Miyazaki says Elden Ring ‘not quite’ his ideal RPG: I agree, and choice-driven narrative can get it there

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Since the release of Demon’s Souls in the late noughties, FromSoftware has been challenging the concept of the RPG. PlayStation’s initial response to the emerging Elder Scrolls: Oblivion was on track to fail, until Hidetaka Miyazaki took point on the project. Instead of catering to the typical quest adventure role playing archetype that Bethesda game’s do, FromSoftware instead focused on developing a title that rewarded players for engaging with its combat and exploration mechanics. Rise, souls-like. Since then, FromSoftware’s games have gone on to become industry-defining titles, with Elden Ring having recently picked up multiple Game of the Year awards on its launch. Yet, in a recent interview with PCGamer, FromSoft’s President says he thinks that Elden Ring is “not quite” the ideal RPG.

Miyazaki cites the fact that he knows “everything that’s going to happen” as the reason for this. Miyazaki is speaking as a developer, so terrifying thoughts of a procedurally generated Souls game immediately swirled in my head – I was aghast. He continues, “in terms of enjoying the game from a player’s perspective, I’d love to not know that.” Reading this settled my thoughts. No, FromSoftware’s next game isn’t going to have you wading through procedurally generated dungeons that would eat away at the heart and soul of the formula.

Whatever FromSoftware is cooking up with its next game, which Miyazaki says he is “in the process of making,” the studio has kept tight-lipped on not revealing anything specific. “It’s hard to say without giving spoilers for my next idea or our next games”, he says. But regardless of what the next project from the creators of Dark Souls and Bloodborne is, all I could think about was how could it possibly improve?

It got me thinking about the games that I hold dear to my heart myself; Baldur’s Gate, Shin Megami Tensei, Disco Elysium, and many others. A common thread binding them all together is the power given to the player by choice-based narratives. In my first Baldur’s Gate 3 playthrough my housemate and I had been playing on a split-screen joint save. Charlie (the housemate in question) murdered Astarion in cold-blood in our very first encounter with him, forever altering each of the potential storylines. We could have reloaded an older save, but we decided to continue regardless. I wanted to see how the plot could pan out without one of its most important characters, and it does so marvellously.

An ogre from Baldur’s Gate 3, captured by VideoGamer.

The CRPG genre does so well thanks to its handling of choice. It speaks devoutly to the table-top origins that Miyazaki lauds as his inspiration for his games, and the influence of Dungeons and Dragons has undoubtedly left an impact on his game design. Despite this, FromSoftware games are anything but a CRPG. While the worlds of The Lands Between, Lothric, Yharnam and Lordran allow you to express yourself through combat style, armour choice, and playstyle, they typically offer a single path. Sure, the games might have alternate endings depending on split-second choices, though the experience of playing through largely relies on the same cornerstone plot points.

One of the rare moments of dialogue based decision making in Elden Ring, captured by VideoGamer.

A big roadblock to this is the fact that most of FromSoftware’s games have you play as a silent protagonist voyaging through a tough world where you – generally speaking – have no agency. Fight or flee is the only choice given to you as you are swept in a whirlwind through dungeons, castles, and caves. The formula as it stands today doesn’t offer much in the way of dialogue choice, and perhaps it never will. But Miyazaki’s future titles are not bound by this formula. We know that he is already working on another game, and that it will take all the things that didn’t work with Elden Ring and evolve them into something new. Perhaps you will have more opportunity to interact with NPCs, and follow them down winding plots that change depending on your previous actions. Who knows, the potential is limitless.

Paradoxically, one of the biggest reasons that I find FromSoftware’s worlds so comforting is the fact that you actually have very little say in the occurring events. The game makes you feel small and inconsequential, so much so that slaying Gods and taking demons’ souls feels almost arbitrary, like this happens all the time.

Perhaps I’m being gluttonous with my dreams of Miyazaki’s next game. Perhaps the beauty of Baldur’s Gate 3 is too fresh in my mind too. I’m not asking for FromSoftware to turn to CRPGs at all. The genre is becoming increasingly saturated thanks to Larian’s success. Instead, I’m pining for Miyazaki game rich in lore, defined by engaging combat that lets each player express their personality, and perhaps a newly constructed narrative architecture that puts even more emphasis on the choices you make, rather than the ones which are already made for you.

Perhaps then Miyazaki can play his ‘ideal’ RPG with sprawling narratives, seemingly infinite in potential.

About the Author

Amaar Chowdhury

Amaar loves retro hardware and boring games with more words than action. So, he writes about them daily.

Elden Ring

  • Release Date: February 25, 2022
    • - 25 February 2022 (PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S)
  • Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X
  • Genre(s): Action, RPG