By Jonathan Wojcik and Rev Storm
ENTRY 06: ANTS
Rev and I were both delighted to discover that this game featured gigantic ants! Every major fantasy game has a sort of token "big bug," the one you encounter most often and sometimes occupying entire environments, but in other games - especially magical fantasy - these are almost always going to be giant spiders. Monstrous Formicidae were previously quite rare outside some of the Fallout games, long associated more with science fiction B-movie motifs, but Elden Ring decided to at last give the flightless dirt-wasps a prominent role in a Sword & Sorcery title.
These ants attack by biting, stinging, and squirting formic acid, which many real ants are capable of. They also come in multiple realistic castes besides the typical queen, worker and sometimes soldier you might see in other media. Some for instance have wings, like the above, indicating that they're reproductive alates!
Workers, interestingly, sometimes appear with swollen abdomens, displaying the pale blue tissue between their chitinous segments. Some wikis refer to these as "soldiers," but they're clearly the same basic ant carrying more food in its gut, which is taken to a further extreme by the presence of repletes!
You may know repletes by the common name "honey-pot ant," workers that have bloated with liquid nourishment to the point of serving the colony as immobile, living food stores. Elden Ring is the first time I've really seen this represented in a video game at all, and only the second time I've seen it in media if we count a background cameo in the CG movie, Antz.
Unable to move, the repletes are fairly helpless, and the abdomen is easy to rupture with certain weapons. The mesh for the swollen abdomen is called "honey" in the games code, but it's never really clarified what they're actually filled with. I mean, they're blue-grey, not exactly honey colored?
Even more amazing than the presence of repletes is the presence of a phragmotic caste; ants with huge, flattened, circular heads that function as protective shields! Many real ant species exhibit this adaptation, sometimes in every caste, sometimes much more pronounced in specialized individuals, their heads adapted perfectly to plug colony entryways and deflect invaders. You can read a bit more about this adaptation and see various examples HERE courtesy our friend Gil Wizen!
You can even get yourself one of these giant ant heads as a shield, though I think it would have been way better if you could wear it as a huge ungainly helmet. In any case, I'm thrilled to see these make their monster debut at long last; even sea squirts at least appeared in Animal Crossing before Elden Ring, but I think the only prior appearance by phragmotic ants in anything was in an ant colony app game. Most people have definitely never heard of these creatures, despite how cool and unique they are, up to now totally overlooked by countless ant-centric cartoons, comics and films.