Is FromSoftware okay? I don't mean to pry, but I can't help but notice that pretty much every single one of the company's recent games takes place in a blighted world of husks and ghosts slipping slowly into oblivion. Are things, like, alright over there? Have some of the most important games of the past decade been a sustained cry for help?
These are the questions—more or less—posed to FromSoft president Hidetaka Miyazaki in a recent IGN interview (opens in new tab). The Dark Souls director was asked why it is the studio so often sets its games in dreary, apocalyptic settings. There's a couple of reasons, the first of which is that the devs just really like 'em.
It's all a matter of "taste, and the preferences of the game director and game developers," says Miyazaki, and that applies just as much to the past—to former FromSoft CEO Naotoshi Zin and games like King's Field and Armored Core—as it does to the present. It's an aesthetic preference that's endured in From's DNA: Miyazaki's "tastes happen to be similar" to Zin's, and so we end up seeing "a lot of that in modern Soulsborne titles as well," up to and including Elden Ring.
But the second reason? Technically speaking, making "a lively bright setting is a little bit beyond FromSoftware's capability or experiences as a developer," says Miyazaki. Rather than bang their heads against another Cookie and Cream (opens in new tab), FromSoft's devs would rather direct their energies toward "what [they're] good at, and what [they're] used to". Which means more ash, death, cackling homunculi. You know, the usual. Miyazaki says it's just easier for From to get its message across in "darker and drier" settings than bright and shiny ones, and I can't really disagree. It's not like the studio has a bad track record for theme and design in its many and varied melancholy settings.
It's kind of funny that a developer as legendary as FromSoft might baulk at the idea of designing a setting filled with buttercups and hopscotch because it seems too difficult, but I suppose it makes sense. No wonder that Armored Core 6: Fires of the Rubicon (opens in new tab), which is set in a post-calamity "Burning Star System," looks set to carry forward From's desolate legacy. Some preferences are just bone-deep.