5 Elden Ring gameplay features we'd love to see

Elden Ring
(Image credit: Bandai Namco)

Elden Ring fans finally got the full reveal they’ve been pining over for years during the Summer Game Fest opening showcase at E3 2021. The substantial in-engine trailer gave us a sneak peek at what we can expect from Elden Ring when it launches on January 21, 2022.

There were a whole bunch of gameplay features we could glean from the Elden Ring trailer that lined up with initial rumors about the game. These include a huge, explorable open world and horseback riding, as well as huge boss encounters and a return to FromSoftware’s signature style of calculated melee combat.

Elden Ring’s already looking great, then, but what more can developer FromSoftware do to truly elevate it above and beyond its previous works, such as the already stellar Dark Souls series, Bloodborne and Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice? The following five suggestions from us could definitely accomplish that.

Elden Ring

(Image credit: Bandai Namco)

Dynamic difficulty

Hear us out on this one. We’re not saying Elden Ring should be an easier game than its predecessors. Instead, something more akin to a dynamic difficulty adjustment system could really benefit the open world nature of the game, and would actually draw a similarity to one of FromSoftware’s earlier titles.

Demon’s Souls, all the way back in 2009, featured a pseudo dynamic difficulty system baked into the game. Known as world tendency, this controversial system made the game harder the more the player died, and rewarded them for skilled play. If that sounds player hostile, that’s because it kind of was.

We’d love to see a similar system in Elden Ring, though perhaps one that isn’t quite so antagonistic. It would be cool to see skilled players rewarded with more challenging enemy spawns and better reward drops as a result. On the other hand, struggling players could be granted a temporary reprieve with lesser spawns at the cost of less substantial rewards.

Alternatively, a smartly integrated hard mode option (a bit like Dark Souls 2’s Covenant of Champions) might well satiate players looking to really push Elden Ring’s difficulty to its limits.

Elden Ring

(Image credit: From Software / Bandai Namco)

Better magic system

It’s no secret that the Souls series, in particular, has had issues with balancing its various forms of magic. In Demon’s Souls, sorceries were completely overpowered, giving a huge advantage to the Royal starting class. Similarly, Pyromancies in Dark Souls gave an early game crutch to new players whereas other sorceries and miracles fell short in terms of usefulness.

The effectiveness of magic-based builds in Dark Souls and Dark Souls 2, particularly, always felt a bit limited. While many powerful spells exist in those games, they’re of very limited use, only replenishable with certain items or resting at a bonfire. Dark Souls 3 addressed this somewhat by replacing limited uses with a magic gauge, but you also had to sacrifice life-healing Estus flasks for a magic replenishing alternative.

If Elden Ring can manage to better encourage the use of magic, we think the variety of builds will substantially rise as a result. This would also work wonders for PvP combat, where you’d be able to show off genuinely unpredictable play styles.

Elden Ring

(Image credit: Bandai Namco)

Consistent boss fights

The Soulsborne games, in general, have some of the best boss fights around...but also some of the worst. For every Ornstein and Smough, there’s a Bed of Chaos just waiting to drag you back down from peak adrenaline to the pits of despair.

As the series went on, boss fights overall grew more varied and confident in design, particularly with Dark Souls 3, Bloodborne and Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. But that’s not to say a few stinkers didn’t slip through (looking squarely at you, Ancient Wyvern).

Elden Ring has an opportunity, then, to really push the boat out on its boss fights. Thanks to the trailer, we already have an idea of the direction some of these fights are going in, and they look exhilarating. 

Arguably, FromSoftware’s boss design excels when it’s just you versus one unstoppable force. In that sense, we hope Elden Ring doesn’t get too lost in the weeds with gimmicky puzzle bosses or ones with cheap one-shot kill abilities.

On the other hand, we do think bosses in Elden Ring should be made beatable using a variety of tactics. Elden Ring is bringing stealth gameplay back, so it would be great to see crafty players get the best of a tough boss through subterfuge or clever item use. Ultimately, bosses in the game should be thrilling no matter which way the player chooses to tackle them from.

Elden Ring

(Image credit: Bandai Namco)

Online that actually works

All Dark Souls players have been there. You’re engaging in a bitter fight to the death with an unwelcome invader. You think you have the upper hand, but suddenly, the tables turn. Your opponent has miraculously teleported behind you and finished you off with a backstab. This is no clever usage of sorcery or miracles, nay, this is good old fashioned network lag.

Affectionately and bitterly referred to as the “lagstab,” this is just one of many results of the Souls series’ routinely poor netcode. On other occasions, your summoning sign could vanish for no reason or routinely fail to join other players’ games. This is shoddy and needs to change in Elden Ring.

Online functionality was marginally better in Bloodborne and Dark Souls 3, but not by a whole lot. Here’s hoping that FronSoftware and Bandai Namco can learn lessons from their experience with netcode in the past and put forward a more stable system that doesn’t stifle gameplay or hamper Elden Ring’s immersion.

Elden Ring

(Image credit: Bandai Namco)

Character creation overhaul

The Soulsborne games have always had questionable character creation processes. In many cases, it’s genuinely easier to create something morbidly inhuman than anything even closely resembling a person. And while there’s certainly fun to be had there, we’d love to see Elden Ring scale it back. Maybe just a little bit.

Bluepoint’s excellent Demon’s Souls remake on the PS5 shows how fantastic character creators in these games could be, and while that likely had no input on FromSoftware’s part, it would be great for the Elden Ring developer to look towards Bluepoint for inspiration on how to make a truly excellent character creator.

A good character creation process can help to really immerse players in the world of the game they’re playing. At their best, they can have players toiling away for hours, perfecting every minute detail of their character before even starting the game. We honestly hope Elden Ring leans more into this more involving aspect of character creation.

Even if Elden Ring doesn’t address all (or any) of the points we’ve laid out above, it still has every chance of being an excellent game. The FromSoftware team has rarely gone wrong in the past decade since it became a household name with Dark Souls, and we hope that Elden Ring can usher a whole new generation of fans into its particularly savage brand of difficulty and intensely rewarding gameplay.

  • Elden Ring has big Shadow of the Colossus vibes, and I'm here for it
Rhys Wood
Hardware Editor

Rhys is TRG's Hardware Editor, and has been part of the TechRadar team for more than two years. Particularly passionate about high-quality third-party controllers and headsets, as well as the latest and greatest in fight sticks and VR, Rhys strives to provide easy-to-read, informative coverage on gaming hardware of all kinds. As for the games themselves, Rhys is especially keen on fighting and racing games, as well as soulslikes and RPGs.