In a bizarre mashup that feels even more surprising than Kingdom Hearts, the next game from Dark Souls creator Hidetaka Miyazaki involves a great deal of collaboration with Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin. Their game is a brand-new fantasy mythos, and it’s called Elden Ring.
Originally announced in June 2019 during the Xbox E3 showcase, Elden Ring is a title we still don't know much about more than a year later. Combat is at least expected to resemble other FromSoftware games like Dark Souls III, Bloodborne, and Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice except set in an open-world adventure with a rich mythos created by Martin. Fans get hopeful leading up to every major gaming presentation of 2020 — including the Tokyo Game Show — that we might get a new trailer, but so far there has been no news.
There's still some reason to hope: An Italian journalist and presumed insider who reported on the collaboration long before it was announced said the game was "doing fine" (via Alt Char) during a June 2020 livestream — and he even hinted at a release date window for the game. But could it be true? One thing's for sure: Don't trust that fake Instagram account that emerged in mid-September 2020.
Here's everything we do know about Elden Ring.
When is the Elden Ring release date?
FromSoftware and Bandai Namco have still not announced an official release date for Elden Ring yet, and Amazon lists the release date as December 31, 2020. This is, however, a common placeholder that the retailer uses for games without confirmed release dates.
The most likely prediction for Elden Ring is that it'll be released in spring 2021.
Many outlets across the internet in August 2020 claimed that the Italian journalist — who goes by "Il Fossa" in one video — may have some kind of insider information, but a translation of the actual word he uses, "pronostique," means something closer to "prediction" in English. Nonetheless, he predicts spring 2021, which is a likely guess.
Every major FromSoftware game since Dark Souls II has been released in the month of March. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, for instance, was unveiled at E3 2018 in June and then released nine months later in March 2019. Elden Ring isn't following a similar promotion and release cycle after its reveal during the Xbox E3 2019 showcase, because more than a year later, there's barely been any news at all about the game.
At this point, a March 2021 release date feels most likely, but given the fact that this is an unprecedented time where development may have been interrupted in some way by the ongoing pandemic, anything seems possible.
An interesting wrinkle in all this comes from a June 2020 Respawn First report explaining how publisher Bandai Namco has faced a series of trademark issues with Elden Ring. A June 2019 application to "cover the categories of downloadable computer game software" was rejected by the USPTO in February 2020 because of what appears to be a clerical error of some kind.
To oversimplify a complex legal trademark fiasco: Bandai Namco has until early December 2020 to do something like make Elden Ring available for pre-order or risk losing the trademark altogether — or the company can file for an extension. As of September 2020, however, no further action has been taken.
As a point of comparison, Bandai Namco filed the same kind of trademark for Scarlet Nexus, which may not be released until 2022, on April 4, 2020. The trademark for Bandai Namco's Tales of Arise of this type was filed on the same day as Elden Ring's in April 2019. Tales of Arise was originally supposed to be released in 2020 but was delayed into 2021 as of June 2020, and it has already moved forward enough to have its logo trademarked.
In plainer terms, Elden Ring will probably be released after Tales of Arise but before Scarlet Nexus, assuming it gets these trademark issues sorted and hasn't faced any development delays.
In a 2019 interview with Xbox Wire, Miyazaki confirmed that Elden Ring has been in development since at least 2017, overlapping with Sekiro for a long stretch, which is further evidence that development is probably in the later stages.
Is there a trailer for Elden Ring?
Elden Ring was officially revealed on June 9, 2019 during Microsoft’s E3 2019 press conference with an initial teaser trailer that looks exciting but also very confusing. (Watch it above.)
It opens with a shirtless humanoid (maybe a god?) hammering something on a massive rock in a dark cave-looking area. We later get a closer look at the figure, who wields a stubby hammer and has cracks in his back, as if he were made out of stone.
There’s also an elderly, long-haired human wearing a crown, holding up what looks like a giant's arm (the king his left hand shoved inside the arm ... gross!). Five other large arms reach out to grab him, which jives with all the body horror we see in games like Dark Souls and Bloodborne.
“I doubt you could even imagine it!” a voice says. “That which commanded the stars, giving life its fullest brilliance: The Elden Ring. Oh Elden Ring … shattered, by someone or something. Don’t tell me you don’t see it. Look up at the sky; It burns!” (It sort of becomes clear that the first being with the hammer shatters the Elden Ring.)
In the midst of this voiceover, we also see an armored, red-haired female warrior who attaches a metal right arm to her torso. Another, seemingly different warrior wearing armor attacks a massive enemy we don’t get a good look at. Later, there’s a massive red-haired ogre that burns on a battlefield — and then a white-haired woman with a staff that collapses.
