According to FromSoftware president Hidetaka Miyazaki, he and the rest of the team behind Elden Ring would rather make games with dark, dingy, and – let's be honest – frankly depressing worlds because they're just plain better than "a lively bright setting."
Speaking with IGN about Armored Core 6: Fires of Rubicon, the studio's next game and a return to its long-dormant mech action series, Miyazaki discussed FromSoftware's overall approach to game development. He explained that the design elements the studio has become known for post-Demon's Souls – weighty combat, mysterious worlds built for exploration, and a "sense of darkness" – were a function of the team's tastes, and his, more so than a conscious design target.
"I think rather than being typically Soulsborne, these are just things that are typical of FromSoftware in general," Miyazaki says. "These are things we've always sort of enjoyed and always prided ourselves on ... We always want to apply a certain level of challenge to keep it rewarding for the players. These are sort of my general habits when it comes to game development, and these are just generally things that I think we take from FromSoftware history, going back as far as even King's Field."
Miyazaki also commented on the studio's love of post-apocalyptic – or indeed mid-apocalypse – settings. This motif is partly due to the influence of former FromSoftware CEO Naotoshi Zin, he speculated, though Miyazaki said his tastes also "happen to be similar, so I think that's why you see a lot of that in modern Soulsborne titles as well."
Beyond that, Miyazaki said, amazingly, that happy settings are tougher to work with, which is a whole-ass mood that explains a lot about how most NPCs end up in Souls games if you're cruel enough to finish their storylines.
"A lively bright setting is a little bit beyond FromSoftware's capability or experiences as a developer," he added. "So it's easier for us to direct and apply our own resources on what we're good at, and what we're used to. And so it is easier for us to express ourselves within these kind of darker and drier and quieter apocalyptic settings than livelier and busy ones."
Armored Core 6 won't be a Soulslike, but what does it even look like after Elden Ring?