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Elden Ring
Developer(s)FromSoftware
Publisher(s)Bandai Namco Entertainment
  • JP: FromSoftware
Director(s)
Producer(s)Yuzo Kojima
Designer(s)
  • Yosuke Kayugawa
  • Ryu Matsumoto
Programmer(s)
  • Takeshi Suzuki
  • Yuki Kido
Artist(s)
  • Hidenori Sato
  • Ryo Fujimaki
Writer(s)
Composer(s)
  • Tsukasa Saitoh
  • Shoi Miyazawa
  • Tai Tomisawa
  • Yuka Kitamura
  • Yoshimi Kudo[a]
  • Soma Tanizaki[b]
Platform(s)
ReleaseFebruary 25, 2022
Genre(s)Action role-playing
Mode(s)Single-player, multiplayer

Elden Ring[c] is a 2022 action role-playing game developed by FromSoftware. It was directed by Hidetaka Miyazaki with worldbuilding provided by American fantasy writer George R. R. Martin. It was published for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S on February 25 in Japan by FromSoftware and internationally by Bandai Namco Entertainment. Set in the Lands Between, players control a customizable player character on a quest to repair the Elden Ring and become the new Elden Lord.

Elden Ring is presented through a third-person perspective with players freely roaming its open world. The six main areas are traversed using the player character's steed Torrent as the primary mode of travel. Linear, hidden dungeons can be explored to find useful items. Players can use several types of weapons and magic spells, including non-direct engagement enabled by stealth mechanics. Throughout the game's world, checkpoints enable fast travel and allow players to improve their attributes using an in-game currency called runes. Elden Ring features an online multiplayer mode in which players join through cooperative play to fight bosses or engage in player versus player combat.

FromSoftware wanted to create an open-world game based on Dark Souls. Miyazaki admired Martin's previous work and hoped that his contributions would produce a more accessible narrative than those of the company's earlier games. Martin was given unrestricted freedom to design the backstory, while Miyazaki was lead writer for the in-game narrative. However, the game's narrative is still presented through flavor text, dialogue, visual narrative, and players' interpretations. The developers concentrated on environmental scale, role-playing, and the story; the scale required the construction of several structures inside the open world.

Elden Ring won several Game of the Year awards and has been cited as one of the greatest games of all time, with praise directed towards its open world, gameplay systems, and setting despite criticism for its technical performance. It sold 25 million copies, also making it one of the best-selling games of all time. The downloadable content Shadow of the Erdtree follows the player character solving the mysteries of the Land of Shadow. It was released in June 2024 to similar acclaim.

Gameplay[edit]

The player fighting a dragon while riding their steed Torrent

Elden Ring is an action role-playing game set in third-person perspective. It includes elements that are similar to those in other FromSoftware-developed games, such as the Dark Souls series, Bloodborne, and Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. The game is set in an open world; players can freely explore the Lands Between and its six main areas, which include Limgrave—an area of grassy plains and ancient ruins—and Caelid, a wasteland that is home to undead monsters.[1] The open world is explored using the character's mount Torrent as the main mode of transportation, though players may use fast travel outside combat. Throughout the game, players encounter non-player characters (NPCs) and enemies, including demigods who rule each main area and serve as the game's main bosses.[2][3] Aside from the main areas, Elden Ring has hidden dungeons, catacombs, tunnels, and caves where players can fight bosses and gather helpful items.[4]

The story of Elden Ring is fragmented and told non-linearly. Besides the introducing cinematic which speaks in riddles, the player must find the rest of the story through dialogue and interactions with NPCs, item descriptions, the details in the environment, and sometimes within the game's code itself. This would lead the player needing to look for clues and coming to their own assumptions of the full story. The world history is constantly theorized among players and the synopsis setting is subject to change due to varying interpretations.

