Elden Ring is an incredible title, with some of the most staggering vistas in gaming history, alongside some of the most rewarding RPG gameplay in the business. Set in the stunning Lands Between, your destiny is to fulfill a prophecy to bring the world back into balance, where the natural rhythms of life, death, and sanity itself, have been undone by the theft and destruction of the Elden Ring of order. Without a doubt, Elden Ring is one of the best Xbox games of all time.
Elden Ring is often played as a solo experience, but it has online and cooperative systems that add an extra layer of fun. You've probably heard about the game's difficulty, but it can be offset even by Elden Ring beginners using in-game systems, such as grinding higher levels, getting better gear, or indeed, reading messages left by other players in-game.
Players can leave messages in Elden Ring for others to spot, which is a mechanic that came across from other FromSoftware games like Dark Souls. The messages appear in the world randomly based on some kind of algorithm, like some ethereal graffiti.
The messages are set up with a range of pre-set words and phrases, alongside player character model emotes, mostly designed around creating hints for other players. However, creative rascals have come up with a variety of other ways to use Elden Ring's messaging system, revealing insights into the inner workings of a gamer's mind.
A helpful community
Perhaps the most sensical use of Elden Ring's messaging system is to leave help for other players. Like Dark Souls and other FromSoftware games, Elden Ring's world is absolutely crammed with secret items and hidden pathways. Messages left by players can help highlight where these doors and secrets might be residing.
If you're exploring a mine or a cave, it's often worth pinging the messages just to see whether there's a hidden wall or object tucked away in an alcove. Of course, maybe of these kinds of messages are often the result of trolling. Players will often leave "liar ahead" messages next to misleading notes, and indeed, you can always downvote messages that attempt to lead you astray.
Indeed, there have been various times in-game messages have actually saved my life too. Sometimes messages can warn you of an impending ambush, or even offer tips on fighting certain bosses.
"Try nightfall," might hint at a boss that only spawns in that area at nighttime, for example, or "Try ranged battle" might hint at a boss that is better felled with bows or magical attacks from a distance. Players can also leave congratulatory messages. Seeing "Well done!" after struggling with a difficult boss is always a welcome gesture.
Of course, there's also the fact Elden Ring messages can quite literally save your life. If a player "likes" your message, you get a healing boost. While it hasn't happened yet to me personally, one of my colleagues survived through a mistake on a major boss battle thanks to the healing effects of an appraised message.
Sometimes, the healing effect is psychological, though.
Humor through adversity
Much ado is made about Elden Ring's difficulty, but oftentimes the humor (and horniness) of the community cut through the bleakness.
Many messages revolve around helping the player, but sometimes you need a little downtime. Messages range from remarking upon the majesty of a glowing Erdtree vista, "Ahh, visions of beauty," to the classic "Try finger, but hole," or the more recent "Fort, night." More creative players interweave emotes into their japes, often with a self-deprecative, or even suggestive slant.
The creativity and humor on messages may even lead to an increased likelihood of you being appraised and thus healed, while playing too. There's no official information on how the algorithm for this system works, however. I doubt FromSoftware would let you simply set up dozens of messages so players can become immortal, for example. It appears to be entirely random whether or not an appraisal on one of your messages will get through and translate into a heal, but hey, there's no hurt in trying, right?
The freedom of expression
Despite the fact Elden Ring's messaging system is restricted to a handful of words, it forces players to get creative and often results in genuine hilarity, and occasionally, some oddly heartfelt moments. Elden Ring's world is so utterly alien, and it's a strange comfort to see graffiti from other players strewn throughout the world, reaching out beyond the confines of their own game. And sure, you can turn them all off by playing offline if you so choose, but even if you don't fancy them, sometimes it's worth turning them on to see whether you've missed items or hidden secrets in dungeons you've already cleared.
Even though FromSoftware games have had these mechanics for years, I suspect that we'll see more developers implement asynchronous engagement mechanics like this in the future, while probably completely missing the point of them in the process.
Like every system in Elden Ring, all of these systems make sense in the context of the game. The shattering of the golden order of the Elden Ring has fragmented time and space itself, leading to echoes of parallel dimensions, and other Tarnished heroes, appearing across worlds.
Crude and crass humor notwithstanding, there's something poignant and almost heart-warming in how people are expressing themselves through Elden Ring's limited messaging systems. Flowing in and out of existence, like the spirits of the game itself.
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