Videogame Of Thrones
Some of A Song Of Ice And Fire’s most tantalising titbits of lore are in the margins, from a sword made of a falling star to strange and unexplained blood magic. It’s an approach shared by Fromsoftware’s series of dark fantasy games, so a collaboration between the studio and George RR Martin always made sense.
In practice, this open world adventure (for which the Game Of Thrones author wrote the mythos and backstory) is a triumph. Exploring its hostile open world – with only the gear on your back and a mystical mount named Torrent – and learning about its history is constantly aweinspiring. The scale of the environments are huge, and new mysteries keep appearing over the horizon. What’s the deal with the strange Academy looming out of the lakes? Why is this castle holding a festival of combat to slay their “starscourge” (cosmic energy)-wielding king? Why is everyone obsessed with the crystalline Erdtree that sticks out of the crumbling capital city?
Just as you think you’ve got a handle on it all, more surprises open up, making your quest to restore order to a world in chaos and claim the title of Elden Lord by slaying the power-hungry demilords (each holed up in corners of the world) far from simple. Locations you never imagined existed lie in wait, filled with new horrors. This is dark fantasy at its finest.
Anyone who’s played a Fromsoftware game will know what to expect mechanically. You mix together light and heavy attacks with dodges and blocks of your shield; healing flasks refill at checkpoints that respawn enemies; you lose experience points when you die that you can then try to recover; and the bosses are incredibly hard.
The ambitious and fresh open world approach is brand new. While it’s a joy to uncover, it can be a bit uneven. Some boss fights in the open world interact with the geometry around them in weird ways, and the many mini-dungeons scattered between the larger ones can end up feeling repetitive. However, rough edges are inevitable in a well-used blade. Elden Ring might not be perfect, but it’s successful in ways few open world fantasy videogames could even imagine.
Videogames “aren’t really my thing”, Martin says, but he did play strategy titles like Railroad Tycoon back in the day.