Elden Ring dataminer and PvP content creator StrayKurtis (opens in new tab) recently shared a screenshot of unused messages from Elden Ring (opens in new tab) which imply the game's various factions may once have had more formal membership and progression.
In the Dark Souls series, players can join factions called Covenants that provide various PvP or PvE opportunities. The Darkwraiths focus on invading other players to hunt them, while the Darkmoon covenant is all about invading invaders to punish them, for example. The Covenants have rank-up rewards tied to them, with some choice spells and weapons only obtainable through performing your covenant's duties (PvP, co-op, etc.) a certain number of times.
#ELDENRING datamine fun fact: There are several unused text popups related to the various online interactions(invasions, coop, etc). Perhaps there are some sort of ranking systems in the works? pic.twitter.com/FTurtshwS2May 11, 2022
In Elden Ring there are in-game factions—two, even, with a connection to PvP—but no formal ranked Covenants. The Recusants of Volcano Manor and Bloody Fingers of the Moghwyn Dynasty both provide multiplayer invasion-related items, but instead of formal ranks they offer sidequests which incorporate more seamlessly with the rest of the game.
StrayKurtis's screenshot shows a selection of messages similar to those displayed on defeat of a boss or invader, with the text:
- Bloody Finger rank advanced
- Hunter rank advanced
- Recusant rank advanced
- Duelist rank advanced
- Furled Finger rank advanced
The conclusion I draw is that these messages were made for a faction system like the one in Dark Souls, abandoned at some point in development. They all tie to items or ideas already in Elden Ring.
"Hunter" likely refers to the Blue and White Cipher rings, which enable a form of emergency co-op to fend off invaders, represented by the NPC Yura. "Duelist" corresponds with the "Duelist's Furled Finger" item, which allows for consensual PvP and doesn't really have any lore representation in the game. "Furled Finger" refers to Elden Ring's co-op item, and likely tied into a co-op faction similar to Solaire's Warriors of Sunlight in Dark Souls.
It's unclear if these messages are solely cut content or if there's a chance they'll be revisited in future DLC. There's been speculation for months that Elden Ring's sealed coliseums (opens in new tab) will feature in a multiplayer-focused update, and a more formal faction system would gel nicely with that. However, I can't see a formal ranking of Recusants and Bloody Fingers playing well with the factions' current positioning in the story without added NPCs or tweaks to where their plotlines end up.
There is precedent for covenants being blocked off by main quest progression in Dark Souls. The first game's Gravelord Servants covenant could be rendered inaccessible by beating the story boss, Gravelord Nito, but From seems to have been trying to move away from making things that obtuse or inaccessible in Elden Ring.