Elden Ring is a wide-ranging product, able to offer the player so many ways to experience it as to be, at times, disorienting. The variety of approaches, to which Miyazaki's new creature opens, offers just as many ways to be told and it is precisely for this reason that I decided to tell you about my latest experience with Elden Ring, as I lived it firsthand. A half-day trip into the Interregnum, which has opened my eyes, further, to the greatness of the project and how it can safely act as a point of arrival, and of obvious restart, for that trend known as Souls-Like born on PlayStation 3 in 2009.
Once this new build of Elden Ring started, which apparently seems to be the definitive one, I was faced with the choice of the class with which to embark on my journey. Compared to the previous network test, this version it offered me not only the possibility to choose one of the ten pre-set classes but also the possibility to create a character from scratch through an editor who immediately reminded me of the tens of minutes spent, with Miyazaki's previous works, in finding the right balance before embarking on my adventure.
After having decided to leave the detailed analysis of the editor to the review phase, and having chosen the classic initial gift in the best Soulsian tradition, I opt for the elegant arrogance of the Vagabond and begin my new journey into the Interregnum. Unlike the previous test, this new Elden Ring build opens with a long cinematic designed to tell me some facts prior to my awakening, all elements of Lore that I deliberately ignore in order not to ruin the final experience while remaining fascinated by Miyazaki's ability to narrate in an ethereal way, filling me with vague information that makes me begin to speculate about the "unspoken".
After the kinematics I find myself in an unprecedented area, definitely different from the tomb where the network test started a few months ago. Following a very linear path, I find myself faced with a much larger space… definitely not a good sign. In fact he comes to welcome me the classic deformed creature ready to explode in a matter of seconds to make me understand that, even if in Elden Ring you can jump, explore, wander, ride and, perhaps, even dance the can-can ... first of all you have to die.
Reassured by the presence of the inevitable welcome party, perfectly in line with Miyazaki's tradition, my Vagabond awakens in the Cave Of Knowledge, an environment more familiar to me and practically identical to the one seen in the previous test. In a few moments I head out of that gloomy ravine, ready to find the Interregnum exactly as I left it last November. Everything seems exactly as I remembered it, with a rude masked man ready to welcome me, and remind me to give up all hope of survival, and the abnormal Tree Sentinel intent on making his rounds on his armored steed.
In a few seconds I create an action plan to make the most of the hours I have available with this new build of Elden Ring: recover the map of that portion of the Interregnum, meet Melina to get a mount, explore the mini-dungeons, eliminate the smaller bosses for recover as many War Ashes, level a little bit so as not to be too weak, eliminate the fearsome Margit and continue my adventure exactly where I left off at the end of the last Network Test.
The first hour spent together with Elden Ring saw me perpetrate my plan with extreme skill: within four to four in a camp, I kill a couple of guards attacking them from behind, I take the map, I meet Melina in a specific Site Of Grace (one point recovery which covers the role of the most famous bonfire where you can level up, manage your inventory and recover energy) and I ride on my trusty steed to move easily between the various mini-dungeons. As familiar as everything is, however, something is not right for me ... objects are displaced differently, some bosses seem to suffer a greater number of hits than the Network Test and, in general, the whole experience seems much better balanced than I remembered it.
Lost in my last self-assigned assignments before going to face Margit, a seemingly infinitesimal detail catches my attention: a Site Of Grace, indicates a different direction to follow than Margit's position. For those who are not aware of it, in Elden Ring each Site Of Grace indicates, through a light beam, the direction to follow to reach the next main objective of the plot, a simple suggestion on how to embark on your journey without losing your course in the vastness of the Interregnum.
That indication different from the others opens my eyes to an important aspect that I had ignored up to that moment: this Elden Ring build has no invisible walls capable of confining the experiences and the Interregnum is, theoretically, freely explorable… So why not put this open world created by Miyazaki to the test? In a few moments my priorities change, now I am no longer interested in facing Margit, and continuing the adventure as the most canonical chapter of the Dark Souls series, now I want to test the potential of Elden Ring.
I get on the back of my trusty steed and decide first of all to do an experiment: turn my back on the castle where my adventure should continue and walk straight across the map as long as I can, until an impassable wall , or an obstacle, will not stand in front of me to stop me.
With great surprise I find that abandoning the imposed path was the most beautiful of experiences; the climate changes dynamically, alternating a sky that tends to be clear with a gloomy and gloomy one; night alternates with day in a natural way, giving incredibly suggestive views and making every stop in a Site Of Grace, decidedly evocative; the bestiary shows itself, albeit partially, in its majesty, alternating monstrosities of every type that, alerted by the passage of my horse, do their utmost to show you how far it can go beyond the artistic sector of the game.
The landscape changes constantly, passing from barren hills to windy plains, alternating steep cliffs overlooking the sea with a small uncontaminated forest, intent on tending the ruins of a church now reduced to rubble. Right in front of that shapeless heap of debris I decide to get off my horse and venture on foot when a herd of overgrown rats takes me by surprise, fearful from behind the trees.
