The main plot of Elden Ring – what is the Elden Ring and what is the main character’s goal?
A prequel to absolutely all games in the Soulsborne franchise
FromSoftware did not deviate from the traditions laid down in Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls when choosing narrative mechanics for Elden Ring. For more than a decade, the Japanese studio has been following an extremely laconic approach, in which most of the history of the world is presented through the design of locations and descriptions of objects – and the latter still need to be managed to be found and collected!
For those who, in the heat of battle, did not have time to figure out why their hero breaks through to the sacred Erdtree at all, we have restored the history of Interearth from scattered puzzles and are now ready to reveal the basics of the plot of Elden Ring.
Now that the beautiful intro is over, I’ll be honest: the intricacies of Elden Ring are still breaking your leg – without a bottle of Estus, you can’t fully figure it out. In the course of the passage, I literally kept a diary, entering all the key concepts there, but even with this approach, my interpretation of the plot will in any case be incomplete, and in some places even erroneous. Take the text below primarily as a basis for your own research.
At the same time, in fairness, it must be said that the new FromSoftware game still feels much more forgiving towards the user. At the very least, the number of dialogues that admonish the careless protagonist has grown a lot here in comparison with Dark Souls – and even a companion guide has appeared in the form of the girl Melina. However, we will come to it a little later, first it is necessary to lay the foundations of the universe.
What is the Ring of Elden and how does the Interearth work in general?
The events of Elden Ring take place in the Inter-Earth (the name, by the way, was invented by the author of A Song of Ice and Fire George Martin himself) – on a mysterious continent, as if cut off from the whole world. For a long time, these lands lived in peace under the auspices of the Great Will – some external force that established its own order in the world and, until recently, carefully maintained it.
The Great Will is an entity referred to in the world of Elden Ring as an outer god. Just for the convenience of perceiving information, I recommend equating this term with God in the usual sense for us – this is a powerful, but invisible force, which in the game cannot be faced directly face to face. It has an influence on the world from the outside and, probably, does not even have a physical shell as such. The Great Will is an external god worshiped in the Interearth at the start of the game, but there are other entities in this theological class besides her:
Amorphous mother (Mother of truth);
nameless god of scarlet rot;
unnamed god of the dark moon;
the unnamed god of the birds of death.
At the same time, it is important to understand that this is not a pantheon of gods in the classical sense, instructing the ignorant lambs on the true path. These are simply mysterious cosmic forces, the power of which turned out to be so great that the Interearth obeyed their will – well, or specifically the will of the Great Will (do not get confused!).
All six (however, there may be even more external gods – they just managed to find mentions of them in the game) have their own goals and ideas about how the Interearth should be arranged, and most importantly – they are all powerful enough to change the foundations of the universe itself: to turn turn back time, make some people mortal, and give others eternal life, or just burn everything to the ground for the glory of … something. However, for a whole epoch, the ball has been ruled by the Great Will, which has established its own rules in the world – the Golden Order. What exactly it is, Elden Ring, of course, does not explain, but suggests that such a religion is based on the worship of the golden Erdtree, around which the capital of the Leindel kingdom was built.
In the original system, when people died, they had to be drawn to the roots of this Tree and, apparently, feed it in this way. The Tree itself in exchange provided people with its grace – to instruct them and give them strength. By the way, how to evaluate the Tree is a debatable issue, in the community there is an opinion that it is generally a parasite poisoning the continent. Finally, the Golden Order also determines the laws of nature, for example, the cycle of day and night – under other rules, for example, eternal night could fall on the Inter-Earth.
It is the Ring of Elden that ensures the safety and operation of this set of rules. As soon as the hero finds out, the Ring has nothing to do with jewelry – it, imagine, is not even round. In fact, this is a set of runes fastened together – each of them describes and brings to life certain laws of the universe.
The runes and the Ring of Elden itself are abstract and not very tangible things, but they can still somehow be broken, disconnected from each other, or even put into inventory and proudly carried with you. To deliver them to the Interearth, the Great Will brought down a golden star on the world, inside of which lived the Beast of Elden – the living embodiment of these runes. Queen Marika became the guardian of the Golden Order and the Ring of Elden itself – the outer god chose her and endowed her with divine powers so that she would maintain order in the Interearth for many years.