At the game's start, the player chooses a character class, which determines their starting spells, equipment, and attributes.[5] Combat with enemies can be within melee, or from a distance using ranged weapons. Enemy attacks can be dodged or blocked using shields. Spells allow players to enhance their weapons, fight enemies from afar, and restore lost hit points. The player can memorize a limited amount of these spells, which can be cast using a staff or sacred seal item.[6][7] Weapons can be improved using ashes of war, which are obtainable "enchantments" that grant weapons new capabilities. Ashes of war can be applied to or removed from weapons, and each Ash adds a weapon art, a special ability that can be used during combat.[8] Aside from direct combat, stealth mechanics can be used to avoid enemies or allow the targeting of foes with critical hits while hidden.[9][10] Staggering enemies and parrying their attacks can also create opportunities for critical hits.[11][12]

Checkpoints called sites of grace are located throughout the game; in these places, characters can increase the power of their attributes, change memorized spells, swap ashes of war, or walk to using fast travel. Upon death, players respawn at the last site of grace they interacted with. Alternatively, they may choose to respawn at certain locations highlighted by "stakes of Marika" provided they died nearby.[8][13][14] To increase their attributes at sites of grace, the player must spend runes, an in-game currency that is acquired by defeating enemies.[15] Runes can be used to buy items, and improve weapons and armor. Dying in Elden Ring causes the player to lose all collected runes at the location of death; if the player dies again before retrieving the runes, they will be lost forever.[16]

Elden Ring contains crafting mechanics; the creation of items requires materials. Recipes, which are required for the crafting of items, can be found inside collectibles called cookbooks, which are scattered throughout the world. Materials can be collected by defeating enemies, exploring the game's world, or by trading with merchant NPCs. Crafted items include poison darts, exploding pots, and consumables that temporarily increase the player's combat strength.[17][18] Similar to the Dark Souls games, the player can summon friendly NPCs called spirits to fight enemies.[19] Summoning each type of spirit requires its equivalent Spirit Ash; different types of Spirit Ashes can be discovered as the player explores the game world. Spirits can only be summoned near structures called Rebirth Monuments, which are primarily found in large areas and inside boss fight arenas.[20]

Elden Ring has a multiplayer system that allows players to be summoned for both cooperative and player-versus-player (PvP) play over the Internet.[21] Cooperative play involves the placing of a summon sign on the ground, which causes the sign to become visible to online players who have used a corresponding item. If another player interacts with the sign, the player who placed the sign is summoned into their world. Cooperative players remain in the same world until the boss of the area is defeated or until a summoned player dies and is returned to their home world. In PvP combat, a summon sign is used to challenge another player to a duel, or the player can use additional items to invade the worlds of others. World hosts may use a "taunter's tongue" to increase the likelihood their world will be invaded by others and to decrease the time between invasions.[22][23][24]

Synopsis[edit]

Setting[edit]

Elden Ring takes place in the fictional "Lands Between," a realm blessed by an outer god known as the "Greater Will," who sent down the "Elden Ring" — a collection of magical runes that govern the land's physics — and the "Erdtree" — an enormous, golden tree that empowers the inhabitants. The Greater Will's emissary, the Two Fingers, chose a woman named Marika to be the Elden Ring's vessel and she ruled the realm alongside her consort, the "Elden Lord," in a dynasty known as the "Golden Order." Two served as Lord during Marika's reign: Godfrey, a barbarian who was later banished; and Radagon, her own male alter-ego. To ensure her eternal rule, Marika removed the "Rune of Death" from the Elden Ring and entrusted it to her bodyguard, Maliketh, eradicating death in the Lands Between. However, not all were equal under the Golden Order, such as the "Omens," who are born malformed and discriminated against; and the "Tarnished," humans not graced by the Erdtree, causing them to be exiled from the Lands Between.

After her firstborn, Godwyn, was assassinated using a stolen piece of the Rune of Death, Marika shattered the Elden Ring, throwing the realm into disarray and prompting the Greater Will to seal her inside the Erdtree. Afterward, shards of the Ring called "Great Runes" were inherited by Marika's remaining offspring, corrupting them into waging war against each other. Amongst these Rune Bearers are: Morgott, an Omen loyal to the Golden Order despite being discriminated against; Mohg, Morgott's twin who wishes to form his own dynasty; Radahn, a warrior general who went feral after being afflicted by a disease called Scarlet Rot; Rykard, a former praetor who turned to blasphemy for power; Ranni, a witch who seeks to overthrow the Greater Will and secretly orchestrated Godwyn's assassination; Miquella, a genius mystic cursed with eternal youth who wishes to usher in a new age; Malenia, Miquella's twin who is regarded as the realm's greatest swordswoman despite being afflicted with Scarlet Rot; and Godrick, a distant relative who seeks strength by grafting bodyparts from his subjects onto himself.

