2020 is almost here, so we’ve asked GameSpot’s staff to share which games they’re looking forward to most in the new year. New consoles are going to dominate the headlines, but at the end of the day it’s all about the games, and there are a ton of exciting ones to look forward to. When you’re done reading this entry, follow along with all of our other end-of-the-year coverage collected in our Best of 2019 hub and our Most Anticipated of 2020 hub.
Very little is known about From Software’s Elden Ring, including its release date, so the idea that it could arrive in 2020 is more of a personal hope than anything suggested by its developer or publisher. But how could we not get excited about the prospect of another imminent From Software game? The studio has gone from strength to strength since its breakout success, 2011’s Dark Souls. And just this year it released Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, which we crowned GameSpot’s best game of 2019.
The little we do know about Elden Ring, however, indicates that it could be the most ambitious title the studio has ever created. Of course, the easy discussion point to stoke the flames of anticipation is the involvement of George R. R. Martin, writer of A Song of Ice and Fire–better known as Game of Thrones. But what’s more exciting is that Martin is collaborating with Dark Souls and Bloodborne director Hidetaka Miyazaki, an exceptionally talented writer in his own right. Dark Souls’ Lordran and Bloodborne’s Yharnam remain two of the most beloved virtual worlds in gaming, meticulously crafted and vividly depicted, so the prospect of an entirely new world from Miyazaki is tantalizing.
Yharnam, in particular, is a world that I adore. To this day, four years since its launch, I play Bloodborne religiously and what keeps me coming back is the world. While I may have unraveled its many secrets, connected the dots between seemingly disparate nuggets of lore to understand the narrative as a cohesive whole, the atmosphere and ambience remain as fresh and as striking as the first time.
For Elden Ring, Martin has reportedly crafted the broader strokes of the world’s lore, based on discussions about themes and design ideas with Miyazaki. From there, Miyazaki is developing the core narrative and characters. This, it seems, plays to the strengths of both writers, which means whatever they come up with could be truly spectacular. For Elden Ring, From Software is returning to dark fantasy, but in a first for the studio it is going open-world.
Until now, players have always spent their time in one location: a vast, sprawling city besieged by a cataclysm, overwhelmed by supernatural forces, or decayed by repeated cycles of life and death. Elden Ring presents the promise of visiting multiple locations. At the risk of pushing expectations too high, imagine a world in which one area is Boletaria and another Lordran, while a third is Yharnam. Of course, I wouldn’t expect any of these to contain the same amount of content as each of the games those locations represent, but that kind of thematic variety–and the stories and characters that come with it–has huge potential, and From Software hasn’t let us down thus far.
When it comes to gameplay, the studio showed with Sekiro that it can do fast-paced, highly precise mechanics alongside the cautious style of the Souls series and the more offense-based approach of Bloodborne. My hope is that it takes these styles–while adding a few more–and ties them more closely with different kinds of weapons. What I’m saying is, in my mind Elden Ring is a game that combines the best of From Software in a game much bigger in scale and scope.