2022 has been a year full of impressive releases, but there are still two clear front runners for Game of the Year. The main consensus across the gaming community has been that FromSoftware’s Elden Ring has a sure path to claiming that title — that is, until God of War: Ragnarok, Santa Monica Studio’s long-awaited sequel to 2018’s critically acclaimed God of War, released to resounding acclaim. In this article, we’ll weigh the aspects of each game, and attempt to predict who will take the crown.
What Makes a Good Game?
Everyone has different preferences when it comes to games — some players only care about story, while others are only concerned with how fun the combat is. There are also players who prefer a balanced experience, and value all aspects of a game equally. Therefore, we’re going to take a look at how Elden Ring and Ragnarök succeed in a wide variety of categories. We’ll focus on Map & World Building, Exploration, Story, Combat, and Replayability.
Map & Worldbuilding
God of War: Ragnarök
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s — some of EIP’s staff members enjoy FromSoft’s approach to storytelling!
Elden Ring: The sheer size and world of Elden Ring create both a feeling of intimidation and awestruck wonder. Much like GOW, the different areas of Elden Ring are unique and separate. Each area feels lived in; the ruins of the Lands Between are filled with incredible enemy variety. With the map being revealed slowly over time as players progress, Elden Ring allows players to explore and experience the world.
GOWR: Open World games take more work to execute correctly. Checklist-style gaming, or a big map with little icons peppered across, fails to hook players into the experience. GOWR abandons these issues and uses a semi-open world system much like GOW 2018, with each of the nine realms having enough space to feel alive. Each biome and realm feels unique, with vibrant colors helping envelope the players in the experience. The nine areas all have exactly enough going on to keep players invested without feeling bloated. The side missions likewise add variety to the game and give the main story some breathing room. Without spoilers, let’s just say that a side-quest serves as a moment for Atreus and Kratos to have some genuine father-son time.
WINNER – Elden Ring
Elden Ring: The exploration of Elden Ring is arguably the best aspect of the game, with major bosses beating you to a pulp until you come back stronger (or at least more skilled). Every edge of Elden Ring’s world feels like it was designed for a specific purpose. The game rewards exploration at every turn, making small dungeons and massive castles equally important and engaging.
GOWR: God of War has always had interesting and engaging side content. With a post-game being crucial to keeping players invested. That said, GOWR has little incentive for exploration other than minor armor upgrades and easy XP. The exploration is not a big part of the game and feels more like an afterthought to keep players engaged.The new refined XP system does add variety, but the playstyle doesn’t change much with exploration. That being said, the players use XP as the skill tree currency instead of character skill points — this does incentivize exploration. Still, all in all, the side content is only minor in scale.
WINNER – Elden Ring
Elden Ring: This is the category where Elden Ring loses the hardest. A quote from YouTuber Ranton explains it the best, “Story is told, Lore is found.” Elden Ring has extensive lore and background, but that is where the issues are: the story is in the background. The setup and opening cinematic of Elden Ring are impressive, but somehow the reveal trailer does a better job explaining the world to the player than anything in-game. Having to find the lore through collectibles and YouTube channels creates a dull experience story-wise.
GOWR: With the story picking up right after its 2018 counterpart, GOWR has an immersive and engaging story. The opening alone creates a sense of tension and dread. The father-son relationship between Kratos and Atreus is explored further, keeping players invested. The relationship between Thor and Kratos, and how the game draws comparisons between the two, makes for an intense opening boss battle. While the characters’ motivations aren’t nearly as concrete as GOW 2018, it still feels like the perfect sequel.
WINNER – God of War: Ragnarök
Elden Ring: FromSoftware games are known for simplistic combat, and Elden Ring continues this archetype. The Combat of Elden ring can be summarized as “Light attack, Light attack, roll”. This doesn’t mean the combat isn’t fun, merely simplistic. Killing enemies and overcoming difficult bosses creates a rewarding experience. Especially since Elden Ring tells the player to “Get good”, offering little in the way of help if players are stuck on a tough boss. The game is skill-based, rewarding the player for overcoming obstacles and punishing them when mistakes are made. Thus, Elden Ring shoots for a learning experience combat-wise rather than focusing on the “fun” factor. Unlockable abilities such as “Ashes of War” make for interesting gameplay, but — depending on the build — can make the game feel clunky and slow. Nevertheless, the simplicity of FromSoftware’s combat is the main appeal of their games.
GOWR: Much like GOW 2018, GOWR utilizes a fluid and intense combat system, each attack feeling visceral. The combos and overall sense of power and direction give GOWR an easy edge over Elden Ring’s combat system. The combat system of this game is anything but dull, keeping the action and tension through the whole playthrough. The unlockable abilities aren’t a nuisance, they genuinely enhance gameplay. When it was announces the player would be playing as Atreus, people were scared that his combat wouldn’t be fun, but that’s not the case. Both Atreus and Kratos feel unique enough in their playstyle. The Blades of Chaos and Leviathan Axe have distinct uses and rolls, demanding the player’s attention and engagement.
WINNER – God of War: Ragnarök
Elden Ring: The NG+ feature of Elden ring makes replaying the game enjoyable. Players are free to try out different builds and playstyle, making each completion of Elden Ring unique and immersive. The game’s many endings represent the individual journey the player has taken to reach the finale. In short, Elden Ring always offers a reason to come back and start your Tarnished journey again. The only issue with Elden Ring’s replayability value are the questlines themselves: they seem tedious and unrewarding in nature. Having to consult a guide just to hand specific items to specific characters at a specific location isn’t exactly engaging gameplay.
GOWR: Finishing the game, GOWR leaves the players satisfied with a clear and thought-out conclusion. Nevertheless, replayability is near nonexistent. While the experience is fun every time, it remains the same. There is little incentive for the player to return after the credits roll.
WINNER – Elden Ring
Elden Ring and GOWR are phenomenal games, each with pros and cons. While impossible to determine with 100% certainty, Elden Ring seems to have multiple advantages over GOWR. Thus, we believe Elden Ring is the prime candidate for GOTY. We’ll find out for sure one way or the other on December 8th, when the Game Awards stream live.
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Born in 2004, any game with a bonkers story and fun combat is fun to me. Huge fan of the soulsborne games, especially Bloodborne.