I resisted it throughout the year. When I first played Elden Ring in February, I immediately knew it would be considered the frontrunner for game of the year. While I loved FromSoftware’s epic open-world fantasy, I had some issues with it that seemed to be overlooked amidst its initial hype. I urged the Digital Trends team to keep an open mind throughout 2022 instead of assuming that Elden Ring had to be number one on our year-end list. This mindset would have been unfair to the plethora of excellent games that would surprise us after its release, such as Neon White and Vampire Survivors. As the year progressed, the staff even began to rally behind Immortality, which came close to claiming the top spot.
However, here we are months later, and Elden Ring has undeniably become our game of the year. Despite my initial apprehension, I find myself unable to dispute this outcome now that it’s here. Its impact is simply undeniable.
The Power of Collective Mythology
Elden Ring’s launch in February sparked a massive social phenomenon typically reserved for well-established IPs or Nintendo’s beloved mascots. Despite FromSoftware’s reputation for creating intimidating games that catered mainly to hardcore fans, Elden Ring possessed a certain charm that even attracted those who had been too hesitant to dive into games like Dark Souls in the past.
I can attest to this, as I was one of those people.
I have always struggled to fully immerse myself in the Souls series. Years ago, I made desperate attempts to get into Bloodborne but found myself frustrated by its punishing difficulty. I eventually gave up after a few boss battles, but I never felt good about it. Although I couldn’t fully embrace its gameplay mechanics, I was captivated by its breathtaking art design and wished I could experience it in a less intense manner.
Elden Ring answered my prayers. By incorporating the Souls formula into a true open-world game with limitless freedom, FromSoftware found a brilliant way to appeal to a wider audience beyond their dedicated fanbase. Players who simply wanted to explore a richly detailed fantasy world could spend countless hours wandering without a specific objective. I firmly believe that one could play Elden Ring without engaging in a single boss battle and still remember the gorgeous landscapes of Limgrave for decades to come. It’s a Souls game that prioritizes discovery over conquest.
This approach resonated with a larger player base almost immediately. For a month or two, social media buzzed with conversations centered around the game. Players took to platforms like Twitter to share amazing gear they discovered, humorous interactions within the world, hidden secrets, and stunning landscapes. It was all-consuming, as it felt like each player had a unique experience. It seemed like there was an endless abyss of possibilities, allowing every player to be the first to uncover a hidden gem in The Lands Between.
This feeling of uncharted territory is something that has been rare in the age of the internet. When you embark on a journey in a game like Pokémon Legends: Arceus, you’ll find that every detail has been meticulously mapped out and readily available on various websites. It’s unlikely that you’ll encounter a truly original moment unless you stumble upon some peculiar glitch that propels you to viral fame for a day.
On the contrary, Elden Ring felt like an entirely new frontier during its initial months. At that time, Digital Trends contributor De’Angelo Epps remarked that the excitement surrounding the game harkened back to the days of internet forums, where dedicated players would share their discoveries on message boards. “It reminds me of a time when it was just me, my siblings, and cousins — and limited internet usage,” he wrote. “All we needed to find in-game secrets was our curiosity and the rare gaming magazine.”
This is ultimately what makes Elden Ring so undeniable. On one hand, it provides a deeply personal experience as no two players are likely to navigate it in the same way. On the other hand, it fosters a sense of community, encouraging players to share their stories and create a collective history of The Lands Between. Each video becomes a historical document, and every tweet resembles a captivating legend being passed around a virtual Caelid pub (if such a place existed).
While there may be games released this year that will have a more significant long-term influence, I expect to see Elden Ring clones emerge in a few years. The game itself builds upon titles like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild in terms of its approach to freedom. However, Elden Ring will not be remembered primarily for its specific design innovations. Instead, it will be celebrated for its timeless mythology that has been collectively authored by players, both diehard fans of the series and curious newcomers who dared to venture into The Lands Between.
In conclusion, Elden Ring has rightfully earned its title as the game of the year. Its ability to captivate players and create a shared mythology sets it apart from other titles. FromSoftware’s blend of the Souls formula and open-world exploration has broadened the franchise’s appeal and allowed players to embark on truly individualized adventures. Elden Ring has revitalized the feeling of venturing into unexplored territory, reminiscent of an era before every secret was instantly accessible online. As we reflect on the best games of 2022, Elden Ring will stand out as a remarkable achievement that showcases the power of immersive storytelling and the strength of a passionate community.
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- An Elden Ring character stands on a cliff in front of text that says Game of the Year 2022. Source
- Elden Ring knight sitting with a maiden at a site of grace. Source
- An Elden Ring player sits on their horse and looks out at a castle ahead. Source
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