At the risk of offending equestrian enthusiasts, I have to say that most video games suck.
Now I must admit that my experience with anything equine in real life is mainly limited to the ponies I used to ride at the school fair and make a little small change to the Grand National a long time ago. But in video games, I’ve ridden a lot of them, and it’s always short.
If you’re a ’90s kid like me, your first memory of riding a digital stallion was probably Epona in Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Wasn’t managing your stamina with the carrots and the way you stopped if you tried to approach an obstacle at a slight wrong angle annoying?
However, the practicality of riding a bizarre-toed, hoofed mammal was great for getting around Hyrule, and so it’s no surprise, with games rife in open worlds, that having a carrier is such an integral part of getting from A to B. I wish I had more fun.
Take The Witcher 3’s Roach. Bloody can’t take him anywhere. I’ve had my fair share of issues with the RPG overrated CD Projekt Red (don’t get me started fighting) but riding in that game was a pain. It may have more to do with their environments, but my memories of crossing Filin and Novigrad were mostly about a roach getting caught in the trees or standing in a dead end over a cliff. Unless you’re willing to let the system automatically guide you on a steady—but long and winding—road you’re better off just flying it or using fast travel, the latter is usually a telltale sign that your open world has failed.
Remember all the Rockstar talk about realistic horse testicles in Red Dead Redemption 2? I didn’t spend much of my time examining these details myself, instead I remember trying to use a movie camera meant to make you feel like you were in a sweeping western epic only to turn into slapstick due to your lack of control your mountain would have crashed or your face first fell into the dirt .
It’s probably a sacrilege to go horseback in Shadow of the Colossus who – which Conclusion, but even with all the supposed realism put into its behaviour, there is likely a reason why Fumito Ueda named your horse the Agro.
In the end, the most fun virtual ride experiences boil down to those parts in Uncharted 3 and The Last of Us (being a Naughty Dog game, you pay up anyway) or the stuff you can unlock in Final Fantasy 14, which is more of an extension of yourself and hardly faster from jogging.
So what gets me so excited about riding the Elden Ring after plunging hours into closed-grid testing last November? While this beta version only allowed me to jog through a small part of its open world in Limgrave, the player’s steed – known as Torrent – was not only a huge highlight, but it will obviously be an important part of the core game.
FromSoftware, of course, has included horses in its previous games like Bloodborne and Sekiro – but only as part of the enemy’s design. This is the first time you can ride a mountain in one of their games, and it makes more sense to get around easily in the huge open world of Elden Ring, than it does in the more compact and maze Dark Souls maps.
Of course, there is reason to be concerned about how riding will work. After all, the action in FromSoft games has an unusual and intentional feel – so wouldn’t that also be the case for 3D mounts? Not to worry, as the developers seem to have considered riding in other open world games and just went, “No, let’s have some actual fun with this.”
The reason why Torrent is such a good horse is that it is not at all a simulator of a real horse. Mate, it’s a ferocious, horned ghost horse that instantly materializes out of the blue with you on its saddle at the blow of a whistle. Don’t wait for him to find him stuck in the scene, he appears instantly and you can jump at the same speed, without messing around. Take that, Roach.
To that end, there are a lot of licenses the game gets with what you can do. The movement feels responsive because Torrent Just Player Control – You don’t have to wrestle with the reins or anything more difficult or advanced. A spectral horse doesn’t have to stay static like real horses, and I mean that literally. Sure, it sounds cool using air currents to make Torrent jump over cliffs, but the real special thing is that it can absolutely jump. There is no nonsense as to whether or not the fence can run, but instead you can jump and hook with the same custom jump button your character has.
And what’s better than a horse that can jump? A horse that can double jump.
This is the horse that laughs (neighing?) in the face of obstacles. It accelerates over the terrain brilliantly, nonstop, while other video game horses fail at the first hurdle. Elden Ring may not be going to Breath of the Wild – ability levels to go anywhere at all, but this double-jump is a statement of intent. It is simply designed to allow you to reach places that would otherwise be impossible. It’s possible that the developers have taken out rare things, that can only be accessed by horse, or even smuggled in a way to skip the sequence with Torrent. This alone will make the scanning process enjoyable; As you wander the lands between trying to reach the top of the colossal ruins or searching for a way to climb a seemingly insurmountable mountain face, you know that Torrent is always there. Keen to help.
But perhaps the real special sauce is that Torrent will also be a huge help in the fight. My memory of horseback fighting in any game is particularly memorable, but Elden Ring would definitely be one way to make some of the tougher challenges easier. This was evident when, in the Closed Grid Test, I had to head to Lake Agheel and stand face-to-face with a huge fire-breathing dragon.
On foot, I would have drunk my toast in a matter of seconds. But with Torrent, I can easily evade and get out of the fight, avoiding his fiery breath that set fire to half the lake, and also catching up when the dragon decides to fly in the air. An optional manager that you feel you don’t have to mess with until you’ve been grinding for 10 hours is suddenly something you can trust to tackle, and it’s on hand.
Of course, you still have to time your attacks. This absurdity that requires you to stick to your actions is still present in horseback combat as in the rest of the game, but when the attacks continue — like when you charge a group of enemies or veer off troll legs — they feel awesome. One of my favorites is riding while launching a sword attack, with the blade running along the ground (please allow DualSense support for that matter), before releasing the trigger to swing it straight into your enemy’s face.
And if things go wrong, Torrent is also an escape route. Overwhelmed by the terror of enemies? You can just install it. This is another important difference in Elden Ring compared to the unforgiving environments in Dark Souls. When you often have to fight against everything trying to kill you, the open world of the lands in between means you can really choose your battles, so if you cross into some mortal hell, just ride, no pressure (at least for the open world sections – it’s a shame not to Torrent manages to accompany you in the game’s dungeons, which flow a lot like the traditional Dark Souls experience).
I look forward to delving deeper into the world of Elden Ring, its lore, its battles and, no doubt, the fountains of secrets celebrated by FromSoft. But only in Torrent alone, I can say that this game is worth it when it is launched.