The agonizing wait for FromSoftware’s next big action RPG is nearly over as Elden Ring looks set to release on February 25th for Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, PS4, PS5 and PC. Let’s take a look at 15 things you need to know before diving in.
With lore penned by A Song of Fire and Ice author George R.R. Martin, Elden Ring sees players venturing to the Lands Between which Queen Marika rules over. However, the Elden Ring’s destruction and the scattering of its pieces, the Great Runes, things have been less than ideal. As a Tarnished, previously exiled and drawn back to the Lands Between, it’s up to the player to gather the Great Runes and become the Elden Lord. The latest story trailer offered some more details on the Shattering, a war for the Great Runes that saw figures like General Radahn and Malenia the Severed fighting for supremacy. The latter has been seen in a previous trailer, impaling the player with her sword, but it remains to be seen if Radahn will also appear.
The Lands Between comprises six massive areas, each ruled by a distinct lord with the giant Erdtree looming over all. Thus far, players have only really explored Limgrave but a wide variety of open plains, mountains, water bodies, caves and much more have been discovered with much more teased in trailers thus far. A world map is provided to players but they’ll need Map Fragments to fill it out. However, it’s possible to add Markers and Beacons to better explore the world.
Though it wasn’t present in the closed network test, Elden Ring will feature a character creator like Dark Souls and Bloodborne. We know it will feature a range of starting classes, each with their own strengths and weaknesses but an official showcase has yet to be provided. Nevertheless, players should be able to customize their character’s hair-style, face, origin, body type, gender, stats and much more like in previous Soulsborne titles.
Open World Design
The biggest change from previous FromSoftware titles is the open world. You can travel seamlessly from one area to the next and have a Spirit Steed mount for quickly traveling. Instead of Bonfires, there are Sites of Grace where you can level up, allocate different Sorceries and Ashes of War, pass the time and sort your inventory. Along with weather changes – including lightning that can damage you – there’s a real-time day/night cycle with the latter being helpful when sneaking. One can also gather materials and craft items, like arrows, on the go along with attacking convoys. Elden Ring’s open world design has often been compared to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, especially with regards to…
Freedom of Exploration
Even though the Rays of Guiding Light can be used to define your next core objective, you’re free to go pretty much anywhere in Elden Ring. The additional mobility, which leads to better platforming, also provides more incentive to investigate every nook and cranny. It’s a fairly big departure from Dark Souls and has been fairly challenging to design. Director Hidetaka Miyazaki told EDGE magazine that there were a “number of challenges”, much of them related to “the game tempo – the rhythm and the flow of the game, to keep the player from getting bored, to keep them interested, exploring and having fun. And, of course, in this brand-new huge world that we’ve created, we wanted to prioritize that fun and level of player freedom more than anything.
“So with that comes a lot of characters, a lot of events that you’re trying to incorporate, and you don’t want anything to tread on the toes of anything else – you want it all to mingle and to mesh nicely with the player and their own motivations as well. But you want it to be there, and you want it to provide that stimulation for progressing forward and exploring.” Miyazaki also revealed that the level of freedom that the team wanted to achieve “exceeded what we were initially planning for,” which required more time for “debug and QA.”
It wouldn’t be a FromSoftware game without a range of interesting NPCs and Elden Ring doesn’t disappoint. Based on the closed network test and gameplay revealed thus far, we’ve met the likes of Merchant Kalé, a vendor dressed like Santa Claus, and Sorceress Sellen, who will sell Sorceries and train the player to use them. Other NPCs include Melina who gives the player a Spectral Steed Whistle to summon their mount; Alexander aka Iron Fist, an individual whose entire body is a cauldron; and White-Faced Varre who appears at the first Site of Grace and mocks the player for being maidenless. Various other NPCs also appear and seem to lead factions, which may function like Covenants from Dark Souls, but more details have yet to be provided on the same.
Caves and Legacy Dungeons
As one explores the Lands Between, they’ll come across various caves and catacombs which play host to smaller boss fights. These house new weapons, Skills and whatnot but won’t necessarily push you to the limit. Legacy Dungeons, on the other hand, are large sprawling dungeons with multiple routes, loot and foes along with one of the six major bosses that must be defeated. Stormveil Castle is the only Legacy Dungeon that’s been revealed thus far and is a complex structure, complete with a nigh-impassable front gate, some sneaky side entrances, and large buildings that can be traversed.
Combat and Ashes of War
Those who have played a Dark Souls game should feel immediately at home in Elden Ring. Its combat and movements are very similar, right down to the Light and Heavy attacks, Stamina meters, parrying, dodge rolling, critical hits and more. It’s not an exact copy though – jumping is now it’s own dedicated function and it’s possible to execute leap attacks that can deal potent amounts of damage. And while several Skills will remind one of their Soulsborne equivalents, there are plenty of new ones to unlock. Several different weapon types exist, from swords and shields to bows and axes, and while there are two-handed weapons, you can also wield a one-handed weapon with both hands. Stealth has also been expanded on significantly over Dark Souls, allowing one to be sneakier and assassinate foes.