As if to address the situation, the exiled Tarnished were mysteriously gifted power, resurrecting and granting them immortality, before being instructed to return to the Lands Between to repair the Elden Ring and become the new Elden Lord. Those summoned include: Goldmask, a fundamentalist seeking to revitalize the Golden Order; Fia, a prostitute who is attempting to revive Godwyn; Dung Eater, a criminal who wants to strip everyone in the Lands Between of the Erdtree's power; Sir Gideon Ofnir, a spymaster researching the Shattering; and an unnamed Tarnished of no renown.

Shadow of the Erdtree introduces the "Land of Shadow", where Marika grew up. Her people were persecuted by "Hornsent," horned people similar to Omens who ruled the Lands Between at the time, leaving her as the sole survivor. Spurred on by the Two Fingers, this prompted her to become the Elden Ring's host using a monument called the "Gate of Divinity." Afterward, she magically concealed the Land of Shadow from the rest of the Lands Between before having another of her offspring, Messmer, massacre the Hornsent to avenge her people; later banishing him there, both to keep her secrets hidden and because he was born fused with a powerful serpent that she feared would one day turn on her.

Plot[edit]

Early in their journey, the Tarnished encounter a maiden named Melina, who grants them a steed named Torrent and offers to guide them through the Lands Between in exchange for taking her to the Erdtree. Melina later takes the Tarnished to the Roundtable Hold, a gathering place for Tarnished, where they are instructed by the Two Fingers that, to repair the Elden Ring, they must collect Great Runes and bring them to the Erdtree.

After recovering two Great Runes, the Two Fingers allow the Tarnished to duel Morgott for the right to enter the Erdtree. However, despite besting the demigod, they find thorns blocking the way inside. The Two Fingers does not know how to respond, revealing that the Greater Will has abandoned the Lands Between. Melina advises the Tarnished to seek out the Fell God's power, the "Flame of Ruin", and ignite the Erdtree. Alternatively, they can also form a pact with another outer god, the corruptive "Frenzied Flame". If the Tarnished uses the Flame of Ruin, Melina sacrifices herself as the kindling to set the Erdtree alight. If the Frenzied Flame is used, the Tarnished burns the Erdtree themselves, but Melina abandons them.

Regardless, as the Erdtree burns, the Tarnished confronts and kills Maliketh before infusing the Rune of Death into the fires, burning away the roots. On the way back to the entrance, however, they are confronted by Gideon, who went mad after learning that the Two Fingers was, in fact, never in contact with the Greater Will, and Godfrey, who seeks to reclaim the Elden Lord title. After vanquishing both, the Tarnished enter the Erdtree, where they fight and slay Radagon and a manifestation of the Elden Ring, the Elden Beast. Afterward, the Tarnished gains access to Marika's corpse, containing the remnants of the Elden Ring, from which six different endings[25][26] are available depending on their previous actions:

  • The first four endings all have the Tarnished become Elden Lord and usher in a new age:
    • The default ending; if the Tarnished allied with no one, they usher in the Age of Fracture by leaving the Lands Between as is.
    • If the Tarnished allied with Goldmask, they usher in the Age of Order by enforcing laws into the Elden Ring.
    • If the Tarnished allied with Fia, they usher in the Age of Duskborn by reintroducing death back into Lands Between, turning everyone mortal.
    • If the Tarnished allied with Dung Eater, they usher in the Blessing of Despair by stripping everyone in the Lands Between of the Erdtree's power.
  • If the Tarnished conspired with Ranni, she destroys the Elden Ring and ushers in the Age of the Stars.
  • If the Tarnished formed a pact with the Frenzied Flame, they set the Lands Between ablaze and become a Lord of the Frenzied Flame. Afterward, if the Frenzied Flame was also used to burn the Erdtree, Melina vows vengeance against the Tarnished.

