Last week, I said FromSoftware was “back on its bullshit” in response to the moody Elden Ring cinematic that introduces the game’s world and major characters. I wish I’d saved that particularly evocative phrase for today’s story instead because, if finding a way to poison the player in less than 90 seconds isn’t the perfect example of FromSoftware’s punishing brand of gameplay, I don’t know what is.
I’ve only spent a single day with Elden Ring, which means I’m a handful of hours into what is, apparently, an adventure that can stretch to hundreds. I’ve yet to discover an area on the same level as, say, Dark Souls’ Blighttown or Sekiro’s Ashina Depths. But lo and behold, there exists a pool of poison right outside the tutorial, connecting the Stranded Graveyard where Elden Ring begins in earnest with the more dangerous Fringefolk Hero’s Grave.
This haunt wasn’t accessible in the closed network test that gave a lucky few the chance to play Elden Ring for the first time as it’s locked behind a statue-like contraption depicting two imps engaging in a game of leapfrog. By using a key item known as a Stonesword Key, however, this mechanism can be unlocked. I can only assume the vast world of Elden Ring is hiding more of these keys, but the game gives you the chance to start with one by choosing it as your keepsake during character creation.
As such, it takes less than 90 seconds from the first time Elden Ring puts you in control of your character to inflict them with a slow-killing poison. I’m currently the world record holder in the Get Poisoned& speedrun, but I welcome any and all challengers once the game launches later this week.
It’s no secret that FromSoftware likes poisonous swamps. Every one of its Souls-like games, from Demon’s Souls and the Dark Souls trilogy to Bloodborne and even Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, includes toxic, difficult-to-traverse environments that slowly whittle away at the player’s health. Elden Ring director Hidetaka Miyazaki even joked about this proclivity in a January 28 interview with Game Informer.
“In terms of how the player feels when they encounter this area, that is a different story,” Miyazaki said. “But when making [Elden Ring], I rediscovered my love for making poison swamps. I know how people feel about them, but you know, suddenly I realize I’m in the middle of making one and I just can’t help myself. It just happens.”
Although this poison pit isn’t literally a swamp, I applaud FromSoftware for including something so malicious this early in the game. And not to spoil the surprise or anything, but the Fringefolk Hero’s Cave is full of even greater dangers than this. I suggest avoiding it altogether early on or, if you just can’t resist the temptation, dashing into its depths and grabbing what you can before dying. That’s if you can avoid being poisoned first, of course.