There have been plenty of pre-release comparisons between Elden Ring and Breath of the Wild, even though the games are likely to only have an open world and a vaguely medieval fantasy setting in common. Elden Ring will have bosses to fight and an abundance of items to be found throughout, just like BOTW, but it’s a far cry between Zelda and the notoriously punishing games that FromSoftware has made in the last decade or so. Elden Ring appears to heavily feature dungeons – including the so-called Legacy Dungeons – as opposed to BOTW‘s affinity for shorter puzzles in the Ancient Shrines, but the former will supposedly take a page out of the latter’s open-world exploration.
Breath of the Wild launched in 2017 and was critically lauded, with many pointing to its open-world design as a much-needed respite from the icon-laden maps of other games with a similar geographic scope. Players still climb towers a-la many Ubisoft games, but placing markers on the map is the player’s responsibility. Markers can be placed from the map screen, but Link’s Sheikah Slate also comes with a scope that can place markers when looked through. These markers show up on the compass, and a pillar of light with the corresponding color appears when looking through the scope again. According to early previews of Elden Ring, it will adopt a similar system to help players navigate the Lands Between.
IGN had a chance to see roughly 15 minutes of Elden Ring gameplay, and noted the unprecedented inclusion of a map:
“One big departure from previous Souls games (though one that makes sense with a world as massive as The Lands Between), is that you’ll now have access to a map. The map gets updated by finding map fragments throughout the world, and has the look of an actual illustrated parchment made by an actual cartographer who lives within The Lands Between. You can drop markers to note locations of tough enemies, NPCs, treasures, or dungeon entrances. As you’d expect, marked locations also place a beacon that’s easily visible in-game, allowing you to set your own waypoints when you’re looking for places to go next.”
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice technically had a map, though it took a few button presses to get to, and it was rather stylistic, not helping much in terms of navigation. From the way it’s been described, Elden Ring‘s map will be much more functional, but still minimal when compared to other open-world maps. Using a system like this might help Elden Ring capture some of the exploratory wonder that Breath of the Wild encapsulates so well, making some comparisons fairly apt.
Previous FromSoftware games never really needed a map. Giving one to players might have helped visualize the game world as a whole a bit better (like with Sekiro‘s), but part of the core gameplay loop was becoming familiar with each area through trial, error, and exploration. Each area is typically so tightly designed, however, that memorizing the layouts wasn’t difficult given a fair amount of playtime. However, Elden Ring is offering an expansive open area to freely explore. While a map and waypoint system isn’t strictly necessary, it may help players facilitate their own exploration of the Lands Between.
Breath of the Wild‘s waypoint and map system works so well because it allows players to create their own objectives on their way to the next quest marker. This sort of player agency is much more compelling than dozens of icons being revealed alongside the corresponding section of the map and aligns well with the FromSoft philosophy of making players figure things out for themselves. It sounds like the Legacy Dungeons in each of Elden Ring‘s six areas will be the ultimate objectives, but player-made waypoints will help create unique and meaningful paths through the game in a way that feels organic and promotes active exploration. There are sure to be many, many differences between the two games, but the use of player-created map markers might help Elden Ring achieve some similar praise that has been lobbied at Breath of the Wild‘s open world.