I absolutely loved Elden Ring. My relationship with FromSoftware’s rise into the mainstream has been, well, complicated. Many forget that the Japanese studio has been knocking around PlayStation platforms since the days of King’s Field, where it was resolutely considered a B-tier developer at best. Even with the remarkable Demon’s Souls, the story goes that the incumbent PS Studios honcho Shuhei Yoshida decided against publishing the title globally – a mistake it would eventually rectify with Bluepoint’s outstanding PS5 remake.
But for me it wasn’t really until Bloodborne that the series captured my attention; I’ve since been back to those original Dark Souls and I appreciate them, but the discourse of impossible difficulty and insurmountable odds turned me off at the time. I’ve since come to learn that the Souls saga is nowhere near as punishing as the marketing would lead you to believe, and even as a very average player I’ve managed to overcome most of the games – including the recent Elden Ring.
I thought FromSoftware handled the transition to open world remarkably well, and there are several unforgettable moments in Elden Ring that cement it as one of my PS5 favourites for sure. Ultimately, I was comfortable with the fact that it had already won Game of the Year all the way back when it released in February – after all, what could possibly topple it? Maybe if Nintendo had released The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, there could be competition, but that inevitably got delayed. Again.
All of the time, God of War Ragnarok was little more than an afterthought to me. I’ll be honest with you: I wasn’t looking forward to Santa Monica Studio’s sequel at all. In fact, if you look back as far as late September in our staff Slack chats, you’ll find comments from me where I was pretty indifferent about the release. My view was that, in pre-release promotions, it just hadn’t looked very interesting. Personally, I’m not that fussed about Norse mythology, and while I thoroughly enjoyed 2018’s God of War reboot, I still wouldn’t really put Kratos on par with some of my favourite PlayStation characters, like Nathan Drake and Ellie.
Don’t get me wrong, I expected a high-quality game, but I just didn’t think it would come close to dethroning Elden Ring. No chance. I now know that Santa Monica Studio was actually keeping everything tight to its chest. It’s remarkable, even now on the eve of the game’s release, how little the studio’s shown. I’m not going to go into specifics, because we’re obviously not in a habit of spoiling games here at Push Square, but I still don’t think fans are quite prepared for what they’re about to experience.
But I don’t want to oversell it, as I do think there’s a danger with these big releases that the hype gets so strong it’s impossible for the finished product to live up to expectations. I’m just trying to paint a picture of where my head was at when I embarked on my adventure in Ragnarok: I just didn’t think it was going to come close to being a Game of the Year candidate. A few weeks later, I think Elden Ring has real competition. Like, serious competition. In fact, if anything, I think recency bias means God of War may have the edge.
And the series has form for this. Cast your mind back to 2018, when many assumed Red Dead Redemption 2 would waltz away with all the plaudits, only for God of War to eventually get the nod. The thing is, this new game is so much better than its predecessor – yes, it couldn’t exist without it, but it’s effectively an improvement in every single department. The only thing you could really meaningfully criticise is that it is, at its core, more of the same – but seeing as they rebooted the franchise in the previous entry, it was never going to be as revolutionary anyway.
Look, at the end of the day, I don’t really care who wins Game of the Year. If it’s Elden Ring, then it’s a worthy winner; if it’s God of War Ragnarok, then fantastic, too. All I’m trying to say is, I think there’s legitimate competition for the top gong now, and I wouldn’t have predicted that five or six weeks ago. You may have a different opinion entirely: maybe you love Horizon Forbidden West or Bayonetta 3 or something else entirely. All I know is that when Geoff Keighley steps onto the stage of The Game Awards in his obligatory ostentatious sneakers on 10th December, only two titles will be locking horns – and y’know what, I don’t think Elden Ring has this in the bag anymore.
What is your current Game of the Year frontrunner, and where do you expect God of War Ragnarok to rank? Be sure to check out our God of War Ragnarok PS5 review and God of War Ragnarok guide for much more on Sony’s latest, and let us know in the comments section below.