Shadow of the Erdtree[edit]

The Tarnished follows the trail of Miquella, whom Mohg seemingly abducted. After slaying Mohg and Radahn, they discover that Miquella had, in fact, orchestrated his own abduction to abandon his body and pass into the Land of Shadow. Entering the realm through Miquella's corpse, the Tarnished continues tracking him by locating aspects of him shattered throughout the land, which he abandoned to sever his ties to the Elden Ring. Optionally, the Tarnished can also interact with Miquella's followers: Leda, one of Miquella's knights; Dane, a monk disillusioned with the Golden Order; Freyja, a soldier of Radahn's army; Grandam, a Land of Shadow native; Thiollier, a worshipper of Miquella's female alter-ego, St. Trina; Sir Ansbach, a former follower of Mohg; and Moore, the party's cook.

Miquella's trail leads the Tarnished to the Gate of Divinity. However, just before reaching it, they find their progress halted by thorns created by Messmer, forcing them to confront and kill him first. Afterward, they learn that Miquella intends to use the Gate to ascend to godhood, having used Mohg's corpse to revive Radahn in his prime so he might be his consort in the ritual. Similarly, Miquella's followers realize that they have been charmed by him and turn on each other. Confronting the two at the Gate, the Tarnished kills both Miquella and Radahn, preventing their new age from coming to pass.

Development and release[edit]

Elden Ring was directed by Hidetaka Miyazaki (top) with worldbuilding provided by fantasy writer George R. R. Martin (bottom)

FromSoftware's Dark Souls series of games is noted for its high level of difficulty.[27][28] Director Hidetaka Miyazaki wanted to create an open world game, intending Elden Ring as a mechanical evolution of Dark Souls. Elden Ring was designed to have a more-expansive environment than the narrow dungeons of FromSoftware's previous games; Miyazaki hoped the grander scale would add freedom and depth to exploration. FromSoftware approached American author George R. R. Martin, creator of the fantasy-novel series A Song of Ice and Fire, to provide worldbuilding for Elden Ring. Miyazaki, a fan of Martin's work, hoped his contributions would produce a more accessible narrative than those of the studio's earlier games.[29][30][31]

Miyazaki remained lead writer for the game's main storyline but gave Martin creative freedom to write about events that occurred before the main narrative. Miyazaki compared the process to using a "dungeon master's handbook in a tabletop [role-playing game]".[32][31] As with many of FromSoftware's previous games, the story was designed to be scantly explained; the developers wanted players to interpret the story for themselves via flavor text and optional discussions with non-player characters (NPCs). Miyazaki said he enjoyed writing NPCs with more detail, believing they are more compelling than those in his earlier works.[31][33] In an interview with IGN, Miyazaki said he chose to give Martin control over the backstory because of the restrictions FromSoftware's method of storytelling placed on writers. He noted FromSoftware did not want a linear or story-focused game, and by giving Martin oversight of a backstory with which the player is not directly involved, he could allow Martin to freely design his contributions.[30] Some staff from Game of Thrones, a television series adaptation of A Song of Ice and Fire, assisted with the game's development.[34]

Production of the game began in early 2017 following the release of The Ringed City, a piece of downloadable content (DLC) for Dark Souls III. Elden Ring was developed alongside Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, which Miyazaki also directed. He said although the combat in Elden Ring has similarities to that in Sekiro, neither game directly inspired the mechanics of the other.[35][36] FromSoftware simultaneously developed both games using a "co-director" structure in which each of the games had a staff member acting as director through its first stages of development. Miyazaki would then provide direction on the game's mechanics, art, and music.[30] Yui Tanimura, who previously directed Dark Souls II and co-directed Dark Souls III, served as co-director for the game.[37] The design team of Elden Ring concentrated on environmental scale, roleplaying, and storytelling as the main elements. Developers credited the scale with responsibility for creating a sense of diversity, and intended the roleplaying elements to allow for a variety of player-environment interactions. Increasing the game's scale required the creation of several explorable structures, which the team conjoined in the open world.[38] Miyazaki named Shadow of the Colossus, The Elder Scrolls, The Witcher 3, and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild as design influences for Elden Ring. He credited the tabletop role-playing game RuneQuest, and the novels The Lord of the Rings and The Eternal Champion as inspirations for the game's story.[39][40] Tsukasa Saitoh, Shoi Miyazawa, Tai Tomisawa, Yuka Kitamura, and Yoshimi Kudo composed Elden Ring's original soundtrack.[41]

