My sister summons me into her world, and we step beyond a golden fog wall. My hands tremble, not because of the Elden Ring boss we fight, but because of an even more horrifying threat haunting the battlefield. Within seconds, it descends upon me. “A connection error has occurred.”
There are many terrifying bosses in the Lands Between, all of which I’ve fought alongside my sister. But none are so awful as the specter of the Elden Ring Connection Error. It can hit you while you’re fighting two Tree Sentinels in Leyndell or while you fight Morgott for the first time. It can surprise you when you’re invaded for the eighth time in 40 minutes, only to reconnect and get invaded again.
It often feels like the real battle isn’t the enemies in front of us; it’s whether the game will kick me out and leave my sister to fight the enemies alone.
There are a lot of crappy parts of Elden Ring’s co-op system. Joining co-op is weird and time-consuming, you get invaded a lot by players who intentionally stall, and you can only play co-op until you kill an area’s boss. But the fact that I get disconnected several times within a play session is by far the worst.
It’s a complete waste of time for the disconnected player; they get sent back to their summon sign without any rewards for beating the boss and lose the time needed to reconnect. But it’s also frustrating for the host, who is often left to 1v1 an invader who refuses to leave a dense group of enemies for 10 minutes at a time, or to attempt to kill a boss we were barely winning against together.
This is of course compounded by the other online problems. Rejoining co-op is fiddly. It takes a while, and I can’t rejoin to help defeat a boss unless the host dies. Invaders are incredibly laggy, to the point that hits often take more than a second to register, and when you’re already irritated by lag and then get disconnected, it’s twice as soul-crushing.
Even with Australia’s infamously bad internet, I never get disconnected from games, and the lag is small enough to ignore, except in Elden Ring. Something about this game’s online is just so much worse than any other.
However, even though Elden Ring’s online experience is inexcusably laggy, unreliable, and janky – when it works, the co-op is thrilling. Fighting through a foreboding area together is tense. We warn each other about traps, sneak up behind enemies and ambush them together, interrupt enemy attacks, and both cast Incantations on a group of enemies, decimating them.
We get to explore the open world together, stumble upon a whole new area, and then disconnect and reconnect because you can’t cross an area boundary in co-op. Yes, it’s janky and unreliable, but there just aren’t that many open-world co-op games with sharp, tense combat like in Elden Ring, connection error or not.
The elation of overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds to defeat a boss with a friend is something you can only get from a select few games. The small failures and victories are sweeter when I share them with someone else as well, even if I get disconnected five times on the way to doing so.
If I could vanquish “Connection Error” in Elden Ring forever, I would. But even with them, I still love playing Elden Ring co-op.