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'Elden Ring' is undeniably the game of the year - and that's a problem

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You know. I know that. We all know that.

This year Game of the Year the contest was stitched just six weeks into 2022. elderberry ring is one of the few games to truly transcend the nerd-o-sphere and become a true cultural phenomenon. Even The New York Times wrote about it (awkwardly). By mid-November, he had sold over 17.5 million copies global.

But there’s a reason the game’s undisputed greatness is a mixed blessing. elderberry ring is too long and too difficult for the majority of casual (and even less casual) gamers. And its inescapable success could wrongly convince some people that games just aren’t for them.

There are several compelling reasons elderberry ring deserves all the praise thrown at it like Mardi Gras pearls by drunken revelers. The first and most compelling is its universe. It’s no secret that many open-world games can sag under the weight of large, empty maps that too often reduce gameplay to a series of interconnected checklists. elderberry ring does not suffer from this problem.

The lands in between are staggering in their vastness and complexity. There are a million wonderful ways to meet your creator in Limgrave, the game’s opening region, alone. Hidden Dungeons contain their own hidden sub-dungeons. An ordinary tomb gives way to a vast cave kingdom with a starry sky. Unlike most games, you can actually visit everything you see in the distance – the looming golden Erdtree, the spindly tower on a jagged cliff, the trolls dragging a cart. And you can see it all, or at least try to do so, pretty much right from the start. There is no order in which you must do things.

Wells of the Siofra River, a totally elusive underground region of elderberry ring.From software

elderberry ring also succeeds thanks to a huge show of confidence from developer FromSoftware. It’s a game that’s absolutely not afraid to let you miss things. On the contrary, it’s nearly impossible to truly see and do it all without the help of plenty of detailed guides, or better yet, talking with friends or strangers who are also exploring the Lands Between. To give you an idea of How many there is to do, the official player guide clocks in at nearly five books and over five hundred pages. the second volumeof similar weight, won’t be released until March 2023, more than a year after the game’s debut.

Besides being full of secrets, elderberry ring is extremely difficult and there are no options to vary the difficulty. Right after leaving the tutorial area, there’s a tough mini-boss fight that you can attempt immediately – and most players will – but you’ll get your ass kicked in seconds. It may take hours of grinding to level up your character’s stats and gear enough to take down this guy, let alone the first one. real chief.

FromSoftware’s previous games, like the Dark Souls series and those from 2019 sekiro, also do not include difficulty options. It has become a hallmark of the studio’s games. elderberry ring Director Hidetaka Miyazaki acknowledged this in January maintenance With the official PlayStation blog, while keeping this gameplay open, the difficulty is more manageable.

Miyazaki receives the Game of the Year award for sekiro on stage at The Game Awards 2019.JC Olivera/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

“Although we offer games with a high level of challenge, we design them in a satisfying way to overcome,” explained Miyazaki. “But I don’t want new players to worry or be too stressed about this difficulty.”

The essential of elderberry ring in the early months of 2022 likely attracted both lapsed gamers and people who hardly ever play. In theory, it’s fantastic.

In practice, a game that is both extraordinarily long and extraordinarily difficult is probably not the best way to dip a toe in the pond. In almost every aspect of its design, elderberry ring is deliberately not a newcomer friendly experience. Think of it this way: if a friend or sibling told you they wanted to “get into games,” you probably wouldn’t advise them to start with this one. Just like you wouldn’t tell someone who wants to “get into reading” to start Finnegan’s Wake.

The difficulty of elderberry ring is not necessarily an obstacle to accessibility. Back in May Reverse contributor Grant Stoner spoke to many disabled players who had conquered the game using character builds suited to their unique playstyles. Nevertheless, the difficulty of elderberry ring is an accessibility barrier for many gamers, disabled or not, and when nearly twenty million people have purchased your game, customizable difficulty starts to make a lot more sense.

Malenia, the Goddess of Decay, as she appears in the second phase of her elderberry ring boss fight.From software

I actually haven’t finished elderberry ring, although he devoted several dozen hours to it. Not even close! And I’m about as far as it gets from a “newcomer to the game”, but I’m not the only one Reverse Tours in this situation. Senior entertainment writer Eric Francisco expressed his admiration and dissatisfaction with the game elegantly in a December Twitter feed.

“I don’t know how else to put it, but in the end, elderberry ring – a game that I admit is fantastic but ultimately dislike and can’t finish – kind of took me away from the game completely,” he wrote. “elderberry ringThe immense situation of me has kind of disillusioned me about the direction the hobby is taking, evolving into something I don’t recognize and can’t see myself fitting into anymore. It’s like everyone loves someone I had a really bad date with and I have to keep it to myself.

I suspect a lot of people feel the same way. They appreciate that FromSoftware’s latest release is a singular achievement, but it seems insurmountable. And for some of these people, learning that elderberry ring is almost universally considered as good as the game can be enough to deter them from support altogether.

When I realized I personally knew exactly two people who had completed it elderberry ringand both did it for a review embargo, I took it upon myself to do a little informal poll:

Out of 53 people surveyed, more than 70% say they haven’t finished the game. And while some plan to return, most don’t. I don’t think it’s wrong to assume that these numbers would be significantly different if FromSoftware gave players the option to tweak the difficulty slightly. Of course, that would annoy some purists. But it would encourage many more to give the game a second look.

Frankly, I don’t know how to reconcile the idea that Best Game of the Year also embodies the medium’s most irritating fan-control tendencies. The Lands Between is a thrilling, endless expanse to explore. It is therefore unfortunate that elderberry ring itself too often resembles a walled garden.

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