2022 Games of the Year: Elden Ring

I had an interesting journey with Elden Ring.  I almost bounced off the game a number of times in the first four to six hours.  Then, it got it's hooks into me and I kept coming back even though I wasn't sure if I was actually having fun but I was having an interesting time and that made me continually return.  Sometime between hour 20 and 30 I fell in love with this game and felt that way almost all the way until the end... until the last boss caused massive amounts of frustration.

After all that, where did I land?  Well... I think this may end up being my game of the year.

The exploration and world building in this game is simply incredible.  I can't even begin to quantify the amount of times I saw something new and novel while exploring the world.  Elden Ring takes the sense of open world exploration wonder that Breath of the Wild gave me... but then ramps it up by constantly rewarding me with new and unique interactions.  Every time I saw something that looked vaguely interesting, my curiosity was immensely rewarded.

The game world doesn't explain itself to you and that's a huge strength.  It gives you an entire new world to discover with new things around every corner.

The downside is that the gameplay, UI, and UX don't really explain themselves either.  That's the reason I almost bounced off this game initially.  It feels like FromSoftware could hook even more players on their games if they dedicated some more resources to onboarding, UI, UX, and just general usability of their games.  What I found is that it's not actually the difficulty of the combat or boss fights that negatively impacted my experience, it was the difficulty of understanding the core systems of the game.

That was the primary hurdle I needed to jump over to come around to embracing the rest of the game.  Because everything else on offer is incredible.  I think this will be a game that is held up as a new type of open-world standard for years.

Some of my favorite parts of Elden Ring were also around the launch weeks when the game was entirely unknown.  I felt like I was uncovering new things alongside the community.  Throwing things into slack chat with my friends and hearing what they were finding was part of the magic.

As I write this, it's mid-March and I've just beaten the game.  This post will go into the next slot in my current Tuesday/Thursday schedule so I'm guessing it won't get posted until April.  That being said, I'm already a little tempted to dive back in and experiment in New Game Plus mode.  I did a melee with shield build for this initial playthrough but I've heard amazing things about magic builds.  I'm very interested in experiencing the gameplay through that lens at some point.

This post is already long but I feel like I could go down so many rabbit holes about this game.  If you want to hear more off the cuff thoughts, I'm sure I'll cover them on the Geek to Geek podcast.

For now... I'm surprised to say it, but here's my current games of the year ranking:

  1. Elden Ring
  2. FFXIV Endwalker
  3. Horizon Forbidden West
  4. Pokémon Legends: Arceus
  5. Halo Infinite
  6. Vampire Survivors
  7. Nobody Saves the World
  8. Unpacking
I'm amazed that FFXIV Endwalker was unseated, but I have to be honest with myself.  I'll be thinking about Elden Ring for years.  I think it may end up hanging up there at the top of the list as my game of the year.

We'll see, we still have a lot of the year to go.  But this game is kind of amazing.


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