Six hours wasn’t enough time with Elden Ring. Even at lunch, I hastily scoffed down some eggs so I could get back to Margit the Fell Omen. I’d taken down the Burial Tree Watchdog, the Beastman of Farum Azula, and even the Stonedigger Troll. Grave Warden had eaten the dust, as had the Demi-Human Chief, and Pumpkin Head. In fact, I’d taken down every optional boss I could find aside from some of the ones that are clearly meant for you to come back to. Or in other words: dragons.
But Margit is a bastard. The old Souls thing rings true here: you can summon but it won’t make him easy, there’s just more of you for him to kill. I had attempted Margit 6 times already. Each time I failed, I went off to explore more of the world, but with an hour left with Elden Ring, I had to try again, and on my own, this time.
Elden Ring: swearing at my success
I had previously been using the NPC summon and the wolf spirits to cause distraction, but not this time. Instead, I used a single spirit that shoots poison at him, which he basically ignored. But this time? This time he was going down. I found the secret, you see, and it’s that jump button. Launching in when Margit stopped, a heavy attack with my sword would stagger him, and getting a critical attack to finish the fight was pure elation. I genuinely jumped out of my seat and shouted “FUCK YEAH!”. But now I only have an hour left, and I’ve explored loads, but I want to know what’s next.
This isn’t my first time playing Elden Ring. I was lucky enough to be involved in the Closed Network Test without the time restrictions many had, but I wasn’t sure how much I wanted to explore. I wanted to understand Elden Ring, and more than ever, I think I do now. First things first, for those that are worried: Elden Ring is as hard as the other FromSoftware games. But crucially, I think it might also be the most accessible, as well. There’s a map; waypoints; mid-dungeon checkpoints… in a Souls-game.
Teaching an old dog new tricks
I couldn’t beat Margit at first. Through my own experience with the other games developed by FromSoftware, I was playing like it was a Souls game. I was sword and board, barely using my weapon skills, hardly jumping in battle, forgetting I could use stealth. What about Torrent, the horse? Why not use him to kite enemies away? Oh but also, Torrent can double jump and increase your mobility and access to the world. There isn’t a health regain system like Bloodborne, but if you time a heavy attack right after blocking, you can stun your enemy. It feels similar, timing wise, and means you have to study attack patterns so you release your block at the right time.
There are massive, typical “Souls-like” dungeons in Elden Ring, and having beaten Margit, I can now confirm that. The story feels more welcoming, too. There seems to be less lore hidden in dark corners, and more just, you know, given to you via in-game cinematics and conversations. There are also smaller sections that almost feel like Bloodborne’s chalice dungeons. There’s always a boss at the end, and often you’ll have to explore the darkness to find a mechanism to open the door. I saw some really small examples of this, with a few enemies leading to a fog door. But I also saw far bigger dungeons, all optional, but all worthy.
Exploration, upgrades, and churches
Sitting down to properly play Elden Ring, you start to see the systems all coming together. There’s the “Breath of the Wild” exploration, which allowed me to work out that, at least partially, to upgrade your health flasks you’ll need to find churches. Each of these I found had an item that let me upgrade the amount of flasks I could use, and eventually getting more started to require two of those items.
The weapon skills are badass, too. I used entirely different builds, weapons, and artes to my time with the CNT, and went for a more melee based avatar, instead of the magic class I chose back in 2021. More than anything, I can’t get over how different my two sessions with this title have been. The Tree Sentinel, a wandering optional boss, posed no threat when I was a mage. On the ground, with his horse towering above me, he was a massive threat to my sword and board character.
Elden Ring is “The One”
If there’s one single thing that bugged me in my time with Elden Ring, it’s that you have to press two buttons together to use your single hand weapon. Yeah, wow, what a shitter, right? That’s it. At one point I was concerned about how the weapon skills were awkward to use without single handing your weapon. But then I discovered a guy who sold me skills, one of which lets you use the skill you want, even if the other handed weapon has a different one.
This is the one, folks. I can’t stress that enough. I’m not going to spoil things here, but through some bad luck I actually got to see more of the map than I think was intended, and this game is huge. The enemy variety; the fact you can mix and match magic and melee, for the first time this feels like a Souls-game where everything is viable, but you always want to learn all the aspects because the enemies require it. I’d be absolutely stunned if people walked away feeling short changed, here, because six hours in, Elden Ring is magnificent, sprawling, deep, and almost certainly going to be many people’s game of the year. The hype is real, the excitement is justified: this is going to be something special, people.
Elden Ring is out on February 25th for PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S|X, and PC. We played this preview on PC.