The Dark Souls series and other Souls-like games, such as Bloodborne and Sekiro, are constantly praised by fans for the way narrative is hidden throughout the worlds. Hidden is the key word here; players can go through an entire Souls game without ever really understanding its story. For the most part, the mythology is largely optional in the genre, placed in between the cracks and crevices of the world. Item descriptions, environmental designs, architectural aesthetics, and building blocks are packed with lore and can often leave less-observant players oblivious.
Of course, that’s not a negative for many fans; it’s become one of the more grand and series-defining features of FromSoftware’s little genre. There are tons of fans who come to the series simply to play through with their created characters and craft their own stories, whether to enjoy alone or share with a community of players that do the same.
The newest Souls game, Elden Ring, may shake up that storytelling method, bringing some unique changes to the genre. The main difference is that it has a designated story lead. George R. R. Martin, the novelist responsible for Game of Thrones, is crafting the story of the game’s universe. The latest trailer for the game and newly released details tease a new approach to storytelling that only amplifies the series’ strengths instead of getting rid of them altogether.
It’s speculated that Elden Ring may be a more authored, narrative experience instead of the passive variety that we’ve seen lead players to YouTube lore explanations in the past. That doesn’t mean that the days of reading item descriptions will be left in the past. In an interview with Dualshockers, FromSoftware’s Hidetaka Miyazaki confirmed that Elden Ring will still share Dark Souls’ traditional storytelling and world-building methods.
Miyazaki went on to tell PC Gamer that the collaboration was built around Miyazaki explaining his vision to Martin. Using Miyazaki’s idea, Martin created a world full of “interesting characters and drama along with a plethora of mystical and mysterious elements as well.”
This means that Martin isn’t necessarily responsible the in-game storytelling so much as the lore behind everything. That could add even more depth to Miyazaki’s more subtle storytelling style, pumping Elden Ring up into a narrative juggernaut that the Dark Souls series wishes it were.
The new trailer for the game showed off a bit of the story concerning a world tied to the laws of a force or object called the “Elden Ring.” This story is delved into even more on the official site in classic vague FromSoftware fashion:
The Golden Order has been broken. Rise, Tarnished, and be guided by grace to brandish the power of the Elden Ring and become an Elden Lord in the Lands Between. In the Lands Between ruled by Queen Marika the Eternal, the Elden Ring, the source of the Erdtree, has been shattered. Marika’s offspring, demigods all, claimed the shards of the Elden Ring known as the Great Runes, and the mad taint of their newfound strength triggered a war: The Shattering. A war that meant abandonment by the Greater Will. And now the guidance of grace will be brought to the Tarnished who were spurned by the grace of gold and exiled from the Lands Between. Ye dead who yet live, your grace long lost, follow the path to the Lands Between beyond the foggy sea to stand before the Elden Ring. And become the Elden Lord.
After reading many fans shared a similar reaction: “Yeah, that’s Dark Souls alright.”
That’s exactly what fans of Souls games want, but Martin’s role could set the stage for a narratively richer game than those of the past. Martin is a critically acclaimed master world builder, after all. That leads to a potentially exciting interplay between Martin and Miyazaki. The former will beef up the world and history, while the latter can focus on building out the explicit story players experience during the game. That’ll give both distinct storytelling methods plenty of room to be their own complete thing, while still giving fans tons to analyze and dig into.
There’s one other piece of news that sets the stage for the game’s narrative potential. In an official press release, Bandai Namco’s CEO, Yasuo Miyakawa, stated that Elden Ring will be pushed beyond the boundaries of video games. With companies like Netflix around, constantly adapting video games into spinoff animated series and films, Elden Ring could take the Souls-like to unexpected territory.
Those background details we’re so used to reading in Souls games via random items could soon become full-length stories that expand Elden Ring into a media giant.
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