The celebrated author brings "political intrigue" and in-depth "character bloodlines" to another fascinating fantasy world.

Game of Thrones fans are still waiting for George R.R. Martin to finish The Winds of Winter — still! But in the meantime, he's offering up another fantasy world for us to explore.

The acclaimed author has teamed with Hidetaka Miyazaki, the influential creator of the video game series Dark Souls, to create Elden Ring, a vast world filled with rich characters and fearsome monsters. Yasuhiro Kitao, the spokesperson for promotion, marketing, and production at FromSoftware, detailed how Martin shaped the story in a presentation this week in which developers from FromSoftware Inc. showed off gameplay and new specifics to the press.

"George R.R. Martin wrote the original mythos for this game," Kitao said through a translator. "He created a backstory or a history that takes place many, many years before the events of the game itself, and he wrote this in collaboration with Miyazaki. They consulted and they discussed and they exchanged ideas, but George Martin was the spearhead of that writing process initially."

Elden Ring; George R.R. Martin
'Elden Ring'
| Credit: FromSoftware Inc. and BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment Inc.; Inset: Amy Sussman/Getty Images

Kitao continued, "Once that original mythos was complete, George R.R. Martin was kind enough to leave that in our hands, so to speak, and to do with that what we will."

Martin was open to the idea of the developers taking the game in whatever direction they wanted, so not all the characters that appeared in Martin's original story will appear in the game. However, Kitao says, "George provided this lineage or these character bloodlines and, in true George fashion, he created a lot of political intrigue and a lot of these familial ties that shaped a lot of our characters in the game world currently as it stands. It was a really interesting process, and it felt unrestricting despite him having written this key piece."

Elden Ring is set in the Lands Between, a plane ruled by the Eternal named Queen Marika. The tale takes place after the events of the Shattering, a war sparked when the Elden Ring, the source of the Erdtree, broke apart and was claimed by Marika's demigod children. (Yes, it's a lot of fantasy jargon, but trust us, it's fun!)

Gamers take the role of one of the Tarnished, who return to the Lands Between, once the home of their ancestors. There is no set protagonist in the game, unlike in the developers' last project, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. In classic role-playing style, players can traverse this landscape as a sword wielder, a sorcerer, an archer, and the like. No matter whom they choose to embody, all the character classes can summon spirits to assist with combat. Fans also get a trusty spirit steed that helps them cross the Lands Between.

Elden Ring
'Elden Ring'
| Credit: FromSoftware Inc. and BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment Inc.

"We want the Lands Between to be filled with threats and discoveries and to be an exciting place for the player to journey through," Kitao said during the presentation. "It's not just big for the sake of being big. For example, a dragon might come tearing out of the sky and attack without warning." (That last part was a highlight of the gameplay shown.)

Elden Ring is a game that fosters exploration. Kitao's hope is that players will be able to uncover elements of the story through this act alone. They'll encounter various dungeons, including what he calls Legacy Dungeons, which are similar to the multitiered, large-scale dungeons featured in Dark Souls. In fact, those familiar with Dark Souls will find many similarities in this game.

One such Legacy Dungeon spotlighted in the new gameplay was Stormveil Castle, which gives players the option to launch a full-scale assault through the front gate (the more challenging option) or sneak around to hurl arrows at a gargantuan troll from a distance.

"We've done our best to live up to expectations and create something that is true to the From style," Kitao said.

Elden Ring
'Elden Ring'
| Credit: FromSoftware Inc. and BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment Inc.

Martin has allegedly been trying to tie up The Winds of Winter, the final chapter in his A Song of Ice and Fire books that inspired HBO's Game of Thrones. Last we heard, in February, he had written "hundreds and hundreds of pages," but he alluded in April that he was "hugely behind right now, and the prospect of trying to catch up is feeling increasingly oppressive," which seemed to be a reference to Winds of Winter.

The good news? Elden Ring is just around the corner, dropping Jan. 21, 2022, on PC and consoles.

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