Since the release of Elden Ring all you’ve heard from anyone is the highest of praises. Many are even claiming it to be game of the year already. It seems to be the first game in a long time to live up to its hype, and that has proven to be no easy task of late. The most recent and notable games we’ve seen fall well short of their expectations are of course Cyberpunk 2077 and Battlefield 2042. Battlefield 2042 even did so poorly they’ve considered making it free to play, and their concurrent player numbers have fallen far below previously released Battlefield titles.
However, this is not to say we haven’t seen a lot more games crash and burn in the past couple years than we’re used to. Just to name a few more Crucible (it was so bad that Amazon killed the project after the beta), Marvel’s Avengers (no context needed), and of course let’s not forget about Anthem, as much as we wish we could. There have been quite a lot of high dollar misses from developers of late, and Elden Ring simply not falling into that category has gone a long way towards welcoming its high praises, whether it truly deserves it or not. And let me be clear, I think it deserves much of the praise it has been getting. I think throwing around 10s might be a bit much personally, but many of those you find doing it like to throw those out much more often than they should anyway so it’s not necessarily surprising to see.
More to the point though, I’m not here to debate what rating I think Elden Ring deserves. I’m here to enlighten the masses as I always do. Enlightenment is not always pleasant, and this time will be no different for many reading, but it needs to be said. Whatever ratings and praise Elden Ring receives, however good you may think it is, the game will never break into that special tier where the greatest games to ever have been released are remembered. Lately, those types of special commendations are flooding in and surrounding Elden Ring. Too many are ready to carry this game off into the sunset as one of the greatest games ever to be released, and that’s simply not true, its misguided even. To say that Elden Ring, or nearly any other FromSoftware game for that matter, can reach that highest tier of games is wrong. There is a single exception to this rule, but I’ll get to that later. The biggest problem is that I keep seeing people throwing it into conversations with Breath of the Wild, and that alone is proof how wildly out of hand we are getting in the praise of this game.
For many I’m sure I come across as a FromSoftware hater, but honestly I respect their approach. There is no fluff necessary, just a mechanically sound, fully completed upon launch game. They don’t spoon feed the story to the player, there are no quest markers, no UI clogging the screen either. There is just the player, and the vast world in which they exist. That “figure it out for yourself” attitude is what makes FromSoftware games unique, it is their calling card after all. It is why so many are attracted to these games. An open ended experience waiting to be discovered is quite the selling point.
“You don’t win Game of the Year when your best feature is your combat system that hasn’t changed since the Xbox 360 era”
Unfortunately, by today’s standards this approach generally prohibits FromSoftware games from breaking through to the next level and has in regards to Elden Ring. The lone exception I talked about earlier is Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. This in my opinion is the only instance in which a FromSoftware game was able to break through to something special, and it’s not because they caved to a more common formula used more widely across the industry either. All FromSoftware had to do was make a few tweaks within their own vision, and in the end it greatly deepened the overall experience. I thought so highly of Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice that it ended up being my Game of the Year for 2019. Before you decide to write me off as a FromSoftware hater simply because I don’t dream about Elden Ring until I wake up sticky consider that at the very least.
You don’t win Game of the Year when your best feature is your combat system that hasn’t changed since the Xbox 360 era. That to me feels like the safe approach to game making that caters to a very specific audience, an audience that you already know will love it. Game of the Year award winners innovate. Elden Ring does not innovate. At best I’ll say it perfects the Dark Souls formula. A formula that has taken nearly a decade to perfect, and that’s too much time chasing perfection. Now, the industry has advanced so far beyond it that despite their accomplishments it will be overshadowed by modern achievements, but by all means let’s congratulate FromSoftware on a surefire Game of the Year candidate… if this was 8 years ago. Maybe next time your formula can follow in the footsteps of your best game, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, rather than pushing out glorified remastered versions of Dark Souls for the last 8 years with alternate boss fights.