It’s easy to marvel at the feats of speedrunners, especially players who are currently working on speedruns of the hard-as-hell adventure Elden Ring. These highly technical players can condense a difficult and enormous game into a mere 19-minute playthrough, with a combination of technical skill, glitches, and exploits. The game was only released in late February, but players continue to push the boundaries of what’s possible. To better understand just what it takes to speedrun FromSoftware’s latest game, Polygon spoke with Tom “LilAggy’’ Agnew, who currently holds a personal record of 59:38 and was one of the speedrunners to beat the game in under an hour.
Speedrunners will try to beat a game from start to finish as quickly as possible, while also adhering to a set of rules. For Elden Ring, this means starting a new save file and playing through the character customization screen, doing what it takes to slay the Elden Beast, and rolling to the end of credits. LilAggy, and sub-20 minute speedrunner Distortion2 (who beat the game in a stunningly short 18:57), compete in a category of speedrunning called “Any%,” where all glitches are fair game.
From the get-go, LilAggy knew that he would speedrun Elden Ring since he’s a Soulslike streamer who pulled off other challenging runs, like beating all of Dark Souls using only poop as a weapon. He told Polygon over email that the idea of speedrunning Elden Ring especially appealed to him because it would “lead to a very different kind of run than the previous Soulslike games,” since the previous games were more linear and required you to progress through multiple bosses before reaching the end. In Elden Ring, if your character is strong enough (and skilled enough) you can run straight to the end, as you could in many open-world games. This left a lot of options for how to approach the speedrun, LilAggy said.
The larger community’s prior experience with other Soulslikes helped give LilAggy a starting point for speedrunning the new game. Elden Ring runs on the same game engine as certain Souls games, so a lot of glitches carried over from those titles. “Right off the bat the community knew what kind of exploits and techniques to experiment with to see if they worked in Elden Ring,” he said.
Some techniques like “wrong warps,” where players use spawn points to skip vast portions of the game, carried over from previous games. “I think the most surprising thing was how simple it was to wrong warp in Elden Ring.” He said, “All it takes is respawning or fast-traveling to the right location and then immediately quitting out of the game.
Although it’s easy to fix all of our attention on the streamers who execute the feats, LilAggy stressed the importance of the larger community in speedrunning. Each person brings their own set of talents to help people like him figure out the best way to race through the game.
“Some people are very talented at finding glitches, others are good at figuring out how to utilize these glitches to form a route for the speedrun, and others just focus on executing the speedrun using this knowledge,” he said.
Despite the knowledge and expertise speedrunning requires, LilAggy sees other players giving speedrunners flak for not enjoying the game “properly,” since Any% runs use glitches to play the game. “I’d hope this would be obvious, but any person that’s speedrunning a game does so because they love it,” he said. Before LilAggy started speedrunning, he had already put roughly 75 hours into a casual playthrough, before he decided he wanted a new way to experience the game.
“I can see how the abuse of glitches and exploits can be off-putting to some, but there’s a real beauty and art to figuring out exactly how to break games like this wide open, and oftentimes is much, much harder than playing the game normally.”