In an exclusive interview on the PlayStation blog site, director Hidetaka Miyazaki has discussed Elden Ring’s open-world design and addressed the debate regarding accessibility on Souls-like games. In simple terms, Souls-like titles are a series of punishingly difficult third-person action games, taking place across vast fictional badlands.
FromSoftware faced two major challenges while creating a sprawling open-world environment. The first was to expand upon freedom while maintaining their gameplay style. The team worked on balancing exploration with boss fights and came up with an order of progression, so the vast open world is not left ignored.
The second challenge was to try and compose the pacing at which a player explores the map, and how it affects progression. “If possible, we want players to try and steer clear of spoilers or guides and go in with a completely fresh, open mind and enjoy that initial sense of adventure. That’s how we’d want to experience the game if we were going into it for the first time,” he said.
Miyazaki also touched upon the narrative aspect, claiming that it was a blend between the style in Sekiro and the Dark Souls games. Sekiro had a more direct story, while the other games from the studio followed a fragmented narrative – upholding a sense of mystery. “–there’s more focus on human elements and drama than before. We definitely took some inspiration from how Sekiro handled that and tried to apply the good parts to Elden Ring,” he added.
In regards to the much-debated difficulty and accessibility in souls-like titles, Miyazaki states the design is meant to “encourage players to overcome adversity.” The idea is not to make the game as difficult as possible, but to rightfully reward the player for using their cunning, studying the game, and memorising patterns.
“We understand that Souls-like games are regularly associated with impossible levels of difficulty with high barriers to entry,” said Miyazaki. “But we try to design the games to make the cycle of repeatedly trying to overcome these challenges enjoyable in itself.”
Miyazaki also believes that a lot more players will manage to finish the game this time, by taking advantage of the open world and exploring areas when they are stuck at a boss (main villains). Players can use the time to upgrade their skills and items and revisit the enemies at their own pace, making it far more accessible to players both old and new.
Elden Ring does not have much focus on action, which matches with its brighter, leisurely colour palette. Players will have a summonable horse for traversal and stealth mechanics derivative of Sekiro will be coming back as well. Same as previous projects from the developer, players can expect multiple endings and a New Game Plus mode, letting them replay the story with all items and upgrades intact.
Elden Ring launches on February 25, 2022, on Playstation5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, and Windows PC via Steam.