Geoff Keighley’s Summer Game Fest kicked off E3 2021 with an incredible look at Elden Ring, the next major action-RPG adventure from Dark Souls developer From Software. And while it was fantastic to see more of the upcoming game two years after its initial announcement, the dense trailer provoked more questions than answers.
IGN recently sat down with Elden Ring director Hidetaki Miyazaki, who provided some more tantalising details about what players can expect from the highly anticipated release.
What is Elden Ring?
If you’ve been living under a rock for the last two years, this whole thing might seem confusing, so here’s a quick primer on the story so far.
Elden Ring was originally revealed at E3 2019 as the next game by From Software, in development for both PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. Fresh off the release of Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, fans of the company’s distinctly moody world-building and punishing combat were eager to learn what it would be working on next.
As such, the first Elden Ring trailer set off a firestorm of speculation, which would run rampant for years before From Software and publisher Bandai Namco saw fit to grace the masses with more information during last week’s Summer Game Fest kick-off to E3 2021. They revealed that Elden Ring is finally coming to PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and Steam on January 21, 2022.
Who are the Tarnished in Elden Ring?
While not quite as prevalent as the references to Chaos in the Stranger of Paradise Final Fantasy Origin reveal, the new Elden Ring trailer mentioned a person or people known as the Tarnished quite a bit over its three-minute runtime. Miyazaki told IGN that to understand the Tarnished, you must first understand how the Lands Between — the world developed for Elden Ring by Game of Thrones scribe George R. R. Martin — and its inhabitants function.
The Lands Between, Miyazaki explained, are blessed by the presence of the titular Elden Ring and the Erdtree, the mysterious force’s symbolic manifestation in the physical world. Everyone who lives in the Lands Between, great and small, are affected by this blessing, indicated by a glowing aura that most commonly appears as a golden halo in their eyes.
It’s possible to lose this blessing, however, and become one of the Tarnished, a caste of people who were looked down upon and, sometime before the events of Elden Ring, exiled from the Lands Between. In the game, you play as a descendent of these initial Tarnished exiles, called back to the Land Between after a great, historical event shatters the Elden Ring and triggers the return of this lost blessing.
“I feel like one of the main themes of the game is how the player, the Tarnished, approaches or treats this new-found grace and this return to the land that they were once banished from, how they interpret this and the meaning,” Miyazaki said. “It’s not just the player-character, of course, it’s lots of characters in the game, who are all beckoned back and will have their own adventures and motives. We want the player to discover for themselves what that means and how they want to begin their adventure.”
Who are Elden Ring’s bosses?
From Software has a reputation for filling its games with impressive boss battles, and Elden Ring hews closely to that tradition. Also like previous From Software games, these bosses — again, designed by George R. R. Martin — are vital pieces of Elden Ring’s lore, considered demigods of the Lands Between due to their immense power and importance in the realm’s overarching history.
When the Elden Ring shattered, it not only imbued the Tarnished with its long-lost grace but also imparted shards of its physical form to a few, select individuals in the Lands Between. These folks inherited the raw power of the Elden Ring, exposure to which twisted and warped them into the awe-inspiring, god-like bosses players will struggle against in the game.
“We wanted to depict these beings as not just creatures and horrible monsters, but have an element of heroism and an element of mythology to them,” Miyazaki said. “Essentially, they are the old gods of this world. They each fell to madness and fell to ruin in their own individual ways. So while there [are] heroic and mythological elements to them, they are also going to have this very mad taint and this deep-seated ruin to them.”
How will Elden Ring play?
A large chunk of IGN’s conversation with Miyazaki was spent sussing out details about what players will do in Elden Ring and how the game will play. And while you should definitely go check out the full interview, here are a few juicy morsels:
- Dark Souls-like Mimics won’t make a return, but the Elden Ring devs hope to similarly surprise players “in some way.”
- Elden Ring is made up of six large areas connected by a central hub. While some areas will be locked away early on, players are largely able to tackle these challenges in any order they want. Miyazaki wanted to offer players a lot of freedom concerning how to progress.
- Exploring the world on horseback is a major part of Elden Ring, but the game will also feature a fast-travel system of some kind due to the size of its world.
- Like resurrection in Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, the Elden Ring devs have included a mechanic that “will keep [players] going and keep them encouraged to explore further.”
- Elden Ring will include a stamina bar, but Miyazaki says it will have less “influence” on the player overall.
- Players will be able to equip and summon enemies as allies in addition to inviting other players into their game.
“We think rather than recommending a specific way for players to tackle each encounter, one of the things we wanted to stress in this game was, again, that freedom to choose how to take on encounters and how to approach these various situations,” Miyazaki said. “So there’s a large variety of ways you can approach combat, and a large range of abilities you can acquire. We wanted to allow the player to combine these different elements to find their own strategy, and even take indirect approaches to combat if they wanted to. So yes, this is something that we wanted to explore more so than our previous games and really focus on, is this level of variety and this level of freedom in combat.”
It’s clear that Elden Ring is a massive game, both in terms of world-building and straight-up size, and it sounds like Miyazaki and Martin’s individual takes on storytelling have combined to make a world that’s more than just Dark Souls 4. That said, a lot of these details are still very vague, so I’m looking forward to hearing more from Miyazaki and his team as we near the game’s January 2022 release date.
Elden Ring is already a phenomenon with just two official videos in the wild, expectations that no doubt put a lot of stress on From Software employees. But, as usual, they appear to be rising to the challenge.