for builds, weapons, and magic.
With every part of the Elden Ring I find it hard to wait for the game. Elden Ring is scheduled for release on January 21, 2022.
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