At that precise moment I remember that, for the first time in a title of this type (no, Sekiro doesn't count), I can jump and start navigating to reach a higher point and study a counter offensive. I climb onto a rock and throw my sword open to take down my opponents and notice that in the heat of the battle I have not noticed an undead knight who had approached the area attracted by the noises. Mindful of the experiences with action games I try jumping and attacking at the same time, discovering that offensives in elevation allow you to break the opponent's posture and make it stagger (I would only find out later that this solution doesn't pay off against stronger or more generously sized enemies).
I clear the area of enemies and dedicate myself to scouring the ruins in search of resources and hidden treasures. Once I have collected everything, I decide to rest again and, perhaps, use the fast travel function to go to the merchant I met at the beginning of my journey to buy the crafting kit that would allow me to take advantage the multitude of flowers and minerals of which my pockets are full. Meanwhile, I think about what to make known that that huge bright tree that stood out on the horizon a few hours ago, now seems so close that it can be easily reached in a matter of minutes.
I give up going to the merchant and head towards that Berserkian memory tree. On the way I meet a merchant with identical features to the previous one but with clothes of a different color. I stop, hoping to find the crafitng kit, and find that his inventory is completely different from that of his colleague. This seller offers me some notes on the Interregnum, extremely interesting documents for lovers of lore and that stand as a novelty for the genre. I buy a couple and continue in the direction of the tree.
While I continue I see on the coast a thick array of gargantuan-sized swords, which stand out like gravestones in memory of proud warriors of the past. Near this atypical war cemetery I see an abandoned castle overlooking the sea and, intrigued, I enter it. Inside a swarm of creatures with features halfway between Gollum and the killer doll, surrounding me waving knives. I retreat and decide to reorganize my offensive.
I'm assigning a couple of War Ashes to my weapons (some unique special attacks, and of a magical nature, which allow you to change the forging of your weapon and give it an additional offensive that, in some cases, allows you to attack from a distance), I fix my invocations and head back to the castle. I summon three ghostly wolves who begin to distract my opponents, while I do my best to throw spiritual knives to keep my distance as much as possible. In a few minutes the area is free and I am delighted at how the versatility of the Elden Ring combat system is able to offer creative approaches that can turn the tide of some clashes.
After the exploration, at times disappointing, of the castle, I end my journey in front of a shapeless pillar of rocks, impossible to climb, on which the majestic luminous tree stands ... the first real obstacle, with the exception of Margit, that Elden Ring poses to my trip. I therefore opt for look for a Site Of Grace and go back to where my journey began, my time is running out and it's time to have a chat with Margit.
I buy the crafting kit, quickly build some bombs and a couple of amulets to find other players nearby and head to the castle to challenge the first main boss of Elden Ring. I take a detour along the way to make the journey easier and avoid the numerous enemies on patrol and a voice calling me, catches my attention. I discover that it is a shrub which, when struck with a blow, turns out to be a poor creature that was cursed for reasons unknown to me. The first of a large series of characters that I would have met during my alternate route in the direction of the castle.
After passing a swarm of flying demons, an angry giant and a small handful of undead soldiers (and thank goodness I have chosen the easiest route) I finally enter the narrow corridor that separates me from the main entrance of the castle. Before entering the boss's arena, I see a glowing symbol on the ground… it's a summoning. I use it and an AI-controlled wizard joins me to try and defeat Margit. I summon my trusted wolves and attack in the distance while my trusted helper distracts the angry boss but Margit has the upper hand and soon I find myself in the other world.
I wake up at the Site Of Grace and Melina appears at my side proposing to take me to a very distant place, where I can find the support I need to continue my journey. I accept with good speed and in a few moments I find myself inside a “Made in Miyazaki” version of the round table. A place where fighting is forbidden, except within a specific area where an invader, also ruled by AI, reminds me how far I still have to go before I can really be a threat to him.
In a few moments I realize that this timeless area is nothing more than the main hub of Elden Ring. That safe place, present in every Miyazaki production, where you can upgrade weapons through the blacksmith, meet characters capable of teaching me new skills and, presumably, host all those characters that I will be able to meet in my long journey in the Interregnum.
My test comes to an end and I realize that I have spent half a day immersed in the Elden Ring without having even scratched the surface of the main story. The more I think about how the Interregnum was able to captivate me with its variety of situations, the more I realize why it has never been referred to so many times as a cross between Dark Souls, Skyrim and The Legend Of Zelda Breath Of The Wild.
Elden Ring manages to be at the same time an excellent Dark Souls 4, a splendid open world able to constantly distract you with a living and decadent world and an RPG capable of making you waste hours in deciding how to manage your very personal journey inside it. and, once the long test was over, I did not regret not having pushed on the accelerator to find out how the main adventure continued, since the six hours spent on Elden Ring had allowed me to write my very personal story within the Interregnum and, especially in recent years, very few open worlds have given me such a profound and immersive experience.