Apocalypse Now

Elden Ring director reveals the surprising reason FromSoftware loves grim settings

Don’t expect From games to get happier.

FromSoftware’s games are known for a couple trademarks — intense difficulty and apocalyptic settings. From the horrific Lovecraftian horrors of Yarnham, to the dark fantasy of The Lands Between, FromSoftware’s games have always had intensely oppressive atmospheres. This isn’t just a coincidence. According to a new interview with Dark Souls and Elden Ring director and FromSoftware president Hidetaka Miyazaki, it’s simply a matter of the studio sticking to its strengths.

In a December 12 interview with IGN about the recently-announced Armored Core 6, Miyazaki says, “There are two main reasons why we tend towards these apocalyptic settings. One is purely direct to taste, and the preferences of the game director and game developers.”

His second point here is more of a curveball.

“The second reason would be, this is kind of a technical reason, but I'd say that a lively bright setting is a little bit beyond FromSoftware's capability or experiences as a developer. So it's easier for us to direct and apply our own resources on what we're good at, and what we're used to,” he adds. “So it is easier for us to express ourselves within these kind of darker and drier and quieter apocalyptic settings than livelier and busy ones.”

Armored Core 6 certainly isn’t breaking away from the studio’s usual themes, with a gritty setting that essentially takes place during an Ice Age.FromSoftware

It’s kind of hilarious to think that FromSoftware continues to do apocalyptic settings because that’s all they have experience with, and making something bright and cheerful would legitimately be a huge challenge.

Even before Dark Souls and Demon’s Souls burst onto the scene, From had been focusing squarely on grim settings with dark fantasy games like King’s Field, the apocalyptic mech-shooter franchise Armored Core, and even adaptions of apocalyptic anime series like Spriggan.

Still, FromSoftware has worked on “brighter” games in the past. Chief among these is The Adventures of Cookie & Cream, a PS2 platformer released in 2000. It stars two adorable bunnies — one with flowerpot on its head, the other with an umbrella springing out of his noggin. FromSoftware also developed Monster Hunter Diary: Poka Poka Airou Village, a PSP spinoff of the Capcom franchise that never released outside of Japan.

The Adventures of Cookie & Cream is a massive departure from the studio’s usual titles, both in terms of its colorful aesthetic and puzzle-focused platforming. FromSoftware

These are quite literally the only two exceptions in FromSoftware’s lengthy catalog, propped up against dozens of games that sport the studio’s usual oppressive settings. It’s also interesting to note that both these titles were released before Dark Souls, which is where FromSoftware was really thrust into the limelight.

Since then the studio has developed a definitive “formula,” and it’s hard to imagine how that formula might apply in a more cheerful setting. That’s not to say it’s impossible, but unlikely at best.

There’s clearly no reason for FromSoftware to change what it’s doing, as it continues to work exceptionally well. Elden Ring is the studio’s most successful and critically-acclaimed title yet. Still, The Adventures of Cookie & Cream remains a fascinating artifact of FromSoftware’s past.

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