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Change YoY: =   My Rating: 9.6 / 10

Breaking into the top ten now, Elden Ring is not only the best game of this generation so far, but also the best open world game I've ever played by a decent margin. Initially upon hearing about the game, I wasn't entirely convinced that the soulsborne formula would translate well into an open world. The FromSoftware developed titles were, among other things, known for their intricately designed, interconnected locations that wrapped around each other in various clever ways that made exploration a joy to undertake. Taking a game like that and placing it into and open world setting admittedly felt a little odd at first. However, as it turns out, they still created those same wonderfully designed locations and simply made them part of the larger world in Elden Ring. Best of both worlds I suppose.

The thing that hit me first about the game, once I made my way through the introductory dungeon and opened that first door into the open world, was just how gorgeous it looked. There may be games with better graphics from a pure technological point of view, but no other game in a long time has looked this great in terms of art direction. The next thing that hit me was a lance hit from a miniboss riding a horse, followed by the first of many death screens. Like meeting an old friend. After a while I got into the right rhythm, taking my time exploring, finding intriguing places and enemies, and slowly mapping out the first area of the game. As the world began to open up more and I got used to game's intricacies and differences from previous FromSoftware titles, I realized just how well it all worked together. Putting the developer's style into an open world setting had done nothing to hamper the experience, and in a lot of ways it only enhanced it. This was an open world done right.

There was a sense of wonder and mystery that remained with me throughout the over 130 hours I spent playing Elden Ring on my first playthrough. I never got tired of discovering new locations, dungeons, bosses, secrets, and details about the world. It felt like there was something new and exciting to be found no matter where I went and how long I played. Even now, after finishing the game and spending so much time with it, I've seen other players find entire dungeons and bosses I never encountered in the game. The game is so full of stuff, and unlike in so many other open world games, it's all engaging and interesting. No pointless fetch quests or worthless collectibles that mean nothing. While there are some minor faults to be found, such as certain bosses being repeated a few too many times, I have never enjoyed an open world as much as I did The Lands Between. Elden Ring was the first new game to enter my gaming top ten in five years, when another FromSoftware game entered into it. I'll talk about that one a bit later.