Perhaps the biggest departure that Elden Ring makes in terms of FromSoftware combat is in the Skills. They’re no longer tied to weapons – instead, you find different Ashes of War which can be applied to weapons and shields to bestow Skills. Build diversity is much greater as a result – you can play as the Bloody Wolf class but equip the Glintsword Arch skill that creates an arch of magical swords that will attack automatically. Ashes of War can also help match the scaling of one’s weapon to their stats along with changing its damage type. No upgrade materials are needed for this but you can only have one Ash of War per weapon or shield.
A number of bosses have been seen in trailers thus far and the closed network test even saw players going up against Margit the Fell Omen in Stormveil Castle. However, there are a number of bosses simply roaming the open world, waiting to pounce. These include the massive dragon Agheel, the Tree Sentinel which rides a mount and appears early on, and so forth. You also have mini-bosses like the Black Knight who only appears at night on a bridge in Limgrave and will attack those who get too close.
Sorceries and Incantations
As noted previously, Sorceries are present along with Incantations, functioning as magic to fend off enemies. The former scales off of Intelligence and ranges from firing three magic projectiles with Glinstone Stars and summoning meteors to rain down on enemies to using one’s own blood to create thorns. The latter scales off Faith and includes Beast Claw, which sends claw-like shockwaves through the ground; Dragonfire to spew fire; and Heal for creating a small area to recover health in. You’ll need different equipment to utilize Sorceries and Incantations but they’re key to success in battle.
Much like the AI Summons of old, Elden Ring allows for summoning Spirits to aid you in combat. These Spirits are based on defeated enemies and one needs Spirit-Caller’s Ash corresponding to that specific foe to summon them. A rebirth monument is also necessary and upon dying in a boss fight, they can’t be re-summoned in the same instance. Thus far, we’ve seen Spirits like a pack of wolves, the Northern Mercenary which attacks with a cleaver and much more.
Co-op, PvP and Invasions
Multiplayer in Elden Ring comprises co-op and PvP but like the Dark Souls series, it works a bit differently from other games. For co-op, other players are “summoned.” Using a Tarnished’s Furled Finger will create a summoning sign, which can be seen by others in their world, thus allowing them to summon you. This had unlimited uses in the closed network test so it remains to be seen if the full game will change anything. Summoning another player requires a Furlcalling Finger Remedy (which stacked up to 99 in the network test) – this allows you to see different summoning signs and bring another player into your world.
Using the Finger Severer removes another player from your world. You can also use the Duelist’s Furled Finger to summon other players for PvP or the Bloody Finger to invade another player’s world and attack them (though they can do the same to you). Again, this will all be familiar to Dark Souls players but it’s fairly different from a “typical” co-op experience, especially since dying sends the summoned player back to their own session.
It’s no secret that Elden Ring is a massive game – the section that closed network test players accessed is apparently a small percentage of the overall world map. The download size is also hefty but still somewhat manageable. According to PlayStation Game Size on Twitter, it will be 44.472 GB for PS5. The Xbox Store also reportedly indicated a 50 GB install size, though the listing has since been changed to remove this. Either way, you’ll want to clear some space before downloading.
4K, 60 FPS and Ray Tracing on PS5 and Xbox Series X
In terms of graphics modes, there are a number of options for PS5 and Xbox Series X players. There’s a Performance Mode for 60 FPS gameplay, which adjusts the resolution to maintain the frame rate, and Resolution Mode which offers 30 FPS but prioritizes the maximum resolution (which is 4K). Ray tracing and HDR are also supported. Xbox Series S also supports HDR but not ray tracing and the max resolution is 1440p with an option for 60 FPS (presumably at 1080p).
Pressure to Improve Graphical Fidelity
While Elden Ring’s fidelity doesn’t quite approach titles like Horizon Forbidden West, it’s still incredibly good looking. According to director Hidetaka Miyazaki, there was pressure to make sure the visuals were on the level following Bluepoint Games’ remake of Demon’s Souls on PS5. “Yes, I’m pretty sure our graphics-creation staff felt that pressure more than anyone else.”
He noted that the studio was looking to improve on graphics in its games. “And not just with Elden Ring, but with all the games we make. Graphical fidelity is not something we put as the top priority. What we ask for on the graphics side depends on the systems and requirements of the game itself, and it takes less priority compared to the other elements of development.
“So this is always an area where I feel a little bit apologetic towards my graphics team because I know they work extremely hard. And they’ve worked extremely hard on Elden Ring – our graphics-systems team and our programmers have been pushing a lot of new features to create the best-looking games we’ve ever made.” Thus far, it definitely seems to be living up to those expectations.