Where Elden Ring takes place and the story explained

Elden Ring
(Image credit: Bandai Namco)

Where does Elden Ring take place? What are the Lands Between? Who are the Tarnished? And what the hell's an Elden Ring? We've put together this Elden Ring lore primer to help you make sense of your first steps into this huge and weird world. As such, this is more about explaining the wider world of Elden Ring and the in-universe historical context that's skimmed over by the opening cutscene - you'll more about the Erdtree and the bosses that are trying to kill you by playing the game!

Before getting into this lore rabbit hole, we should also stress that this is just one interpretation of the basic premise of Elden Ring. The nature of FromSoftware's intentionally impenetrable storytelling means many lingering questions remain even after finishing the game, so some things are open to different reading or theories. In fact, you may find that your own interpretation of the story of Elden Ring changes as you play, leading you to different conclusions. Either way, here's an explanation of where Elden Ring takes place, the basic lore, and what being Tarnished means.

Where is Elden Ring set?

Elden Ring landscape

(Image credit: FromSoftware)

The world of Elden Ring is called the Lands Between – a large realm ruled by demigods and blessed by the power of the Elden Ring and the Erdtree. An old meme that you might have seen joked that Elden Ring is in fact set in the US state of Ohio, but, unsurprisingly, this is false. The lands of the Lands Between are simply one giant, mystical continent surrounded by water. We’ve found the Elden Ring map fragments, so take a look to get the lay of the land.

The Lands Between and the world of Elden Ring is also completely new and isn't tied to Dark Souls, Bloodborne, or any of from previous FromSoftware's other titles. While the world has still been developed for the game by Hidetaka Miyazaki and the FromSoftware team, George R. R. Martin, author of the "A Song of Ice and Fire" series that was the basis for Game of Thrones, had a large part in creating the mythos of this world, which goes beyond far what's even in the game - the Elden Ring Shadow of the Erdtree expansion draws on even more of Martin's original mythos, for example.

You, the player, will start your Elden Ring journey in a region in the south known as Limgrave – a relatively lush area that features grassy plains, valleys, woods, cliffs, and ancient ruins. As you explore, you’ll eventually come across the rot-blighted region of Caelid to the east, the misty wetlands of Liurnia to the north, and numerous other regions with distinct environments and creatures.

What’s the story of Elden Ring?

Elden Ring

(Image credit: From Software)

The basics of the Elden Ring story are that the Lands Between were blessed by the Greater Will (a type of unknowable god obsessed with order over chaos), who sent down the Elden Ring – a magical object of great power that isn't actually a ring to wear, but it changed the Lands Between according to its whims. The Elden Ring was also housed within a giant, golden, spectral tree known as the Erdtree. With this power, the Erdtree was able to bless the land and its inhabitants with the grace of the Elden Ring, creating an incredibly orderly reality.

Queen Marika the Eternal, a person in the Lands Between chosen by the Greater Will, acted as a vessel of the Elden Ring. She also purposefully altered it and removed the Rune of Destined Death, granting eternal life to everybody in the Lands Between, effectively making death impossible - this established what's is essentially a religion called the "Golden Order". 

Marika and her husband Godfrey - the first Elden Lord - then conquered all of the Lands Between to bring it under the Golden Order and Marika's rule. They also had three children, who were the first demi-god offspring, starting the "Golden Lineage". Marika then banished Godfrey and his people from the Lands Between, causing them to lose their grace and create the first Tarnished (more on them below).

Marika then took Radagon, the mysterious red-haired warrior, as her next husband and Elden Lord. Uniting with Marika and becoming an Elden Lord grants great divine power too - in fact, while Marika is a supremely powerful being, her Elden Lord consorts, seem to be almost as powerful as she is. Marika and Radagon also had more children, expanding the lineage further.

Elden Ring

(Image credit: Bandai Namco)
Elden Ring main bosses

Elden Ring main bosses required

(Image credit: FromSoftware)

Want to know all the mandatory Elden Ring main bosses you've got ahead and how to beat them? Click the link to find out!

However, the Elden Ring was later shattered into multiple Great Runes after an event called the Night of the Black Knives, where a clan of mysterious assassins killed several of Marika's demigod children. Among the surviving demigods, a terrible war broke out called the Shattering, caused when somebody attacked the Elden Ring and damaged it, altering reality further and compromising the Greater Will's vision of the world and eventually causing it to abandon the demi-gods. Marika also disappeared without warning or any hints as to where she went and has not been seen since.

So now, at the start of Elden Ring, numerous factions and the demi-god children of Marika are locked in a centuries-long stalemate across the Lands Between. These demi-gods each have Great Runes scavenged from the damaged Elden Ring, but none have properly risen to power to either replace Marika (which only certain powerful demigods known as Empyreans can do) or become the next Elden Lord (which anybody could do). 

This stalemate has also caused the Greater Will to abandon the demi-god children, but it still influences the world thanks to entities known as the Two Fingers that act as agents of the Greater Will. Their job is to assist those that might aid the Greater Will, such as the Tarnished and other Empyreans.

Elden Ring Godrick boss fight

(Image credit: Bandai Namco)

Thankfully, your character has been able to get back to the Lands Between, and it’s your job to explore the world, grow in strength, and fight or ally with those you meet along the way to bring about a new order by collecting the Great Runes. In doing so, you have a chance to re-forge the Elden Ring and become the next Elden Lord, changing the world to reflect the ideals and desires of whatever side you're working with. 

Of course, there’s a lot more to the story than that. Like previous FromSoftware titles, Elden Ring’s story is shrouded in mystery, and part of your job is to piece together cryptic information from the environment, items you find, and characters you meet around the world to learn more about the bigger picture.

Who are the Tarnished in Elden Ring?

Elden Ring Melina

(Image credit: Bandai Namco)

Now that you know where Elden Ring takes place and what the ongoing conflict is, it’s important to know who you play as. Anyone that was exiled from the Lands Between with Godfrey and has lost the guidance of grace from the Erdtree is known as a "Tarnished". For centuries, these Tarnished lived as mortals in other regions far away from the Lands Between - they were essentially just normal humans living their lives.

However, after the Shattering and the Greater Will forsaking the demi-gods of the Golden Lineage, the guidance of grace from the Erdtree and the Elden Ring has returned to the Tarnished, even the dead ones who are now resurrected. This new power has guided your character back to the Lands Between to break the stalemate.

The guidance of grace also means you can't be permanently killed, hence why you respawn at sites of grace, but you also won't be able to grow your strength without the guidance of a Finger Maiden of the Two Fingers. In your first hour or so of playing, you’ll be ‘maidenless’ – another Elden Ring meme that you might have seen – meaning you lack the ability to convert the Runes you gather into power. Eventually, you’ll come across Melina who will offer you an accord to become your Finger Maiden and will allow you to level up with your Runes.

Along your travels through the Elden Ring Lands Between, you’ll meet plenty of other Tarnished heroes, especially in Roundtable Hold – a safe haven for Tarnished that exists outside the Lands Between – but obviously, you are going to be the one to re-forge the Elden Ring and become the next Elden Lord. If you want something done correctly, do it yourself, right?

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Will Sawyer
Guides Writer

Will Sawyer is a guides writer at GamesRadar+ who works with the rest of the guides team to give readers great information and advice on the best items, how to complete a particular challenge, or where to go in some of the biggest video games. Will joined the GameRadar+ team in August 2021 and has written about service titles, including Fortnite, Destiny 2, and Warzone, as well as some of the biggest releases like Halo Infinite, Elden Ring, and God of War Ragnarok.

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