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I’m Glad I’m Missing Out On The Elden Ring Hype

I promise I'm not wheezing down an oxygen tank full of copium while I write this, but I'm glad I'm not into Elden Ring. Hey, I admit it, I wanted to like FromSoftware's latest masterpiece. I stand by my view that a game as obtuse and uninviting, however compelling it may be for those enraptured by it, cannot be the greatest game of all time, and I'm still fearful for the future of the open-world genre I love, despite its increasing staleness. But Elden Ring is fresh, new, and everyone loves it. I don't, but I hardly matter. In a medium that frequently plays it safe, focus tests every pixel ad nauseum, and won't do anything that someone else hasn't made money by doing previously, it's refreshing to see a game that goes against the grain take off, even if it's leaving me on the runway.

I wrote something similar a while back about Breath of the Wild, another foundation-shifting game that wasn't on my frequency. I said that I hoped I'd hate Breath of the Wild 2, something many people seemed to get the wrong idea of from the headline alone – and who needs to read the whole article when the headline's right there? Since those people may well have done the same again, this may be pointless, but I'll briefly describe my point anyway. BOTW was not for me, yet I understood how important it was for Zelda, for Nintendo, and for gaming as a whole. Even though a sequel in the same vein will no doubt pass me by again, I'd rather it stuck to its Master Swords and built on that legacy than make a game completely different that I personally might enjoy. I can already see ripples of BOTW in games I enjoy, and they're better for it, so I want BOTW2 to make bigger, wider reaching ripples. Not every game needs to be made for me, and it's clear that neither BOTW nor Elden Ring are. But maybe that's a good thing.

In many ways, the games are similar. Neither hold your hand. Both have maps that seem to have been designed from the ground up with environmental storytelling in mind, rather than pre-built with random segments of narrative dropped in wherever they may fit. Both tell you to go wherever you want. But it's in the differences that my dislike for them seeps in. Elden Ring is deliberately evasive in its menus, item descriptions, and general UX/UI, on top of the fact that it prides itself on being impossibly difficult even when you understand it all. With Breath of the Wild, it seems open, but once you pick up a questline it's a lot more guided. Unfortunately, said questline often involves you being flung to the far reaches of the map as BOTW begs you to explore further.

Why I dislike Elden Ring is immaterial at this point. The people who are still playing it now are the ones who have fallen in love, or at least the ones with an iron will that cannot be broken. Me yelling at them to stop having fun won't do any good. Gaming is far too safe these days, and sometimes when you go outside the box, you lose people. That's good. That's healthy. The fact that games try to please all the people all the time is what led us to 2021's largely uninspiring roster of triple-A hits. Sure, a little of that was pandemic-related, but a lot of it was games shaving off any original ideas in favour of a thing they know has already worked before. It's a trend that will continue – Horizon Forbidden West just felt like Horizon Zero Dawn but bigger. 2022 has some fantastic titles lined-up, but a lot of them could well disappoint as they stick with what works. Elden Ring has not. No consideration has been made for whether an idea will be popular, just whether it will be good.

You know when an athlete from your country does really well in the Olympics, but you have absolutely no clue of how the sport works? Britain are world leaders in Keirin, if you can believe it, so every four years I have to watch Keirin and root for the rider in our colours. I don't understand it, but I'm happy for people who do. Elden Ring is the new Keirin. I'm glad you're winning, son.

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