Skip to main content

Going Torrent-less in Elden Ring: Shadow Of The Erdtree reminded my why it won't beat old Souls

No horsin' around

A heavily armoured player turns to the camera as a message says "It waits inside" flashes above their head in Elden Ring: Shadow Of The Erdtree.
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Bandai Namco

I mentioned it briefly in my Shadow Of The Erdtree review, but there's one area of the DLC where your steed Torrent is so scared they refuse to be summoned. That's because said area is a woodland that's been steeped in shadow and chaos for so long, large goats don't dare clop their hooves. What I hadn't expected was that relying on my own two trotters would be so... revelatory. It's made me reconsider exploration in Elden Ring's open world, and conclude that using Torrent as a taxi service contributes to a feeling of disconnection.


I sang the praises of Erdtree's knottiness in my review, in particular how its catacombs aren't always dead ends but elaborate entrances. One such seemingly innocuous ledge-dive lands you outside the Darklight Catacombs, a dim and dizzying place inhabited by remixed rock goblins with rocket launchers for faces. I won't spoil the fun of this area too much (you'll want to explore it yourself for lots of excellent loot - our guides can help). But I will say that the end of these catacombs is simply the beginning of another, spookier area. An area into which goaty hooves dare not canter.

Standing above a ledge with a deep drop down into nothingness in Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree.
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Bandai Namco

I wandered into thick fog and enormous gnarled trees, like I was being engulfed by a charcoal sketch. Messages on the floor said, "Turn back. While you are yet able" as the words "Abyssal Woods" flashed up on screen. It was eerie and perhaps, the closest I've seen to a Dark Souls Ash Lake equivalent.

But where Ash Lake had more a tranquil vibe, there isn't so much of that tinkly ambience in the Abyssal Woods. It's more of a deep sadness, thick with abandon and populated by basket-headed individuals who prowl the woods. Now, I thought they'd be pretty chill, judging by the promotional screenshots, but it turns out they're far from it. This is where the game's (slightly piss) stealth comes into play. You're forced to dart between bushes to avoid their gaze, lest they warp you into their waiting arms, draining your health with a chaotic gaze. It's not endearing, the bush-hopping is basic and unrewarding, and you can't even sneak attack the basket heads because they're invincible. Otherwise, the area is fairly lifeless and a bit empty. It turns out the Abyssal Woods is disorienting in a way that's a bit fly-bashing-against-the-walls-even-though-there's-an-open-window-nearby. But for all of my whining, I liked one thing: being Torrent-less.

The player character in Dark Souls stands on a shoreline, back to the camera, looking at the remains of the giant archtrees in the blue, misty distance
Remember Ash Lake? | Image credit: Bandai Namco/FromSoftware

Because he's too frightened, your trusty goat-steed can't be summoned as you explore this open world bit. I know the game forces you off Torrent before you head into dungeons or certain big bits, but most open world exploration sees you blast around on the ol' yak. I totally get why Torrent is present in Elden Ring, as the game's vastness makes marching around entirely on foot a chore. Yet, the Abyssal Woods reminded me of old Souls, where you were entirely reliant on an internal GPS and the slap of your feet on rubble.

As much as it was disorienting running around lots of pissing trees, I felt a better sense of connection in this place. Yes, it sometimes felt like I was sprinting through a dark vacuum, but I was still curious, sniffing around, angling my camera to better take in the bleakness (plus there's a major highlight you'll definitely want to see in these woods, so grit your teeth and get through it, I say). Elsewhere, on Torrent-back, you do get the cinematic "yah boy!" as the grass sways and you blast into a vista, but once the majestic has become commonplace, he becomes a shortcut, a way of turning the open world's points of interest into easily sampled rides at the playground.

On Torrent, I rarely feel in danger because of his ability to, well, "yah boy". On foot, I'm just a little guy in a world full of horrible monsters and I have to channel Happy Feet if I want to avoid even the lowliest lads with their rusted broadswords. I'm someone who has to think about where he's carving his path and doesn't have a turbo-charged taxi to fall back on. I mention in my review that Elden Ring and Erdtree likely won't stick in my memory like Dark Souls and Bloodborne, and I think Torrent is a big reason why.

In the past, Souls worlds have been designed with a walk or a sprint in mind. They were built to accommodate awkward boss runs, bonfire oases after a desperate hike, and an interconnected sprawl where shortcuts could slash long area-to-area commutes in half. You were present the entire time, as if out for a stroll in real life, soaking up the chirp of the birds and the smell of freshly cut grass (just replace these things with scythe-wielding lizards and bog rot). Elden Ring and Erdtree - even if Erdtree gets a bit closer to old Souls - are worlds designed for a shuttle, one which I'm hope is parked for whatever From do next. Next time, I'd like a wander.

Read this next