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The first Elden Ring boss I fought is so freaking weird I thought it was bugged

The first time I fought the Burial Tree Watchdog, I actually thought it was glitched. This was my very first boss fight in Elden Ring, maybe 30 minutes after I started the game. I hadn't wandered the open world for long before I stumbled upon a pair of doors set into a cliff, with steps leading down into catacombs filled with nasty little gremlin enemies and some fire-breathing statues. The dungeon was small, so within 10 minutes I'd arrived at the door to the boss's chamber. Steeling myself for an imposing knight or some flailing hellbeast made up of nothing by arms and blades, I entered and saw…

What did I see? It was so dark I could barely tell what I was about to be fighting, but I was pretty sure it was a statue of a cat, wearing a cape, and holding a sword rigidly upright in its hand. When the statue suddenly flew up into the air, with barely a hint of animation to convey how it was moving, I was sure that I'd run into a bug. Somehow this poor boss had spawned without proper textures, and instead of FromSoftware's typical lively, expressive animation, it was floating around like the drunken remnants of a half-finished line of gameplay code.

Then I came back hours later on a separate character and fought the Burial Tree Watchdog again. That's when I realized that this thing is just utterly, comically weird. FromSoftware is making its biggest, grandest RPG ever, but it's still taking the time to troll the hell out of us.

You can get a good look at this freakshow of a boss in the video above, but I feel compelled to break down every design decision that went into this thing. Who were you in your former life, Burial Tree Watchdog? Have you been cursed into this form? Are you an ancient golem, protecting these catacombs since time immemorial? Perhaps by studying its every aspect we can come to understand how it fits into the greater Elden Ring lore and unravel the secrets of The Lands Between…

Just kidding. I don't think this thing matters at all. It's just really funny:

  • Body resembles a cat, face resembles a bucktooth lemur that just heard a loud noise
  • Definitely made of stone
  • Doesn't jump so much as tentatively floats into the air like a stuntman in a really bad B-movie
  • Holds sword at a rigid 90 degree angle like a creepy butler with a candlestick
  • Tail is on fire??
  • Wears a tattered red cape with a golden collar that's actually kind of sad, like a lonely kid turning up at a party as superman
  • Head can rotate 180 degrees which is horrifying

I'm sorry I thought you were a joke at first, Burial Tree Watchdog, because this head turn is some straight up, very effective body horror. 

This is by far the weirdest creature I ran into during the Elden Ring Network test. I mean, there's tons of weird stuff, but most of it is weird in the way I expect from FromSoft: a caravan of undead soldiers led by giants, a monstrous blade beast locked in a dark room, a cave full of demihuman beastmen straight out of 2001: A Space Odyssey. You know, all normal weird, right? 

If there's one thing I'm hoping for from the full game, it's now to meet the rest of the Burial Tree Watchdog's family. Are there a Momma and Papa Watchdog out there somewhere? Cousins in the freaky-flying-statue family tree? God I hope so. I've had enough of statues that come to life when they're just giant armored warriors with halberds and shields five times my size. Make every statue boss a confused cat creature that looks like it's launching itself into the air with the power of its own dusty farts. That's good fantasy.

Read more about what I liked and didn't like in Elden Ring in my hands-on preview.

Wes Fenlon

Wes has been covering games and hardware for more than 10 years, first at tech sites like The Wirecutter and Tested before joining the PC Gamer team in 2014. Wes plays a little bit of everything, but he'll always jump at the chance to cover emulation and Japanese games. When he's not obsessively optimizing and re-optimizing a tangle of conveyor belts in Satisfactory (it's really becoming a problem), he's probably playing a 20-year-old RPG or some opaque ASCII roguelike. With a focus on writing and editing features, he seeks out personal stories and in-depth histories from the corners of PC gaming and its niche communities. 50% pizza by volume (deep dish, to be specific).