FromSoftware president Hidetaka Miyazaki’s love for the late Kentaro Miura’s manga and anime series Berserk is the worst kept secret in the gaming industry. While he avoids explicitly discussing the connections between his games and Berserk, it’s clear that every Miyazaki-helmed project since 2009’s Demon’s Souls has been influenced in one way or another by the dark fantasy epic Miura wrote for over 30 years until his death in 2021.
This tendency to reference Berserk naturally extends to Elden Ring, the Souls successor released last month. Even before the game launched, fans eagerly scoured every piece of promotional material to point out how this armour looked like something in Berserk or that enemy’s design appeared to be drawn from Miura’s work. And having spent nearly 100 hours with the game over the past few weeks, I couldn’t help but notice these similarities as well.
Spoilers follow for both Elden Ring and Berserk, but really, what are you even doing here if you’re trying to avoid them?
Additional reporting by Isaiah Colbert
Elden Ring’s sword fields vs. Berserk’s Hill of Swords
Let’s get the most obvious Berserk homage out of the way first.
Elden Ring’s massive world includes several areas that I’ve dubbed “sword fields.” I’ll admit, the name isn’t all that creative: They’re literally just small fields covered in swords, all of which have been stabbed blade-first into the ground so as to stand upright. In the middle of each is a much larger sword with an inscription that generally provides some vague piece of information about the game’s lore.
The first time I saw one of these sword fields, it immediately reminded me of Berserk’s iconic Hill of Swords. In the manga and anime, the Hill of Swords is meant as a memorial to the fallen soldiers of the Band of the Hawk, a mercenary force that serves as the series’ main characters for much of its early run. Rickert, one of the army’s few surviving members, forges the countless blades of the Hill of Swords as tribute to his former compatriots.
It’s my personal belief that Elden Ring’s sword fields serve the same purpose. I like to think they’re meant to honour Miura, whose passing greatly affected those familiar with his work. Whether they were added to Elden Ring before or after his death, we’ll probably never know, but it’s a fitting tribute to the man who influenced so many of the game’s predecessors.
Elden Ring’s Blaidd the Half-Wolf vs. Berserk’s Berserker Armour
Apart from Starscourge Radahn, one of my favourite characters in Elden Ring is a lovely fellow by the name of Blaidd the Half-Wolf. As his name suggests, he’s a cross between a man and a wolf, and his appearance has garnered considerable attention from Berserk fans since the game’s June 2021 gameplay reveal. That brief glimpse of Blaidd howling atop the Mistwood Ruins was immediately compared to Miura’s work.
In Berserk, series protagonist Guts is eventually entrusted with the Berserker Armour, fearsome equipment that draws from the user’s negative emotions to imbue them with untold strength. While most of the time it just looks like a normal — if slightly pointy — suit of armour, it takes on a monstrous, wolf-like visage whenever Guts allows it to feed off his rage in battle.
Much like Guts is gifted the Berserker Armour, you’re eventually given Blaidd’s armour in Elden Ring, allowing you to live out your dreams of a FromSoftware-developed Berserk game. I won’t get into specifics about how Blaidd’s armour comes into your possession, but if you have any experience with previous Souls games, you can probably guess. It’s not a happy subject.
Elden Ring’s Ranni the Witch vs. Berserk’s Schierke
If Blaidd is Guts in his Berserker Armour, then I guess that would make Elden Ring fan favourite Ranni the Witch akin to Berserk’s Schierke? Although it’s a bit of a stretch, seeing as Ranni is one of the more powerful people in the Lands Between and Schierke is a young witch-in-training, I think it makes sense if you factor in their separate relationships with wolf-like men.
I’m no Vaati, but it’s clear Ranni and Blaidd share an intimate connection. Blaidd, as far as I can tell, was created specifically to guide Ranni towards her purpose as a potential godlike figure by an unseen, supernatural force known as the Greater Will. But as Ranni departs from this path, Blaidd grows increasingly feral, eventually losing his humanity altogether at the conclusion of her storyline.
