Yes, I will take instant fast traveling across the map from anywhere
The Elden Ring closed network test is here, and we had the chance to test it out. As someone who’s been there since Demon’s Souls’ pre-release, I’ve witnessed so many twists and turns when it comes to From Software’s design philosophy. Some things came, some went. Some were added for the sake of convenience, some were deliberately removed to create a different experience. But the Elden Ring quality of life upgrades? It feels like From dumped a whole lot of items from wishlists dating back to 2009.
Let’s kick off with a discussion of some new quality of life-based stuff that Elden Ring offers.
An optional tutorial area so alts can skip it entirely
Typically in a Souls-like, there’s a “first area” that gets you acquainted with what’s to time. In a few games, they’re extremely overt tunnels with tutorials on the ground. In several entries, they’re more naturally baked in, but linear tutorials nonetheless.
In Elden Ring, at least so far in the closed network test build, there’s a completely optional cave that you can jump into to start the tutorial process. Or you can skip it and go into the main open-world hub in 30 seconds or less. Your call. It’s going to make future runs that much quicker.
Instant fast travel
So I led with the optional tutorial because, well, it’s the first thing on the menu right after you pick a character and boot it up (the closed network test has five pre-built characters, but you can mold them to your will and use a customizable character in the final build). But the instant fast travel is huge. I know you’ve heard tales of it. But it’s so much smoother in action.
As soon as you discover a “Site of Grace” (read: bonfire), you can return to it whenever you want, so long as you’re not in combat. On PS5 (which we tested), you tap the bottom of the touchpad and it brings up a lovely little map, which you can mark up, open-world-game style. Just click one of the icons for a Site of Grace and you’re there. On PS5 we experienced load times of around three seconds to zone between areas.
The map is also lovely and full of personality. It’s easy to see where points of interest might be, so you can plop down markers (that are clearly visible in the overworld) and go there.
Checkpoints between “bonfires”
Here’s another extra little convenience. So there’s actually mini-checkpoints that are between some Site of Grace locations called Stakes of Marika. If you die, you’ll return there instead of all the way back at a prior location. It makes corpse-running that much quicker, and often your pile of runes (the “souls” currency of the game) is lying right there next to it.
It’s not overdone — mainly just in places where you might be fighting a tough enemy and want to get back to the next attempt faster.
Everything is more customizable
So weapons and hand-based equipment (staves, shields, and so on) can be imbued with elemental stats and/or given different abilities. Weapon skills return, and now you can swap between them more easily. So if I wanted my shield to be a holy shield and trigger a circle of healing instead of a parry, I could do that with a quick Site of Grace menu swap, then swap it back if I wanted. It’s like free weapon respeccing.
Your playstyle and loadouts are more customizable as a result. Because of the way the item system works, there are more options for how to approach combat, augmented by the stealth mechanic. There’s even a new custom elixir potion (that can be replenished at a Site of Grace) that can swap in two slots of abilities, like “restore mana [FP] and temporarily increase max stamina,” in any combination of two skills.
There’s a multiplayer menu that instantly brings up all the items related to it
Here’s another amazing addition. So you know how From made multiplayer easier and easier as time went on (for the most part)? Well, it’s super easy to trigger in Elden Ring.
All you have to do now is bring up a multiplayer menu with the start button and everything that you can use for it (PVP summons, matchmaking items, PVE summons, and more) is in one place. Or you can use the old-school item menus to sift through all the fingers and stones like normal.
You don’t have to replenish flasks at a “bonfire” constantly
Similar to how Bloodborne used the “Regain” mechanic, Elden Ring has something of its own. If you destroy entire groups of enemies, there’s a chance a flask type (health or mana [FP]) might replenish.
It’s a small thing and you may not even notice it (especially if you’re at max flasks), but I found that I didn’t need to keep going back to the Site of Grace constantly because I was stocked up as a reward for doing well. Translation: I could stay out and explore more often.
My horse is amazing
The horse. Man. The horse is so good!
Formally known as “The Spectral Steed,” this thing is unlocked early in the (check out our tips article!) closed network test and it changes the game. Mastering mounted combat is something that’s going to be tough to pick up, but in most cases, you can just leap off your horse and fight something on foot: even other mounted enemies.
If you’re worried that Elden Ring is just going to be huge open areas, don’t. There are still quite a few zones that feel like old-school SekiSoulsBorne layouts, with tricks and traps.
There’s a jump button
It’s a simple thing, like Sekiro, but it pans out so well in tandem with the horse.
You can jump as your player character in Elden Ring. But in the open world, you can summon your horse and double jump by default. If you find specific wind locations on the map, your horse can basically fly up in comic fashion and leap across select areas. It’s great and fosters ease of exploration.
Everything is looking good so far
After playing it extensively, I can see why there was a delay: this game is a massive undertaking, and absolutely dumps on anything Bethesda and a few other “open world developers” have done lately.
Open worlds can feel overwhelming, but in a Miyazaki and George R.R. Martin universe, that’s a good thing. I’m more inclined to take my time because of all the quality of life features I noted above, even more than I did in Sekiro, which is saying something. With a big story boss, several optional bosses, and a giant map, this closed network test feels like a bite-sized full game.
It sounds hyperbolic at face value, but I’m hoping to crown this as the best From game to date come February. If you want to experience all this for yourself and you got in: the Elden Ring closed network test starts on November 12.