The recent Elden Ring closed network test gave us an invaluable opportunity to spend some time with From Software’s latest – albeit limited owing to tight test periods. Without question, this is one of the most exciting games of 2022, and the test sample proved generous. This is From Software evolving its punishingly hard ‘Soulsborne’ concept, though the more linear design of prior works shifts to the open world – a decaying land dubbed ‘The Lands Between’. Every inch of its lore, every grotesque creature, is sumptuously rendered on a scale quite unlike anything we’ve seen from this engine, this studio. Grass draws in thick, and far to the horizon. There’s a day/night cycle, plus weather states including rain, storms. And to cover so much ground across its wide open terrain, of course, you’re given a steed to ride early on, complete with a nifty double jump. This freedom to adventure in any direction, to go anywhere, is the key to Elden Ring’s appeal.
The closed network test limits the player to Limgrave, the first region of Elden Ring, so while restrictive in some respects it’s still gigantic compared to most demos. Many long hours of gameplay are contained therein – the catch being that only those who gained extra early access (including Eurogamer’s own Aoife Wilson) would have had the opportunity to truly dig deep into what the beta offered. In summary: you pick one of five classes to start and then, you’re simply free to choose wherever you want to go: free to discover dungeons or battle the many bosses as you please – all told a pretty impressive feat for a 9GB install. And somehow, despite the vanishingly small time window available to play, we managed to test Elden Ring on every console: seven machines in total and a grand total of 11 different gameplay permutations.