A bunch of Elden Ring previews landed today following a 15 minute hands-off gameplay demo. We didn't get to see it ourselves, but the previews certainly confirm one thing: this is Dark Souls 4 in all but name. While it's clearly on a scale beyond any FromSoftware game before it, the many, many recurring elements in Elden Ring are pure Dark Souls.
Elden Ring is releasing on PC and consoles simultaneously on January 20, 2022. We don't know any PC specifics yet, like system requirements or what sorts of graphical features to expect (144 Hz plz), but we do know it's releasing on Steam, and past evidence indicates it should be a good port. Dark Souls 3 and Sekiro lack some of the finer features we hope for like high framerates and ultrawide, but they're a vast improvement over the dark days of the original Dark Souls.
We're eager to see more of Elden Ring, but for now, here's 14 details we learned from today's previews.
How the Overworld works
Elden Ring has a giant open world called The Lands Between, which is studded with smaller dungeons and encounters and mini-bosses. Branching out from this overworld are what Fromsoft is calling 'Legacy Dungeons', which sound like basically giant self-contained Souls areas where the nastiest bosses and shiniest treasure lurk. As IGN points out, these areas will have multiple paths through them.
There's some kind of subterranean labyrinth
The world map references the 'subterranean labyrinth', as Eurogamer points out, and a later section of the demo shows two players exploring an underground catacomb. It's unclear if this could include procedurally generated areas like Bloodborne's Chalice Dungeons. But Elden Ring's overworld and Legacy Dungeons are definitely hand-built.
What the Summon Spirits are all about
The summonable NPCs that can help the player are activated using an item called Ashes of the Deceased, and can only be called upon in singleplayer mode. Fromsoft says there are a wide variety of these spirits with different abilities, and the example shown in the demo is a small mob of ghostly bandits that hold an enemy in place while the player fills them with arrows.
Bonfires are 'Sites of Lost Grace' now
Sites of Lost Grace are where you heal and replenish your healing charges, where you switch between skills, and they make enemies respawn. When in the Overworld you can warp to any you've previously rested at (though you can't warp out of dungeons, as The Verge points out.) Some of these Sites will also apparently shine a faint guiding light for players, indicating a future objective.
The 'firekeeper' is a lady called Melina
The Soulsborne games always have a female character that acts as a companion and levelling-up hub throughout the adventure. In Elden Ring she's called Melina and is apparently a bit more front-and-center than in previous games. “Whereas before these characters were generally reserved and quiet characters,” FromSoftware's Yasuhiro Kitao told Eurogamer, “Melina has got her own ambitions and her own big place in the story, so we hope you enjoy that aspect of it.”
Skills are not tied to weapons
FromSoftware has mentioned this detail before, but it's a good recap: Elden Ring will have skills, somewhat akin to the weapon arts of Dark Souls 3. Unlike in that game, however, these special moves will not be tied to a specific weapon. Kitao told Eurogamer “we have the skill system but skills are not tied to a particular weapon—you're free to swap them between a number of weapons, and you do this while sitting at a Site of Lost Grace.”
Stance breaking and parrying are in, in addition to the new Guard Counter
You can still parry attacks as in classic Dark Souls, while breaking an enemy's stance by repeatedly striking them sounds similar to Sekiro's combat (though it won't give you a guaranteed insta-kill deathblow). The new Guard Counter move eats up a chunk of your stamina but lets you attack immediately after blocking. Should've called it the Coward's Parry.
You can fight dragons on-foot or on horseback, and stab them in the eye
The demo showcased a fight against a huge dragon, where the player character switched between fighting on-foot and on horseback, and at one point stuns the creature which, as in the Soulsborne games, allows for a critical attack right in the old eyeball.
There's a viewable world map, which you gather in fragments
A first for a Soulsborne game, Elden Ring has a map, but not an icon-covered Ubisoft-style one. This is a simpler affair with terrain and drawings of landmarks, no words, and you gather fragments of it on your travels.
The main story will be less opaque than Dark Souls'
According to Kitao, the main story of Elden Ring will be more akin to Sekiro than Dark Souls, which famously doesn't tell the player much directly. But Kitao also said that environmental storytelling won't be going anywhere, so you'll still be able to read mysterious item descriptions and ponder What It All Means.
The world is built for jumping
Thanks, Sekiro. We knew Elden Ring has jumping, but The Washington Post points out that the dungeons are clearly designed with jumping in mind for basic navigation as well as shortcuts. The Elden Ring speedrunning community is going to be incredible.
Stealth includes stealthy weaponry
Elden Ring borrows some of Sekiro's stealth options, like being able to hide in tall grass. A preview also mentioned putting a troll to sleep with a sleep arrow, so it sounds like there will be at least one way to take enemies out quietly and non-lethally (unless you stab them after putting them to sleep).
Bloodstains are back
The first Legacy Dungeon (see above) is Stormveil Castle, and here in the demo there was an unmistakeable bloodstain, one of Fromsoft's signature asynchronous multiplayer elements.
There's a swamp area
Ah, shit. Thanks for the bad news, Polygon.