If you’re not a FromSoftware loremaster or a Soulsborne die-hard, Elden Ring is going to be Dark Souls 4 in almost every way to you. You’ll probably find more of a link between Dark Souls and Elden Ring than you would between Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls. In this article, we’ll explain why this is the case.
If It’s Not Called Dark Souls 4, How Is It Dark Souls 4?
Souls games are third-person ARPGs developed by FromSoftware without much explicit story that give a lot of freedom to the player as they explore a dark, difficult, and fair world, unpacking its many secrets along the way and overcoming extraordinary challenges.
Each of the mainline Dark Souls games puts its own unique spin on this larger formula. Dark Souls took the core systems of Demon’s Souls and put them into a much more ambitious game with a huge interconnected world. Dark Souls 2 made Souls a much more mechanically complex series, and Dark Souls 3 brought the frenzied action and gothic horror of Bloodborne to Souls.
On a base level, Elden Ring already fits the broad definition of a Souls game. It’s a third-person ARPG developed by FromSoftware without much explicit story that gives a lot of freedom to the player as they explore a dark, difficult, and fair world that has many secrets to uncover and challenges to overcome.
Elden Ring takes all of these characteristics and combines them into one game. Elden Ring is a massively ambitious game with huge interconnected spaces; as a truly open-world game, it folds in tons of new contents into the core Souls formula; and it plays more like Dark Souls 3 or Bloodborne with faster-paced, more aggressive combat than earlier FromSoftware games.
The true open-world nature of Elden Ring combined with all the hallmark features of FromSoftware games adds up to a distinctively FromSoftware RPG experience in the vein of Dark Souls but with a novel new take on the fundamental structure of these kinds of games.
Elden Ring is, naturally, in large part a Dark Souls game, but it’s just different enough and detached from the original series’ lore to be worthy of its own name and IP. In most major mechanical ways, though, this is a Souls game, through and through.
If you had hoped FromSoftware would keep making Dark Souls games but adapt and change them to better suit the modern-day, that’s Elden Ring: It’s open-world Dark Souls. This means it’s in part very different from Souls and very similar to it, but ultimately, the similarities outweigh the differences.
What Are Elden Ring’s Major Differences From Souls?
Every FromSoftware game, including Demon’s Souls, Bloodborne, Sekiro, has been a linear experience. Yes, sometimes there are branching paths and multiple levels you can access at the same time such that you can choose what to do first, but none of these games have been open-world.
There are very much so predetermined pre-designed paths through every FromSoftware game that designers handmake for players to go down at every step in the journey. There really isn’t such a thing as an emergent encounter in a FromSoftware game because they’re all heavily scripted creations.
This paradigm changes with Elden Ring. It’s not just Dark Souls with a bunch of different areas you can explore from the start, it’s a truly open-world game without a linear progression path in mind. You can simply go out exploring and find a piece of gear no developer ever imagined a player would find that early in the game.
You can come across emergent gameplay situations or simply go off to find certain resources. You can simply pick a direction Breath of the Wild style and go off in that direction seeing what adventure awaits you in that part of the in-game world.
These kinds of experiences simply weren’t possible in older FromSoftware games that fundamentally had the player on rails, pushing them from location to location until the game ended and you began again at the beginning.
Elden Ring changes everything, in a sense, even if the moment-to-moment gameplay feels similar the larger gameplay loop is very different. If you ever felt like Dark Souls games were too rigid and demanded you fight things that were simply too challenging in the moment for you to progress, Elden Ring is the answer.
Struggling with a certain area? Just go somewhere else. Slogging through a swamp? Go check out the cool thing you noticed a few hours ago and decided you’d check out later. Just go mindlessly kill some mobs wandering about the open-world as you plan what’s next.
The possibilities are endless, and in a truly open-world setup, freedom is truly given to the player. If you like the sense of adventure in a Breath of the Wild style experience but want the challenge and sense of accomplishment of Dark Souls, play Elden Ring.