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If you like Elden Ring, play 2021’s most underrated game

Elden Ring was released to widespread critical acclaim and adoration over a month ago. It proved how open worlds that emphasize discovery and exploration engage and immerse players more than a world that just feels like a hub for a checklist of missions and collectibles. Unfortunately, Elden Ring isn’t a game for everyone, myself included, due to its crushing difficulty and some other questionable design choices. 

Thankfully, Elden Ring isn’t the only game to contain an open world that enables that much player freedom. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is the easiest comparison to make, but an underrated indie game from 2021 also gives Elden Ring’s open world a run for its money. The best part: It’s more relaxing than Elden Ring because it doesn’t contain an ounce of combat. 

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That game in question is Sable from Shedworks and Raw Fury. Released for PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S in September 2021, Sable uses an open world with immense freedom to tell a coming-of-age story that’s as long or short as the player wants it to be. Whether you’re a fan of Elden Ring looking for a similar game to sink your teeth into or someone who likes the freedom of Elden Ring’s open world but can’t get past its eccentricities, Sable should be the next game you play.

Sable - Launch Trailer - Available Now (4k)

Beneath the mask

In Sable, you play as the titular character, a young girl from the Ibex tribe on the giant desert planet of Midden who must go on a journey across the planet to collect masks. When Sable is ready, she can return to the village and choose a mask to determine what she’ll do for the rest of her life. After a somewhat confined beginning where the player learns to float in the air and also creates a hoverbike called a Glider, they then set off into Midden’s vast deserts, free to meet people, complete tasks for them, and solve puzzles while collecting masks and learning about the history of the world.

The moment when players are driving away from the Ibex tribe into the desert and Japanese Breakfast’s original song Glider kicks in trumps the opening of both Breath of the Wild and Elden Ring in getting the players excited to explore a large world. Couple that with distinct visuals and excellent sound design, and you have a game that’s a treat to look at and play. 

Although the player is directed toward a specific village after leaving Sable’s tribe, they can choose to go anywhere from the start. The player’s floating ability and stamina allow them to climb anything they come across. Players will slowly uncover the history of Sable’s world while learning more about the cultures and kinds of people that populate it, which fans of Elden Ring’s hands-off storytelling will appreciate. No matter where players go, they can meet another wandering traveler or complete a puzzle platforming challenge to get a mask. Sable is an experience that purely cares about that feeling of adventure, so there’s no combat or overreliance on adjusting and leveling up Sable’s stats. While this minimalist approach might seem too simple, it actually makes it a fantastic companion piece to Elden Ring

Relaxing, not taxing

Sable does many of the same things correctly as FromSoftware’s latest, but without any of the overwhelming — and sometimes poorly explained — fluff. Players don’t have to worry about difficult roadblocks that force them to explore and get good. Sable enables players to go anywhere they want and do anything they want until at least three masks are collected. Players can beat Sable in just a few hours, but the game has enough depth to support players for much longer than that with the number of quests to complete and masks to collect. The game features a quest log too, so even with its minimalist aesthetic and UI, you’ll never feel truly lost.

Sable drives across the desert in a glider.

Sable demonstrates that the difficulty isn’t what makes Elden Ring so great; world design that encourages and rewards players for exploring does. Games like Breath of the Wild, Sable, and Elden Ring understand it and are three of the best open-world games in recent years for that reason. But out of this triple threat of standard-setting open-world games, Sable has garnered the least attention and acclaim for its efforts, making it a hidden gem. Now that Elden Ring has indoctrinated over 12 million players into this modern version of the open world, Sable is worth revisiting.

Sable is available now for PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S. It’s even on Xbox Game Pass. 

Editors' Recommendations

Instead of getting lost in Elden Ring, I’m just plain lost
A character sits in front of a glowing, yellow orb in Elden Ring.

After spending a few hours with FromSoftware's latest, I can say that Elden Ring is not for me. A combination of its intense difficulty, lack of direction, and clunky menus mean it has not immersed me in the same way as games like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild or even Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice.
"Immersion" is a buzzword often associated with open-world games, as developers try their hardest to enthrall players in the dense universes they create. FromSoftware's Souls titles always try to engross players through macabre fantasy worlds and intense difficulty curves that demand players dedicate themselves to the game to get the most out of it.
Mixing that formula with a Breath of the Wild-like world is working for many people, but for me, a few elements in my first hours of playing Elden Ring made it quite challenging to care about seeing this experience through. 

The messages
Elden Ring has a dark, dreary opening that's not afraid to dump a bunch of lore and game-specific terms on the player before pitting them against an enemy they are destined to lose to. FromSoftware intricately crafted this opening, but playing it in the days after launch meant that these opening areas were graced with lots of bloodstains of people jumping off ledges and helpful messages like "try fingers, but hole."
Any intrigue this opening had was immediately dispelled for me when I saw several messages saying some sort of variation of that same lewd comment with tons of positive appraisal. Yes, it's pretty funny, but I had trouble taking George R.R. Martin's world and dense lore seriously as I was bombarded with player-driven trolling right at the start of the game. 
Messages and bloodstains, admittedly, are optional features that players really concerned about worldbuilding can opt out of, even if it's at the cost of other online features that are fun to use. It's the non-optional quirks of the game that really created a problem for me.

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Elden Ring brings me back to the era of game forums
Elden Ring character looking at the open-world of the game with a giant glowing tree in the background.

With FromSoftware’s latest release, Elden Ring, more gamers than ever have been venturing to the world of Dark Souls (in everything but name). While the trial and tribulation-based gameplay hasn’t been for everyone in the past, Elden Ring quickly became a mainstream success, smashing the sales of previous Souls games in mere days. With so many people playing and countless stories about how each is approaching it, Elden Ring has unlocked memories of an olden time where gaming secrets were found via word of mouth and the name of the game was constant discovery.

ELDEN RING – Overview Trailer
Sharing secrets
Unlike past Souls titles, Elden Ring has taken a huge page from the book of open-world games -- more specifically, a critically acclaimed hit you may have heard of called The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Like Zelda, Elden Ring throws players into its world and gives them free rein to play exactly the way they want. There is no set road and no rules of advancement besides going into different areas and defeating the main bosses, but the way you get to those objectives is entirely up to the individual player.

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Elden Ring made me appreciate Zelda’s weapon degradation
A giant battle in Elden Ring.

Talk to anyone about The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and the topic of weapon degradation is sure to come up. Any weapon Link picks up in the game will break after a number of uses, forcing players to constantly switch their tools up. The controversial feature has been a point of contention since the game launched in 2017, acting as a single blemish on an otherwise beloved game.

19 Minutes of Elden Ring Gameplay Preview

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