Games of 2022: Elden Ring was the best game for breaking the rules
It took just over a week for someone to speedrun Elden Ring. But the race to the fastest time was only just beginning.
The first recorded speedrun clocked in at just under two and a half hours. Two days later the game was completed in under an hour. No sooner had one time been recorded, it was beaten. By April, it had been finished in under ten minutes.
Speedrunning a game like Elden Ring, with its gloriously dismal open world, has never really appealed to me. I am a diligent player. Rather than rush, I like to savour every grim discovery, every horrifying enemy. I set up my own rules, finishing each area of the map before moving on; not entering the sickly pungent Caelid until every dusty nook and cranny of the Raya Lucaria Academy had been explored.
That's why my first playthrough took over 110 hours.
But Elden Ring has proven inspiring to players throughout the year, with a whole string of creative and unique ways of playing beyond speedrunning.
Take Let Me Solo Her, an icon of the community who single-handedly beat the game's most infamous boss - Malenia - on behalf of defeated players a thousand times. When so many struggle with the challenge of FromSoftware's games, one player took our collective frustration on their back. Publisher Bandai Namco even gifted them a sword for their service.
Other players took control to the next level. One streamer completed the game using just one hand, beating every boss without levelling up her character. As if that wasn't impressive enough, she then did it all over again with a dance pad. And then she played with hands and feet at once.
Another plucky Tarnished made music while playing, releasing a video of herself defeating Margit using a harp. It may not be melodically interesting, but the synergy of player and instrument is an entirely new type of music.
Rudeism, known for his creative custom controllers, decided to play through Elden Ring using a modded Fisher Price toy controller that made silly sounds contrasting to the bloody action. Another renowned modder, Super Louis 64, not only played the game with a Ring Fit controller to sweat through The Lands Between, but played the game with a banana. How appeeling.
FromSoftware's games are known for their difficulty - indeed, Elden Ring has been rightfully criticised for its lack of accessibility options - but opening the world has opened up the game to many more players and inspired so many new ways of playing.
And what a spectacular world it is. Emerging from a catacomb at the start of the game, the hills roll out before you hiding a multitude of devilish, yet often strikingly beautiful, bosses to defeat. The first area complete, you look out over a lake of midnight blue bathed in moonlight, the gothic spires of the magic academy poking out enticingly in the distance.
But the real wow moment for me was when I first fell down a well. This wasn't just another catacomb. I stepped out underground beneath an iridescent starlit sky and realised the already imposing map featured an entirely new layer to explore. I couldn't wait to see more.
Isn't all this the joy of an open world game? Elden Ring is a dark fantasy sandbox and there's room for everyone no matter how you want to play: be it meticulously beating every boss, or playing through with a banana. FromSoftware's epic gives players the freedom to make their own rules - or break them entirely.