Elden Ring was revealed during an Xbox games conference at E3 2019.[42][43] Some information about the game had previously been leaked online due to a vulnerability of the servers at Bandai Namco Entertainment.[44] Elden Ring was widely anticipated on announcement but no further material was released until a trailer was shown in June 2021.[45] Playtesting was facilitated by Bandai Namco, which in November 2021 initially released the game as a closed beta that players could sign up to test.[46] The game's full release was scheduled for January 21, 2022, but was postponed to February 25 the same year.[47][48] Elden Ring had performance issues at launch; players complained of an insufficient frame rate.[49][50] Bandai Namco addressed some of these problems through software patches and updates.[51][52] In February 2023, an expansion called Shadow of the Erdtree was announced for release at a later date.[53] A trailer for the expansion was launched on February 21, 2024, announcing a release date on either Thursday, June 20, 2024, or at midnight on Friday, June 21, 2024, depending on the time zone.[54]

Reception[edit]

Elden Ring received "universal acclaim" according to review aggregator website Metacritic.[55][56][57] It has been cited as among the greatest video games of all time.[73][74][75][76][77][78]

The game's open world setting received acclaim; reviewers praised the exploration mechanics. Tamoor Hussain of GameSpot praised the Lands Between as the most-expansive of FromSoftware's settings, calling exploration and discovery the game's main appeal.[79] Mitchell Saltzman of IGN lauded Elden Ring for rewarding exploration in every part of the map.[80] Simon Parkin of The Guardian called the game's environments "intriguing and inventive".[81] Some reviewers liked the open landscape's provision of opportunities to discover and try multiple challenges.[82][83] The game's exploration drew many favorable comparisons with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.[79][80][84] The game's environments were also praised for their artistic designs; reviewers positively rated their execution in an open setting and appreciated the designs of linear dungeons.[79][85][86]

Similarly to many of FromSoftware's earlier games, Elden Ring's difficulty provoked much commentary; reviewers both praised and criticized its lack of easy modes.[87][88][89] Other reviewers considered Elden Ring the most-accessible Souls game, saying the player can choose to avoid difficult threats and return with more experience.[82][83][84] The combat of Elden Ring was praised for offering options for fighting enemies while keeping the game challenging.[83][85][90] Torrent and fast travel were well-received features, with reviewers citing them as large improvements towards making the game easier to explore.[82][83][91] The placing of checkpoints was praised as helpful to the game's approachability.[92][90][93]

Some reviewers criticized a number of the game's menu and accessibility systems.[94][95] Reviewers complained about the poor performance of the Windows version; framerate issues were commonly mentioned.[91][96] Reviewers noted the story of Elden Ring lacks Martin's writing style. Kyle Orland of Ars Technica said the game's storytelling is "characteristically sparse and cryptic", and differs from the expectations of Martin's fans.[86] Chris Carter of Destructoid called the story "low key" but said it is better-told than those of previous FromSoftware games.[90] Aoife Wilson of Eurogamer said George R. R. Martin's heavy inclusion in the marketing was "baffling" when his contributions to the overall narrative were unclear.[82] Mitchell Saltzman did not mind the lack of Martin's style, saying the side-stories rather than any grand, overarching plot kept him "enthralled".[80]

Journalists have covered the game's speedrunning community.[97][98] Shortly after release, players discovered a glitch called the "zip glitch" which allows players to warp across the map.[98] The glitch was removed by the developers, leading speedrunners to use older version of the game for speedruns.[98] The game has been beaten in under five minutes using the glitch.[99]

