As voted by our staff, Elden Ring from FromSoftware and Bandai Namco is GameLuster’s Game of the Year for 2022!
Elden Ring… ohhh, Elden Ring… From the moment we saw it at E3 2019, Elden Ring was the white whale of gaming. Where is it? Where will we see it next? Does Geoff Keighley have it? I know you have it, Geoff! With expectations that high, it would have been nearly impossible for the final product to match them. Yet here we are, at the end of the year, and not only did Elden Ring exceed expectations that it’d be one of the best games of the year – it truly became one of the best games of all time. Not since The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild five years ago has there been such an industry shattering title, something that you know is the pinnacle of the art form.
Elden Ring embraces an individualized experience by building the entire game around the concept of wanderlust. Choose your own paths, choose a near infinite number of builds, choose how much you’d like to take advantage of the systems put in place to allow players to purposefully break the game balance. Elden Ring has somehow achieved the perfect equilibrium of difficulty and approachability, letting hardcore Souls veterans face the challenge of a lifetime while allowing new players (like myself) to learn to exploit the world around them to win the fight.
Checkpoints are much more liberal than in previous FromSoftware games, although they can be ignored if you’re looking to grit your teeth and sweat through that next battle. Runes are so easy to earn back that losing them only occasionally feels like a true penalty, but when it does it stings. The world begs you to keep walking, and every time you think you’ve reached an impassable point, you can simply choose to walk in another direction. Stay and fight for your life, or ease up the throttle and hunt for a battle you know you can win. And all this done without a difficulty slider.
The combat is more finely honed than many of the most celebrated action games ever. The RPG mechanics are so deep and every point put into a stat is so meaningful that it at times outclasses the best of the best. The monsters are bone-chilling, wondrous, ethereal, harrowing, and gorgeous all at once. The masterful soundtrack composed by a dream team of Japanese composers communicates the harshness of the landscape, the beauty of the Erd Tree, the wonder of the crumbling capital city, the panic of seeing an Iron Maiden rushing towards you, and a hundred more feelings at once. A decade later, and finally a soundtrack for an open world RPG can look Skyrim in the eye with a cocky smile.
In a collaboration no one knew to ask for, George R. R. Martin and Hidetaka Miyazaki have created one of the most wondrous and intelligently designed worlds in all of gaming. The music pounds, Alexander the Pot Man trains with you to regain his power, the stars fall from the sky, the world tree on its last leaf – Elden Ring is like experiencing the breadth and depth of the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy in a single game. From Souls veterans to new fans alike, Elden Ring has gripped the entire world by making the Dark Souls formula much more accessible, forgiving, and above all, malleable.
Surely, this is the magnum opus that FromSoftware has built from their years of work – the white knuckle challenge of Demon’s Souls, the technical precision combat of Dark Souls, the abhorrent monstrosities of Bloodborne, the high-intensity action of Sekiro – everything has been a step building to Elden Ring. However, I suspect that Miyazaki and his team will find a way to outdo themselves yet. Stick around.