Marika, who became a goddess, followed all the rules, but made the only change to the system and removed the death rune from it, thus violating the natural course of things. Thus, the gods and demigods (that is, Marika and her heirs) became immortal, but in the view of the Great Will, which puts absolute order at the head of the table, the cycle still had to continue. In time, the outer god chose successors from among the children of Marika to take her place. But one of them – Ranny – refused to submit to fate and prepared a daring escape plan.
She stole the death rune (or part of the death rune, but Ranni herself says that she “one day stole Death itself”) and created two ultimate weapons. The first was able to kill the soul of a demigod – and Ranni’s associates used it against Godwin the Golden, another son of Marika. The second blade, for the destruction of the body, was intended for Ranny herself – having received a mortal blow, the girl was freed from the inter-earth physical shell, but saved her soul and got time to prepare a plan to overthrow the Great Will itself.
Marika, faced with the seemingly impossible death of her beloved son Godwin, shattered the Ring of Elden in her rage. Its fragments scattered across the Inter-Earth and were picked up by the heirs of the goddess. Soon, mad with power, they launched a destructive war that put an end to the prosperity of these lands. Now the kingdom lies in ruins, and all the golden-eyed ones – that is, those blessed by the Tree – are stuck somewhere between life and death, having lost their will in the absence of divine guidance. The Ring of Elden is broken, and Marika herself paid for her betrayal with her freedom: the Great Will locked her inside the Erdtree and, in a desperate attempt to restore the Golden Order, summoned the Extinguished Ones to the Interearth.
Who is the main character of Elden Ring and what is his role?
The player in Elden Ring takes control of one of the Extinguished – people deprived of the grace of the Erdtree and expelled from the Interearth in the past. The first Extinct was King Godfrey, husband of Queen Marika and leader of her army. Once, together with her, he defeated the giants that shared these lands with people, but, having defeated their leader, in whom he saw the only worthy opponent, Godfrey lost the meaning of life, and with it grace, that is, the connection with the Erdtree. A pitiful shadow of his past self, he was no longer a worthy partner for the immortal goddess and was subsequently banished. Soon Marika will choose another partner – the demigod Radagon.
Over time, many other heroes and ordinary people became the same Extinguished – in the Inter-earth they were despised and tried in every possible way to get rid of them. However, when the Ring of Elden was broken, and all the demigods disappeared after a devastating fratricidal war, it was they who became the last hope of the Great Will – the outer god called to them, bringing many back to life, and allowed them to return to Interearth so that they could recollect the runes of the Ring of Elden and restore world order.
In addition to Godfrey and the protagonist himself, the Extinguished include many other Elden Ring characters – almost all of those that the player can meet. Nominally, all the Extinguished were returned to the Inter-earth by one goal – to restore the Ring of Elden and take the place of the ruler. However, in reality, everyone has their own views on how to manage the current situation.
The main character also has a choice: there are six endings in Elden Ring (of those that we managed to find), and they all lead to different consequences for the world. However, the path begins for the Extinguished Hero in the same way, regardless of his views: he rises from the grave and discovers the maid who was supposed to guide him on the path, already dead. Soon, the mysterious Melina will take her place – and there is still active debate about the role of the latter in the fandom. The girl’s remarks hint that she is another daughter of Marika, however, this may not be the character’s only secret.
Whoever Melina really is, in the end it is she who becomes the mentor of your Extinguished One – in fact, the player will fulfill her will most of the time. At the beginning of the journey, the girl does not remember her own destiny and therefore only dreams of getting to the place of her birth – to the Erdtree. However, during the journey, Melina will find out with you how things are in this world, and as a result, she will decide to devote her life to restoring the balance in the world (or establishing a new one?). Together with her, you decide to commit a mortal sin – and burn the Erdtree in order to be able to get inside. What will be the consequences of this act, the player himself can decide.
How does Elden Ring end?
Four of the six available endings in Elden Ring are united by one achievement – “Lord of Elden”, because they differ, in essence, only stylistically. In each of them, Melina sacrifices herself to set fire to the Erdtree and open the way for the Extinguished One. Once inside the Tree, the protagonist defeats the Beast of Elden and Radagon, finding out along the way that the latter is the male essence of Marika herself. Having slain him, the hero thus destroys the queen of the Inter-earth, who went mad after the death of her son and destroyed the Golden Order.
