Elden Ring director Hidetaka Miyazaki outlined the game's often-obtuse story in a recent interview with Weekly Famitsu (via Frontline Gaming Japan).
While you can discern much of the story by paying close attention to conversations with NPCs and digging into item lore, it's good to have a go-to resource so everyone can better understand, especially when it's coming straight from the horse's mouth.
It goes a little something like this. The entirety of the game takes place in a world called the Lands Between, which is populated by people with a golden glow in their eyes. This comes from the grace of the Erdtree, the giant, golden tree you've likely seen when traversing from one point to another in-game. There are some people who have lost said glow, and they're referred to as Tarnished, like your player character.
The Tarnished were exiled from the Lands Between, and your own character happens to be a descendant of those who fell from grace in the past. Despite these issues, all was relatively "well" in the Lands Between.
At one point in time, however, the titular Elden Ring was shattered. After this occurred, a handful of demigods with Great Runes, shards of said Elden Ring, went to war with each other in a conflict called the Shattering War, all looking to become the new Elden Lord.
When that happened, the "guidance of grace" appeared to the exiled Tarnished and other individuals, who were unable to die, beckoning them to return to the Lands Between to eventually work to become the Elden Lord. Miyazaki notes that what actually happens when this is achieved is something you'll have to see for yourself in-game. The beginning of Elden Ring marks the first stop on your Tarnished character's journey to taking on the title of Elden Lord.
That's the story in a nutshell, but Miyazaki offered some other interesting tidbits that even those who have been following it from the beginning may not have known. As Famitsu's interviewer points out, there are similarities between the loss in Dark Souls and Elden Ring in terms of protagonists. What makes Elden Ring different in this regard is the so-called guidance of grace, Miyazaki says, which gives the protagonist something to guide them.
This is similar to how many of the individuals in the Lands Between look to the Erdtree for guidance, with churches dedicated to worshiping the massive tree dotting the countryside. There are other religions as well, but this appears to be the dominant one, with other religions cropping up before and after the Erdtree's decline.
No matter how you slice it, there are several nuances in the Elden Ring narrative that you can blink and miss. Having an official base from Miyazaki himself should act as something of a balm for anyone having trouble piecing the narrative together.
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