Although it's still early in development, Soulframe, the upcoming MMO from Warframe developer Digital Extremes, looks like an incredibly compelling Elden Ring-like fantasy RPG with some heavy Princess Mononoke-inspired themes.
Digital Extremes recently unveiled a full 30 minutes of gameplay for Soulframe, the first we've seen of the game since its original, much less generous reveal back in March. I remember feeling intrigued but not entirely sold on what I deemed the "Soulslike MMO" then, but now I am all the way in. There are a number of promising MMOs on my radar, like Amazon Games' Throne and Liberty and the JRPG-inflected Blue Protocol, but Soulframe just became my most anticipated game in this space after this gorgeous in-depth showcase, and it's not even all that close.
Even more so than the last time we saw it, Soulframe's combat looks downright elegant even compared to some of the best MMOs out right now. An early encounter shows the player character grab hold of their sword with both hands and hurl it toward an enemy for a one-hit kill before recalling it to parry and down another combatant. The player then sends the blade off to another approaching foe but this time only staggers a heavily armored enemy as the sword falls pointed into the dirt. After recalling the sword, the player uses a spell that encases their opponent in dirt, then shatters them with a big two-handed swing. I'd hardly guess this is an MMO; it just looks like a full-on action RPG.
Later in the trailer is the boss fight that made me go, 'OK, this game looks totally rad.' The two-part battle invokes Elden Ring in a huge way, beginning with a face-off against the polearm-wielding Lady Deora – which includes a Zelda: Ocarina of Time-style music minigame – and ending with an epic confrontation against the Torment Stag. This headlining scene from the trailer shows off deliberate and unforgiving combat, an incredibly atmospheric set piece, and an enchanting score that I'm hoping will make for an immersive MMO.
The following cutscene is beautiful, showing both enemies and the surrounding forest restored to their peaceful former selves, echoing the heady themes of the Studio Ghibli classic animated movie Princess Mononoke, which Digital Extremes has singled out as an inspiration before. Speaking of which, let's not forget the giant wolf mount in this video.
There's still no release date, or even a launch window, for Soulframe, and it's far too early to tell whether it can pack its ambitions into a cohesive package, not to mention the all-too-common technical woes of a big new MMO. But looking at this gameplay showcase and Warframe's long-running success, I'm not finding many reasons to doubt it.
In the meantime, here are some new games of 2023 that are a little closer on the horizon.