Sales[edit]

Elden Ring sold 13.4 million copies worldwide by the end of March 2022 and 25 million by June 2024, making it one of the best-selling video games of all time.[100][101] It was the best-selling game in several regions between February and March 2022,[102][103] and is the fastest-selling Bandai Namco game of all time.[104][105] It was the second-bestselling game of 2022 in the US after Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II,[106] the third-bestselling in Europe,[107] and the tenth-bestselling in Japan at retail.[108]

Awards[edit]

Elden Ring winning Game of the Year at the 23rd Game Developers Choice Awards

Elden Ring received over 300 Game of the Year awards,[109] including by the publications Ars Technica,[110] Destructoid,[111] EGM,[112] Eurogamer,[113] Game Informer,[114] GamesRadar+,[115] GameSpot,[116] IGN,[117] PC Gamer,[118] and Polygon.[119]

Accolades received by Elden Ring
Award Date Category Result Ref.
British Academy Games Awards March 30, 2023 Best Game Nominated [120]
[121]
Artistic Achievement Nominated
Game Design Nominated
Multiplayer Won
Music Nominated
Original Property Won
Technical Achievement Nominated
EE Game of the Year Nominated
D.I.C.E. Awards February 24, 2023 Game of the Year Won [122]
[123]
Role-Playing Game of the Year Won
Outstanding Achievement in Animation Nominated
Outstanding Achievement in Game Design Won
Outstanding Achievement in Game Direction Won
Outstanding Achievement in Story Nominated
Outstanding Technical Achievement Won
Dragon Awards September 5, 2022 Best Science Fiction or Fantasy PC / Console Game Won [124]
Famitsu Dengeki Game Awards March 18, 2023 Game of the Year Won [125]
Best Graphics Won
Best RPG Nominated
Best Rookie Game Nominated
Game Audio Network Guild Awards March 23, 2023 Best Main Theme Nominated [126][127]
The Game Awards December 10, 2020 Most Anticipated Game Won [128]
December 9, 2021 Most Anticipated Game Won [129]
December 8, 2022 Game of the Year Won [130]
[131]
Best Game Direction Won
Best Narrative Nominated
Best Art Direction Won
Best Score and Music Nominated
Best Audio Design Nominated
Best Role Playing Game Won
Players' Voice Nominated
Game Developers Choice Awards March 22, 2023 Game of the Year Won [132]

[133]

Best Audio Nominated
Best Design Won
Innovation Award Nominated
Best Technology Nominated
Best Visual Art Won
Gamescom August 27, 2021 Best of Gamescom Won [134]
Most Wanted Won
Best Microsoft Xbox Game Nominated
Best PC Game Nominated
Best Sony PlayStation Game Won
Best Action Adventure Game Won
Best Role Playing Game Won
Golden Joystick Awards November 24, 2020 Most Wanted Game Nominated [135]
November 23, 2021 Most Wanted Game Won [136]
November 22, 2022 Ultimate Game of the Year Won [137]
PlayStation Game of the Year Nominated
Best Visual Design Won
Best Multiplayer Game Won
Critics' Choice Award Won
Golden Trailer Awards October 6, 2022 Best Video Game Trailer ("Ming Na Wen") Nominated [138]
[139]
Japan Game Awards September 15, 2022 Grand Award Won [140]
Award for Excellence Won
MTV Millennial Awards July 10, 2022 Gamer Obsession Nominated [141]
Nebula Awards May 15, 2023 Best Game Writing Won [142]
New York Game Awards January 17, 2023 Big Apple Award for Best Game of the Year Won [143]
Herman Melville Award for Best Writing in a Game Nominated
Statue of Liberty Award for Best World Won
Tin Pan Alley Award for Best Music in a Game Nominated
The Steam Awards January 3, 2023 Game of the Year Won [144]
Best Game You Suck At Won
The Streamer Awards March 11, 2023 Stream Game of the Year Won [145]

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Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Base game only
  2. ^ Shadow of the Erdtree only
  3. ^ Japanese: エルデンリング, Hepburn: Eruden Ringu

External links[edit]