I've fallen in love with Elden Ring's absolute worst area – just like I did with Dark Souls and Bloodborne

Elden Ring
(Image credit: FromSoftware)

Blighttown. Whether or not you've played any of FromSoftware's other games – from Demon's Souls (2009) through Elden Ring (2022) – I guarantee that single 10-letter word caused a chunk of Dark Souls fans to cringe. Even if you're not familiar with the vertical labyrinth that is Lordran, there's a good chance you've heard of the 2011 action-RPG's worst area through word of mouth. It's a nightmare, quite simply. A treacherous descent filled with fire-breathing monsters, dart-slinging imps, and boulder-tossing brutes. Every catwalk feels too narrow, making traversal a genuine slog – and your reward for making it to the bottom unscathed? A poisonous swamp. Make it across that, and you'll fight one of the early game's tougher bosses. 

In comparative terms, I'd place Blighttown up there with Bloodborne's Yahar'gul, the Unseen Village and Elden Ring's Caelid. The thing is, while all three of these started out as my least favorite, most-hated locations to visit in their respective overarching settings, I have, one-by-one, fallen in love with each place – so much so, and I cannot believe I'm saying this, they might actually be my favorites.

Bright town

Elden Ring

(Image credit: FromSoftware)

Can I even explain myself? I know I should, but I'm not entirely sure I can. Okay, so Blighttown, Yahar'gul and Caelid are now among my favorite-ever video game settings – how did this happen? I'm no game developer, but I think my steadily growing fondness for what are essentially brutal, gross and inherently unforgiving nightmare-scapes is down to what each one represents. These horrid slices of hell epitomize the FromSoftware experience, each filled with enemies a few levels above your limit; each lined with environmental hazards that'll scorch the 'You Died' killscreen into your brain. These areas are designed to be bastard hard, they're designed to repel you, and yet it's these very traits that draw you back in. 

As action role-playing games, a key facet of progression in Dark Souls, Bloodborne and Elden Ring is leveling up your character. These games' open-ended maps and teleportation mechanics often mean once you've left these areas behind, you no longer need to return – however, doing so several levels stronger down the line, while packing overpowered weapons, armor and magic can be a liberating experience. That giant who gave you hell when you were a lowly level 16 with pithy Strength and Dexterity armed with an Astora Straight Sword? See how he feels about being smacked upside the head with a +15 Lightning Halberd when you're pushing level 100. Elder Dragon Greyoll kicked your arse a couple of dozen hours ago? Get your own back with a blast of Comet Azur followed by a shower of Glintstone Comets.

Elden Ring

(Image credit: FromSoftware)

"And so when you remove the challenge and, by extension, the terror in these otherwise ghastly locales, you're free to take in their beauty."

And so when you remove the challenge and, by extension, the terror in these otherwise ghastly locales, you're free to take in their beauty. Blighttown is a massive space that acts as a crossroads to some key Dark Souls areas – not least The Depths above, Firelink Shrine and New Londo Ruins at the far end, Valley of the Drakes adjacent, and Quaalag's Domain and Demon Ruins below. The same can be said for Bloodborne's Yahar'gul, the Unseen Village, with its high-level jailers, crumbling white stone masonry, and gateways to Cathedral Ward, the Nightmare of Mensis and the One Reborn. As for Caelid, taking in its glowing purple skies, rivers of blood, and Scarlet Rot-ridden plains on horseback is my new favorite thing to do in Elden Ring, sauntering between the Bestial Sanctum and Redmaine Castle atop Torent. It's an awful place with a Doomsday vibe, and yet… it's perfect. 

I've become a wee bit obsessed with the lore tied to Elden Ring's Scarlet Rot, how it bounds Malenia and Miquella, which is even more pertinent now given the confirmed direction of its incoming Shadow of the Erdtree DLC. We'll access the first slice of added content via Mohgwyn Palace, assuming we've already defeated Mohg, Lord of Blood. Without Caelid, though, there is no Mohgwyn Palace, making it arguably the most important game location besides the Erdtree itself. 

All of which is full credit to FromSoftware's processes. To have the skill and ability to craft locations that start off as the absolute worst thing imaginable, but eventually grow into favorites is an achievement in itself. Caelid, Yahar'gul and Blighttown, I love 'em all. And with talk of Shadow of the Erdtree including poisonous swaps, I can't wait to see where my next love-to-hate and hate-to-love location falls next. 

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Joe Donnelly
Features Editor, GamesRadar+

Joe is a Features Editor at GamesRadar+. With over seven years of experience working in specialist print and online journalism, Joe has written for a number of gaming, sport and entertainment publications including PC Gamer, Edge, Play and FourFourTwo. He is well-versed in all things Grand Theft Auto and spends much of his spare time swapping real-world Glasgow for GTA Online’s Los Santos. Joe is also a mental health advocate and has written a book about video games, mental health and their complex intersections. He is a regular expert contributor on both subjects for BBC radio. Many moons ago, he was a fully-qualified plumber which basically makes him Super Mario.