A little bit ago, the annual Game Awards show did it’s thing with the world premieres and the celebrity cameos and such. I usually don’t care all that much for the show as it seems to be more about spectacle than the actual games. This time though, they did one thing that I actually agreed with: they named Elden Ring the game of the year for 2022. And yeah, it 100% deserves it!
As I mentioned in the piece I wrote about it earlier this year, I wasn’t really a Soulsborne fan before I played Elden Ring. (Actually, I wonder if I can even call myself a fan now since I’ve only played Bloodborne after finishing this game.) So, this isn’t a series or developer loyalty thing for me. Rather, this is coming from someone who was completely won over and turned from a skeptic into a true fan of the game.
For the most part, I don’t like open-world games. I don’t like filling-in maps, aimlessly fighting enemies and collecting gear in search of ever-increasing numbers. I also don’t like the same-iness that tends to plague locations and “challenges” in those sorts of games. In other words, I was fully prepared to skip Elden Ring because it was supposedly an “open world” kind of game. In fact, I think I only got it because a friend talked me into it. And I gladly admit that his recommendation was 100% spot on!
Elden Ring is indeed an open world game, but done in the way that we wish all “open world” games would be. The world is huge, yet somehow not a vast expanse of empty areas and copy-paste structures. You have to fill in the map, but only once or twice per region and not the dozens of times required by other such games. There are truly interesting places to find, most of which containing unique loot that’s actually valuable in terms of gameplay. The sidequests are few, but involved. The main story is vague. yet somehow grand, and every area is just bursting with character and a real sense of history! In other words, Elden Ring’s “Lands Between” is a place that’s actually fun to explore!
I happened to have a lot of time on my hands when the game released last year, and I spent much of it exploring the lands with a buddy of mine. We’d each scour whatever area we were in, and whenever one of us found something, the other would join their game and we’d explore it together. I’d even go so far as to put markers on the map whenever I found something on my own (when he wasn’t online) just so we could check it out together later! For us, the whole game wound up being one big co-op adventure! It was an experience that I don’t think will be topped again this hardware generation (or possibly at all considering that we’re both getting older).
That’s probably why Elden Ring is my personal pick for game of the year, but let’s go back to more tangible things for a minute. First, there’s the almost complete lack of handholding when it comes to progressing the game, finding secrets and making combat builds. elden Ring only ever gives hints for anything, so it’s left largely up to players to figure out how to proceed or do things. It’s very remeniscent of older design philosophy, and I absolutely love it. I love that I get to figure things out without the game trying to solve everything for me. I love being allowed to make mistakes, to engage in trial-and-error and basically just discover the game. In other words: there’s nothing getting in my way!
Then there’s the combat. Well, what’s there to say, really? Eventually you get so powerful that almost nothing poses a threat, but for most of the game, that’s not true. You can’t just beef up and expect to steamroll through just fine. You actually have to work at the combat, develop and understanding of it and some skill with it, and even then seemingly minor enemies can still pose a serious threat. Also, fighting just feels good! Your can feel the difference between weapons and changes in your stats! Every enemy has its own patterns and you’ve gotta develop mental notes for all of them. You must approach each situation differently and actually develop as a Tarnished warrior in order to succeed in combat, and it’s wonderful!
So yeah, Elden Ring is my pick for 2022. There were other good games this year, but absolutely nothing like this. Here’s hoping 2023 brings us all something even better!
What’s your GotY for 2022? Let us know below!
Image from the Elden Ring website