Like a lot of FromSoftware fans, I’ve been smacking all the chests in Elden Ring before opening them, memories of the spindly Dark Souls mimics dancing tauntingly in my head. I haven’t seen or even heard of any mimics in Elden Ring, but that’s just the kind of lax thinking the mimics want, and if nothing else this approach brings me peace of mind. At least, it used to. But Elden Ring has come up with an even more horrible chest trap, there’s nothing you or I can do about it, and you can fall for it within minutes of beginning the game.
And I thought mimics were bad
You start Elden Ring in the heart of Limgrave, and just east of the very first Site of Grace you encounter are the aptly named Dragon-Burnt Ruins. You can see these ruins from the exit of the tutorial area, and the enemies guarding them are standard low-level ghouls and dogs, so the area seems pretty unassuming. The surrounding lake isn’t poisonous, the dragon that apparently burnt these ruins is nowhere to be seen (for now), and you can even see some shiny item pickups from a distance. Seems like a swell way to start any adventure. Pop right in, clean up the ghouls, and snag some easy loot. What could go wrong?
I’ll tell you what could go wrong: you stumble into the ruins just a few hours into the game, make your way through the attached underground passage, and open a treasure chest in the back only for a cloud of smoke to trigger a loading screen which sends you to hell. By hell, I mean the Sellia Crystal Tunnel, which is found far to the northeast of Limgrave in a much higher-level area. The tunnel itself is admittedly a pretty cool environment with some nice violet lighting, but these mines are found in a landscape so repulsive that it makes Bloodborne look balmy, and the sheer hostility of the mine’s workers and guards quickly sours any attempts at sightseeing.
Once you fall for the trap, you spawn in a rickety old hut somewhere in the middle of the mine. Just outside the door is a lumbering ghoul with nothing but scorn for your existence, and on the roof is what I can only describe as a bipedal centipede with a spear. The surrounding chamber is full of these things and the centipedes attack on sight, skewering you with homing ranged attacks which can easily one-shot low-level Tarnished. Ask me how I know.
The awful brilliance of this encounter is the series of realizations it brings. First, you confirm that you can’t just leave. You can’t teleport using the map; if you try to, a prompt tells you that you have to rest at a Site of Grace before you can fast travel again. If you use the Rune-sacrificing teleport item that you start the game with, you just wind up back in the hut. There is no easy way out. You’re trapped, and you’ve got to deal with the wretches outside, either by killing them or sneaking by. The miners resist physical damage and the centipedes have a truckload of health, so keeping a low profile is the better option. This forces you to rely on Elden Ring’s stealth elements, and it reinforces the validity of simply running past enemies in a pinch.
Please let me out
Remember how I said your map tells you that you can fast travel again once you rest at a Site of Grace? Well, I was too distraught to notice that at first. I assumed I had to completely escape the mines, so I kept looking for an exit even after reaching a subterranean Site of Grace. In the process, I happened upon a colossal boss so tanky that hits from my piddly little magic didn’t even visibly register on his health bar, and I was promptly killed in one hit. Naturally, I tried another path next time, but when I finally made it to the surface, I found the weather outside frightful to say the least. A swamp of toxic blood, angry locals in medieval beekeeping suits, and giant rotting mushrooms seemingly designed to cause or worsen trypophobia – it’s all bad. I did eventually realize how to fast travel back to, well, not safety, but a less terrible part of the Lands Between, but only after nearly 30 minutes of sheer, white-knuckled panic.
It was only then that the true horror of this trap set in. Think about it. Why does a chest in Limgrave lead to a hut in a mine a zillion miles away? Presumably because the centipede guards overseeing that mine want more workers, and trapping greedy Tarnished with magic is an effective way to get them. Those crystal-encrusted miners in the tunnel? That’s what happens when you don’t escape; you turn into them! Come on, FromSoftware, could you at least let us get out of the starting area before busting out the existential dread?
I don’t know if I would’ve called it fun in the moment – petrifying feels more accurate – but this escape room episode is one of my favorite Elden Ring memories so far. It teaches you so much while encapsulating what’s great about the game. It’s a brilliant example of FromSoftware’s brand of environmental storytelling, and it teaches you early on that some gizmos out in the world will straight-up teleport you without asking for permission. It establishes that there’s way more to the Lands Between than forests and plains. It communicates the necessity of stealth and caution when exploring. Perhaps most importantly, it’s the kind of “fuck you” encounter that a lot of open-world games wouldn’t even attempt out of fear of putting players off.
I waltzed right into this trap and now my pulse spikes every time I reach for a chest even after confirming it’s not a mimic. On top of being eaten alive, now I know I run the risk of being transported to hell. I’m still not sure which is worse.