I encourage you to find this elevator in the western part of Limgrave. It’s hard to miss if you spend a lot of the first hours in the game scouring the middle part of Limgrave, or if that XXL bears in the east part scare you. Challenge the bears and find this place, because getting into one of the most mesmerizing areas of Elden Ring early will not only help you understand the game thematically but will also be a good reminder that FromSoftware games are icebergs.
The underground parts of Elden Ring remind me a lot of when you start to break through the sterile white walls of Portal and see the rust and mechanisms behind the whole façade. The overworld of Elden Ring is often bright and golden, and Erdtree is oblivious to it all. But below, his gaze is cut off, and the place is full of dark blues and purples. The people and monsters you find downstairs aren’t as happy as the people upstairs, and some don’t even seem to understand what’s going on. FromSoftware is known for its intricate blend of storytelling and visual design, but it’s on a much larger scale in Elden Ring. And all this is ultimately directly related to the goal of your character from the intro video.
Down here, you’ll find enemies that, in classic FromSoftware style, attack while defending your home, and the items and quests you complete there will take you to other more visually delightful locations later in the game that you can actually see from the starting zone. When you get back upstairs, you’ll have a lot more questions than answers, which is why I think it’s worth checking in early. The dungeon provides context for the ground.
If you’re planning on taking the path to one of the game’s alternate endings, such as Ranny’s questline, you’ll have to go down to the Siofra River, the name of the first underground zone, and meet up with Bladed. It is there that the wolfman explains to you that he is looking for a city that seems to be hidden in the underworld. You can find your way around this town if you can dodge the ghostly arrows fired at you by the citizens of Siofra. In time, you will learn that there is much more to it below than the lost city and that things stored under the Interlands helped bring about the decay we are now seeing above. You can also find clues about the source of one of the main types of magic in the game.
The Siofra River is also where one of the best boss fights takes place. The battle with the Ancestral Spirit turned my ideas about how boss fights work in Elden Ring upside down. Even in Limgrave, FromSoftware claims that many of the enemies you encounter, such as Margit and Godric, look imposing and fight quickly and ruthlessly. Fitting into the ethereal theme of the Siofra River, Ancestor Spirit is elegant in comparison. This is a fight that doesn’t try to tear you apart but instead blinds you with a score filled with raindrops and a boss that slides through the air. It’s a battle that turns the show’s signature horror and suspense on its head.
The Siofra River and the underground locations that follow it defy many of the visual rules set by Elden Ring in its early hours. The overworld has gloomy castles and multi-armed beasts, but overall this part of the game draws a lot of its look from Romantic era paintings, with wide desert scenes marked by distant mountains and buildings. In the underground, FromSoftware can break all its rules. There are starlit caverns and puddles of pink, bubbling rot, unforgettable things that skew your assumptions that Elden Ring is a pretty typical fantasy game.
In many ways, what’s down there echoes how Bloodborne kept its weirdest secrets from the public prior to its release. If you hadn’t specifically watched the trailers and pre-release footage, you wouldn’t have realized how much Elden Ring combines gothic horror with cosmic horror.
Bloodborne spreads breadcrumbs around the world through item descriptions and dialogue that help reveal the nature of its world. This also happens in Elden Ring. FromSoftware wants you to stumble across it so you are ready for what comes next.
If you haven’t seen it yet, take a break from banging your head against Godric and go in search of Elden Ring’s big secret. This game is not only about defeating bosses, but also about enjoying the spectacle of FromSoftware’s environmental design. The underground location is now one of my favorite zones in the Souls game, and if you’re brave enough to figure out how to find its first boss, you’ll see one of the most beautiful bosses in the entire series.