The PC Gamer team is having a grand ol' time tearing through Elden Ring's expansive dungeons and dense open world. We've already said a lot about the game's excellent combat and how it finally lets us relax in a Souls game, but not much lip service has been paid to the game's star mount, the loyal four-legged companion that gets us from A to B: Torrent.
Because Souls games can't do something as normal as whistling for a horse that rides into the frame, FromSoftware went with a magically summoned super horse with a double jump. Having a quicker way around Elden Ring is undeniably useful, but is Torrent a good videogame horse?
Rich Stanton, News Editor: I played without Elden Ring's horse for a surprising length of time, mainly because I was activating but wasn't bothering to rest at Sites of Grace, so I didn't get the dialogue to unlock Torrent (I spent my first few hours in the open world just exploring and avoiding most fights). When I did get my luminescent horse and began riding around Limgrave, it immediately felt like something wasn't quite right. Torrent is definitely a useful tool: particularly in some of the later areas, which can be pretty barren hellscapes, and whenever there's nasty stuff on the ground you don't want to walk through. But does it ever feel essential or satisfying to ride?
Not for me. I acknowledge there are bosses where the horse is almost mandatory, but I mean more the open world travelling. I like fast travelling around the Sites of Grace, and it also means that I can go pretty much wherever I want in the world in an instant. Torrent doesn't seem to have much utility in this regard beyond making a 30-second jog into a 10-second ride, and that's fine. I have used it to skirt large areas in search of doors, and these are probably the moments I've felt comfortable with Torrent.
But then, as soon as I go to turn the creature, argh, that turning radius drives me wild, especially at slow speeds: it feels unwieldy, like I'm constantly readjusting and overshooting things. And not in a way where it's like an animal disobeying my commands because it has free will. In the way that this is like one of the slightly crapper motorbikes in Saints Row.
Fraser Brown, Online Editor: Rich, you have many excellent takes on soulsbornes, so I guess it's only natural that eventually you'd come up with one that's dead wrong. Torrent is my best horse pal, though I've renamed him Terrance in my head canon, and I couldn't imagine traversing the Lands Between without him galloping away beneath me.
Maybe you just got used to not having him around? It was one of the first things I did, so there was never really a point where I had to learn to get by without him. For me, he's an integral part of the world, and you only need to look out across the rolling hills of Limgrave to know that this is a place designed to be traversed on horseback. The Lands Between are huge and sprawling, and while reducing a 30-second trip to a 10-second one doesn't sound all that helpful, when you turn a 30-minute trip into a 10-minute one Torrent starts to sound more essential.
Indeed, he's the only way to reach some places, whether it's with his double jump or his ability to leap into updrafts, sending him sky-high. I wouldn't have my favourite weapon so far, the Twinblade, without him. I've found him agile and relatively precise, especially when compared to the obstinate Roach or the more realistic steeds of Red Dead Redemption.
Rich: I've definitely over-egged the negatives about Torrent, because there are areas where I've used the horse a lot: and there's no denying the basic utility of using it to dash in to get your runestain (is that what they're called?) when you've died far from a Site of Grace.
I also find Torrent a bit of an odd match with the stealth element of the game. When I explore somewhere new I don't want to use Torrent: and once I'm done, I probably won't return to most places. I have tried assaulting one or two 'compounds' with it but I end up just riding around in useless loops swinging my blade at thin air.
Fraser: I'm never calling them bloodstains again now—it's runestains all the way from here. Anyway! It's true that he's not stealthy, but I wouldn't expect him to be. He's for getting where you need to go quickly and with less risk, not for sneaking. That's why you can't summon him in dungeons. He'd be useless. And you can't tell me you're in stealth when you're just exploring an open field or a long road through a region where you've got a clear line of sight.
Rich: Fair point, though my uneasiness is more with how stealth and horse riding don't really mesh together within the world, they just co-exist, which is fine. Metal Gear Solid V did this really well with D-Horse's "horse stealth" button that'd let Snake hang off his saddle and then smoothly dismount into a crouch. That was cool.
Perhaps my biggest beef with Torrent is how it fits into Elden Ring's precise combat loop. I always feel like I'm just riding up to things then flailing away at either flank, dashing away to dodge an attack, lining up again and repeating. Maybe it just hasn't 'clicked' for me yet but that side of it all feels a bit weightless—until you get hit and the stupid thing stops dead to recover and you have to pick up the pace again. Urgh! It just doesn't feel great as a mount to me, and I don't get that charging knight in armour feel I want from the combat.
Fraser: Granted, mounted combat is not what Elden Ring does best. I actually do enjoy it, and as you mentioned earlier there are some encounters where it's mandatory, but there are others where I just feel both safer and more effective when Torrent is with me. He's also very useful when you need to make a quick escape.
You criticised the turning radius earlier, and that might explain our different feelings about combat. Because I don't circle foes. It's a faff and it's messy. It might have something to do with recently watching The Last Duel, but I treat most fights with Torrent as jousts, constantly charging at enemies, laying into them a bit, and then turning around to get another run at them. This might make fights a tad longer, but the flow of them is vastly improved, and it just feels cooler.
What I really want to know, though, is if you think Torrent sucks, what videogame horses do you really like?
Rich: Oh the classics: Agro from Shadow of the Colossus, which I still think of as the most 'horsey' horse I've ever ridden in a game even though, by any sane measure, Red Dead Redemption 2's horses are the current state-of-the-art. There's obviously a lot of fun to be had with the horses in Breath of the Wild, even though they're much more simple to control and less obsessed with simulation.
I don't think Torrent should be a straight-up horse like RDR2's nags, it's a magical bounce-steed, but yeah... I like Torrent well enough. I don't think it's terrible, I've had a bit of fun, but it's not excellent. And for me excellence is what these games should be all about: every bit of them.
Fraser: Not a bad horse among them. They're all great. But for getting across the Lands Between, I wouldn't pick any of them over Torrent. They're perfect for the games they're in, and so is my bouncy boy. Is he an excellent horse? I think so. But even if he wasn't, I've spent half my time in the game wearing filthy clothes and a pot on my head, and I've lost count of the times I've died, so who am I to judge? I'd love him all the same.
Imogen Mellor, Features Producer: Guys, guys, guys, it's a goat not a horse.