The game is not developer led (scripted) story heavy. As is the case with Demon's Souls, Dark Souls 1-3, Bloodborne, and Sekiro. They are all, however, heavy with player imagination driving a little and a lot of stories. This is good at times and frustrating at others. As to which I'd want more of, developer led story or imagination driven? I'm still 100% on the fence of being undecided.
I have to agree with Splincir and the many others among the Souls community in that, I'd like the developer to tell me a deeper or at least clearer style of story. Closure, I'd like closure on some subjects, if only to understand a given 'thing' better. In another sense however, there is comfort to be found in not always being told everything.
Closure is, arguably, the biggest missing piece from these games. That said, the sights/ scenes you will see and the sound and music you'll hear (from all the 'Souls-like' games) create an atmosphere so thick that you'll certainly think, "Why can't 'x' developer make their games look and sound this epic?" It's easy to lose track of time in Elden Ring. Please remember to get up, stretch, move around, and drink water.
The size, scope, and scale of the buildings, creatures, vistas, certain loot, caves, spells, even weapons are and have been on another level (Demon's Souls, original PS3 release version, sold me instantly on that aspect). From Software has not downsized their formula and one cannot play these games without truly appreciating the magnificent attention to detail. The filigree that went into so many pieces of armor, weapons, walls, hell even the tables, chairs, paintings, crests, insignias, etc. and some of it is all pieces to a story puzzle (when you figure that out, hold onto your butt, the rabbit hole is deep). Which makes sense, from a real-life perspective. Ex: one sees a lot of U.S.A. flags when traveling around the U.S.A., etc. and the design of the flag has history. There's a meaning behind how many stars and stripes, etc. Cohesive world building is showcased in Elden Ring.
The colossal, exceptionally drawn architectural structures are drop-dead gorgeous. The heights and balancing acts on ledges, ceiling or floor beams, those still give me super sweaty palms (remember alcohol wipes for the controller/ keyboard+mouse). Seriously. Nerve-wracking stuff. Detail, atmosphere, and imagination are top notch here, once again.
Quest chain breaks. At certain times, doing 'x' thing out of order can completely kill a quest chain and one is left with trying again on a new game or NG+; loot carried over, story starts anew. It's a learning process. "Complete all quests 100% in one play-through!" guides will arrive though. Give it time, like the rest of us are, we're still learning and there's a lot to take in.
These games will leave you feeling satisfied in overcoming grossly powerful adversities through practice, patience, and "jolly cooperation" (summoned NPC helpers and/ or players). If you don't want to deal with being invaded and player-killed by other players, you can play in offline mode. NPC and "ash summons" can be used at nearly every "boss" encounter, still, in offline mode.
Combat. You don't just hack-and-slash away, as is the case with 90% of western developer studio games. Elden Ring is not a brain-gravy-button-mashing game. From Software games are more like the Ninja Gaiden's and Castlevania's of old, mixed with Street Fighter. With those old games, especially, one really had to pay attention to and study enemy movement patterns, all while learning the nuances of your own inputs and your avatar's animations. Only then could one know what input to use and when to do so.
Street Fighter element of technical combat? Yes. Actions are very deliberate and like/ with Street Fighter games, once an action is being performed they can lock you into them as well as make your character move a little or a lot in any given direction (careful chucking those throwing knives from ledges). Once you understand the mechanics of combat and managing your stamina, you'll know when a heavy attack is favored over a light, a rolling attack over jump attack, or when to use your horse to beat brawn with speed or at least be par with speed. The game requires the players to study patterns, know the 'tells' of what attack is coming, and how to correctly respond. Once learned, the fights will become near trivial at times. Yes, really, trivial.
Also, there are play-style builds a-plenty to be had and access to extremely powerful loot and spells one can acquire, even early game, that can trivialize much of the game's content. Furthermore, it's open world. You can cheese a lot of encounters or just simply go off and explore in order to gain more runes; currency used to buy goods as well as level up. The only thing holding player progression back is the amount of time that you want to invest into learning.
The single biggest hurdle that a lot of people fail to get over is that these games require patience and practice. Many people simply do not have the time or do not want to take the time to learn how each enemy acts (to the numerous input options/ tools at our disposal). There are a tremendous amount of items to be had and used during any given fight.
TL/DR: This is a game that rewards players for putting in the time. Practice, patience, leveling up, using summoned spirits and/ or NPC's and/ or summoning players can make or break any given fight. The sights and sounds of the world are amazing. The sheer strangeness one can encounter at any given place is a testament to just how powerful the human imagination is when allowed to breathe. Size, scope, and scale are top notch. Game was clearly not dictated by greed so much but, rather, freedom of expression to pioneer innovative experiences. From Software took a risk to break their own mold per se, instead of xeroxing what others (or themselves) did year after year. 12 million sales can't be wrong?