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Happiness is Watching A Friend Play Elden Ring

I may play Elden Ring eventually, but I’m enjoying it best right now by watching a fresh playthrough.

Will I ever play Elden Ring — FromSoftware’s latest epic game in the Souls tradition, this time a Witcher 3-esque open world take on the difficult-but-beloved action-RPG? Maybe! It’s been intimated to me that it’s more accessible than previous entries, with more forgiving fast travel and an open structure that invites more players in. 

Whether or not I actually get my hands on it, I’m definitely enjoying the game, primarily by watching my colleague and friend Steven (our esteemed Senior Managing Editor) play it. It’s very pretty: so many grassy knolls and dragons (and swamps, caves, castles, and other medieval open world delights). The combat looks as difficult and crunchy as ever, with big bad bosses, countless monsters and now mini-bosses just strewn across the landscape. The map is the most intriguing new edition: there’s a big, gorgeous, Witcher-ass map with relics and ruins. Also, there’s a horse. And the horse has a double jump!

elden ring horse butt
Something has happened to this horse’s butt.

This isn’t entirely unlike the way I experienced Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. I’ve never touched the game, but I kind of love it, having watched dozens of full playthroughs. During launch week, I watched a speedrunner play through the game fresh, then systematically attack and break down the whole thing, finding shortcuts and tricks through the geometry. I love watching speedruns of FromSoft games (and other forms of “make your own fun” like the infamous no-hit runs). In fact, last week, my live session with my game design students compared a normal playthrough of Bloodborne’s Shadows of Yharnam boss fight with HeyZeusHeresToast’s first-ever no-hit run session with the fight. It’s genuinely wild to see what the highest-skilled players can do with the game, and what it reveals about the core combat and level design.

Watching Steven play is wonderful in other ways: I get to experience the game with a friend and see how their playstyle and decisions work in this game’s world. A few editors have been hanging out in our private discord, watching Steven explore and kick ass through the early game, enjoying all the goofy delights of a first Souls playthrough. this time with weird horse glitches, funny shields, warp “traps,” first encounters with giant monsters, attempts at jumping into paintings, and great comedy jokes (and use of one of my favorite words: “defenestration”). It’s been warm and welcoming, and a nice way to chill with coworkers while we cheer on Steven’s excellent skeleton-monster-knifing skills.

For me, these games are best enjoyed in a communal setting, and, yes, Fanbyte is planning a big old Merrit Souls stream (including a marathon with special guests, see the cool image below) on February 25th on twitch.tv/fanbyte, so we can all revel in the joy of a first playthrough with friendly folks. Merritt has stayed away from spoilers, by the way, for a full, fresh experience.

merritt souls elden ring w. guests

We’ll have Elden Ring coverage continuing throughout the next few days, so check out our guides, streams, podcasts, reviews, and features as we all get to dip in. As for me, like I said, I might play it. But I’m having so much fun watching Steven that I can comfortably say… the real Elden Ring was the friends we made along the way. 

About the Author

Danielle Riendeau

Danielle is the Editor-in-Chief of this delightful website, as well as a part time game design and film professor, volunteer EMT, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Blue Belt (really working for purple one day), and a hobbysist game developer and screenwriter. She has two kitties and a puppy, all of whom are obscenely cute.