Game of Thrones and Dark Souls creators unite in Elden Ring, epic new work by fantasy masters

George R. R. Martin’s storytelling style perfect for Hidetaka Miyazaki’s vision

The last decade certified two masters of high fantasy. Author George R.R. Martin saw his long-running Song of Fire and Ice novels become the focal point of pop culture through HBO’s adaptation, Game of Thrones. Meanwhile game designer Hidetaka Miyazaki took studio FromSoftware back to its dungeon-crawling roots with 2009’s Demons Souls, its cult-like status ballooning into a string of hits like Bloodborne, Sekiro and the Dark Souls trilogy. In what sounded like a fever dream, FromSoftware revealed Miyazaki formally reached out to Martin to build the world for his next project. Martin agreed. The two giants had crafted a new game together called Elden Ring, fusing their visions into an even grander epic.

Elden Ring brings you to the Lands Between, united by the titular Elden Ring until its shattering. This sparked a gruesome conflict between demigods, one that left the landscape razed and no clear victor. When the game welcomes you, it is a ruined kingdom under the watch of Queen Marika, who is driven over the edge by war and decline. If you can defeat Marika’s demigod children and reassemble the scattered shards of the Elden Ring, you may just return Lands Between to its former glory.

George R.R. Martin inhabited the world of Westeros with rich characters and political intrigue, landing the Game of Thrones series its feverish fandom. It’s a style of storytelling perfect for Miyazaki to embellish, who has appropriately crypt-like sensibilities. Dark Souls and Bloodborne tell detailed stories through ruins and ghost towns. Environments dictate their experienced cosmic tragedies, such as a life-giving bonfire that drove kings insane or an addictive blood that turned people into werewolves — grisly places overrun with withered warriors and gnarly nightmares. This grimoire storytelling pairs nicely with the despair of tough-as-nails gameplay.

FromSoftware’s games are as hard as they get. Tightly wound combat demands precision attacks, dodges and clinical use of potions and magic. Their signature online multiplayer functions return in Elden Ring, which invites players to aid or invade someone else’s game. For those who have always been intimidated by their creations, FromSoftware’s games continue to expand with possible reprieves.

Serkiro was more vertical, jumping and ninja stealth offered players more routes than just clashing swords. Likewise, Elden Ring will feature an open world, vast and large, that you’ll be able to travel by horseback. This should give even the most frustrated player more choices beyond the wall they’re pushing.

Miyazaki’s games have always had a way of igniting the imagination, fans piecing together the shrapnel of his haunted worlds. The combination of his talents with Martin’s will make for something special. Rumours are already swirling that Miyazaki will be returning to the Armored Core series where he started, applying lessons of his fantasy hits to giant robot combat. Meanwhile George R.R. Martin will return to literally anything but finishing a book.

Elden Ring manifests on PlayStation, Xbox and PC on February 2.

At a glance:

  • Half of the blockbuster games Sony publishes are about the future of the human race having a rough go at it. If it’s not zombies, it’s giant robotic dinosaurs. Aloy, augmented hunter of mechanical beasts, returns in Horizon Forbidden West, out February 18 on PlayStation.

The new game has her making her way to the coast, seeing what has become of California, encountering new machines and uncovering the origins of this nightmare.

  • Open-world monster-hunting doesn’t have to be so menacing. Pokémon expands beyond its conventional collection quests in Pokémon Legends: Arceus on the Nintendo Switch. A prequel set a century in the past, play as a pioneering Pokémon trainer sticking their neck out to discover the pocket monsters, use antique gizmos and engage in direct combat. About time these creatures got a couple of jabs in before some dunce sticks them in a pool ball.
  • An ancient calamity threatens the planet and it is said that nobody can stop it. Luckily you are nobody. From Toronto developers DrinkBox Studios, best known for the Guacamelee! games, comes Nobody Saves the World, available on Xbox and PC. In this action RPG, you are a blank slate of a hero, able to become and combine numerous roles like archer, magician, bodybuilder, horse, egg and beyond.