The run-up to the release of Elden Ring has, naturally, come with plenty of questions. What of the combat? The story? The Lands Between itself? While these questions are important, there is one other at the lips of FromSoft veterans – will there be jolly cooperation? More importantly, might we visit the worlds of other Tarnished and give them some much-needed combat practice?
Thankfully, Elden Ring multiplayer is confirmed, though it appears as if it will be a little different from what we are used to. The core ideas will still be there, however. We will be able to see the mistakes of others through Elden Ring’s equivalent of bloodstains, in the form of an ethereal play showcasing their deaths.
Messages will also make a return in Elden Ring, allowing players to communicate vital information, such as hidden walls, bonfires (now sites of lost grace) or helpfully leading the unwitting into an unfortunate situation. But, with a new game comes new mechanics, and a fresh coat of paint for some older ones.
Elden Ring brings a new addition to these asynchronous forms of multiplayer interaction, however. In a Famitsu interview, Miyazaki spoke about an array of game details, which has been translated by one especially helpful Reddit user. Included in the interview were details regarding the upcoming changes to player communication, namely that people will be able to create password-protected groups with other players.
Miyazaki has expressed that this will help make communication easier and more reliable, with the knowledge of who made the messages or mistakes adding extra layers to the experience. Alternatively, you can select a particular keyword and join a group of other players with the same keyword. This won’t mean that you can’t interact with anyone else, as being a part of such groups only raises your chances of seeing messages and bloodstains from other group members. There’s every chance you’ll still encounter a message from a random player with no connection to you.
As good as all that is, the main topic of interest here is summoning. Will you be able to summon helpful phantoms, or invade others as a dark spirit? Well, exact details are unclear, but what we know so far indicates a strong yes. Miyazaki has confirmed the ability to summon other players, with at least four summons being explicitly confirmed so far. Whether these are four cooperative summons or four summons in general is not exactly clear. Invasions are also confirmed, with promotional material showing white phantoms, likely helpful ones, and red phantoms, likely invaders.
Another type of summon is coming to Elden Ring, one that isn’t quite related to multiplayer but worth mentioning anyway. Throughout the game, you will be able to acquire items that summon spirits. These spirits are similar to the enemies you will face through Elden Ring, though this time around they’ll be fighting with you rather than against you.
Miyazaki has given examples of a shield spirit that will protect you from rear attacks, in addition to archer spirits that will harass your enemy, making it easier for you to advance. This addition highlights the more strategic approach Miyazaki has in mind for combat, an approach that will certainly be reflected in Elden Ring multiplayer too.
Elden Ring covenants
Covenants are a likely returning feature, ensuring Elden Ring will also grant players a variety of approaches to multiplayer. As with previous Dark Souls games, covenants in Elden Ring will have an impact on gameplay overall, allowing players to obtain items they otherwise would not have access to, or providing shops that sell important items for a unique currency.
These items will probably be along a similar vein to previous games, including magic, weapons and armor, and consumable items. Assuming they return, and they almost certainly will, they will probably take a similar shape as in previous games. A Way of the White equivalent would exist for those wanting to largely avoid PvP, as would a defender covenant akin to that of the Watchdogs of Farron, and there would be some form of a covenant for the dishonorable and bloodthirsty, like the Mound Makers. Although we can count on covenants making an appearance, we don’t know exactly what they’ll look like.
Elden Ring multiplayer – an emphasis on freedom
The last major point for Elden Ring multiplayer is freedom. Player freedom is clearly something the FromSoft development team has had in mind, with it being no less a feature in Elden Ring multiplayer too. In previous games, multiplayer has been quite a fickle beast, with summons limited to a small area and returning to their own world once the area boss is defeated. Not to mention the rigmarole of re-summoning a friend that didn’t watch his step or was slain by a poorly timed invader.
In Elden Ring, we can expect a much simpler form of player summoning and interaction, something I’ve touched upon already. Going hand in hand with this is a much more expansive multiplayer. Gone are the days of a small-time excursion throughout a section of Irithyll or Anor Londo, Elden Ring will bring with it a multiplayer as seamless as its overworld, provided your connection holds, that is.
Players will be able to explore the open world of the Lands Between with friends, though it sadly seems without the spirit horse. This may act as a soft incentive to refrain from summoning until nearby a point of interest, like a dungeon or boss. However it’s used, this marks a clear departure from the more linear use of multiplayer in the past, instead placing an emphasis on a more lengthy state of jolly cooperation.
We can expect more details regarding Elden Ring multiplayer to trickle in as we approach the release date. Though we have a decent idea of how it will work, specifics on exactly what will and won’t feature are sparse, so we can’t say we have a full picture just yet. If you trust the rumor mill, there’s a chance we’ll have a form of faction-based multiplayer, one that would pit the various covenants against each other depending on their relations. There is also speculation about the return of a reputation system, similar to that in Demon’s Souls. Whatever the end result, I’d say it’s clear we have a lot to look forward to as we approach February 25, the release date of Elden Ring.