Discussing George RR Martin’s influences on Elden Ring

Elden Ring George R.R. Martin

I am honestly very enamored by the varied amount of opinions on Elden Ring from game journalists and players who tried the Network Test. There is a huge amount of things to do, and so many ways to do it, that each review feels like watching an entirely different game. But I feel like since we are now exposed to a bigger chunk of the world and its inhabitants, players forgot to address one last piece of the puzzle, where does George R.R. Martin‘s writing fit into all of this?

Elden Ring is to be released on PS4, PS5, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One and PC in 25 February, 2022. A closed network test for selected players is currently underway on consoles.

The Gardeners and The Architects

Elden Ring George R.R. Martin

The world of Elden Ring does not feel predetermined anymore like its predecessors. In earlier games every playthrough used to look same because the world design was prepared with a certain goal in mind, and an already constructed story progression that leaves no room for individual player input or interpretation, but it seems that’s not the case with Elden Ring, as so many elements could be tackled in any manner you see fit, and you can absorb the story beats in the manner most suitable for you. We talked a bit about our speculations and theories regarding the story here.

This type of storytelling wouldn’t be possible without George R.R. Martin‘s clever writing style. Once in an interview he made the distinction between writers, separating them into two types: The Architects and The Gardeners. According to him, The Architects plan everything ahead of time, and have the whole thing designed and blueprinted out before they even start, but one the other hands gardeners plant a seed and nourish it with water, they don’t know how many branches its going to have, but they find out as it grows, and he thinks he is much more of a gardener than an architect.

I think this is the defining quality that separates Elden Ring from whatever came before it. The ability to just roam into the open world, and immediately interact with anything to find out its much more than how it looks at first glance. The amalgamation of many small untold stories that creates the bigger picture, the way the players are encouraged to collect the narrative pieces of the puzzles by themselves, its something that wouldn’t have been achievable without rebuilding the narrative from scratch to encourage this freeform approach of writing style and presentation.

The lore doesn’t take a backseat

Elden Ring George R.R. Martin

I think we all remember that certain quest in Sekiro where you are fighting three monkeys and one more invisible monkey. I really liked this quest for a reason, because of how the theme of the folktale that inspired the quest is very apparent in the design philosophy and the criteria of success in this challenge. Sadly this was not the case with multiple quests where the lore isn’t really a priority compared to the gameplay, and you could probably finish the game without actually caring about what certain parts of the story had to say.

In Elden Ring things are quite different. If we try to describe it in Martin’s writing context, every action has consequences, not just fatal consequences, but unimaginable results. Your actions does not exclusively lead to rewards that are categorized into the terms of “Good” or “Bad”, its something completely unexpected and irrational. You don’t get quite used to the experience of being in the lands between because of how free you are in approaching the narrative and how much you can do without the game holding you back.

In Dark Souls you could enjoy reconstructing the story in your head, and your authority on how the plot should be perceived, but the gameplay progression stays the same, and you are left to ponder on everything after its over. Here the player is actively engaging in the process of unravelling the mystery, and every NPC/antagonist is given specific traits (Invisibility, weakness, behaviors) not just for the sake of adding an extra layer of depth, but to add an immediate & organic feeling to the overall immersion.

Elden Ring: A Place of Truth

Elden Ring George R.R. Martin

It totally feels like reading a George R.R. Martin novel, where every point of view can be its own self contained story. You feel like every place in Elden Ring has its own complete tale to tell, and you don’t need an omniscient view point to enjoy it all. Yes, all of that might have existed in other Miyazaki games to a certain degree, and probably that’s why collaborating with Martin feels like a match made in heaven, but the new open world direction enhanced these distinctive traits of both creators by a hundred fold.

A part of the charm also lies in what Martin calls the Emotional Truth. There is a certain relatable mystery that made us all hooked from the first moment, which is the Elden ring’s true identity and purpose. No matter how many characters are dragons or Cthulhu deformities, the players are given a clear point of reference from the beginning to ease the approach to the mystery, and many bosses are being vocal about the Elden Ring and how it is very influential and integral to understanding why each person is the way they are. It’s very relatable to how are we all feeling at the current moment.

It might be just me, but after enjoying my time with the Network Test, I feel much more enthusiastic about uncovering the lore behind Elden Ring, more than any other lore dependent game, simply because I know I am going to engage in a quest or a battle designed specifically around any lore point, not just to reflect the depth behind it, but to actually immerse the player in the effects lying behind that lore, in the steps and the monuments and the voices, and how it all ties to the main question of the Elden Ring.

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