None of this makes much sense at all given the nonexistent context, but it seems like the Elden Ring had magical powers of creation. Its destruction must have plunged the world into chaos, and these various types of warriors may hint at the kind of customization we can expect from the game.
Is Elden Ring a next-gen game for PS5 and Xbox Series X?
With no release date in sight and a lot of development time in the rearview, Elden Ring is trapped in the no man's land between console generations. Will it arrive exclusively on next-gen consoles? Will it be cross-generation and land on PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5? Thus far, we really don't know, but we do know that it'll be cross-platform.
PlayStation and Xbox landing pages for the game make it clear that it'll arrive on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One whenever it does come out, but there's no telling about next-gen versions. It's possible that the game faced enough development delays that FromSoftware was then compelled to aim exclusively for next-gen.
What kind of game is Elden Ring?
Elden Ring feels like the next step in FromSoftware’s “Soulsborne” game format in that it will feel similar to the Dark Souls series, Bloodborne, and Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. These gritty games are known for their punishing yet rewarding difficulty set in fantasy universes rife with horror elements, but Elden Ring will seemingly take that a step further in a “vast, fully-fledged fantasy world” that’ll feel more open world.
"An adventure awaits the brave and gallant in ELDEN RING..."
In a June 2019 interview with Xbox Wire, Miyazaki dropped many early details about the game.
"We wanted to create a new dark fantasy action RPG full of things that we weren’t able to do in the Dark Souls series,” he said. “This title will include a wide variety of weapons, magic, and ways to engage enemies, that make it possible to provide users with a style of gameplay and strategy that suits them." That emphasis on role-playing also means the player’s character will be fully customizable, like in Dark Souls or Bloodborne.
Gamesradar reported ahead of E3 2019 that the project, with a working title of Great Rune, “is set in the Norse world, exploring Norse mythology and all its dark legends.” Other rumors reported by Gematsu called it an “open-world title (with horse riding) … with various kingdoms to visit and abilities to obtain from killing the leaders of those kingdoms.”
Many of the symbols and themes, however, seem more closely aligned with Celtic folklore. Some fans drew parallels to a character from Irish mythology called Nuada, a high king who loses their arm in battle and gets a new one through magic. Such speculation remains unconfirmed, however.
In terms of gameplay elements, Miyazaki has referred to the game as “open world,” confirming early teases that called it “the largest FromSoftware game to date.” If horseback riding does play a vital role in Elden Ring, then it might feel closer to Zelda: Breath of the Wild or even Shadow of the Colossus, but don’t worry, you can still expect the same brutal combat and nearly impossible boss battles.
“Boss fights are something we enjoy making and make up one of the climaxes to this title as well,” Miyazaki said. “We feel there is a wide variety of unique and horrifying bosses for players to look forward to.”
What do some of the Elden Ring leaks claim?
One rumor purported as a leak in July 2020 that originated on 4chan includes a number of interesting details for Elden Ring. They claim the title will more closely resemble Dark Souls 1 and Dark Souls 3 rather than Sekiro or Bloodborne, and that it will not feature difficulty settings (which was a separate previous rumor).
The leak makes several other practical claims, like an inventory management system similar to that from Demon's Souls and a checkpoint system found in most FromSoftware games. An "air dodge" is also mentioned, which would theoretically make your Elden Ring character the most mobile Soulsborne hero to date. And as a way to enhance the experience with the game's 12 bosses, Elden Ring will also supposedly have a day and night system where bosses are more challenging at night but drop better loot.
Take these rumors with a grain of salt, but at the same time, they sound realistic and exciting.
How will Elden Ring compare to Dark Souls, Bloodborne, and Sekiro?
“Unlike Sekiro, which has a heavy focus on action, Elden Ring puts more focus on RPG elements,” Elden Ring game director Hidetaka Miyazaki told Xbox Wire, adding, “Of course, we are not shying away from the fun of responsive melee-based combat, and these elements will be present as well.”
So how does it stack up to Dark Souls?
“Even when compared to the Dark Souls series, I believe this title will provide even more variety in the ways for players to overcome challenges and tweak their tactics when facing enemies,” Miyazaki said.
Sekiro and Bloodborne offer less variation in terms of combat options, whereas Dark Souls utilizes traditional fantasy classes like Cleric, Knight, or the less-common Pyromancer. For Elden Ring to have even more options will make it unlike the other Soulsborne games in a way that puts even greater emphasis on the role-playing. That, coupled with the open-world exploration, will make for a very different FromSoftware game.
Elden Ring might be released in March 2021, but that’s our unconfirmed guess.