Almost two years since it was announced, From Software has finally broken silence on its upcoming RPG Elden Ring. And what a way to do it. At last week’s Summer Games Festival, From showed off a three-minute long trailer absolutely stuffed to bursting with info about how the game will play and what the story will be like. It’s undoubtedly one of the most exciting games to be revealed during this year’s E3 season, so I’ve put together some thoughts and observations based on what was shown.
It could easily be Dark Souls 4
While it was evident from the original teaser that Elden Ring was going to another fantasy RPG, it’s still surprising just how close Elden Ring’s aesthetic is to Dark Souls. It’s a recognisably dingy and dilapidated FromSoft fantasy realm. We see cracked and shattered pillars floating in mid-air, a sprawling gothic structure that strongly resembles Anor Londo and Irithyll of the Boreal Valley. Even the player character’s armour strongly resembles that of Dark Souls’ Knight Artorias. That same character is also repeatedly referred to as “Tarnished”, clearly Elden Ring’s equivalent of Dark Souls’ “Hollow”.
While I doubt there’s a direct connection, it’s possible Elden Ring’s world is somehow related to that of Dark Souls. I certainly wouldn’t be surprised to see a few cryptic links in there – FromSoft love nothing better than to drive players wild with ambiguous hints and references between its games.
Some people have expressed disappointment regarding the similarity, but personally I’m totally up for it, primarily because of the next point.
The world looks huge (as does everything in it)
Elden Ring appears to be a much, much bigger game than Dark Souls, with players exploring an entire fantasy realm rather than just a single city and a smattering of outskirts. This is hugely exciting, as we haven’t seen From Software’s take on a wide open landscape before. From what’s visible in the trailer, it’s going to be every bit as strange and twisted as the studio’s fantasy cityscapes like Lordran and Yharnam. It isn’t just the world that looks massive either. We catch a glimpse of some truly enormous creatures, including what basically looks like a moving castle with a bell hanging beneath it.
What’ll be interesting is how From’s approach to level design plays into this. The studio has become known for its knotty, puzzle-like environments, with players gradually unlocking new routes and shortcuts as they explore. Is such design still possible with such a large, open map? Or does the studio have something more like Shadow of the Colossus or Breath of the Wild in mind? It’s possible Elden Ring’s titanic creatures are inspired by these games, and some battles will involve physically climbing on and inside these enemies, perhaps also having to chase and corral them on your horse.
Speaking of which…
You get a horse.
This is the biggest new mechanical feature demonstrated in the trailer. Early on, the player character summons a horse out of thin air, and proceeds to ride through the broken countryside of Elden Ring’s world. This is big departure for From, as every other game of theirs requires you to traverse the world on foot.
We also see a couple of horse-specific mechanics in the trailer. The first is mounted combat, which I’m extremely curious to see From approach. I don’t think any game that features fighting on horseback has ever managed to make it fun, so it’ll be fascinating to see how From plans to solve this, alongside the significance of the role mounted combat will play in the game.
The other key horse-related moment is when it jumps up a mountain, making Skyrim’s famously sure-footed horses look pathetic by comparison. Perhaps this is From’s answer to the question of progression, and such abilities will be unlocked through the course of the game to help you access new areas.
Combat appears more Souls than Sekiro
Elden Ring appears to bring back several mechanics that From Software’s games have shorn over the years. For starters, you’ll apparently be able to fight with the weapon of your choice, which includes spellcasting, and you’ll also be able to switch outfits. There’s even a brief glimpse of a character holding a shield, although they’re immediately get impaled on a spike by a boss, perhaps implying that Hidetaka Miyazaki is still very much down on shields.
It all seems to be much broader than the stripped back, laser-focussed combat of Sekiro. The question is whether combat can match Sekiro’s remarkable intensity, as it’ll be hard to go back to the relative clumsiness of the early Souls games after From’s incredible adventure through Feudal Japan.
George R.R Martin’s influence is not currently that visible
This is perhaps the most surprising element of the trailer. One of Elden Ring’s main marketing pushes was how it’s a collaborative effort between From Software and A Song of Ice and Fire author George R.R. Martin. In the trailer, however, Elden Ring comes across as overwhelmingly From Software in both tone and plotting. Indeed, if I hadn’t been explicitly told Martin was involved, I would not have been able to guess.
Granted, it’s a three minute trailer that mostly focuses on showing off the world and the combat. Nonetheless, this is where I expected Elden Ring to diverge most from From’s previous games. The snippest of dialogue we hear certainly appear to be well written, but From’s games have always been narratively engaging. In any case, it’ll be interesting to see where exactly Martin’s influence comes in, and how evident it is in the final product.
October 14 2021 | 15:04