Fair warning up front, this isn’t going to be like my normal posts..
Because it’s fanboy time!
Today marks the unofficial first whistle of the busy-yet-exciting summer announcement season across the games industry. It began with the Summer Game Fest Kickoff Live stream, which finished mere hours ago. Then it’s back tomorrow with some focused digital events before leading into the Electronic Entertainment Experience (E3) from Saturday to Tuesday.
(If you want to know what we’ll likely see and what I predict could happen, check out my E3 2021 Preview & Predictions Spectacular.)
Anyways. For a thorough breakdown of everything that was shown during Geoff Keighley’s pre-E3 Summer Game Fest show today, check out IGN’s comprehensive wrap-up. It’s a lot, I commend Geoff and the team for organizing such a great commencement to gaming’s biggest week.
That said, the biggest of all gets for Summer Game Fest was Bandai Namco’s upcoming fantasy role-playing game Elden Ring, a collaboration between Japan’s legendary FromSoftware development team and Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones creator George R.R. Martin.
Not only did the team post a brand new trailer for the title hitting current and last generation consoles along with PC, it also shared the game’s release date: January 21, 2022!
And I’m really just going to take a bit to geek out, post the new trailer and share a large gallery of screenshots for us all to admire.
Under the direction of Hidetaka Miyazaki, FromSoftware is famously known for its ground-breaking Souls series then more recently 2015’s magnificent Bloodborne and my Game of the Year 2019 in Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. Over the years, I’ve grown into a major fan of the team’s work mainly because of its staggering art direction, near unrivaled environmental aesthetic and engaging, rewarding gameplay hooks. They make among the most memorable, challenging and satisfying experiences in all the industry.
And Elden Ring is their most massive effort to date, a melding of everything FromSoftware has done so far, amped up to the maximum. It’s an “open-field” type of action RPG, with expansive areas to explore and plenty of incredible enemies to fight.
Bandai Namco’s overview describes it as such:
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.
ELDEN RING, developed by FromSoftware Inc. and produced by BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment Inc., is a fantasy action-RPG and FromSoftware’s largest game to date, set within a world full of mystery and peril.
Miyazaki has crafted a new fantasy land called Lands Between in collaboration with Martin, best known for showrunning Game of Thrones and writing (yet not finishing) epic fantasy novels. In this mysterious locale, players will discover the ring’s power by facing dangerous foes, both human and otherworldly. Characters might help the player, or harm them. It’s dark and ghastly, yet stunning in so many ways that can’t be ignored.
Featuring everything from “vast fantastical landscapes” plus “shadowy, complex dungeons,” these areas are supposedly connected in a seamless manner, allowing the player to traverse them with the type of freedom we normally see in open worlds. Movement across “grassy plains, suffocating swamps, spiraling mountains, foreboding castles and other sites of grandeur,” can be done either on foot or horseback. There’s also a dynamic weather type of system, “natural weather and time-or-day progression” as they call it.
What about mechanics? Well, based on the footage and the press materials, it’s familiar third-person action with melee weapons, ranged attacks and magic spells. And dodge rolls, naturally! Role-playing elements include being able to define a play style based on various choices, boasting skills and abilities found in-world. It reminds me of Sekiro in that there are options for both stealth and combat, the type of flexibility that I adored with that game.
Intriguingly, there’s also mention of online play in the description. But it’s unclear for now. Could that be similar to the summoning or invading in prior FromSoftware experiences? It’s listed as solely a single-player title then there’s mention of online features, so I’d love to hear more clarity about that.
Enough talk. Let’s see that trailer!
Beautiful. Staggering. Enchanting. Foreboding. It’s a whole lot to digest. I’m sure the internet is already digging into the nitty gritty, and I look forward to seeing the deep dives now that the development team has shared actual footage.
It’s a lot more fantasy, aligning with a Dark Souls rather than the gothic aesthetic of Bloodborne or feudal Japan backdrop of Sekiro. What stands out in all of FromSoftware’s work is the sense of scale and place brought about by its overall vision, between visual design and interactivity with other beings that inhabit this world.
From a critical standpoint, I’m overwhelmed with positivity. I’m a sucker for open area action RPGs with exploration and secrets. This one seems most ambitious, with that classic FromSoftware style. A big question comes down to, as it always does with this talented studio, difficulty and accessibility. I love the accomplishment of beating a boss in their games. There’s almost nothing like it. However, I want everyone to be able to experience that, which means I hope the team moves towards the trend of accessibility and customization options in the industry as of late. A game can be both challenging and accessible, as titles like Celeste or The Last of Us Part II have clearly displayed.
Commercially, I’m as upbeat as I’ve been on any release in this more focused, core genre. Especially after the success of Sekiro reaching over 5 million units sold as of last year (though I’ll remind that was published by Activision Blizzard). FromSoftware games are inching towards being more appealing to a wider audience, and I believe the decision to release on both generations is a smart one. I also appreciate that Bandai Namco is offering a free upgrade to PlayStation 5 for PlayStation 4 owners plus supporting SmartDelivery on Microsoft’s Xbox family of devices.
That about does it for my brief dive into what we learned today about Elden Ring, which is automatically at the top of my most-anticipated list now that it has a firm date. Will it actually launch on time in this Year of the Delay? You know what, I bet it will.
Below, get lost in more than a dozen new 4K screenshots directly from the publisher.
The main question I have now: Is it January yet?
Sources: Activision Blizzard, Bandai Namco, IGN.