We spent a few more hours in From Software's open world before its launch, and have a whole list of extra features and feelings to tell you about.
It's only two weeks until February 25, the release date for what seems to be the one game we've been looking forward to the most, Elden Ring. With that coming up, recently we had a last chance to try a new preview version of the game before the final review, and some extra features have been included in comparison to the Beta server we tried a few months back. Even though we didn't see any new areas, we did see some new developments and important details we knew nothing of until now, and we'll tell you about them as well as our feelings regarding the launch.
10 New Types of Starting Character
During this test, we had access to 10 new different classes. It's very likely that they'll stay the same in the final version, but FromSoftware may give us a surprise. For instance, apart from the classical ones we already know from Dark Souls, such as the Deprived, the Bandit, or the Warrior, we also saw the Astrologer and the Prophet (who have "pure" magic styles and miracles), as well as the Prisoner and the Intelligencer (who fight with magical weapons that boost Faith).
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There are also new characters who fight hand-to-hand, such as the Hero, whose statistics are initially focused on Strength and heavy weapons, the Vagabond, who boosts his attacks with Dexterity, and last but not least, there's the Samurai class, which uses a half-Strength, half-Dexterity combat style. This starts with the Uchigatana, a sword that was already a classic one in the Dark Souls series and makes a comeback in Elden Ring and causes a blood loss effect on your opponents. We chose the Samurai for this Beta, and then we tried the classic Warrior for a little while to compare their styles, all to look for the perfect starting character come launch.
The real beginning of Elden Ring
One of the things we do believe will be included in the final version of the game is the beginning we tried in this preview, since this time we could see a series of scenes that tell us about the background, and mentioned some of the main enemies we'll have to fight. Apart from that, our character started in a different place than the Cave of Knowledge, but we immediately appeared back in there. After the brief tutorial in that place, we open the doors and we head to explore the first area of the map, the Limgrave.
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Controlling the character and suffering the first death
As soon as we open the doors and we look at our surroundings, we notice our first serious enemy: the Tree Sentinel, a heavily armoured knight who protects the path between the starting chapel and the place where the Grace beam guides us to follow the main storyline. He's a tough guy and we don't want to be stuck as soon as we appear, so we go ahead making a detour while using stealth until we arrive at the Church of Elleh, where Merchant Kale is waiting for us. You can't buy the very helpful summons at your first meeting with the merchant, as was the case in the former Beta, and instead, the cost for the Crafting Kit has increased. It seems like the summons, that a lot of people assumed would make the game easier, will not be available from the start.
Wandering towards the North, we found some patrols commanded by Godrick the Golden, the first boss that was waiting for us in Stormveil Castle, so we took time to farm some runes by getting rid of the soldiers. While we're at it, we try our skills with the Uchigatana and the bow (one that the Samurai carries as an ancillary weapon), along with a small shield. The change between the bow and the sword is fluid and it allows us to take down the life of our enemies before needing to be at an adequate distance to deliver a fatal move.
After unlocking the mount, Torrent and levelling up thanks to a maiden called Melina, we try to get back to the Church of Elleh with the help of the Fast Travel, which is available on the map at any time except during combat. There we have another novelty apart from what we had already seen, since there's a mysterious figure that we'll call Snow Witch, because we don't want to give you any hints. She will be the one who offers us the beckoning bell and the spell to summon wolves to fight the Tree Sentinel. This time he does fall under our katana, after several attempts.
Exploring and making new friends
Being in a state of euphoria after defeating the Sentinel, we move forward to the castle. It's very easy to divert from the path indicated by the Sites of Grace to get lost in the rich world of Elden Ring. That's one of the things we liked the most about the Beta. There were no limits to explore freely, and you can see some inviting points of interest every step you take. The open world introduces exploration in a way we haven't seen since Breath of the Wild, and it's also heavily influenced by the latter. There are even NPCs that show us places of interest that may be related to their questlines, such as Alexander (the cauldron-man we saw on the Gameplay Preview) and Boc, a sort of beast-man whom we saved by casting a spell. He expresses his gratitude and gives us directions to find his loot, even though he warns us there's someone watching over it...
The fact that the enemies are scattered all over the world could be seen as a problem for the character progression, but we also found a small advantage: there are many skulls scattered on the ground, and some of them emit a small gleam. If we break them, we get consumable runes to level up more easily. We couldn't check if the skulls respawn, but it is easier to distinguish them in the night, so it may be a good moment to look for them then.
In the next Site of Grace, we wait until the dead of night to see if there's any difference in comparison with the day. Surprisingly, all of a sudden, a boss appears and attacks us unexpectedly in the nearby ruins that we explored during the day. It's the Deadbird, a sort of sickening avian, which seems to come straight out of the very Yharnam from Bloodborne. We'll have to leave the fight for the review, because we were running out of time.
While we're waiting for the final product, it looks like Elden Ring is going to meet the expectations that we all have in mind for the most ambitious title by FromSoftware, and we can't wait to get our hands on it. There are just two weeks left until the release, but the wait, while short, feels endless.