Elden Ring was undoubtedly one of the most highly-anticipated video game releases coming into the year. Since the game’s initial reveal during the Xbox Showcase at E3 2019, FromSoftware fans had been eager to see just how Hidetaka Miyazaki and his team would iterate on the iconic Soulsborne formula. Elden Ring lived up to fans’ expectations and somehow surpassed them. Elden Ring is the most notable open-world RPG since 2017’s Breath of the Wild, and its Shacknews’ Game of the Year for 2022.
The Lands Between is a world brimming with unique areas to explore, and players are completely free to do it at their own pace. While previous Soulsborne games had built up the reputation of being brutal and unforgiving, Elden Ring managed to offer a less punishing experience that still felt wholly challenging. If you spent an hour facing off against the same boss, dying a couple of dozen times in the process, you didn’t have to keep banging your head against a brick wall. You could simply turn away, and do something else.
And this didn’t mean doing a quick side quest and returning after you’ve leveled up. You could abandon Elden Ring’s “main path” early on, and go on an adventure of your own. Wherever you went, there was a fascinating NPC to chat with, a dungeon to explore, or a great enemy to fell.
Whether it was stumbling upon a bandit camp, finding a sleeping dragon, or killing a seemingly weak enemy that transforms into a massive bear upon defeat, FromSoftware has hand-crafted a world with something unique at every turn. It rewarded players that left no stone unturned.
What really incentivized this exploration was that Elden Ring would always reward players for their efforts. Rare weapons, Spirit Ashes, and high-quality gear could often be found at the end of a dungeon or boss fight. In some cases, speaking to NPCs and completing smaller objectives would reward players with an extra set of hands to aid them in a tough boss battle.
It’s impossible to overstate the social aspect of Elden Ring and its profound impact on the player experience, whether they went through the game solo or with others. The ability for players to leave behind messages for others to read is a FromSoftware staple, but it really excelled thanks to Elden Ring’s open-world design. Messages like “Try Jumping,” “Hidden Path Ahead,” and “Try Finger, But Hole” are etched in our memory.
Elden Ring raised the bar and took open-world games to the next level. For better or worse, we’ll be comparing future entries in the genre to FromSoftware’s masterpiece for years to come. In a year stacked with excellent games, Elden Ring is Shacknews’ Game of the Year for 2022.