As previously reported, I've become a no-good rotten invader (opens in new tab). And in the weeks since I first took up the bloody fingers, I haven't slowed down, defending my underground lair with absolute fury. But lately, my invasions have gotten a little strange—and I'm not talking about those madness-vomiting mech suits (opens in new tab).
For context, here's how an invasion tends to pan out. You arrive, uninvited, into the world of a pair of strangers (we'll ignore the Taunter's Tongue for now), ready to wreck their entire day. If you're lucky, you might end up baiting them into a dignified, honourable series of 1v1s. If you're unlucky, a Hunter will be summoned in to turn the invasion into a stacked 3v1. Regardless, you arrive with intent to cause violence and violence is what usually results.
But it's not always the result. See, Elden Ring's toolbox might include all manner of axes, greatswords and murderous spells, but it also contains far stranger, funner toys that, when deployed carefully, can turn even the most embittered foe into a newfound companion.
Invasions are inherently a hostile act, but players have tools to determine the actual nature of an engagement through gestures, prattles, mimic veils and other assorted toys. So sure, while most invasions immediately turn bloody, sometimes I'll be summoned in to find my targets are all disguised as trees. Proper etiquette in a duel is to bow before combat, but there are also gestures for sitting down or dancing. Even beyond gestures, the act of spamming crouch is universal across games as a sign of friendship.
In Nokstella, where I frequently hunt, these friendlier invasions were a welcome rarity. I'd guess maybe one in 20 hunts resulted in me and my targets just hanging out—either finding them using Mimic Veils to shimmy about as sentient crates or using my own friendly gestures to encourage pacifism. Then, we'd simply vibe together, and I'd often follow them further down the Ainsel River like a stray cat. I can't help them kill monsters, but it's frequently just a joy to observe how other players explore and interact with the world.
On one magical evening, the Hunter summoned to kill me arrived to find us dancing around a glowstone campfire, and joined us in raising our arms in rapture. The next hour can only be described as the closest Elden Ring has ever come to feeling like a rave, dropping multicoloured lights as we danced and screamed and spun under a subterranean night sky.
Eventually I would leave the depths, and take my hunts to the wide open snowfields of the Mountaintops of the Giants. Here, things only got weirder, and rather than straight-up invasions I'd frequently stumble into pre-made fight clubs, geared up warriors luring multiple hunters in at once for intense 2v2 brawls.
These fight clubs have always been a part of the Souls PVP 'endgame', not least because they get around the problem of the host dying and everyone being sent back to their worlds (keep the host out of the fights, and everyone can watch a load of duels). This adopted etiquette means you occasionally see a clueless invader come in and go straight for the host, at which point half-a-dozen players fall on them with force and fury.
It was here that I learnt another important aspect of invasions. When a player uses Taunter's Tongue, they can potentially summon two invaders into their world. More importantly, those invaders can attack and kill each other. So when I invaded one world in the middle of a fight between an existing invader and two co-op pals stuck on top of a rock pillar, I decided to have a go at playing mercenary.
After fending off the first invader and celebrating with a small dance party atop that pillar, we ventured forth into the snowfields in search of new opponents. When a fresh invader arrived, ready for a 2v2, I'd turn around and tilt the odds in the defender's favour, even if that meant taking great care to avoid hitting my new friends with my sword's absurdly wide swings.
Now, you might be asking, what's the point of invading if you're not going to invade? And it's true that in doing this I'm forfeiting the more traditional rewards for invasions, Rune Arcs and a cut of the Runes held by targets I kill. But here's the best bit—after every felled invader, we'd cheer and they'd drop me a reward for my troubles. Rune rewards, in truly ludicrous numbers. By the end of the night I reckon they'd given me a whopping 300,000 in total—that's two entire levels!
And y'know what? I reckon we all won. I've written before about the joys of recontextualising gaming battlefields as hang-out spots (opens in new tab). Elden Ring isn't quite as saccharine as Splatoon 2, but it still offers all the tools you need to push against the violent framework of invasions, to communicate a far friendlier intent.
Elden Ring, like Dark Souls before it, is a game about overcoming great difficulty. But both you and your target have faced overwhelming odds to get this far, and who's to say there's anything wrong with turning an enemy into an ally—if only for a moment?