Enter all ye courageous into the Elden Hold. The author of “Game of Thrones,” George R.R. Martin, has created another dark fantasy masterpiece, this time in video game form.
FromSoftware’s “Elden Ring” is the new open-world “Dark Souls” title that’s opened to rarely precedented success. It’s only been out for a week sales-wise, but the game is a juggernaut, already accruing 10 million players on Steam for PC alone.
“Elden Ring” is a moving and gripping fantasy adventure in the Lands Between, with dragons and ghosts and eternal Trees of the Erd. It’s an epic every gamer should experience at least once. And it’s a game created by honest men, unsaturated by woke or ideological considerations.
A Compelling Story
“Elden Ring” is the open-world continuation and reinvention of the “Dark Souls” series of video games. Think 2017’s “Zelda: Breath of the Wild” meets “Lord of the Rings.” It’s like living in fantasy fiction distilled.
The game looks like a Jan Van Eyck painting come alive and sounds like Howard Shore. Gameplay-wise, this is the zenith of a master. It’s no wonder gamers are going bananas over this game. “Elden” clicks into me as if I’m eight years old again, and I’m playing “Zelda: A Link to the Past” for the very first time.
“Elden Ring” takes place in the medieval fantasy realm of the Lands Between, a corrupted purgatory. The all-powerful Elden Ring governs the world’s natural laws, now long shattered, with the great rune of death stolen. Eons have passed while the Lands Between remain stuck in perpetual undeath. You, a member of the Tarnished, banished warriors, long dead but restored to find these lost runes, are to reestablish the mythical order of the Elden Hold and return death to its rightful place in the cycle.
Epic, right? Even better is how the story is told, built around giving players a sense of accomplishment. It effectively communicates the game’s themes of death, decay, corruption, hubris, and rebirth by showcasing those themes through the player’s actions to move the story along. Instead of exposition dumps as in “The Rise of Skywalker” or nonsensical pandering as in “Avengers: Endgame,” we get masterful narrative by mise en scène.
Martin and Miyazaki Join Forces
Martin is the father of this incredible narrative. The “Game of Thrones” author is well known for his complex dark fantasies filled with political intrigues. His understanding of human nature is impeccable, and few get the dark side of humanity like Martin. That this project has been his primary focus of the last five years bears out. The attention to detail and Martin’s flair for the epically fantastical and dramatic bears out in all the storylines.
Bringing Martin to this game has everything to do with “Elden Ring” game developer Hidetaka Miyazaki, a colossal turbo-nerd and fan of Martin’s novels. I’ve long admired Miyazaki, and he’s the type of person worth admiring. Both creators grew up in a working-class household, Miyazaki in Japan and Martin in the projects in New Jersey.
Martin started writing by selling short stories to his friends as a child. Miyazaki, too poor to afford books as a child, grew up voraciously consuming western dark fantasy literature at his local library. In “Elden Ring” we see a familiar theme from these creators: striving to overcome adversity, the spirit of video games.
A huge fan of Martin, Miyazaki approached the author for the project, and Martin, despite not being a gamer, felt swayed by Miyazaki’s passion. Miyazaki described it as if talking to an old friend. The synergy between the creators is effervescent.
Miyazaki wanted Martin to approach the project as if he were putting together a Dungeon Master manual, allowing Miyazaki to move the pieces around and adjust character and story details as needed. That back-and-forth meshes well with Martin’s writing style, and from this dream team, we get a very cool game.
Nearly 1 million people were playing “Elden Ring” concurrently on Steam during its second weekend of release, with more on Xbox and PlayStation. Even my sister-in-law, who rarely plays games, called me to tell me she picked up the title. That is a phenomenal type of success, and if you play the game, you will understand why.
“Elden Ring” is a perfect masterpiece and an unapologetically creative and honest experience crafted by two masters, unmarred by wokeness. All that matters here is the game, its story, and the player experiences connected to both. There is no politics, and no pandering — just clean, honest artistry and video game fun. If you have any inkling for enjoying video games, come join us in the Lands Between.