Even a year-and-a-half after release Elden Ring retains mystique, secrets, areas of the game that even the most dedicated cannot fully unravel. This is of course by design and has been the way ever since Demon's Souls, with FromSoftware always aiming to leave plenty of room for player interpretation: it's arguably one of the reasons that the lore of these games really sticks with people.
But one player tool does divide people: data-mining. Folk have been doing this with the Souls games for years and, while it's fascinating to see some of what was left behind in the process of crafting such magnificent worlds, too often these datamined elements are presented under the banner of "cut content", as something held-back rather than something that didn't fit.
A minor example of this is a greatsword that is seemingly not in the game, but does have icons showing it in three different variations. This sword is seen first in an ancient and weathered sheath; then it is seen sheath-less as a beautifully preserved blade, an archetypal greatsword; finally it is seen charred and twisted, as if forged anew in some demonic fire.
FromSoft's games always have weapon upgrade paths, but rarely do these upgrade paths transform a weapon's look and presumably attributes entirely, and the presence of the sheath in the first version of this weapon suggested that this weapon was at some point associated with a quest to get it out of there: a trick the developer has pulled in the past is giving you a weapon that can be used but is next-to-useless in its current state.
As can be seen in the below and several other videos, this greatsword has inspired speculation about its place in the Lands Between and why it never made it into the final game. Except… turns out it did, just not in the way people thought.
Turns out that, while some were theorising about what this sword was once intended to be, everyone was kinda just walking by it as part of the scenery. The Lands Between features many re-used elements dotted across its vast landscape and one of these is known as the "gravestone swords", a collection of blades with one giant centrepiece sword that turn up in thematically appropriate spots.
Pinopinisimo saw a recent cut content video by Ziostorm referencing this sword (above) and, when riding through the game, was stunned to see it right there in front of his eyes (thanks, GamesRadar+). "I had that sword stuck in my head for weeks after I watched your video," Pinopinisimo told Ziostorm on X. "So you can imagine how I jumped from my chair when I noticed it."
The sword as-is in Elden Ring is now part of the background but, given there are three icons for this weapon sharing the exact same hilt, it was at one point destined for greater things. "There was likely a quest involved to mold this sword into the other two versions," Ziostorm says, which is fair conjecture but, given nothing of a quest linked to the sword seems to survive, it's also worth pointing out this idea never got beyond the three models.
Remember this cut sword from Elden Ring? -We finally have a match for it. It seems the gravestone swords you can find across The Lands Between were originally meant to be a weapon the player could use. -Discovered by @Pinopinisimo pic.twitter.com/Pvs6H01YfVOctober 22, 2023
Such a weapon and the hint of a greater story behind it is fairly typical of FromSoft's Souls games, which always have left-over and unused weapon concepts: no great surprise, given that each includes dozens upon dozens of different weapons and variants thereof. As this shows, however, sometimes the secrets are just hiding in plain sight: a noble Fromsoft tradition.
Another FromSoft tradition that's worth mentioning in closing is how uniformly excellent the studio's DLC for its various titles has been and, with Shadow of the Erdtree still to even get a release date, expectations are as high as they could possibly be. The wait has almost driven a group of its more devoted fans hollow, as they daily and repeatedly shank poor Dark Souls 3 bosses until it comes out. They should sit back and relax, perhaps in some ludicrous Elden Ring luxury streetwear (yes, really).