Sonic Frontiers Is 2022’s Most Interesting Game, And We Need More Like It
Sonic Frontiers has the most interesting reviews of the year. 2022 has given us good games, bad games, and okay games, but for the most part we’ve been in agreement. God of War Ragnarok has been universally praised, Babylon’s Fall entirely panned. But we haven’t had a game we disagreed on very much. Enter Sonic Frontiers.
Sonic Frontiers scored everywhere between one to nine from critics in the first round of reviews, and once players get their hands on it, I’m sure the missing zero and ten scores will be populated pretty quickly. I’m yet to play it myself, but having read a few reviews, including our own, it sounds interesting in a way few games are. A masterpiece? Probably not, but we throw that word around once or twice a month, at least. I’m sick of masterpieces. I want interesting games again.
Obviously, when masterpieces work, they’re great. You might even say they’re masterpieces. But unfortunately, they aren’t great all that often. I wrote recently that I thought games were becoming too big, taking too long to make, and costing too much money for so many of them to be this disappointing. Whatever the price for a Red Dead Redemption, a Last of Us, a God of War, we all agree it’s worth it for the end product. But so many middling triple-A games have attempted to copy this formula and come up short. Worse, they’ve come up boring. Sonic Frontiers does not try to be a big triple-A cinematic masterpiece, and while it hasn’t ended up pleasing everyone, at least it’s trying something.
Frontiers is not entirely its own thing, of course. Reviews have confirmed the influences the trailer suggested – Mario Galaxy and Odyssey, Shadow of the Colossus, and Breath of the Wild. All of these games were successful, but they aren’t the typical roadmaps that triple-A-by-committee titles tend to copy. Breath of the Wild you might put in there, but usually because a studio executive liked it and can’t explain why, so the team is forced to copy vague ideas without any real focus.
Sonic Frontiers, for better or worse, is inescapably its own thing. Though it borrows like a magpie, it constructs the pieces together into a unique display to attract Sonic fuckers everywhere. All games take inspiration from others, but lately it feels as though they’ve been too loyal to this inspiration, playing it too safe, adding nothing of note to the equation.
Some of what Sonic adds probably won’t land for you. Pretty much every review agrees that the third island in particular is a misfire, and with a range of one to nine, it’s likely you’ll find something out of step. But that something, whatever it is, is probably going to be different for me than it is for you, and the next person, and the next person. We need more games like that.
It’s a shame it’s coming out at the same time as God of War Ragnarok, because while I’m going to play both, I know not everyone has that luxury. The choice between the best game of the year and the most divisive is going to mean a lot of people avoid division in favour of the blockbuster. Hey, I’m thinking I might start with God of War myself. But I’d much rather future games try to be a Sonic than try to be a Ragnarok.
Trying to be like God of War Ragnarok mostly means loosely copying its ideas on a lower budget and with less freedom, resulting in a bland clone that offers nothing new. Copying Sonic Frontiers means, even if it’s not always a home run, you’re swinging for the fences every time you step up to the plate. Maybe I’ll play Ragnarok first, but I’m far more interested in 2023’s attempt at Sonic Frontiers than 2023’s attempt at God of War Ragnarok.
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