The announcement of Elden Ring's Shadow of the Erdtree expansion was met with widespread adulation, but it held a special meaning for JPNB, a teacher by day who had committed to fighting Elden Ring megaboss Malenia, Blade of Miquella, over and over again until such a reveal happened.
"I was on my commute to work listening to an audiobook when my friend called me on Discord," JPNB told me of the moment he found out about the announcement. "I felt a giant sigh of relief over my body, but also a bittersweet feeling because I had been doing it so long."
FromSoft fans are no strangers to mad displays of devotion (opens in new tab)—the games' mechanically rich, challenging fights and cryptic, open-ended stories invite a certain obsession, enough to drive unending lore deep dives, datamining, and unreasonable boss challenge runs. The Elden Ring Daily Update (opens in new tab) was one such fan ritual that prefigures JPNB's output. It was a YouTube series which saw a new video uploaded every day during the long silence after Elden Ring's initial E3 2019 reveal. "There is no news about Elden Ring today," most of the videos went, with scattered runtime spikes corresponding to breaking news giving way to a steady stream of actual updates as the game approached release.
One of JPNB's ideas for his own Elden Ring ordeal was to play "a student who was always trying to cut corners and put in minimum effort but somehow always got high scores." JPNB surmised that they'd "probably be a Rivers of Blood user," referencing the game's edgy, blood-themed, and formerly quite overpowered katana. Indeed, JPNB's first build all the way back in May of 2022 remains a testament to the unsanitary samurai sword's former glory, featuring an "Ultra Instinct Melina"-themed build.
That's one thing that helped JPNB's output really stand out: its build variety. Each Malenia fight featured an entirely new character style, thanks to a preserved save file from before the fight with easy access to respec-providing defeated boss Rennala. I'm a fan of his day 61 build, featuring his initial character wielding Rivers of Blood and sporting a snazzy Iron Kasa, Fingerprint Armor, and Twinned set ensemble, but I'm also fond of this pure caster (opens in new tab) from day 59, as well as his cosplays of lore characters like St. Trina (opens in new tab), Malenia's blind swordsman (opens in new tab) teacher, or Morgott (opens in new tab).
"I have a spreadsheet full of planned but never completed builds," JPNB told me of the plans for future videos he never had to draw on. "I was going to do a Sister Friede from [Dark Souls 3] build and a summoner build where you just hide in a corner while your summons beat up Malenia."
JPNB's commitment to variety and many, more pressing priorities in real life led to the initially daily challenge morphing into a weekly one. "I am slowly losing more and more personal time to my daughter," JPNB explained. "I can't grind out builds anymore and going for no-damage against Malenia or any other tough boss is at least a 1-2 hour gaming session." That's on top of, you know, molding and tutoring the next generation in his day job.
Still, JPNB is grateful for the experience: "I had found out that I was gonna be a father and doing this series has actually been therapeutic because I'd been going through some self doubt about whether or not I'd be a good dad—accomplishing a difficult feat every week was one of the things that helped block out those intrusive thoughts."
As much as I'll miss JPNB's weekly creative duels with the Souls series' hardest boss, it's good for things to come to an end when they've run their course and served their purpose. JPNB has kids to teach and another to raise.
There is another out there who remains committed to a similar bit/ritual (it's always hard to tell which) though—YouTuber lellollo (opens in new tab) continues to throw themselves at Dark Souls 3 end boss Slave Knight Gael on a daily basis—an easier fight than Malenia, but still no cakewalk, and they've committed to doing so until Shadow of the Erdtree launches. As long as there are pending FromSoft reveals or releases of any kind, it seems, someone will undertake something a little kooky to mark the passage of time.