Monday, May 29

The reason for the triumph of ‘Elden Ring’, an epic and threatening but also frustrating video game

“Arise, Lightless, and may grace guide you to embrace the power of the Elden Circle and rise as lord of the Circle in the Midlands.” With these words he interpellates Elden Ring (FromSoftware) to those who dare to enter a world that is visually dazzling and cryptic in its narrative. Also threatening, since even the most seemingly harmless enemy is capable of causing death in one blow, undoing the gains made. This is the video game that emerged from the imagination of George RR Martin, author of the novels Song of ice and fire on which the series is based Game of Thrones.

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Their story tells how the descendants of Márika, the Eternal, claimed the shards of the Elden Circle causing the Shattering. The player’s role will be to travel a winding path through these Middle Lands, facing monstrous enemies, most of the time gigantic and always deadly. But the arduous task of becoming Lord or Lady of the Circle is only the beginning.

The writer and cultural critic Eva Cid, who in addition to Anait also writes about video games independentlyencourages neophytes to approach this style, known as soulslike. Among other factors that may be attractive to new audiences, I would highlight “the spectacular nature and tension of the fights, especially against the final bosses”, in proposals that have “many layers and can be enjoyed at different levels”.

A company that is already a genre

One of the protagonists is undoubtedly its creator, Hidetaka Miyazaki, a total author (without any family relationship with the creators of Studio Ghibli). This 48-year-old Japanese man is the most visible face of FromSoftware, a company he presides over and to which he arrived, after leaving a position at Oracle, to join the series’ development team Armored Core. Among his most recognized influences are usually cited the PlayStation 2 video game iconfrom another untouchable of the industry like Fumito Ueda, and the manga precursor of Kentaro Miura Berserk.

His influence is such that Miyazaki has become a recurring meme and there is little doubt that FromSoftware, under his leadership, has become a genre of its own. For the journalist Isra Fdez, editor at Xataka and collaborator in specialized media such as Anait Games or LOOP Magazine, some of “its key features only represent a return to the beginning of the video game”, at the time “impositions due to technological limitations” and now “concrete conceptual, artistic and narrative decisions”.

These produce “games that are abstruse and arid in explanations but very rich from a mechanical point of view.” Ania Ullén, editor of the mk2 and Sofilm magazines, shows herself along the same lines, delving into the fact that the first titles “are not even especially visually attractive”, although her proposal reveals itself “much more complex as soon as you start playing”. For her, FromSoftware stops being “so desperate” from Dark Souls IIIespecially with Bloodborne and his story “most engaging, especially for Lovecraft fans.”

Miyazaki took the controls in the video game in 2009 Demon’s Souls, which would be capital for FromSoftware. So much so that its remastering by Bluepoint Games has been one of the few new-generation exclusives for PlayStation 5. Then a new franchise (“intellectual property” or IP) would come, the trilogy Dark Souls published between 2011 and 2016, and classic titles such as Bloodborneconsidered as one of the best of history, or Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice (2019).

The difficulty as identity

One of the classic characteristics in FromSoftware is the requirement, which for Eva Cid forms “part of her identity and the learning process”. She does not believe, however, that they are “more difficult than the rest, but rather that they propose a different type of difficulty, which requires a different approach”. Entering them requires “being patient and observant”, learning to play again “rethinking how we traditionally relate to virtual universes”.

Ania Ullén agrees with these precautions “because any mindundi destroys your game”. She goes one step further and defines Mizayaki’s games as “a perfect analogy of life”, in the sense that “it’s not that have to suffer, is that you go To suffer”. That yes, he considers that “the satisfaction is so enormous that they are worth” some titles “fair, not cruel for the player, because his approach is not unbalanced”.

Isra Fdez does not agree “at all” with this idea of ​​suffering, and specifically Elden Ring it seems to him “the most technologically clean and open version, in multiple senses, that they have designed”. Of course, “it imposes formulas that penalize the stubbornness or obstinacy of those who do not abide by them.” On the debate of whether the fear that FromSoftware instills intimidates less experienced players, he assures that “if you assume its rules, it is not even difficult”.

The lore is an encompassing term, especially when there are role elements as in Elden Ring, history, characters and even the aesthetics of the game universe. One of the “most special and interesting features” in the case of Miyazaki, as Cid explains, is that he imagines “inexhaustible worlds in which you never tire of digging”, because they present “a nebulous and fragmented narrative” that also “never leaves to grow up”.

For Ullén, his story “is not built in a linear or complete way”, a style “groundbreaking since there are hardly any titles like this, with the exception perhaps of the work of Fumito Ueda”, where also “a depth is intuited that is not covered by playing one game.” Mizayaki narrates “through objects, elements of the environment that change depending on what you do, interactions with other characters, even time or sounds”, so it is crucial to “play them with helmets”.

For Fdez, it is “groundbreaking in the sense of going against the current”, although there are “those who consider this way of narrating an empty aesthetic decision and nothing beyond the gimmick [truco]”. In addition, “the series souls He drinks from the Arthurian myths, which were also told without explaining them, resorting to the repetition of linguistic forms and nursery metaphors”. His lorethus, “it attracts in the same way that it attracts us Dungeons & Dragonsfor being remote but accessible, more Western than Eastern, and always pecking at cross-border mythologies”.

Explore the territory with total freedom

One of the most striking novelties of Elden Ring is that it is the first FromSoftware game conceived as sandbox or ‘open world’, freely explorable and whose extensive mapping can require tens or even hundreds of hours of dedication. For Cid, although “it is not the perfect game”, this is “one of its brightest aspects and the main challenge facing the studio”.

He considers that “in the construction of an open world”, which has references as important as the Rockstar Games sagas Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemptiona classic like The Witcher III: Wild Hunt or recent examples such as Horizon Zero Dawn“have been able to adopt certain elements of the correct referents (The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Dragon’s Dogma) while at the same time doing something that feels unique and special at every turn.”

“A fable,” says Fdez to define how the new suit suits him, because “where before there was zones now there is territories” and although it finds deadlocks between areas, “necessary for pure mental hygiene in a world that does not let up”, the connection between them is always “organic”. Matches the first analyzes in which one of the successes of the map is “to expand both horizontally and vertically, always respecting an unusual balance”.

Martin-style palatial outrages

One of the strongest marketing elements has been the collaboration of writer George RR Martin. The reactions are diverse. While for Cid his participation “is noticeable” and he considers that “in the studio they have adhered to Martin’s style”, for Fdez his signature is detected “more in the palatial outrages” and he does not believe that a follower of FromSoftware or even of the writer “perceive his characteristic style” in “a blind tasting”.

Even though there is someone who doubts an unfriendly user interface, the success of Elden Ring is unquestionable, with more than 12 million copies sold and reviews resounding. But will it win the game of the year award, the GOTY? Despite stiff competition from the recent Horizon Forbidden West and the doubt of whether God of War: Ragnarok It will be published during 2022, for Cid “he is a very clear candidate, and personally, he probably already is.” Fdez goes further, qualifying this “twenty-year refinement” of the formula as “one of the fun events of the decade or of the artistic discipline itself”.