Among other aspects of FromSoftware’s games that have received praise, fans often point out that the environmental and visual design is a particular highlight. With good reason, games ranging from the original dark souls for Blood has some of the most recognizable and iconic locations in gaming. From Souls of Demons Onwards, FromSoftware’s RPGs feature a distinct Metroidvania design framework, intelligently structured and interconnected. Exploring each world has evolved over time, especially as Soulsborne games have expanded beyond dark souls and experimented with the formula. Elden ring in particular, it experimented more with environmental design.
While the exploratory elements of previous Soulsborne games came close, Elden ring is the first game in the sub-genre to be truly open-world. Designing worlds and dungeons in Elden ring it’s still packed with smart, interconnected design, but all the open and exploratory aspects of the subgenre meld with FromSoftware’s ambient design to create a truly unique open world. That’s because among the non-linear aspects of the game world are “legacy dungeons”, otherwise known as the regions that cater to the level design players have come to expect from FromSoftware. Arguably the best example of these legacy dungeons is Leyndell, the Royal Capital.
Leyndell, Elden Ring’s Best Legacy Dungeon
While the introductory Stormveil Castle and the misleading Academy of Raya Lucaria are fantastic examples of great dungeon design, Leyndell Capital acts as something of a “biggest hit” of FromSoftware’s environment design. Elden ring‘s Leyndell Capital embodies the labyrinthine nature of Bloodthe awe-inspiring views of dark souls and other Soulsborne games, all mixed with the non-linear exploration that permeates the entire Elden ring. At this point, players are well aware that they need to reach Erdtree in order to become Elden Lord, and there is a certain golden path players can follow if they want to strictly run into Godfrey and Morgott.
That said, Leyndell’s actual exploration and conclusion is entirely non-linear and largely optional. As long as players make it to Erdtree’s Sanctum and face the specter of Godfrey, it doesn’t matter which routes players take in between. They could explore the main streets of the city and fight Avatar Erdtree, or they could take to the alleys and face the various knights of Leyndell scouring the corners of the crumbling city. Some solid withdrawals from Elden ring can also be found in Leyndell, among other interesting secrets such as the Leyndell Catacombs and the original Roundtable Hold, which encourages players to continue exploring the mysterious city.
The importance of the capital in Elden Ring
Aside from the gameplay benefits, Leyndell is also one of the most beautiful and impressive locations in the world. Elden ring also. FromSoftware implements a ton of sweeping vistas and “exit” moments similar to Bethesda’s open-world design, and Elden ring is no different. When Tarnished crosses the wall into the capital city of Leyndell, it is one of the most compelling and exciting sights presented to the player. The vastness of the city draws attention, but what players realize over time is that almost everything shown is walkable. All buildings and geometries seen in this view, apart from exploring irrelevant and random structures, can be visited by players.
The story of Leyndell, both before and during the events of Elden ring, is also very interesting. Before and during the Shattering, the Capital of Leyndell was under siege from almost every corner of the Midlands. Many desired the titular Elden Ring, be it the many demigods, the mysterious Queen of the Gloam Eyes, Marika and/or Radagon, among the many others who sought the title of Lord Elden. When the Tarnished arrives in Leyndell, the capital is far less chaotic than it seemed. However, when Melina burns down Erdtree, players become the impetus for the city’s ultimate destruction, turning it into the Ashen Capital.
Granted, the changes aren’t super significant other than covering the entire capital with mountains of ash, but from a narrative and atmospheric perspective, it’s incredibly impactful. It’s the final region players see before venturing inside the Erdtree to end the game, and it’s the final destruction resulting from the Shattering before the Tarnished takes on the role of Elden Lord, along with the player’s choice ending. Leyndell plays a key role in the environmental narrative of Elden ringshowing both the elegance of what it was like before Shattering, as well as the desolate, apocalyptic atmosphere of FromSoftware that fans have come to love.
Elden ring is now available for PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S.
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