It has been a long time since a game like Elden Ring came out that captured people’s hearts and minds in a way where even now 10 months after its release it is still resonating with people. It is really difficult to understate just how much this game meant to people, and how it clearly stood above all games in 2023 when it comes to impact.
Elden Ring for many is not the best game that came out this year, including this lone writer’s opinion, but it’s impossible to dispute that for months on end it was the only game that anyone could talk about. From memes to speedruns, to debating its approachability there was no game that sparked more conversation than From Software’s successor to the Souls franchise. How did it do it though? How did a game developed by a team notorious for making extremely challenging and niche games break into the mainstream and become easily the most impactful game of 2022?
Without a doubt, the biggest appeal has to be the world that Elden Ring created, the desire everyone had to explore it, and the freedom we had in that exploration. A lot of times when a game comes out there is a silence across the usual discussion forums like Discord or Twitter because there is a respect everyone has for each other to let those experiences be raw and unspoiled. Elden Ring meanwhile was a game where people flooded message boards so they could share what they saw, tell their own personal adventures, and share information with each other. It created this sudden community discussing how if you go to this one location and open up this chest you’ll find an awesome sword, or if you go an entirely different direction you’ll find a miniboss to take on. Along the path to those locations though, everyone has a different experience based on how they approached battles, the enemies they may have faced, or the invasions they suffered at the hands of bloodthirsty players. Soon, sharing your adventure with friends was just as fun as overcoming challenges.
— Chris Barnewall (@ChrisBarnewall) March 2, 2022
The challenges we had to overcome in Elden Ring though were of course a part of the game. The creator of these games, Hidetaka Miyazaki, once apologized for always making games so difficult, but for him, these challenges weren’t there to crush the player and make them feel lesser, but so they can eventually feel the exuberance of finally overcoming a boss or clearing an area. When Elden Ring first came out, there was a slight concern among fans of the series that its popularity would draw people in only for them to bounce off crushed by its difficulty. Instead, the opposite happened, and new fans were born as they pushed forward until they eventually achieved the thrill of overcoming a great challenge. While not an exact science, one of the first major challenges of the game is Margit, the Fell Omen a boss that you must defeat to move the plot of the game along. According to PSNprofiles.com, 84.30% of players passed Margit and another 79% would go on to defeat Godrick. Elden Ring was not only popular, but everyone playing it was pushing through. They embraced the challenge and found enjoyment in that.
We already mentioned the exploration aspects from earlier, where players are able to go off and explore to their hearts’ content until their numbers are big enough to overcome even some of the game’s most challenging enemies, but this is just one example of the many ways Elden Ring guided the player more than the previous Souls games possibly didn’t. For starters, summons are available to the player very early and they can completely break certain boss fights. So much so that for a while it became a fun meme to post a video clip of you beating a boss without even trying cause the summon did all the work for you.
If spirits aren’t your jam then you can always just call in a friend! Elden Ring can be almost entirely a co-op experience by summoning your friends into boss fights and taking them down together. It’s another layer of fun on the game and does take away a little bit of the challenge. Of course, if you don’t want to do this then you do not have to, but the option is there for those of us who might not be as good at the game but want to see what the next explorative area has to offer.
With all of this behind it, you can see how Elden Ring has spent the entirety of 2022 at the forefront of people’s minds. However, there is one thing that helped it be the most impactful game of the year and it has nothing to do with communities, gameplay mechanics, or difficulty in games. It’s that it is a fun game. At the end of the day if you make a fun video game people are going to play it and nothing will ever change that. Elden Ring is fun and if you haven’t yet you should see if you can give it a try. Just be ready to die. A lot.