Recently, it was announced that FromSoftware was working on a new project, with legendary author George R. R. Martin on as a writing consultant. Bandai Namco then released a cinematic trailer (there was no leak) during E3 2019 for their newest title Elden Ring.
Following up on the announcement, acclaimed Dark Souls director Hidetaka Miyazaki gave an interview to IGN to talk about what FromSoftware plans for Elden Ring, where he talked about the size of the world, its story, and the game’s mechanics.
In the interview with IGN, Miyazaki talked about what makes Elden Ring “an evolution” of Dark Souls, as well as what stuck from Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice and Bloodborne.
“Elden Ring is a third-person action RPG with a fantasy setting,” Miyazaki said. “The gameplay is not so far from Dark Souls. That doesn’t mean that the gameplay will be identical, but you could say that Elden Ring belongs to the same genre.”
Sekiro and Bloodborne, Miyazaki’s other projects, brought interesting changes to the core Dark Souls gameplay, but Elden Ring is set to shake up the “Soulsborne” formula even more by increasing the scope of the world dramatically.
“With a larger world, new systems and action mechanics inevitably become necessary,” he said. “In that sense, I think that Elden Ring is a more natural evolution of Dark Souls.” Miyazaki’s games have intertwining environments, but in Elden Ring that interconnectedness will be more “open-world.”
“While the narrow and complex dungeons of our previous games were indeed interconnected, Elden Ring’s environments will be much more open and vast,” said Miyazaki. “The more extensive world will form the base of Elden Ring‘s gameplay, and its mechanics are designed with that type of environment in mind.” The interviewer suggests that this would make Elden Ring more Skyrim than Metroidvania.
Miyazaki shared three reasons why he wanted to craft an open-world environment for Elden Ring. The development team is aiming to show the game’s world and lore on a much bigger scale, add more complete freedom to exploration, and allow more tactical variation in combat.
A very interesting change will be the ability to engage your enemies while mounted on horseback, as well as riding your steed through the larger environments. A lot of Dark Souls‘s combat is about positioning in cramped quarters, but Miyazaki believes an open world can lead to different approaches to his storied boss battles. But, will it be easy? In another E3 2019 interview, Miyazaki assured (or warned) that Elden Ring will be challenging the way one would expect.
Miyazaki didn’t go into detail on what the change to open world mechanics will mean for Elden Ring, but he did say that the overall art direction of the game will be largely reminiscent of previous games, and joked that Elden Ring won’t be loaded with colorful towns and locations.
Villages will be the dark dungeon-like ruins that you have come to expect from us.
Instead of trying to mimic successful open-world games like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild or The Witcher 3, Miyazaki chose to make sure that Elden Ring stays unique in a way that only FromSoftware games are. “Personally, a world that is happy and bright is something that just doesn’t feel realistic to me,” he said. “It may sound like I have a trauma or something, but I believe that the world is generally a wasteland that is not kind to us. That’s just the way I see it.”
So, how did George R. R. Martin become part of Elden Ring? Miyazaki is a big fan of Martin’s many novels. For his part, Martin was eager to come on board. “I was really surprised by how smoothly it all went,” said Miyazaki.
Miyazaki is responsible for the main story of Elden Ring while Martin is authoring the game’s lore and mythology. Miyazaki explained that “storytelling in video games – at least the way we do it at FromSoftware – comes with a lot of restrictions for the writer. I didn’t think it was a good idea to have Martin write within those restrictions. By having him write about a time the player isn’t directly involved in, he is free to unleash his creativity in the way he likes.”
As FromSoftware we didn’t want to create a more linear and story-driven experience for Elden Ring. Both issues could be solved by having Martin write about the world’s history instead.
Miyazaki explained that the open-world aspect of Elden Ring will tie in with Martin’s lore contribution. “The player will be able to learn about Martin’s mythology through exploration,” he said. “We are known for letting the player explore the game’s lore through fragments of environmental storytelling, and this time around Martin’s story is what you will be trying to unravel. The period the player actually explores is still connected to the old times, so as you slowly discover why the world has become the way it is, you will learn more about Martin’s mythology as well.”
Miyazaki did enjoy having a somewhat more fleshed-out story in Sekiro, with more talkative NPCs, and believes that in Elden Ring NPCs will be “more compelling than his previous works,” with the player being the game story’s main character. Elden Ring does however return to the Western-themed settings of Dark Souls and Bloodborne.
Director Hidetaka Miyazaki is known for his beautiful and unique world-building, and the beauty always manages to shine out of some of the darkest, most unsettling game worlds ever made.
“Light looks more beautiful in darkness,” said Miyazaki. “When there is something beautiful in the middle of a wasteland, we are able to appreciate it more. One jewel doesn’t look like much when you have a pile of them, but if you find one jewel in the midst of mud, it is worth so much more.”
Elden Ring is a third-person action RPG in development since 2017. There’s no release date yet, but Elden Ring is scheduled for the Playstation 4 and Xbox One consoles.