Elden Ring Deserves Game of the Year at The Game Awards 2022. Here’s Why
Elden Ring – FromSoftware’s epic fantasy role-playing game – was crowned Game of the Year at The Game Awards 2022 earlier today, brushing aside serious competition from God of War’s action-adventure extravaganza Ragnarök. MonicaStudio. There were eye-catching titles like Horizon Forbidden West, A Plague Tale: Requiem, Stray, and Xenoblade Chronicles 3 in the fray for gaming’s top honor this year, but really, it came down to PlayStation exclusives and, well, , Elden Ring . To my delight, the latter won, and rightly so. Both games, both amazing on their own, represent the best of modern video games. But only one of them truly embodies the essence of the medium.
There was a hot minute, where it looked like God of War Ragnarök – the most nominated title at The Game Awards 2022 – was going to sweep the awards. Before the proceedings ended with the main course, Ragnarök had already triumphed in six categories, including best narrative and best performance. And as with all award shows, recency bias is always in play. (There’s a reason we have a thing called Oscar season.) Ragnarök came out last month, while that Elden Ring was released in February. And despite its sustained brilliance, memory can play tricks on you. In the end, FromSoftware took home the two biggest awards of the night – Game of the Year and Best Game Direction, capping off a remarkable year for Japanese developers.
Elden Ring vs God of War Ragnarok: open world approach
Between Ragnarök and Elden Ring, the latter is the one that pushes games into new territories. The open world genre has been much maligned in recent years – Elden Ring took it apart, then remade it in its own image. It threw away the trappings of the genre and completely removed objective markers, endless map icons, meaningless map activities, and side quests, and really opened up the open world. There are games that have already done this, including Nintendo’s The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, but Elden Ring is inspired by it. Where Breath of the Wild rewarded exploration, exploration is the reward in Elden Ring.
Take for example the map of Elden Ring. In most open-world games, the maps aren’t really a cartographic representation of the lands the player is walking through. They are just a checklist. All they communicate is “Go here, do this. Now, in this way, start again. But the Elden Ring map encourages, no, asks players to look at it. Really look at the rock formation north of your position or those ruins to the west. There are no icons telling the player what they will find there, but it does feel like it will be something good.
It’s rare in video games. Very few games are brave enough to invite you on your own personal adventure, without feeling the need to become your guide. Just look at Horizon Forbidden West, another Game of the Year nominee, an open-world adventure that’s always afraid to hand over control to the player. Its myriad map icons guide you on each of your excursions, diminishing the wonder of an otherwise good game. (Not to be misled – but Ragnarök, despite not being a fully open world, also has a map. That said, throughout my playthrough I never really needed it and it was purely for aesthetics .)
Elden Ring vs. God of War Ragnarök: Narrative
Elden Ring and Ragnarök are also at opposite ends of the storytelling spectrum in video games. Ragnarök, winner of the best narrative at the Game Awards, indeed tells a fascinating, personal and visceral story. It tackles complex themes of fatherhood and coming of age, and wrestles with prophecy and fate, delivering a Hollywood blockbuster-style ending to its Norse saga. It’s a good story. But it is also traditional.
Ragnarök features some of the best video game writing of the entire year, but its narrative isn’t too different from a movie or a novel. He takes players on a ride, but never gives them the reins. This is where the true power of video game storytelling lies. Player agency distinguishes the medium from other art forms. Elden Ring excels at it. It allows you to write your own story. There is, of course, an intentional narrative in the game told through arcane item descriptions and scattered lore. And curious minds can always head to YouTube to find what they’ve been missing. But the stories you make up as you journey through the Lands Between are the ones that stick with you.
That’s not to say that traditional storytelling always pales in comparison. Just look at narrative games like The Last of Us or A Plague Tale: Requiem, the latter also being nominated for Game of the Year. These games tell unforgettable stories – but games that present a blank slate, for players to fill in what they love, represent the medium’s true potential as a completely unique art form that movies and books can’t. not reproduce.
Playing out the mercenary desert fantasy in Fallout: New Vegas and mythologizing my actions and decisions in the Mass Effect trilogy are some of my favorite gaming memories. In Elden Ring, you could be a chivalrous knight helping maidens through its perilous landscape, or a good-natured renegade conquering beasts and beauties. Or, if you’re really good, you could just be a naked dude with a gigantic club and run around the game’s deadly bosses in your head. The choice is yours.
Elden Ring vs God of War Ragnarök: The True Game of the Year
To be fair, that’s partly the nature of role-playing games like Elden Ring. I will not hold the fact that God of War Ragnarök is not an RPG against him. It is, as I said, a different game. It offers a curated experience that combines visceral gameplay with emotional depth. And within the margins of its impressive combat sandbox, it’s surprisingly flexible. But Elden Ring takes the road less traveled and allows players to find their own treasure. Where Ragnarök excels in explosive moments, Elden Ring demonstrates restraint, almost like a game mechanic, and presents itself as a true champion of the medium.