Co-op in Elden Ring feels like the one aspect of FromSoft's formula that wasn't adequately adapted to its new, open world setting. The tangle of items, disconnects, and restrictions was enough to make me throw up my hands and completely ignore online play in my time with the game.
Veteran Souls series modder LukeYui (opens in new tab) (Blue Sentinel (opens in new tab), Sekiro Online (opens in new tab)) created his own alternative, Seamless Co-op (opens in new tab), that just launched in open beta. I tried it with a friend and it was like dark magic—convenient, seamless cooperative play with relatively few shortcomings for its early state, and it won't impact your prior saves or account status to boot.
Chatting with LukeYui ahead of release, I was shocked to discover he doesn't have professional experience in networking or IT. In what is perhaps the biggest flex I've heard on the job, he told me that reverse engineering and reworking the online functionality of these games is "just a hobby". That being said, the success and reliability of his previous projects speaks for itself, and I found Seamless Co-op to have a professional level of care and craftsmanship.
Getting Seamless Co-op working was surprisingly easy given what it accomplishes. The general steps are:
- Download the mod files off the Elden Ring Nexus and drop them into your install directory, by default C:/Program Files (x86)/Steam/steamapps/common/Elden Ring/Game.
- Open the .ini file "cooppassword" in the "SeamlessCoop" folder, and set your preferred password after the line "cooppassword ="
- Have your collaborators set the same password in their installation, then use the mod's custom items to open your game to password-mates or join theirs. The mod will connect your worlds with little fuss.
Aside from EasyAntiCheat, one of FromSoft's primary ways of assessing players and issuing bans is regular save file checks. Given that this separate launcher avoids EAC and generates its own save files to be used exclusively with the mod, your vanilla saves should be safe from any moderation. I logged back into mine through the game's stock launcher with no problem, but I will caution that it usually takes a few days for a FromSoft ban to follow the use of cheats or other external functions in the game. I don't expect this to be an issue, but I do want to note the risk, however slight.
I recruited a friend to start a new save and test the mod out, and aside from some minor bugs we had a pretty great experience—it just works. I opened my game for my friend to join with the "Tiny Great Pot" item included with the mod, and he jumped into my instance of Limgrave with the "Effigy of Malenia."
We promptly got stomped out by the Tree Sentinel, leading my friend to return home and pick a better (but less fashionable) starting class than Bandit. We hit up the Gatefront bonfire together to trigger Melina's appearance and ran into one of the more substantial issues from our time with the mod: the Melina cutscene disconnected my friend and would not allow him to return, and I found that, after this and other times my friend left my instance, the menu option to quit out was greyed out, necessitating an alt+F4. It wasn't too much of an annoyance however, as reconnecting with the Great Pot and Effigy is a breeze compared to navigating the base game's tangle of items after an EAC disconnect.
We also indulged in a test of Seamless Co-op's PvP. The mod allows you to turn on friendly fire and duke it out with your conspirators, potentially allowing for some "fight club" action with a larger group. With its custom method of connecting players, Seamless Co-op precludes participation in the base game's brutal invasions.
My friend grabbed Torrent back in his game and reconnected, allowing us to enjoy one of the main draws of Seamless Co-op: group horseback riding. Torrent is disabled during online play in the base game, and LukeYui says implementing the horse in co-op was one of the hardest things to get working in the mod. He can see why FromSoft made their call, noting that Torrent "likes to do its own thing sometimes". Still, I'm glad he went to the trouble of reimplementing group access to Torrent—riding around Stormhill with a friend in tow feels great and makes co-op in the overworld that much more appealing.
We then decided to take out early game beef gate Margit the Fell Omen. On defeating him, we witnessed another major draw of Seamless Co-op: my friend remained in my game after the dust settled. Discrete, segmented play makes sense for anonymous "ships in the night" co-op and allows the Let Me Solo Hers of the world to do their thing, but it's another frustration for more dedicated co-op partners. My friend had unconsciously braced himself for the disconnect, and admitted to me that it felt kind of weird to still be there.
Collaborators will similarly remain even after a host dies, and the only way to reset enemies in the mod is by resting at a Site of Grace. To balance out the difficulty, LukeYui added a "rot" system similar to the KO injuries from Dragon Age or Pillars of Eternity. Stacking debuffs are applied to all players with each death, and the only way to get rid of them is by resting at a Site of Grace. I appreciate the attention to detail, but a concerning thing I noticed is that Stakes of Marika (Elden Ring's mini checkpoints before boss rooms or difficult encounters) no longer seem to function—I was booted all the way to Margit's bonfire on all my attempts on the Crucible Knight. I'm not sure if this was a bug or a deliberate choice to accommodate the rot system, but it's something I could see being a bit of a drag in longer dungeons.
After messing around in the Roundtable together, something you can't do in the base game, we discovered one more hiccup: teleporting to Sites of Grace requires all players present to select the same one to jump to from the map. While this democratizes the process, I found I was unable to exit from the map after selecting a warp before my friend had done the same. Add to that him needing to leave the game and take care of something, I was just permanently stuck in the map screen, necessitating another Alt+F4. Not a dealbreaker, but something to look out for when using the mod and a quibble I hope gets refined in later releases.
Given the sheer amount of work that went into Elden Ring, it makes sense that there would be some compromises. The default multiplayer is perfectly functional when it comes to PvP duels or getting an anonymous helping hand for a boss, but I've spoken to numerous people who wanted to experience the game from start to finish with a friend.
This project started as a personal one for LukeYui, just finding an easier way to enjoy the game with friends, and it evolved to its current state once he realized the wider interest in it. The friend I tested Seamless Co-op with was certainly won over: he'd tried working through the vanilla game with his partner, and is now considering starting over together with the mod. The fact that Seamless Co-op is also completely siloed from your default launcher makes it a much easier sell than other Elden Ring mods, which necessitate offline play and careful quarantining of modded/unmodded save files to avoid getting banned. With all that in mind, even in its "early beta" state, Seamless Co-op is the best way to enjoy Elden Ring with a friend.