ELDEN RING post-Network Test impressions

One thing is absolutely clear: I need to clear my calendar for late February and probably all of March, and I am going to take a personal day the day this game comes out and I’m not going to feel even the tiniest bit bad about it. I will flat-out tell people that I am staying home to play video games. Deal with it.

I recorded five hours of footage from the network beta test of this game– three hours on Friday night and two more on Sunday night, before hitting a situation that ended the stream so perfectly that continuing to play (and cost myself sleep the night before work) seemed wholly unnecessary. During that time I explored a pretty good chunk of the map we had available to us, defeated several bosses including Margit the Fell up there, who appears to be the first major storyline boss in the game, found but did not seriously attempt to kill the dragon, and cleared out three caves. I dipped my toe in multiplayer a bit, letting myself be summoned to help one player (unsuccessfully, unfortunately) defeat a boss, and summoning people myself to take out Margit and one other boss. I also got invaded once and killed the invader. I only really tried out the one class, deciding to get deeper into progression with a single character rather than repeat the same content with a bunch of them, but I chose the Enchanted Knight class, meaning that I had access to melee and magic abilities.

This game is a fucking blast, y’all, and while I have some scattered concerns here and there I think they mostly fall into either “this was the beta test” or “you will get used to it” categories. I’m going to switch to bullet points now; note that any references I should happen to make to the development of the game come from a position of nearly total ignorance, so I may have the idea that very complicated things are easy or that easy things are very complicated. Take everything with as much salt as you’d like.

  • The combat and basic game itself is pure Dark Souls, which is a good thing (because that’s my favorite game series) and a bad thing (because they are literally reusing tons of animations from Dark Souls 3.) This is one of those places where I’m wondering if a lot of the animations are placeholders that are going to get swapped out later. Other things, like fonts and such, are also pretty similar and I suspect might see some polishing in the next several months. It’s important to remember that this isn’t a Dark Souls game; it’s a whole new IP and while nobody’s complaining about the obvious shared DNA it does need to have more of its own identity.
  • The look of the game is fantastic, and the network test covered a diverse enough swath of environments (and weather conditions!) to give you a good idea of how all sorts of things are going to look. Graphical fidelity is not going to be a problem here.
  • The game was very, very clean. The only bugs I noticed (and didn’t bother reporting) was that sometimes player messages were floating off the ground rather than being where they were supposed to be. I had no crashes at all, no glitching, nothing like that, and I haven’t really seen any reports of major bugs either. AI seemed on point across the board, although sneaking up and backstabbing enemies is maybe a little easier than it ought to be.
  • That might not be true. There were a couple places during the Friday session where I was trying to summon people and having no luck at all. That could be a bug issue or could be a result of summons getting snatched up the second they got placed; it’s hard to say from this end. But if it was a bug, it was the only one, and I wasn’t having those issues nearly as much Sunday night.
  • I didn’t feel like there was enough variation in weapons and armor available. There were next to no drops from humanoid enemies, and nonhuman enemies mostly dropped crafting materials. Five hours into any other Fromsoft game other than Sekiro would have given you tons of different weapons and armor. I found a twinblade really quickly that I used for most of my run, but by the end of the five hours I only had maybe four or five weapons, which is ludicrously low. This is something else that I assume they’ll correct by the time of the game’s full release. No reason to give everybody full customizability right off the bat.
  • Similarly, the demo had no initial character customization at all, and made sure to put most characters’ faces behind helmets. I figure they left it out on purpose.
  • Other than the fact that there is an Elden Ring out there and it is destroyed and you’re looking for it, there were no real hints at the story at all. Which is, to be clear, absolutely fine.
  • Changes from the Dark Souls model: the ability to charge spells is awesome. I also really like being able to replace special abilities on weapons with others that you’ve picked up, and turning enemy summons into an item is a fantastic move even if I thought the three wolves summon was flat-out unfair by the end of the second stream. There will be rebalancing; there’s no doubt about that. It’s inevitable. I also really like the mechanic where wiping out entire groups of enemies can result in recharging your heals. This does two things: one, it encourages more aggressive gameplay, and two, it adds another element of risk/reward to the game, which is something Fromsoft games have always excelled at. If I only have half a health bar and no heals left, do I attack that last enemy or two knowing that if they hit me, I’m dead, but if I beat them without any mistakes I get all my heals back?
  • Boss difficulty and design is pretty solid, and Margit the Fell is one of the most complex early bosses I’ve ever encountered in one of these games. I was pretty sure I could take him sooner or later by myself, but went with summons to help out because with a clock ticking I felt like I didn’t have time to fuck around learning attack patterns that could change by the time the game comes out. Better to steamroll the bastard so I can see what’s after him. 🙂
  • Recording this game is going to be tricky. Open-world games lend themselves better to streaming, but I don’t have a lot of time to stream, and half-hour episodes are going to feel really inadequate, especially considering how frequently I was getting distracted. Assuming I’m still running the YouTube channel by then, I may have to reconsider how I present the episodes. Luckily I’ve got plenty of time to figure that out.
  • EDIT: Just discovered there was an whole entire-ass tutorial area that I completely missed. Oops?

I may add some details here and there as I continue to think about this, but I figure this is enough to get started with. Damn, I need more friends who play video games.

Published by

Luther M. Siler

The author of SKYLIGHTS, THE BENEVOLENCE ARCHIVES and several other books.

2 thoughts on “ELDEN RING post-Network Test impressions

  1. I watched some of your videos on Elden Ring. The game looks really fun. I’m scared for potential encounters where trying to run away, you end up attracting a freaking hoard and the only way to escape is to simply, die. I agree that most of the animations are reused from DS3 — which is itself, seems to have been tweaked slightly all the way from Demon’s Souls, which is fine by me. lol

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    1. This game definitely appears to have much larger groups of roaming mobs than any of the DS series ever had. Luckily the open world means they’re at least moderately easier to run away from.

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