Further, the hero gets the opportunity to restore the Ring of Elden, and with it the Order in the world. But here’s the catch: the rules of the Great Will also indicate how the system of power in the kingdom should be arranged. It must have an external god (Great Will), that one has its own viceroy (all this time it was Marika), and he, in turn, must have a partner – he bears the title of Lord of Elden. First this role was played by Godfrey, and then by Radagon. Such a trio should be at the head of the kingdom. Therefore, the protagonist again revives Marika, already without Radagon inside, and takes the throne of the Lord of Elden, becoming a partner of the goddess.
The difference between the endings of this category will depend on which rune the player chooses as the basis of the new Ring. If the Extinguished One restores the Ring according to its former patterns, then, having taken the throne, the Inter-earth will lead to an era of rift: the world will return to its full circle again under the leadership of the Great Will and its Golden Order, with all the former advantages and disadvantages. Why this is an era of rift is unknown. Perhaps this is just a reference to the events that took place (the breaking of the Ring), or maybe a hint that the calm will not last long.
Having chosen for the basis of the Ring the rune of the Prince of Death, which is given to the hero by Fiya, the companion of the dead, the Extinguished One will begin the era of twilight. In it, all creatures in the Inter-earth will again become mortal (even the gods), and the lands themselves will be covered with thick fog.
In order for the world to plunge into an era of despair, the hero will need the Rune of Damnation, which can be obtained by completing the quest chain of the Scrap Eater. This ending can be considered the worst of all available: having returned Marika to life and gained the throne, the Extinguished begins to rule the Interearth, which is slowly being devoured by the plague caused by the choice of the rune. Even if the kingdom continues to exist, all its inhabitants will be doomed to eternal suffering.
The rune of the Golden Order will allow you to begin the era of the Perfect Order, not the Golden Order, in the Inter-earth. What this means is still an open question. The very description of the rune suggests that the Ideal Order will no longer have room for “the fickleness of gods who are no better than men.” Does this mean that the will of the gods is now directly subordinate to the Great Will, or will stability be achieved in some other way?
The remaining two endings are much more interesting, because in them the player overthrows the Great Will and changes the very essence of the universe. The era of stars begins if the player summons the witch Ranni after defeating Radagon. During the quest chain, the sorceress, with the help of the player, will finally break all ties with the Great Will, and therefore will be able to free the Interearth from the oppression of this external god and establish her own order.
Whether this is a good ending, everyone must decide for himself, since Ranni’s views are quite radical. She intends to wrap the world in moonlight and, apparently, change the very principles of earthly life:
“I solemnly swear. Every living being, every living soul. A new era is coming – the era of the stars. A journey of a thousand years under the radiance of the wise moon. A cold night reigns, which will swallow everything – even the great beyond. In fear, doubt, loneliness… On the path that leads into darkness.”
“My order will not be of gold. It will converge the moon and the stars of the cold night. But I will keep them away from the ground that lies beneath our feet. Now life itself, souls and order are closely intertwined with each other, but I would like to separate them. And to make it so as to trust one’s own feelings, beliefs, sight, touch … it would become impossible. Therefore, I intend to leave these lands along with my new order. Will you join me even now, my one and only ruler?”
What Ranni’s order will be and whether people will be happy under him is not entirely clear. One thing is clear: the witch herself intends to leave the Inter-earth for a thousand years, to leave its inhabitants without divine supervision, for the first time since the coming of the Great Will. However, it can be assumed that one external god will now simply be replaced by another – the nameless external god of the dark moon.
Finally, the most chaotic ending allows the Extinguished One to simply burn down the Interearth, starting an era of insane flames and leading the kingdom without any Marika. The whole world will literally flare up and will burn forever, which will probably turn into excruciating suffering for all its inhabitants. But they will be free from the Great Will!
To reach the hottest ending, the hero will have to become a receptacle for the power of the outer god of insane flame, who will become the head of the new world order. This outcome of events has one undeniable advantage: with the correct sequence of actions, the player will be able to save the life of Melina, instead of absorbing the flame necessary to open the passage to the Erdtree.
The girl herself will consider the protagonist a traitor and at the end, right before the credits appear, she will swear to kill him. Fighting Melina, unfortunately, will not work – at least until the release of the DLC.
There are still a lot of unsolved secrets in the world of Elden Ring, but even the already discovered content is more than enough for a dozen more similar materials. Separately, I would like to note that with a strong desire, the title can be regarded as a prequel to absolutely all games in the Soulsborne franchise – both Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls, and even Bloodborne.
Fans literally have years of lore research and search for new leads ahead of them. And which character from the game universe did you like the most?