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As the biggest releases of 2022, Elden ring and: God of War. Ragnarok have been up against each other in almost every way this year. However, they couldn’t be more different in one key way. Meanwhile Elden ring wants his players to get lost in The Lands Between, God of war. Ragnarok (and many more of the biggest budget games of 2022) seem afraid of missing out on any content from players.

Ragnarok, Horizon Forbidden West, and many other blockbuster games this year tended to hold players’ hands tighter than ever. That attitude was in stark contrast Elden ringwhich is not only good at allowing players to skip massive amounts of content, but almost as if wish them to. This is not a mere critique of how Forbidden West has checklists and waypoints while Elden ring no; they’re just symptoms of a larger problem in modern game design.

As polished, well-designed, and high-quality as these games are, the one lesson they can all learn from Elden ring respects the intelligence of the players.

I want to hold your hand

Holding hands is a strong term because it evokes the idea that players are treated like children who can’t cross the street on their own. But many popular games struggle to trust that players will follow their curiosity and instincts, or just be okay with them if they don’t. That philosophy led to the growth of components such as waypoints, quest controls, and NPCs that say: “hey, i think there’s something here.” From an accessibility perspective, these features are often necessary. While these are the default and there isn’t much to turn them off, it can change the mindset of the game as a whole.

Side question Ragnarok can tell a great story, many say. However, they are not our stories. It’s not just the decision that ends up being the same, but every step leading up to it. By now, most people have heard the discourse or simply experienced it for themselves, but here it is both Forbidden West and: Ragnarok “Previews” of depressing puzzles are coming. These games don’t want players to get bored, stuck or lose even for a moment and risk the game. Even with options to reduce the frequency, they still tend to provide signage for even the simplest solutions.

This isn’t exclusively a Sony first-party issue, though it’s most visible on its biggest releases. It’s hard for me to think of a big game from 2022 no fall into these tropes too much, starting with Pokémon Ghostwire: Tokyo. Even purely linear games seem to be filled with big bright markers on doors, HUD elements pointing you in the right direction, text descriptions of exactly what your goal is and how to do it, or even all at once.

Modern games seem to have a severe lack of trust in players, leaving them with little room to struggle and learn. Taking these opportunities away before I even have a chance to process what’s going on, I often find myself anxious. I follow the instructions at the moment, I don’t solve anything on my own.

Don’t tell me a story, give me a story to tell

That’s in stark contrast to Game of the Year, which was hailed for bucking these trends altogether. Elden ring It is not an undirected game. it’s just one that wants you to find your own way through it. While that method may not be for everyone, it can create unique experiences that reflect the unique emergent quality of games.

Ten months ago I had a moment Elden ring I can still instantly recall that the game shows off what the game does, in my mind, far better than any other big budget game released in 2022. I saw some kind of spirit or apparition, not an unusual sight at all Elden ring — walking through Liurnia for the first time. However, this ghost did not move with the erratic and jerky tendencies of a human player. It glowed a pleasant orange and walked, or rather stumbled, away from me. Proud of the fact that I only fell for the emulation trick once after my first playthrough dark souls I haven’t given up my guard yet. Keeping a safe distance, I followed.

A woman in a cloak kneeling by the statue.

Finally, after having to deal with enemies it took me past and that I had initially avoided, we reached the base of the rock wall. was that Did this ghost lead me here in vain? It wouldn’t be the first such trick FromSoftware had ever pulled, but I couldn’t take it. When the spirit finally stopped, among the bushes and rocks, I noticed it. A cave that is almost impossible to see from a distance. I got ready and went inside to see what was in store for me. It was an organic series of events that felt like my own unique war story to tell other players.

I haven’t had those moments in many other big games this year. Just last month I interviewed on the side Ragnarok where I followed an objective automatically given to me during the story, followed a waypoint to a location, did a battle and solved a puzzle, and then went on with my life. It doesn’t matter which quest I’m talking about because there’s no story worth telling. You either had the exact same experience with it as I did, or you just chose not to.

Hafgufa flies in Ragnarok, God of War.

I was left to imagine what my journey would have been like if I had gotten there naturally Ragnarok An early quest that involved freeing a creature in the desert, the only clue I had as to its whereabouts was that Atreus said he heard some pain in the storm. I imagine what it would have felt like to follow my instincts, brave the sandstorm to follow the sound, and stumble upon that cave myself. I longed for the sense of wonder and delight I would feel upon seeing that huge mythical jellyfish. Instead, I felt like the developers were worried that I would miss out on a piece of content that they spent a lot of money and energy on.

Holding it like a hand goes against what makes games unique as a storytelling medium. Not every game has to work this way, but open-world titles in particular allow players to actually play a part in creating a unique experience, and that’s increasingly hard to find. God of War Ragnarok a well-designed game that deserves praise, but I know I’ll probably never play it again unless I want to experience it exactly the same story.

Ragnarok feels like watching a favorite movie again; Elden ring allows you to refer one yourself.

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