Elden Ring’s messages make the game feel like a conversation

At times, Elden Ring is a desperately lonely game. When I’m traversing the desolate plains of the Lands Between, or navigating a stony crevasse while dodging the slings and arrows of giants, I very much feel I’m the only person I can rely on.

But Elden Ring’s message system has made the game feel, at other times, more like a conversation between me and other players. These short dispatches are everywhere; they’re near enemy camps, scattered along terrain, and work as a breadcrumb trail through dungeons.

This is my first FromSoftware title. I was always hesitant to dive into these games, which rely on the player downing a series of powerful foes through third-person action RPG combat.

I’ve killed the bulky Tree Sentinel and used his glaive to down Margit, the Fell Omen. It certainly feels good to see the Enemy Felled message and pick up new weapons or trinkets.

There are many messages that are a little … redundant. We get it, guys. Visions of rump. Try finger but hole. Fort, night. These are all done to death. But there are other times I’ve been genuinely surprised or pleased by these messages.

Some of them are funny; a message reads “Try jumping” at the edge of a cliff, and it’s surrounded by the bloodstains of trusting players. Other times, they’re weirdly Zen.

Elden Ring is an epistolary comedy because for 50+ hours you find hundreds of messages next to various animals that read "dog" or "dog!" (the animals are never dogs) and then, when you finally find an NPC who has a wolf companion, the message next to it reads "...horse?"

One read, “Don’t give up.” Another: “First off, don’t think.” Weirdly, this was relaxing, and while my early hours were frustrating, I kept those messages in mind. While losing a thousand runes or getting murdered at the Gatefront was frustrating at times, I realized that it didn’t really matter. Don’t think. Don’t give up. Just keep trying.

One just read, “I did it!!” Another was an elaborate congratulations message, encouraging me to keep going but to stay wary. I ignored the latter half of that message, and was promptly murdered by birds with knives strapped to their feet. (Who gave them knives??)

I visit Roundtable Hold and check out a room, and a guy with two scythes invades my game and wrecks me. The message system only adds to this.

Sometimes, the players who have gone through that torment are in on the joke, and will urge you onward. “No enemy ahead,” they promise, or “treasure chest here.” Sometimes there’s a treasure chest; sometimes there’s a giant armored knight who’s here to ruin your day.

Other times, it’s weirdly gentle. There’ll be appropriate advice — like “try stealth,” or “Fire ahead.” Or “Fight these guys one by one.”

That’s certainly true in some places, for some people, but the messages in Elden Ring are revealing a much more sympathetic, helpful fan base. The people who know the FromSoftware tricks and traps are helping new players navigate not just the individual challenges, but the mindset of learning to laugh those failures off.