Elden Ring lore overview: What to know before you play

Elden Ring
Elden Ring (Image credit: Bandai Namco)

FromSoftware has built a reputation for delivering stellar action RPGs with cryptic and unconventional means of storytelling. Instead of providing more traditional narratives with prominent over-arching stories, this team leans heavily into their infamous non-linear approach. Titles like Dark Souls and Bloodborne often require some additional digging for players interested in unpacking the subtleties of their lore, and Elden Ring is no different in that regard.

Since the release of FromSoftware's highly anticipated epic, players have been scouring objects, items, and environmental details for clues on the deeper meaning of its narrative. It can be intimidating trying to understand the nuance of FromSoftware's unique brand of storytelling, even for veteran Souls players. If you haven't given the game a try, here's a quick Elden Ring lore overview that should tell you everything you need to know about the game's story before playing.

The world of Elden Ring

Elden Ring

Source: Bandai Namco (Image credit: Source: Bandai Namco)

The mystical world of the Lands Between is ruled by Queen Marika the Eternal. In this place of grace and gold, conflict and division, the Elden Ring, which serves as the source of the Erdtree, has been shattered. Following these critical events and the end of the Age of the Erdtree, Marika's offspring, who reign dominantly as demigods, claimed the shards of the Elden Ring. Also known as the Great Runes, these shards offered immense strength to the children of Marika. Unfortunately, this newfound power came at a devastating price.

Each of these demigods inherited a different power or element from the Great Runes, but this tainted strength twisted and warped every single one of them in detrimental ways. Madness and ruin corrupted their once-noble identities. This mad taint ultimately led these kin to squabble amongst one another, triggering a fierce war called The Shattering. Seemingly dismayed by the actions of these individuals and the events of this war, the demigods were soon abandoned by the Greater Will. However, the favor of the Greater Will now shines upon an entirely new group: The Tarnished.

Your role in Elden Ring

Elden Ring Gameplay Trailer Sprint

Source: Bandai Namco (Image credit: Source: Bandai Namco)

Players in Elden Ring take the role of a Tarnished. These tarnished individuals and their ancestors lost their grace and, for a long time, were banished from the Lands Between. Understanding the dire predicament in which this world finds itself, a lost grace is summoned from The Shattering, guiding these once-unworthy inhabitants back to the very lands from which they were banished. Your adventure begins after crossing the foggy sea and entering the Lands Between.

In hopes of restoring order and peace to this fractured realm, your chosen Tarnished is tasked with confronting the tainted demigods and collecting each of the Great Runes. These symbolic artifacts spell out the Golden Law of the Lands Between, and gathering them would allow our Tarnished heroes to be returned to the golden graces of the Erdtree. Ultimately, your quest is to brandish the incredible power of the Elden Ring and become an Elden Lord, but navigating the ruins of this once-perfect world won't be easy.

The Rune of Death

Elden Ring Blades Image

Source: Bandai Namco (Image credit: Source: Bandai Namco)

In a dramatic story trailer for Elden Ring, a mysterious four-armed witness describes how the theft of the Rune of Death introduced further chaos to the Lands Between. With the Rune of Death separated from the Elden Ring, inhabitants of this world can no longer truly die. We see skeletons rising from the ground after defeat, and even our own chosen Tarnished is a being unable to perish. Normally the Golden Order established by the Greater Will and Elden Ring would prohibit one from trespassing beyond life's bounds, but in this time of turmoil, spirits and the dead freely roam the Lands Between.

This disruption of the sacred laws of life and death quickly bred a group called the Golden Order Fundamentalists. These dedicated individuals work desperately to enforce the old laws of the Elden Ring and bring the Lands Between back to its former sense of order. The Golden Order of Fundamentalists can apply the Golden Order in some capacity by using magical spells that keep undead enemies from coming back to life. The Rune of Death and Golden Order of Fundamentalists will likely play a critical role in the inevitable fall of Queen Marika and her once-eternal demigod children.

Malenia the Severed and General Radahn

Elden Ring

Source: FromSoftware (Image credit: Source: FromSoftware)

One of the most prominent figures featured in several of Elden Ring's trailers and promotional materials has been the red-haired Valkryie Malenia the Severed, also known as The Blade of Miquella. She once was entangled in a fierce battle with General Radahn during The Shattering. While no victor was crowned during their encounter, it would appear that General Radahn eventually fell victim to the devastating rot Melania dispersed upon the land in a last-ditch effort to survive.  

The fate and role General Radahn plays in Elden Ring are shrouded further in mystery. The reveal trailer implies that the Elden Ring "commands the stars," and General Radahn's title of Conqueror of the Stars heavily suggests he is a crucial figure in the complex power struggle in the Lands Between following the shattering of the Elden Ring. A grand festival honors General Radhan's dedication to the people he swore to protect. 

More to uncover

FromSoftware has done a remarkable job presenting the world of Elden Ring so far, but like many of their previous titles, these small segments of gameplay and lore are intentionally designed to leave us with more questions than answers. Historically, Hidetaka Miyazaki and his team lean heavily into non-linear storytelling through objects, context clues, and environmental details. 

It will likely take some serious time for community members to unpack the lore of Elden Ring fully, but hopefully, these more general themes help paint a clearer picture of what to expect from the narrative of this experience. One thing's for certain, Elden Ring delivers a compelling world for players and stands firmly as one of the best RPGs on Xbox.

Miles Dompier

Miles Dompier is a Freelance Video Producer for Windows Central, focusing on video content for Windows Central Gaming. In addition to writing or producing news, reviews, and gaming guides, Miles delivers fun, community-focused videos for the Windows Central Gaming YouTube channel. Miles also hosts Xbox Chaturdays every Saturday, which serves as the Windows Central Gaming weekly podcast.