Schierke, on the other hand, becomes one of Guts’ companions following the decimation of the Band of the Hawk. She soon emerges as the one person who can help him control his primal instincts while under the influence of the Berserker Armour. As such, Schierke and Guts become inseparable during battle, with the young witch often astral-projecting her spirit into his consciousness to calm his mind and prevent him from succumbing to the armour entirely.
Elden Ring’s Caelid vs. Berserk’s Eclipse
Elden Ring introduces an area around its mid-game known as Caelid. Unlike previous regions, Caelid is a squalid, disgusting place, the result of Malenia the Severed harnessing the power of the poisonous Scarlet Rot to curse her half-brother Starscrouge Radahn during the all-encompassing war that followed the Shattering of the Elden Ring.
It’s ok if none of this makes sense to you because I’m barely able to comprehend Elden Ring’s lore after an entire month of playing it.
The important thing is how Caelid resembles the landscape of the Eclipse, a phenomenon that occurs in Berserk upon the rare induction of a new member to the God Hand, a group of god-like demons. Guts and the Band of the Hawk are drawn into this ceremony by their supposed friend and leader Griffith, who wishes to join the God Hand to fulfil a lifelong dream of becoming ruler of his own, world-spanning kingdom.
What the Eclipse does is basically open a portal to an alternate plane of existence, wherein the God Hand receives the inductee’s sacrifices (in Griffith’s case, his Band of the Hawk soldiers) and transforms them into a demonic entity. Those unfortunate enough to be taken to this dimension are welcomed by a vast, bloody expanse inhabited by hellish creatures, which is pretty much how I’d describe what awaits Elden Ring players in Caelid.
Elden Ring Helmets vs. Berserk Helmets
I’m combining two things here because I don’t feel like writing separate entries for both.
Before the Eclipse welcomes him into the God Hand, the man once known as Griffith endures a year of unending torture for sleeping with the princess of a prominent kingdom. His tongue is cut out, his skin flayed, and all the while he’s forced to wear an iron mask. After his rescue by Guts and the other members of the Band of the Hawk, Griffith slowly recuperates, but the mask remains to conceal the scars of his brutal ordeal.
Elden Ring players have drawn comparisons between Griffith’s iron mask and that of the Prisoner class players can choose at the beginning of the game. It’s not a 1:1 reference, of course, but the covered eye on the Prisoner’s headwear neatly coincides with the fact that Berserk rarely shows a front-facing Griffith in his mask, mostly preferring to depict the tortured mercenary with one eye obscured by the mask’s shadow.
Furthermore, the Winged Helm worn by Elden Ring boss Malenia and eventually obtainable by players can easily be seen as an homage to a similar piece of armour Berserk antagonist-turned-ally Farnese wears during her time commanding the Holy Iron Chain Knights. Sure, this could easily be waved away as both being inspired by medieval depictions of Valkyries, but I prefer to see them as directly connected because that’s more fun.
Elden Ring’s Greatsword vs. Berserk’s Dragon Slayer
And finally, my favourite Berserk reference in Elden Ring apart from the sword fields.
Elden Ring, like previous Souls games, hides a lot of its world-building in item descriptions. It’s often the best way to learn why so-and-so did something important or who is related to who, so it stands to reason homages to Berserk might be hiding away in that flavour text as well.
Take the way Elden Ring describes its generic greatsword, for instance:
A coarse iron lump of an ultra greatsword.
Mows down foes by utilising its incredible weight.
Though handling it likely requires the wielder to have surpassed the realm of the merely human, it is precisely for this reason the weapon is used to slaughter even inhuman foes.
This closely echoes comments about Guts’ Dragon Slayer in Berserk, which in the very first chapter of the manga is referred to as a “raw heap of iron” that’s “much too big to be called a sword.” Characters are often blown away that Guts can wield such a weapon due to its massive size, but thanks to his inhuman strength, he’s able to use it to slice through just about anything that stands in his way.
The two weapons even look similar, though that could just be because they’re both humongous freaking swords.