Excitement for FromSoftware’s upcoming Elden Ring is reaching a fever pitch. Promising to be an even more open take on Dark Souls with wide-open areas, horseback riding, possibly other movement options alongside proper stealth, Elden Ring looks to be FromSoftware’s most ambitious game ever. The sheer scope on display, combined with FromSoftware’s history of excellent art and game design, are pointing at the game becoming a runaway success once it finally releases.
This brings to mind some of the other wildly popular medieval fantasy games that took similar expanded approaches to building worlds. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and The Witcher 3 are both evergreen examples, but the example to end all examples will always be The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim. Bethesda’s ever-present open world RPG redefined how gamers thought a fantasy adventure could be. Featuring an enormous number of dungeons, quests, locales, NPCs, and ways to play the game, Skyrim is becoming a perennial classic of modern gaming. Now, years after its original release, the game industry may finally be looking at a worthy successor to Skyrim’s legacy.
If there’s one thing Elden Ring needs to carry forward to embody Skyrim, it’s the older game’s undying longevity. Skyrim is one of the most content-rich RPGs in all of gaming, featuring a seemingly endless number of ways to progress through the game.
Players can roleplay as a rogue, sneaking around and stealing everything, even hearts. Players can become masters of all magic in the land. They can take control of a cat person that turns into a werewolf, and later a vampire. If the land is too stifling, glitch technicians can hop on a bucket and take to the skies. And that’s not even getting into the many ways players can influence the political state of Skyrim and its surrounding lands through enormous, multi-step side quests.
Elden Ring will likely limit itself in terms of the quests that can be taken and NPCs that can be spoken to, in the traditional lonely Souls style. However, by building on the mechanics of every post-Demons’ Souls FromSoftware game, Elden Ring can still provide many different builds that will see fans through to credits. Dark Souls has already been building up several games’ worth of movesets, magic, and mechanics, and even added Weapon Arts in Dark Souls 3 to make equipment even more distinct.
Judging by the leaked trailer, Elden Ring also intends to add some of Sekiro’s movement mechanics in to make gameplay more diverse and satisfying. Sneaking and jumping on command were present, and there could be some elements of swimming traversal. Elden Ring will need to work to match Skyrim’s roleplay and storytelling, but thanks to the Soulsborne games before it, Elden Ring's playstyle diversity is already there.
Skyrim’s storytelling is one of the common reasons cited as to why it’s so great, owing in large part to the fact that it’s happening all the time. The giant side quests are part of it, but there is as much story to be found wandering through the world. The many dungeons and monuments dotting the landscape each have their own story to tell, and some have some interesting gameplay ramifications to boot. The game is packed with detailed books on different trades, stories, and historical records. There’s even some information to be gleaned by what enemies and NPCs are present in a given area, making some caves and the northern regions all the more distinct.
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