I’ve always appreciated FromSoftware’s minimalist storytelling style across its various Soulsborne-type games, but I also wasn’t exactly one of those people completely obsessed or enamoured with it. I knew what was going on, more or less. I understood the concept of The First Flame and all that. I just wasn’t reading every single item description in search of scraps as some fans were – though I always respected their dedication.
And boy, am I now glad that I didn’t mock those folks back then – because Elden Ring has turned me into one of them. I can’t quite pinpoint what caused this change in me.
Maybe this is the result of George R. R. Martin’s influence over the world and narrative. Though Martin’s involvement was seemingly limited to telling the story of the Lands Between before the events of Elden Ring, that’s also one of the most intriguing aspects of the narrative and lore – piecing together what this world looked like before the Shattering, the event that tore it asunder.
But then again, much of the story is also about those events and things that have happened since - narrative threads more driven by FromSoftware, who wanted to ensure Martin’s writing wouldn’t impact Elden Ring’s actual story flow. It’s rare that a game which keeps such a sacred separation of the ‘church and state’ that is gameplay and story satisfies so thoroughly in both areas – but here Elden Ring is.
Perhaps my newfound obsession is down to the open world, and how you can see elements of story playing out over the rolling hills and decimated ruins of these broken lands. It’s true that Elden Ring features some of your classic open world drawbacks, like catacombs and ruins with reused geometry – but it’s been stitched together so expertly and tempered so brilliantly with carefully-crafted unique design elements that you rarely notice when repetition begins to appear. Instead, your mind drifts to other matters, including the bigger story picture.
I hadn’t considered it beforehand, but it certainly feels like an open-ended design is a perfect fit for the storytelling methods used by FromSoftware. You discover things at your own pace, and put together the narrative beats in a more organic way - matching the way your exploration naturally expands into more and more of the world.
Mix in the fact that this world feels more alive than any other Soulsborne created by FromSoftware, and you’re on to a winner. It’s full of intriguing, endearing, and yes, disgusting characters - and often, even meeting them is entirely optional. Progressing their stories certainly is.
Maybe it’s that. The freedom is helping to drive my obsession, where there’s now no clear-cut path, leading me to obsess over what I might’ve missed, and what implications it’ll have for the story that I already understand.
Whatever it is, it’s gripped me. Ninety hours in, having completed the game and defeated every achievement-worthy boss, I’m now wandering the world and reading item descriptions, piecing together what I can before I begin New Game Plus, or ‘Journey 2’, as Elden Ring calls it. The fact that I’m still not tired of this game is a miracle; and at this stage, having seen everything major the game has to offer in content terms, I put a lot of my enduring interest down to that intriguing narrative. It’s happened. I’ve become a Souls Lore Goblin, and I embrace it.
If you're eager to pick your own way through Elden Ring's labyrinthine lore mines, you may also want to check out our Elden Ring guide. We recently updated the guide with how to easily beat Margit, the Fell Omen boss, which may be your first real stumbling block in biting deep into the game's story proper.Image Credit: YeImHunter