You would think the importance of wearing the best battle-ready equipment you can find for the frenetic combat crucible of a Souls game is obvious. For the most part, it is. Whether running through the gothic world of Bloodborne or the high-fantasy setting of Dark Souls, many players try to ensure that they’re geared up for the difficult challenges that lie ahead. But there are those who have other priorities. Yes, FromSoftware’s games have earned a devoted following of players who are at least as focused on slaying the look as they are on slaying the enemies, and now this fashion-forward contingent has carried that tradition over to Elden Ring.
The Souls games and the games they’ve inspired, from Demon’s Souls to Team Ninja’s Nioh 2, have a community dedicated to putting together sickening looks. Their Reddit community is called Fashion Souls, a home for those obsessed with the games’ various equippable armaments, who will forgo better stats in favor of a fit’s cohesion. If it doesn’t drip, it’s dry, and folks in the Fashion Souls community care only for the wettest of outfits. You can see them congregate all over their subreddit, posting their favorite looks or even meticulously designing their characters to recreate figures from franchises such as The Legend of Zelda.
Enter Elden Ring, the most commercially successful FromSoftware game yet. Elden Ring has attracted a burgeoning fanbase that could care less about becoming the Elden Lord. Instead, these players are all about Elden Bling. Your build may suffer, but at least you look good even in death. It’s a sentiment character artist and Elden Bling-er Mortal_Smell (who asked to be referred to by their username) echoed in Reddit messages with Kotaku.
“The stats are awful,” Mortal_Smell said while discussing a very impressive recreation of Kratos they made in Elden Ring. “Kratos is a melee class, and I’m running around with 10 poise,” they continued, referring to a stat that’s particularly essential in melee combat, as it helps you withstand enemy attacks without staggering. “But you walk this road you walk hard because if you think fashion’s your friend...FASHION IS DANGER. Fashion is posing. Posing a threat!”
This is a common refrain among those keen to create a Tarnished who would turn heads at every fashion show in the Lands Between, if those were a thing. What they’re all really hitting on, though, is something more deeply human: You feel good when you look good, and this is true for Souls games. Maybe dressing well in the depraved and dilapidated realms FromSoft creates doesn’t always make you feel good, especially when your outfit’s low stats contribute to you being repeatedly buried by the same boss. But, like EVO director of business development Mark Julio told Kotaku over Twitter messages, there’s a difference between just defeating a boss and absolutely crushing it in style.
“Being able to look cool and feel cool helps with the overall enjoyment of games, especially Souls titles,” Julio said, his Tarnished adorned with Maliketh’s armor set and the colossal Greatsword for a very Guts-like cosplay. “While yes, sacrificing optimal defense/attributes may not be the best approach for dealing with some of the challenge...it sure is a lot more satisfying when you win and look/feel cool in something you put together.”
That’s what draws folks to fashion in Elden Ring. It’s not about beating the game or stomping on the Starscourge Radahn (if that’s even possible now). I mean, it is totally about those things, but it’s also about injecting yourself into the world, using the Tarnished as a canvas for your imagination.
Besides, Elden Ring’s probably gonna kick your ass no matter what. If the horrific invasions and dominating katanas don’t get you, then maybe the glitches will. So why not focus on what you can control: the way you look? As gaming YouTuber Indeimaus told Kotaku over Twitter messages, their Tarnished sporting the Hoslow’s armor set from Volcano Manor, fashion in Souls games, rather than simply a niche pursuit, has always been a focus for a great many players, whether they join online communities to celebrate their creations or not.
“I feel like when it comes to gear and equipment in Souls games, it’s all about the fashion unless a piece of gear has a specific buff on it,” Indeimaus said. “I don’t think I’ve ever met a Souls veteran who puts any thought into gear outside of it looking good and giving you the desired dodge roll (fast, slow, etc.). When it comes to the actual defense of the gear, whether you’re naked or decked out in heavy gear, you’re probably going to die fast regardless. I’ve always been aware of the importance of Fashion Souls (or Elden Bling) and have always had a focus on looking cool in-game even if no one would see it.”
But the whole point of dressing up, whether that’s in a game like Elden Ring or real life, is for people to see you glowing. We want to be witnessed in the best light, with the right filter, at the perfect angle. Death in Elden Ring can be demoralizing, but you can make it a little more palatable by putting on your favorite outfit. That way, you’ll feel good and look good while roaming the Lands Between, as I think this quote from Mortal_Smell sums up:
“If you don’t look good while becoming Elden Lord, why bother becoming Elden Lord in the first place?”