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    FromSoftware puts everything in the Elden Ring

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    Elia Tabuenca GarcĂ­a

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    Elden Ring it feels like everything FromSoftware has done for the last 12 years at once. Of course, you could probably describe your last title as dark soulopen worlds and being more than halfway there, but to do that would be to ignore the obvious undertones of Bloodbornand and Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice that help make this new title stand out from the rest. 

    Even though we were made to wait longer than usual, Elden Ring is genuinely shaping up to be the game. FromSoftware definitive.

    A three-hour session with last weekend's Network Test is why we say this. A first look at the opening area of ​​the experience reveals a lot, including how combat and traversal works in The Lands Between. 

    Our big takeaway is that everything is much more liberating, there's a dedicated jump button, mounts get you from place to place much faster, and the stamina meter refuses to explode unless there's an enemy nearby.

    Combat is almost the same. Fights will feel familiar as soon as an enemy spots you, with the usual satisfying backstabs as a reward for staying behind them while sword clashes result in parry and damage being dealt. However, it's what happens in preparation for these commitments that really makes the difference this time around. 

    You can now crouch and sneak onto Sekiro's wingman, making it easier to drop on enemies or avoid them completely if they are too similar on your first try. The new jump button also comes into play: it's another way to create distance, or it can be an unfair advantage if your opponent is challenged vertically.

    Our time with the initial Elden Ring expansion was full of mystery and intrigue as well. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that Places of Grace are the replacement for bonfires, Runes are now what we call Souls, and the Estus Flask is still a thing in the spirit, but venture outside of those known quantities and The Lands Between has some hidden surprises. Optional dungeons dot the landscape, providing hidden treasures for those who strive to see them through to the end.

    Oh, and there's probably a boss between you and that chest of fabulous goodies. We encountered several of them during our time with the Network Test, all of which ranged from grotesque to downright terrifying. FromSoftware is the master of boss design and mechanics, and we hope these skills will be employed in Elden Ring as well. This first area alone is a great sample of what is to come.

    All of this feels like the Dark Souls of yesteryear on a much grander and grander scale. The opening area is large and vast, with lots of landmarks to discover and small caves and dungeons to rummage through. 

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    Enemies scattered across the landscape, items can be found everywhere and NPCs appear when you need them. Materials can be picked from the foliage, animals slaughtered to obtain Runes, and the mysteries on the horizon take us away from the main objective of attacking Stormveil Castle. 

    With so much to see and do, a single three-hour session would never be enough. We tried to forget how we could do it all over again with different builds just to make sure we had free time on the weekend.

    It is welcome then that there are still so many unknowns that the game has tucked away in its back pocket. You can change the time of day on Sites of Grace, but how much of an impact will that really have on the experience? 

    It's seemingly minimal in the network test, with different types of enemies spawning depending on whether the sun is up or not, but could there be more dramatic consequences to doing something at night as opposed to daytime later in the game? We can't wait to discover and play with the feature in February. 

    And what was that persistent icon on the left side of the screen all about? So many unknowns, and not long to wait until we actually figure out what's what.

    However, there was a problem. The network test defaults to prioritizing frame rate and, well, it doesn't do a good job. 60 frames per second is the goal, but it only hits it a couple of times with pretty consistent drops and stutters. 

    It didn't spoil the fun at all; it's just a little disturbing and disconcerting in the midst of a tense fight. Of course, though, there are still a few months left until the full launch of Elden Ring, so that might not be an issue in February.

    Good news for FromSoftware fans looking forward to Elden Ring, then. The developer's latest project took a long time to arrive, and after years of waiting, this Network Test is all the proof we need to say that those years of secrecy were worth it. 

    This is a new type of Dark Souls, a new type of Bloodborne and a new type of Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice all at once. Whether you've loved all of them or (somehow) just one of them, there's something to fall in love with in Elden Ring.

    Elden Ring is released for PS5 and PS4 on February 25, 2022. Did you also get a chance to play Elden Ring last weekend with Network Test? What were your first thoughts and impressions? Share them in the comments below.

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