Naughty Dog’s Neil Druckmann Is Intrigued by Elden Ring’s Storytelling

By | January 9, 2023

Uncharted and The Last of Us are known for their cinematic storytelling, but Naughty Dog’s Neil Druckmann is becoming increasingly fascinated with more subtle worldbuilding. Speaking to The Washington Post, Druckmann said he’s inspired by FromSoftware’s minimalist storytelling in last year’s Elden Ring.

“I’m more recently intrigued by stuff like Elden Ring and Inside that doesn’t rely as much on traditional narrative to tell its story,” Druckmann said. “Some of the best storytelling in The Last of Us is in the cinematics, but a lot of it is in gameplay, and moving around the space, and understanding the history of a space by just looking at it and examining it. To me, right now, that’s some of the best joy I get out of games that trust their audience to figure things out. [Games] that don’t hold your hand, that’s the stuff I’m really intrigued by going forward.”

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FromSoftware and Naughty Dog’s game design philosophies are polar opposites in a number of ways, but both studios have seen huge success. Given Naughty Dog’s knack for curated, cinematic experiences. It’s interesting to hear that Druckmann is drawn to Elden Ring, which cuts the player loose and doesn’t seem to care what story beats the player picks up on.

Fans of The Last of Us may remember sequences that lean more heavily on environmental storytelling. For instance, in the original game, players can piece together the story of a sailor named Ish by picking up optional notes in one of the game’s levels. Even though Naughty Dog has dabbled in environmental storytelling before, it seems the studio may lean harder into the concept in future games.

“That doesn’t mean we will never have dialogue, or cutscenes, I think those are tools in your toolbox… And I think there’s a way to push that stuff forward, at least for the kind of games we make at Naughty Dog. I’m really intrigued, again, never resting on our laurels and trying something a little bit new, a little bit different, that not everybody’s going to like, but that’s okay. And the stuff that we’re working on now, I can tell you the teams are very excited by the different projects we have at Naughty Dog.”

All that being said, Druckmann added that he still wants to tell character-driven stories. For now, he’s got his hands full with the upcoming The Last of Us multiplayer title, and whatever unannounced games Naughty Dog has in the works. We’ll have to wait and see how exactly the inspiration Druckmann feels from Elden Ring manifests itself in future Naughty Dog games.

Druckmann is currently promoting The Last of Us HBO series, which premieres this Sunday. We just learned that the show is getting a companion podcast hosted by Troy Baker.

Logan Plant is a freelance writer for IGN covering video game and entertainment news. He has over six years of experience in the gaming industry with bylines at IGN, Nintendo Wire, Switch Player Magazine, and Lifewire. Find him on Twitter @LoganJPlant.