Friend Ahead: The Accessibility Of Elden Ring’s Most Underappreciated Feature

There’s a lot to love about Elden Ring. From the boss fights, to the vast open world and the lore bubbling under it all, FromSoftware has done a lot to level up from their past Souls titles to create a genre-defining game. The many highs of Elden Ring and the greater Souls franchise have been discussed at length by thousands of people, but there’s one feature that returns with each title that I feel we don’t talk about enough, and the huge effect it has on the Souls experience as a whole.

You see, the Souls series has a reputation for being quite an inaccessible experience. With some hellish boss fights and combat that requires patience rather than a simpler hack and slash combat system, there’s definitely a significant difficulty barrier for some. I was initially put off the series because of this reputation, especially given my disability which can make me struggle with particularly demanding combat encounters with no options to pause them. I’ve struggled with many games before, and I didn’t want to set myself up for failure with something I can’t complete.

Elden Ring two characters fight on horseback
The world of Elden Ring, just like other Souls games, is not always the most inviting.

Yet, despite the difficulty, I’ve still managed to get through all three Dark Souls titles, as well as make good progress in Elden Ring. Whilst reflecting on my experience with the games, I came to a realization. Even though I’ve struggled, I’ve been supported the entire way. From the sprawling fields of Limgrave, the glory of Anor Londo and the depths of the Untended Graves, glowing symbols of hope have lit the way and cheered me on. I’d like to take some time to take a deeper look at Messages, the most underappreciated feature of the Souls series, yet one of the most impactful to the experience for me.

For those unfamiliar, messages are glowing bits of text found on the floor in the Souls games (including Elden Ring) that when interacted with show a message written by other players. These messages are written using different templates as presets, allowing players to combine different sets of phrases and words to create a full sentence or two that has a random chance of being found by others when they are connected to the internet.

Elden Ring message reading 'checkpoint ahead'
The messages left by other players can be incredibly useful.

As you can imagine, any time people are given access to the internet and the chance to leave messages, there are some pretty silly things players can find. From calling turtles ‘dog’ to marking random NPCs as ‘lover’, there have been a lot of running jokes by Souls players for a while now, and it’s certainly an experience getting accustomed to them for the first time. As you read more though, you gradually realize that messages actually offer a lot more than simple jokes.

The message function is used by many players to warn others of incoming danger, or of a secret that they may be about to miss. In this manner, they almost function as almost a tiny spoiler, scattered around the ground for those who want to know what to expect heading through any doorway in a dark castle or heading into a suspicious clearing in a murky swamp. When you see the glowing text on the floor, you know there’s going to be something to find nearby, or something that will find you.

Elden Ring message reading 'down' off the edge of a cliff
Okay, maybe not every message is helpful…

The usability of this feature as an accessibility tool I think is considerably overlooked. Boss fights don’t allow you to pause in Souls games, and when I’ve fought my way through a castle and come across a surprise boss, I’m usually already at a point where I could do with a break before taking on an intense challenge. For area bosses, the smoking doors serve the same purpose, letting you know something’s ahead, but messages on the ground take it to the next level of even warning you about something that might be intended to catch the regular player off guard. When I find a message on the ground that says ‘boss ahead’ right before a suspiciously open area, I know to take a minute while I can to recoup my strength before I proceed.

The restricted nature of the messages was a smart choice made by FromSoftware. Not only does it prevent immersion-breaking text about modern day pop culture littering the game, but it also restricts the ability for warnings and hints that messages provide to be too spoiler-y. If players had access to free text or specific character names in the messages screen, then there would be the option to fully spoil what’s coming up. The limited options provided mean the player needs to be both more creative with how they write their message, but they’re also forcefully more vague, for the sake of the player that reads them. As such, they don’t exist to tell you explicitly what’s going to happen, but rather to prepare you for whatever’s next. As a disabled player, those messages are greatly appreciated.

Elden Ring message reading 'be wary of wolf'
Messages left by other players can be considered an accessibility feature, telling players who struggle what to expect and keeping them prepared.

Even when the messages aren’t leaving tips for bosses and secrets, there’s still something very comforting about them being there. Souls games are often set in desolate places, with Elden Ring being slightly more populated in terms of NPCs and merchants, but with still few friends to find across the land. The messages on the ground can be found anywhere though, and have been left by real people. Everywhere you go, no matter how isolated or lonely, you’ll find others who have been there and left their mark, presumably before going on to conquer the area and perhaps leave a message for you at the end too.

Despite being a sole Tarnished on a journey to achieve glory or an undead prisoner set to change the future of the world forever, you’re never the first to take that path, and you’re constantly encouraged to keep going further. Messages come from all those before you, the many members of the Souls community who once stood where you stand and went on to see things you’d never expect later in the game. Reading them includes you as one of them, and really makes you feel like you’re on the way to join a legacy of heroes, a lineage that has spanned years when playing some of the older Souls titles.

Elden Ring message reading 'why is it always death'
A relatable question after spending any length of time in a Souls game, and it feels good to know others think the same.

Sure, sometimes the same joke being made for the hundredth time can make you roll your eyes a little, and it does take some getting used to when there are random player messages all over the world. Even so, the message feature in FromSoftware’s games from Dark Souls to Elden Ring can make us laugh, smile, and even give us a hand when we struggle. It may not be as exciting or flashy as what makes up the rest of the games, but messages can hold us together and guide us forward, even when the challenge of the game pushes back. Next time you’re playing a Souls game, consider leaving a message, you never know who’ll find it, or the help it could bring.

This is just my interpretation of the message feature, but I’d love to know what you make of it, so be sure to leave your own thoughts in the comments below! For more gaming features, essays and breaking news, be sure to keep checking back with us here on GameLuster.

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Pluginpc 123D
Pluginpc 123
9 months ago

Informative article very good approach towards data you provides

good work. May all your dreams come true and may you find happiness and success in all your endeavors. Best wishes to you always.

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