Jolly Cooperation

Note: This post contains spoilers for Elden Ring, Dark Souls, Dark Souls 3 and Bloodborne.

Late in Dark Souls 3, I hit a wall. I had taken my time exploring every nook and cranny, and was just about ready to confront the final boss. There was just one problem. One man stood in my way, a penultimate boss who was quite literally blocking the path to Ornstein’s armor, my favorite armor set in Souls games. The Nameless King, who would become famous for being a tough optional boss at the time, was giving me a hard time. After many unsuccessful attempts to fell him, I was at my wit’s end. Thus, I decided to try summoning another player for help. As it turned out, I was far from the only person trying to summon for this boss. Co-op signs appeared in front of the fog gate left and right, but were snatched up so fast I was left staring at the “Failed to summon cooperator” message over and over. But all was not lost. Eventually, I managed to snag a sign, and a warrior named “Doors”, a man dual-wielding greatshields, appeared before me. I had never encountered anyone using such an unorthodox build, but we beat The Nameless King together.

Out of all the 100+ hours I spent playing Dark Souls 3, nothing stands out in my mind more than fighting The Nameless King with Doors. Thanks to his help, I was able to defeat every boss on my first playthrough and acquire the armor set I’d been waiting to use for most of the game. Inspired by the help I had been given and the knowledge of how frustrating it was trying to summon in a hotly-contested area, I decided to try and help others with the fight. I spent hours throwing my sign down in front of that fog gate, and, while I can’t recall exactly how many victories were achieved, we were often victorious. It was a fun and rewarding experience, and led me to leave my sign in front of more boss gates in my next run.

I’ve never been opposed to summoning in these games, which I’m aware is a contentious topic among the fanbase. Many arguments have been had online about the “proper” way to beat From Software games, with some claiming you didn’t “really” beat the game if you used summons, or even certain weapons and spells. I don’t really care about any of that, to be totally honest. I have no problem with acknowledging someone else’s achievement in beating the game in a way that’s harder than how I did it, but I also don’t believe in policing how other people play video games. They’re meant to be fun, after all. I did beat both Bloodborne and the original Demon’s Souls entirely solo by chance, since I didn’t feel like paying for PlayStation Plus for Bloodborne and played Demon’s Souls late enough that the servers were still online but the population was so low I never spied a single co-op sign.

Just staring at the sun with my buddy Solaire.

I think the ever-lovable Solaire said it best. Early in Dark Souls, you can meet him and he’ll explain how summoning works. He calls it “jolly cooperation”, a fitting moniker since you can find his sign in front of several major bosses throughout your journey. It’s also an apt description for just how pleasant summoning can be. Like pulling off a self-imposed challenge, it ironically comes with its own sense of satisfaction when you help someone with a boss who’s been giving them trouble. It also provides lots of light-hearted fun. I’ve encountered so many meme builds and funny names in the years I’ve been playing these games. Another neat aspect to summoning is how your actions over the course of the game can affect NPC summons. Keep Solaire alive and he can join you for the final fight against Gwyn. In Elden Ring, being branded by the Three Fingers en route to the Frenzied Flame ending makes Shabriri available to summon against Godfrey. After I had already finished Bloodborne, I learned that you can summon both Father Gascoigne and Vileblood Hunter Alfred to fight the Cleric Beast, the very first boss I and I assume most players fought, if you have met hidden requirements to do so.

I’ve been playing Elden Ring recently, as my last post discussed. Since that post went up, I have finished 3 full playthroughs of the game and obtained all the achievements, yet my desire to keep playing hasn’t abated. For the first run, my husband and I decided to do something we’d never done before with these games and play as much of the game as possible in co-op. We were going to be playing in parallel anyway, so why not go on this fantastical adventure together? It was a very fun time, and certain late-game bosses gave us plenty of trouble even though there were 2 of us. For my second run, I played solo, and for my third trip through the game, I stayed mostly solo but went back to co-op with him towards the end when he had time to play.

My favorite part of my third run was when we decided to beat the Godskin Duo together again. As the name implies, they are a duo boss. They share a health bar akin to the Four Kings from Dark Souls, and will revive each other when you kill them individually until the bar is depleted. They were quite tough the first time we encountered them, but not so much on replays, so we decided to have fun with it when we got back to them as a team. We had a good time playing around with their AI to see what we could cause them to do, and even took a goofy screenshot to commemorate the fight when we put one of them to sleep. Silly stuff like this being possible in such bleak games is a stroke of genius, to me. Like being able to leave messages referencing Metal Gear Solid in front of every ladder, it adds to the sense of community and the shared meta experience of the games.

Giving your characters silly names and dabbing in front of bosses is a surprisingly normal part of FromSoft games.

Hearkening back to my experience with The Nameless King, my most memorable experiences in Elden Ring by far have been in co-op. Malenia has already taken the crown as “that one boss” of Elden Ring. An optional boss tucked away in a hidden late-game area, she has quickly become infamous among players as one of the most difficult bosses From has ever designed. I will readily admit I have yet to beat her solo, not even attempting the fight on my second run. I didn’t particularly enjoy fighting her, but some of my fondest memories of my time with the game are of her fight. After I claimed victory against her thanks to summoning, I thought back to the time I was stuck in Archdragon Peak, waiting in front of the fog gate for a co-op sign that wouldn’t disappear before I could activate it. So, I spent a few hours throwing my sign down and helping others.

When I finished my third playthrough and the last achievement popped up, I thought about whether or not I should just start a new playthrough. I ended up deciding against it, and instead went back to Malenia and put my sign down again. The fights often end in defeat even with multiple people working together, but when we win, it always puts a smile on my face. One of my favorite memories I’ve made playing Elden Ring is getting summoned by the same guy 3 times in a row until we finally bested Malenia. My husband once helped someone defeat her and got a message thanking him for it. In a world where people often seem much more inclined to send hate mail than thank you notes, it was a nice gesture. Those little connections you make with other players in these games are priceless, and truthfully more memorable than the plot or lore at the end of the day.

3 thoughts on “Jolly Cooperation”

  1. That Ornstein armor is slick, definitely worth the extra boss fight for! This is such a great post honestly, not enough people talk about/appreciate the co-op aspects of the Souls games. I love putting my sign down and helping people with fights, it’s literally so satisfying. Getting a thank you message is just the cherry on top! I haven’t fought Godskin Duo/Malenia yet, but co-op is sounding like a good option, haha.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aww, thank you! I loved writing this post. Co-op in these games is such a cool topic and I don’t think it gets enough attention. Hope you enjoy the rest of the game!

      Liked by 1 person

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