The game’s critical rivalry between ‘Elden Ring’ and ‘Horizon Forbidden West’

There is a major rift emerging in the development of open-world video games. It’s been a long time coming.

A good old-fashioned sales battle is currently underway between two high-profile titles: Forbidden horizon westsequel to Horizon Zero Dawnreleased on February 18, and elden ringthe long-awaited cooperation of Hidetaka Miyazaki and Game of thrones Author George R.R. Martin, who arrived a week later on February 25. forbidden west It sold well in pre-orders and in its launch week – it’s the third biggest launch yet for the PlayStation 5. But the sales and hype forbidden west It stopped somewhat abruptly against the unbridled success of elden ringNow the best-selling game of the year FromSoftware developer’s best-selling game to date One of the best-reviewed games since Red Dead Redemption 2Possibly the most influential game since 2017 The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

forbidden west And the elden ring Share some key similarities. Both are big-budget RPGs, open world, action and adventure games set in a devastating landscape. They are otherwise very different titles at the molecular level. forbidden westDeveloped by Dutch studio Guerrilla Games, this is a character drama for all ages with social characters working together to save a post-apocalyptic civilization. Hero Aloy leads mankind’s war against robotic dinosaurs, high-tech humans and rogue artificial intelligence. She’s a smart but hesitant leader, and forbidden west It is as much a story about her quest to save humanity from a second extinction as it is a story about her self-empowerment and self-discovery.

On the other hand, elden ring It is a grim, stressful and mysterious ordeal. The protagonist is a silent outcast known only as Char. Tarnished collects runes and slays demigods in order to become the next eldest lord thus restoring order to a strange medieval realm known as the Lands in Between. There is no self-examination in elden ringJust struggle. For more than a decade, Miyazaki has been known for his exceptional gaming difficulty as FromSoftware manager. The immense popularity of elden ringwith his superiors breaching the controls, is a shock to the system.

But for once, FromSoftware is leading the discussion about something other than easy modes and accessibility features. rather, elden ring And the forbidden west Now it’s a huge clash of user interface (UI) and user experience (UX). These terms include a variety of components: a head-up display (HUD) in the player’s main view, in-game menus, a world map with its various legends and tags, and tutorials for various mechanics. These systems mediate player interactions with characters and landscapes.

at forbidden westAloy may be standing in the middle of a settlement, and will be surrounded by several beacons that direct the player to different points of interest: here is a merchant selling weapons, here is a merchant selling clothes, this is the current destination of a side order, and here is the current destination of the main quest. She also wears an earpiece called Focus, which illuminates subjects of interest, like an unsuspecting machine monster, in her field of view. Aloy is also talking to herself — talking to the player, really — about clues, resources, signs, and threats in her immediate surroundings. at elden ring, Spots lacks such tools. There’s a map marked at the express travel checkpoints, known as “blessing sites,” which I’ve discovered so far. But that’s about it. Otherwise you are up to your intuition to explore the lands in between.

Different games use different tools for different effects. In the best case – I say Breath of the wild It does this well – these triggers and tags guide the player while maintaining some sense of open-ended exploration. In the worst case, for example, Cyberpunk 2077 movie—Organization produces garbled HUD screen, intrusive prompts, excessive tutorials, and countless signs. It is this latter approach that has become dominant in big-budget RPGs as the worlds become larger and the sub-systems – leveling, crafting, and side-questioning – become more complex. This culminates in a common frustration with the user interface and user experience of modern open world games. forbidden westWith its dense facade and relentless claims, it represents the status quo. elden ringWith a sparse interface and blocking direction, it presents a unique challenge.

A month ago, video game developer Ahmed Salama worked on it Horizon Zero Dawn And now working for Ubisoft, vent his frustrations with it elden ring. “The fact that #ELDENRING scored 97 metacritic is proof that the reviewers are not giving a damn about Game UX,” Salameh tweeted (later deleted). He was joined by a few colleagues in the industry and tweeted additional complaints about the mission design at elden ring and technical performance of the game on PC. Soon, Salama and his peers met a hostile online defense battalion elden ring While disparaging other nicknames, mainly horizon, but also Doctrine killerAnd the SkyrimAnd the the magician. The reactions made headlines. The developers closed their Twitter accounts. The pile was ugly, but the crux of the dispute was still interesting to consider. I just saw one really devastating critique in the form of a viral screenshot from elden ring Manipulated to reimagine the game with a traditional cluttered interface full of obnoxious game hints.

But this was wildly bad and unforgiving speech all around. Yes, it was frustrating to watch a group of video game developers show a complete lack of familiarity with these common and persistent criticisms of open world games. It was also disappointing to see an overly violent reaction to the sporadic criticism of the game, which was met with universal acclaim. elden ring It actually has its fair share of intrusive claims, and forbidden west It actually allows players to toggle some of the path-detection features in the game; Both the game is the pure caricature that you will find in the speech. Really, these arguments are not about the hard map button in elden ring Or the abundant task tags in forbidden west But rather about the last decade of singles games in general.

It’s a matter of storytelling but it’s also a matter of trust. At first, elden ring The Tarnished falls into a remote church and trusts the player to navigate the world with plenty of clear guidance from the other characters. This works because the lands between the designers are designed to encourage this open style of exploration. This has nothing to do with HUD. Instead, the interface is merely a reflection of the level design and narrative structure of elden ring. on the flip side, forbidden west Aloy is caught in the middle of a civilizational clash with a complex political dynamic. The world is not designed for pure discovery. It is designed to host a dramatic band about humanity recovering from its own destruction. The world – and the interfaces – are designed to emphasize these social imperatives.

forbidden west With the user interface and user experience of elden ring It would seem a little silly for the same reason elden ring It looks silly when you install HUD from The third witcher. So really, these arguments seem to hinge on underlying patterns. Are we tired of popular novels? Are we more open to environmental storytelling than ever before? The success of both games, both commercially and critically, points to a bright future for both approaches—but only as long as we’re honest about their respective advantages and limitations.