Welcome to The Week in Gaming, the place where we pause each week to take a look at the video game news beats both big and small that you might be missing — while also taking a peek around the corner at what's ahead. Check in each Friday for news (and occasionally even views) on everything from sprawling RPGs to Metroidvania platformers to the latest in VR and free-to-play. We'll even throw in a good old-fashioned board game every now and then!
Oh, Elden Ring. It’s real, it’s coming next year, and it totally looks like a FromSoftware game — only bigger and more audacious than any of its Souls series predecessors, in just about every conceivable way.
These are the early-summer days of game news coming fast and furious, and the long-awaited, internet-melting new trailer for Elden Ring — shared as the celebratory closer to Geoff Keighly’s Summer Game Fest kickoff livestream — ushered in what’s sure to be a long, long weekend of huge video game hype.
E3 begins on Saturday, picking up right where Summer Game Fest leaves off, and it’ll be hard to top the collective fan fervor that erupted at the full reveal of Elden Ring. Announced two years ago and memed into mythic status as players waited for any new morsel of info, social media went wild when word got around that Elden Ring’s trailer was finally here…and that it looks amazing.
Not that it needs repeating, but Elden Ring marks a hugely hyped collaboration between From mastermind Hidetaka Miyazaki and Game of Thrones creator George R.R. Martin. It sounds like a match made in high fantasy heaven: As the creator of the Souls series (launched by Demon’s Souls for the PS3 in 2009) and director of universally adored successors including Bloodborne and Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, Miyazaki has built a still-growing legacy matched only by a very few longtime game makers (think Shigeru Miyamoto and Hideo Kojima).
And Martin… well, he’s friggin’ George R.R. Martin.
In many ways, the Souls series is a grown-up, unflinchingly mature heir to Nintendo classics like Metroid and The Legend of Zelda. They’re combat-focused, RPG-lite adventure games that, through clever world building and well-earned “aha!” moments of exploration, reward intrepid risk-taking by slowly revealing more and more of their incredibly well-conceived interconnected worlds.
Coming across an elevator switch, a hidden door, or a shortcut that can only be accessed with the right late-game tool, Souls players are well acquainted with that same Metroid-like rush of satisfaction that comes from unraveling mysteries hidden in plain sight. It’s hard to describe the thrill that comes from finally cracking the code that lets you explore all those just-out-of-reach places that’ve seemed tantalizingly close since taking a game’s very first step.
But the Souls games aren’t for the faint of heart. They’re hard; justly renowned for brutal, rage-quitting difficulty. And where the worlds of Metroid and Zelda are plenty atmospheric, FromSoftware’s are positively saturated in image-based lore. In Souls games, you learn about the world simply by being in the world. Who needs a chatty protagonist, tons of dialogue, or extended cutscenes when the H.P. Lovecraft-inspired spires of Yharnam loom over the beast-strewn streets of Bloodborne, where the mood itself tells the whole story?
Letting the environment do the narrating is a trait common to most Zelda and Metroid games, too — as is this: Across all those franchises, there’s hardly ever been a bad game among the lot.
Along with all the internet oohs and ahs, Elden Ring’s first deep look drew tons of fan comparisons with its FromSoftware predecessors. Like Bloodborne and Sekiro, it’s not connected to any previous Souls game, but that didn’t stop fans from pointing out the shared-DNA moments. Is that Seath the Scaleless, the albino dragon from Dark Souls? Can weapons transform like the trick weapons in Bloodborne? (That lightsaber-switching moment at the trailer’s 1:26 mark seems to suggest that they can.)
But by From’s own media buzz, Elden Ring is larger in scale than any Souls game that’s come before. “Heavily based on Dark Souls but with a more open and vast environment,” the game “will also have fundamentally different combat to create new situations in battle and exploration,” From teased in an an early-days tweet. And Miyazaki has credited Martin for bringing a more expansive focus.
“…[T]hanks to our collaboration with Mr. Martin, I would have to say the biggest difference is it being open world,” he said in a 2019 interview at Xbox Wire. “Due to this, the scale of the world and its narrative, as well as the depth and freedom of exploration have increased dramatically. It is without a doubt our biggest title yet in terms of sheer volume.”
