A motherlode of long-awaited Elden Ring info arrived this week with previews of the Network Test (we played it!). The resulting articles and videos have left very few big questions unanswered—quite the relief, given how long it's been since Elden Ring's announcement in 2019. The Network Test is just a fraction of the full game, but we now know how it plays, and how closely it resembles earlier FromSoftware RPGs.
But there are still questions we want answers to. Frankly, a lot of what we don't know about Elden Ring is probably best left kept that way until next February to preserve some of the mystique, but that won't stop us wondering and theorizing for the next three months.
Here are some of the critical questions that are still playing on our minds.
How many proper dungeons are there?
The Elden Ring Network test was chock full of bosses—we fought something like 10 scattered around the open world, in mini dungeons, and inside Stormveil Castle, the first meaty Legacy Dungeon. But there are definitely tiers of bosses in Elden Ring, and some are far greater challenges than others. At the top of Stormveil Castle (not accessible in the Network Test) awaits Elden Ring's first major boss, Godrick—one of the lords of The Lands Between. We don't know exactly how many of them await us in Elden Ring, and that number is going to be a key indication of just how long this game is.
The Legacy Dungeons are big, dense areas reminiscent of typical Dark Souls level design, while the rest of Elden Ring is made up of a vast open world and small mini dungeons scattered around it. Knowing how many Legacy Dungeons there are in total will help us understand how much of that classic FromSoftware exploration we should expect in Elden Ring. According to an interview with IGN in June, director Hidetaka Miyazaki said that Elden Ring is made up of six major areas, each with its own major dungeon. But he also said there are "a wide variety of catacombs and castles and fortresses which are interspersed throughout the map," and it seems plausible that some of those may be larger than the small, short ones I encountered in the opening area. — Wes Fenlon
Maybe we do know the answer here, and it's just six: each section of the map has its Legacy Dungeon, and that's it. But these are the same developers who hid Ash Lake inside a random tree in Dark Souls' dankest pit, so I remain skeptical.
How much variety should we expect from the magic system?
There were a handful of sorceries and incantations available in the beta, and it's safe to say there will be plenty more in the full game. As far as variety and flexibility though, Elden Ring seems promising. For example: Ashes of War are collectible items that apply different powerful attributes to weapons, so if you find one that gifts magic-oriented buffs or powers, or scaling with a magic-oriented attribute, you can easily apply it to a melee weapon that might otherwise not suit a magic build.
Of course, you may not want to use melee weapons at all. If you're rocking a staff or a seal and relying on sorceries and incantations alone, then it's yet to be seen what breadth of choice Elden Ring will offer. One major change is that pyromancy is now combined into faith rather than leveled separately. — Shaun Prescott
What will NPC storylines be like in the full game?
In the preview I ran into a demi-human NPC who'd been magically turned into a bush. I helped him out with a sword thwack that returned him to his normal form, and afterward he promised to sneak into the demi-humans' cave and steal me something good. Later I noticed on the map that his name had moved near the cave, but I couldn't find him nearby. Still, this suggests that NPCs will move about and have their own journeys much like they have in the Dark Souls games. But will those stories having them cross the entire world map, or confined to single regions? Will they be as easy to lose track of as they are in Dark Souls? — Wes
How much freedom to explore do we really have from the beginning?
The Elden Ring map is quite massive: the Network Test provided access to a fraction of what appeared in Bandai Namco's gameplay preview earlier this month. But will you be able to go wherever you want from the get go? Hidetaka Miyazaki told IGN in June that "you won't be able to access everything from the start, but there are a lot of different ways you can approach each area. And there's a lot of freedom as to which order you tackle different areas as well."
That comes as a slight relief: discovering new areas in Dark Souls games is one of their greatest pleasures—being able to explore it right from the get go would diminish some of the fun of progression. But at this stage, it's unclear what will "gate" areas to early players, or whether these inaccessible-from-the-start places even exist on the already known map. Will the world be gated by slowly unlocking traversal skills, upgrades to your steed, Anor Londo-style gargoyles? Fog gates? We know that one particular boss grants a key to a door that is inaccessible in the beta. — Shaun
How will we improve our flask and spell slots?
In the Network Test I discovered a secondary flask that can be customized to have different effects, from refilling half your health bar in a gulp to, er, making your body explode. But will we find the usual upgrades to increase how many drinks we can take from the regular flask, and the upgrades to make its healing effect more potent? And what about spell slots? Attunement is no longer a stat, meaning there's some other method—perhaps a collectible—to earn more spell slots. If so, magic users are going to be hunting those down ASAP. — Wes
What are the exact limits on co-op play?
In Dark Souls games, joining another player's world cooperatively meant exactly that: it didn't affect your own. If you wanted to play all of Dark Souls 3 in cooperative mode, for example, each boss would need to be beaten in both player's worlds, in order for both players to be able to move beyond that point together. When you're in another person's game, you're a Phantom.
As Wes points out in his Elden Ring preview, cooperative play is much easier now, though it has some limitations—you can't move between the overworld and dungeons without resummoning. But what will be the exact limits on where you can and can't summon? If you beat the boss of a Legacy Dungeon, will you be blocked from summoning there as in past Souls games? And how will Elden Ring limit level ranges for summoning and invading? We know the broad strokes, but not all the little details. — Shaun
What's the go with the character creator?
The Public Network Test doesn't feature a character creator (though you will be allowed to choose between the game's five classes). The quality (or lack thereof) of the final game's character creator is a huge lingering question, given how much effort Souls fanatics put into looking really
scary suave. I'm not expecting anything less than what we got in Dark Souls 3, but it'd be a pleasant surprise if it gave us more options. More is always better when it comes to fashion Souls. — Shaun
How does George R.R. Martin fit into all of this?
Most Elden Ring previews note that Elden Ring is very much a Dark Souls game by another name. For most of us, an open world Dark Souls entry is exactly what we're baying for, though it's easy to understand objections to the new format. But if it's true that Elden Ring is a neat fit with Souls—and it's still early days, after all—where's George R. R. Martin in all this? From what we've seen so far: practically invisible.
Martin supposedly wrote the lore that Miyazaki and team used as a foundation for the actual story and characters of Elden Ring, but his influence isn't obvious. Elden Ring so far seems to be cut from the same cloth as Dark Souls. Perhaps there's some deeper lore awaiting in the final game that lets Martin's voice shine through more. — Shaun
Impossible to say, but it's probably safe to go into Elden Ring next Feb with this in mind: When you least expect it, expect it.