Is Elden Ring a Souls Game?

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Elden Ring logo artwork
Credit: Bandai Namco

FromSoftware's next big thing, Elden Ring, is coming out February 25th, 2022 after a five-week delay from January into February, but it's actually coming out. Accordingly, the marketing push for the game is amping up, and to capitalize on the hype for Elden Ring, FromSoftware recently held a network test for the game, giving players a mountain of pre-release Elden Ring content to try out and give feedback on. Now that the dust has settled, longtime Souls fans and gamers in general alike want to know: Is Elden Ring a Souls game?

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Don't worry: In this article, we'll tell you everything you need to know about Elden Ring and whether or not it's a Souls game, so you can decide whether or not it's for you.

What’s a Souls Game? And What’s a Soulslike?

Elden Ring logo artwork
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Credit: Bandai Namco

Souls games, in the most literal sense, are punishing, role-playing video games made by Japanese video game developer FromSoftware with 'Souls' in their names. Souls games, by this definition, include Demon's Souls, Dark Souls, Dark Souls 2, and Dark Souls 3.

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However, FromSoftware makes games without 'Souls' in their names that are very similar in structure, tone, and gameplay, not to mention that use the same engine, to actual Souls games, so many fans have taken to calling FromSoftware games in the Souls 'style' Soulsborne or Sekisoulsborne games.

The terms here aren't mind-blowingly clever, as they just mash together the names of FromSoftware games, but gamers made them up to describe a certain type of game made by a specific developer. Whether it's Sekiro or Dark Souls, these games have a lot of commonalities between them and share a lot of the same DNA.

This brings us to the idea of a Soulslike. This is a general descriptor (and not a technical term with an actual definition you can find in a dictionary) gamers have made up to describe games in the general Dark Souls style made by other developers than FromSoftware.

Elden Ring concept art dragon
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Credit: Bandai Namco

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Soulslikes are generally thought to be games like Nioh, The Surge, Lords of the Fallen, Ashen, that kind of thing: third-person action-RPGs with a heavy emphasis on challenging gameplay, complex level design, and a barebones narrative that unfolds mainly through exploration. Though, since Soulslike isn't an official term, people will describe almost anything under the sun as a Soulslike.

All of this is to say that Elden Ring can't be a Soulslike, and it isn't, technically speaking, a Souls game, either, but it absolutely does fit into the larger category of FromSoftware games made in the Dark Souls style. Whether or not Sekisoulsborne games will become Eldensekisoulsborne games remains to be seen, though.

Is Elden Ring Secretly Dark Souls 4?

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Credit: Bandai Namco

This is a complicated question. The answer is, actually, yes and no: If you want Elden Ring to be Dark Souls 4, you'll probably agree Elden Ring is basically Dark Souls 4, but if you're tired of Souls and want another FromSoftware game like Sekiro or Bloodborne, you'd probably agree Elden Ring isn't Dark Souls 4 at all.

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In other words, Elden Ring is more of a FromSoftware spinoff like Bloodborne or Sekiro than it is another Dark Souls game, but it's also a lot more similar to Souls than either Bloodborne or Sekiro were in certain areas.

The core gameplay loop of Elden Ring and the basic movement, look, and feel of the game is essentially Dark Souls with some tweaks and modernizations. But rather than all of this taking place in a linear series of intricately interconnected unique levels, Elden Ring is a fully open-world game.

There's mounted combat, a map with markers, crafting, side content, loot to find, places to explore, and all of the familiar trappings of modern open-world video games. This fundamental design philosophy is not at all like Dark Souls: However open Souls games were, they weren't Skyrim open-world, but Elden Ring actually is like that.

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This kind of major difference between games is less readily apparent from watching Elden Ring played or advertised because the game does look and feel like Dark Souls, but the key difference between Elden Ring and Dark Souls is Elden Ring's size, scale, and level of freedom offered to players.

Should You Play Elden Ring if You Don’t Like Dark Souls?

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Credit: Bandai Namco

If FromSoftware games in general are too complicated and punishing for you to truly relax with and enjoy, Elden Ring isn't going to change your mind about them. At its core, Elden Ring is going to be a challenging, complicated action-RPG, so if you don't like those, you'll want to steer clear.

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However, if you thought Dark Souls games were interesting but just too slow and janky, or if you liked the feel of Bloodborne or Sekiro but wanted more an RPG experience you could customize to suit your preferred playstyle, then it's a different story.

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Elden Ring plays a lot faster than traditional Souls does, closer to a Bloodborne or Dark Souls 3, and it looks to have a lot more polish and quality-of-life features than older FromSoftware titles do. Plus, Elden Ring is a genuine RPG with tons of stats upgrade, gear to choose, and weapons to customize more so than Bloodborne or Sekiro were.

On top of that, if the network test was any indication, Elden Ring is the real deal: Gamers agree that the game feels nearly finished and works as the developer obviously intended, so we won't have to worry about a Cyberpunk-esque situation in all likelihood.

Definitely wait and see how the reviews of the game shake out before pulling the trigger if you're skeptical, but whether you're a longtime Souls fan or just someone who likes RPGs, Elden Ring is shaping up to be a must-play release.

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