FromSoftware’s Elden Ring has been the talk of the weekend thanks to its gameplay finally being revealed and a release date of January 21st 2022 for Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, PS4, PS5 and PC. Thankfully, that’s not all we had to look forward to. A massive amount of information has been revealed by director Hidetaka Miyazaki through interviews with Famitsu and IGN. These cover topics ranging from skills and the new Spirits to events leading up to the game and how long it may take to finish the main story. So without further ado, let’s get into it.
Elden Ring is set in The Lands Between, which Game of Thrones writer George R.R. Martin named. Ruled by Queen Marika the Eternal, it’s blessed by the Elden Ring and the Erdtree, providing blessings to everyone in the land. This is represented by a golden light that’s visible in their eyes. However, there are those who have lost that light and become the Tarnished, eventually being exiled from the lands. When the Elden Ring was shattered and war broke out over its shards, the Great Runes, the Tarnished (you included) find themselves drawn back to The Lands Between. Of course, you’ll meet all sorts of other characters, some whose ancestors were also Tarnished and who have their own goals.
Finding meaning in their return as the player fights to become an Elden Lord forms the crux of the journey. Like Dark Souls and Bloodborne, players can come across different pieces of lore and learn more about the world as they explore it.
Major Areas and Hub
The Lands Between offers six major areas, each having a dungeon map and a Demigod that the player must battle. The Demigods are beings that possessed heroic qualities but found themselves twisted by the Great Runes, each inheriting different powers in the process. Discovering the various states of ruin that have befallen these once-great entities will also be part of the player’s journey. A bit later into the game, players will discover a hub, though how similar it will be to, say, Firelink Shrine remains to be seen.
All of the areas are connected and though not everything will be open from the start, you will have plenty of different ways to approach a certain area. Along with the main dungeons, there are also a “wide variety of catacombs, castles and fortresses” in the world to stumble into as per Miyazaki. For those who aren’t keen on always walking or riding horseback everywhere, there will also be a fast travel option available.
Mainline Route and Multiple Endings
Miyazaki has also noted the presence of a “guidance” which will let players know where to go next. Though noted to be like a “divine revelation” from the world’s perspective, it isn’t something that will lock players into a fixed path. So if you want to stray on to the roads less taken and see what’s out there, then by all means. While there are a certain number of bosses that you have to defeat, Elden Ring aims to offer a “much higher” degree of freedom to its progression than Dark Souls. There are even multiple endings to unlock, further increasing the replayability.
One of the cooler new elements to Elden Ring are Spirits. These are enemy characters that can be used as summons and offer different benefits in battle. You can have a spirit that will defend you from the rear; an archer that will help in combat; or even a decoy that will flank enemies. Spirits also have “growth elements” like weapons, which seems to indicate that they can be leveled up.
There are a large variety of Spirits to choose from and it’s possible that you may come across some that are fairly useless. Nonetheless, having a particularly nasty enemy alongside you and battling foes is a fairly cool prospect. Don’t worry though – Spirits aren’t replacing player summons as you’ll still be able to fight alongside other players in co-op.
Skills and Build Diversity
Elden Ring offers more than 100 skills to choose from and you’ll acquire them by either buying from stores, learning them from NPCs or discovering them hidden throughout the world. Perhaps the biggest change that’s being made is how skills are handled. Taking Dark Souls 3 is an example, you would have to equip a certain weapon to use its Weapon Art or skill. In Elden Ring, you can interchange skills between weapons without restrictions. In fact, you’re free to mix and match different weapons, equipment and magic together in different ways – throw in different Spirits and the sheer amount of customization on offer is going to be insane.
Crafting and Customization
For perhaps the first time in a Soulsborne title by FromSoftware, players can customize and craft items while out in the world. Materials for these will be discovered during exploration and there are also more resources for health recovery, enabling one to fight for much longer. Miyazaki also teased some “elements” that constitute the progression. The idea is to have a “certain amount of progression and reward” regardless of which route the player takes but there will be something that encourages the player to keep exploring. More details are needed on that front so we’ll have to wait and see what that means.
Combat, whether it’s melee or ranged, has always been an essential part of FromSoftware’s action RPGs. However, those who appreciated the stealth options in Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice may find something to like in Elden Ring as well. Though Miyazaki describes it as a “relatively simple implementation,” players can crouch and sneak while also using long grass to pass undetected. You can also backstab enemies by sneaking up on them like in previous Souls games. Again, while it sounds straightforward enough, it adds to the list of available options, allowing players to sneak past certain confrontations as they see fit.
Jumping and Stamina
Taking another cue from Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, you can now jump, which helps in dodging low-hitting attacks or delivering devastating blows. The stamina bar also returns but the development team feel that it has “less influence on the player overall.” “We wanted to make it feel less restrictive and contribute to that level of freedom more so than our previous titles,” says Miyazaki. The difficulty has also been described as “more manageable” and as a “pure action game,” it’s below the difficulty offered in Bloodborne or Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. Not that you shouldn’t expect to encounter tough foes though. Also, there won’t be any way to resurrect after dying a la Sekiro so try to resist the temptation.
Time of Day and Weather
As if all of the different skills, weapons and tactics available weren’t enough, time of day and weather will also play a part. At night, it’s tougher for your enemies to see you, which can make stealth a more viable option (though you’ll have a tougher time seeing them as well). “Special traces” are also easier to spot at night-time though what this entails remains to be seen. While not many details were provided on how weather will affect the gameplay, it will change on the fly like the time of day so be prepared to make some necessary adjustments.
With how large the game is, how long will it take to complete? Miyazaki says that it could be about 30 hours of play time without taking too many “side trips.” However, it’s hard to say at this point. The overarching goal for the developer is to have a “lot of depth and expansion” even if the player isn’t veering off of the main path. Honestly, even without factoring in all of the non-mainline content, the sheer amount of customization and different ways to play should provide more than enough reason to keep revisiting The Lands Between.