Kinda offtopic but I've been thinking a lot about people's reactions to Elden Ring and what my reaction could be. I consider myself a Fromsoft fan, I bought Demon's Souls on the PS3 before Dark Souls launched and had an absolute blast with it. Actually it was my first PS3 game and it remains precious to me and also one of my top 5 favorites on that console. That being said I didn't love the games that came afterward: Dark Souls was good and the way the areas connected was better than Demon's but the story left A LOT to be desired. DS2 felt extremely derivative of Demon's and DS1. I didn't hate DS2 but it was just okay.
It kinda is, and yet it makes a big difference.
For starters it makes the difficulty much more adjustable. A boss is too hard? Go somewhere else. The game actually encourages players to do exactly that, by putting two relatively hard bosses nearly at the start of the game: the Tree Sentinel and Margit. It teaches the players to look around what else they can find.
The amazing part though is exploration. And not only geographical, but also exploring gameplay mechanics. The world is well designed on multiple levels. On the macro level you have regions that are only partly visible (through clever usage of elevation) and may be hard to reach. But if you explore, each major region (except the endgame) has multiple ways to get there. So while many stepped into Liurnia after beating Godrick the Grafted, I already explored Liurnia before I even beat Margit. The same works for other regions as well. And on the medium or small level you still find the carefully crafted From Software dungeons.
And gameplay wise I don't think any From Game so far offered so many options. Yes, a lot of these were in past games, but Elden Ring has so many weapons, with Ash of Wars they can be combined with a lot of skills and their actual values and elemental damages can be changed. Craftable items also offer you ways into dealing with enemies. For instance the throwing pots can be crafted to include all sorts of elemental damage which allows even players with certain builds to access this if needed.
It also helps that most of the game is optional. That sounds like a bad thing, but actually it is a good thing. That is also part of the open world design, but many open world games still try to force you into a lot of it's content. But Elden Ring actually gives you the freedom to skip over most of the game. You still will try to experience a lot the game has to offer, because you *want* to. And if something in it is boring or frustratring - just leave it be and focus on the parts that are fun.
All that doesn't mean Elden Ring is the best game ever or it is perfect. It has flaws and shortcomings. A lot of it comes down to From being a small studio - obviously they cannot do as much as an AAA game like Horizon Forbidden West. But Elden Ring is a great experience. And the open world, the freedom and exploration aspect it offers brings just enough new stuff to make it interesting for From veterans, while the typical From Software elements bring a lot of freshness into the open world genre.