Maybe that’s why our nameless protagonist, in a Souls series first, covers ground on horseback in the trailer. And it won’t be too long before we’ll be riding right along with them into FromSoftware’s first gaming foray into the new era of next-gen consoles. In Dark Souls, we played (and died!) as the Chosen Undead. Bloodborne had the Hunter, and Sekiro introduced us to the Wolf. Now it’s time for The Tarnished to rise: Elden Ring is slated to release for PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, and PC on Jan. 21 of next year from FromSoftware and publisher Bandai Namco.
Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Demon’s Souls, Astro’s Playroom, and Returnal: So far, there’ve been only a small handful of games made just for the PS5, and fewer still (pretty much the ones mentioned above) that can serve as showcases for the new console’s true next-gen power.
That all changes today with the release of Insomniac’s Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, which looks so fantastic that it’s hard to imagine asking much more from future hardware. We’ve tapped into the pre-launch hype here, but now that the review embargo has lifted, how does Rift Apart fare as an actual game? According to critics, pretty doggone great: With 102 reviewers weighing in, it’s sitting at a lofty 89 consensus review score at Metacritic. Introducing new playable Lombax Rivet, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart launches today for PlayStation 5.
It’s gonna be a weekend of tough choices for PS5 owners: Do they start with Rift Apart, head back to Midgar with Square Enix’s just-released PS5-only expansion of Final Fantasy VII Remake, or just put everything on pause and catch all the fresh gaming news sure to drop during E3?
If Cloud’s Buster Sword is your go-to weapon of choice, then nabbing Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade (along with INTERmission, the included new chapter featuring the fresh debut of old-school favorite Yuffie Kisaragi) is gonna be top priority. Intergrade along with the new Yuffie content enhances Remake’s PS4 graphics (yep, they’ve even upgraded the doors!) while advancing the storyline in anticipation of the next full-scale installment in Remake’s reimagined telling of Square’s classic steampunk RPG story. Reviewers love this one, too: It’s currently perched at an 86 Metascore.
Here’s one more for lucky PS5 players: Death Stranding: Director’s Cut, an enhanced version of Hideo Kojima’s dark cinematic cross-continental journey starring Norman Reedus on the PS4, was announced this week for the PlayStation 5. Kojima Productions gave Summer Game Fest the first look at the upgrade, with Sam Bridges (Reedus’ character) learning some Metal Gear-style basics about the usefulness of a good old cardboard box in the first teaser. The studio wasn’t ready to reveal a release date, but pledged more info on the new version is coming soon.
ICYMI (Part 1): Ash Williams is getting the gang back together for Evil Dead: The Game, a new multiplayer dive into Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell’s hilariously twisted horror-verse. The first gameplay trailer arrived this week, and Campbell himself will be back to voice Ash, alongside with Dana DeLorenzo as Kelly and Ray Santiago as Pablo Simon Bolivar. Watch for Evil Dead: The Game to start carving up Deadites when it releases sometime later this year for PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC.
ICYMI (Pasrt 2): Dinos, DNA, and some questionably-motivated zoological demagoguery — what could possibly go wrong? In Jurassic Park, you know how the story plays out. Universal Pictures, Amblin Entertainment, and developer Frontier Developments let Jeff Goldblum have the floor this week to announce Jurassic World Evolution 2, the park-managing sim game that follows up from Evolution 2’s 2018 predecessor. Goldblum will be there to chide you for neglecting nature’s power as the voice of Dr. Ian Malcolm, along with Bryce Dallas Howard reprising her role from the movies as Claire Dearing. There’s no firm release date, but Jurassic World Evolution 2 is set to tear into PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, and PC sometime later this year.
Did we mention that E3 is this weekend? After a year’s hiatus, one of the gaming industry’s biggest yearly news blowouts comes roaring back with an all-digital showcase staged over Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. Despite Sony’s ongoing absence, there’s a ton of buzz surrounding the first joint Microsoft-Bethesda showcase, as well as full-length presentations from Ubisoft, Gearbox, Warner Bros. Games, Square Enix, Capcom, Take-Two, Bandai Namco, and, on Monday, Nintendo’s E3-curated Nintendo Direct event.
Everything will be broadcast as it happens across an array of social channels and YouTube, but registering for a free fan pass will set you up to virtually attend the entire thing (and keep track of the busy schedule) using one simple login. Visit the official E3 site to get started, before the event kicks off with a pre-show at 1 p.m. ET on Saturday, June 12.