Sunday, April 21, 2024

From Software and George R.R. Martin Make a Perfect Match

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By now we’ve all heard the news and geeked out over it. The rumors were true. FromSoftware, famed developer of Dark Souls, Bloodborne, and the recently-released Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice have teamed up with George R.R. Martin, author of a certain book series we kind of love around here, a series whose television adaptation ended recently. Their collaborated effort, Elden Ring, was revealed at this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo.

We don’t really know anything about the game. The trailer was your usual FromSoftware effort. Full of vague hints and short on details, leaving fans to wildly speculate for ourselves. Come on, this is their thing. And that’s EXACTLY why they make for such a perfect partner to George R.R. Martin. Who knows how Elden Ring will turn out, but I know one thing for sure. This game will have some of the best lore of anything you’ve ever played.

While renowned for their difficulty, another of the most famed elements of From’s games is the way they tell the stories. Or rather, don’t tell the story. These games feature very few actual cut-scenes or exposition. You can play through the entirety of them without paying the slightest bit of attention to what you’re doing or who any of these enemies you kill even are.

For those who dig deep, though, the worlds, characters, and stories stick with them like few games they play. The story is told through sparse dialogues, item descriptions, and environmental clues in ways that make a player really search the story out. You feel truly invested in the world because you earn it. And it’s worth it, because hidden within all these vague clues are some truly memorable and tragic stories. FromSoftware are masterful at using seemingly disconnected stories, wonderful in their own right, to create a a larger, connected world that feels truly alive.

Enter George R.R. Martin.

Now, Martin is quite skilled at strong, upfront narratives. He writes some of the best fantasy books ever, after all. However, one of his strongest traits as a writer is also his ability to world-build through hidden details and disconnected, minor narratives. Think of the vague, nonspecific nature by which he has told the story of Robert’s Rebellion, which allows A Song of Ice and Fire readers to piece together sometimes conflicting accounts to find what truth we can. Martin does this a lot throughout the series. He loves to place these little clues and histories that add context to his world and characters, but don’t tell the full story. He loves to create the mythology of this fantasy world this way.

Now he’s teaming with the king of this kind of storytelling in gaming.

We don’t know the full extent of Martin’s involvement. Creator Hidetaki Miyazaki described meeting with Martin and how said meeting led Martin to create the “overarching mythos” of Elden Ring. We don’t know what further involvement Martin may or may not have. Considering Martin’s method for establishing a fantasy mythos and From’s method of telling stories within it, I can’t think of a better match.

I know FromSoftware games will be equal parts amazing and frustrating, with brilliant gameplay, tragic, compelling characters, and sparse direct plot. With Martin helping, I can only imagine how great this latest world will be. If Martin lends a hand to the plot itself as well, we may be looking at From’s best game yet.

I’m counting down the days.

Images courtesy of Namco Bandai

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