One of the more common criticisms of Dark Souls 2 is that the world isn’t as tightly designed as in Dark Souls, which is partly by design and partly because of lack of time. It’s well known at this point that Dark Souls 2 was rushed and had a ton of content reworked very late in the process. The Gutter was supposed to be an entire city of broken buildings stacked together, and connect to a sewer system leading into Drangleic Castle, for example.
So when you get to Earthen Peak, you climb the tower and finally reach Mytha, and if you’ve had enough foresight to burn the windmill, which stops the mechanisms that pump poison up the tower, you will beat her rather easily. Then you progress a bit further, take an elevator up … and enter a castle sunken into lava.
OH MY GOD HOW COULD THIS HAPPEN? DARK SOULS 2 IS MADE BY THE B TEAM! THIS WOULD NEVER HAVE HAPPENED WITH MIYAZAKI-KAMISAMA etc etc.
From Software have stated in interviews that this was one of the places where it didn’t really come together, but it’s not as farfetched as it may seem. To begin with, one common criticism is that ”you climb to the top of the tower and take an elevator UP from there, it doesn’t make sense!”. Well, you don’t. Let’s take a look at the outside of the tower.
The Earthen Peak sits along a mountain ridge (ringed on the right) and extends down into the Harvest Valley. But you never travel up the entire length of it. From this far view, you can see the balcony (ringed at the bottom) where a desert sorceress throws fire at you below. From there, you run up a short set of stairs to the back room past a lot of poison barrels, fight another sorceress and a ninja, and then go up another short stair to fight two guards before encountering Mytha. So Mytha is both not high above the balcony, and pretty far back (roughly drawn in).
So there’s a lot of the Earthen Peak above Mytha. In the upper picture, you can see that the lowest part is still a good 20 meters above her. She is, in fact, pretty close to the height of the ridge visible on the right.
In fact, this is shown pretty clearly in a recent video by Zullie the Witch, which made my carefully collected screenshots kind of unnecessary:
This means that Mytha’s room is already quite a ways behind the Earthen Peak within the mountain ridge. It is, after all, a very ornate marble room, quite different from the packed mud and brick of the tower. After her battle, you follow a short passage, but this is a shortened path much like the paths to Forest of the Fallen Giant or Heide’s Tower of Flame or Drangleic Castle. All these are visible from Majula but once you actually run there, it’s much closer for gameplay reasons, so there’s not as much travel distance. The Earthen Peak passage is dramatically shorter than it should be, but it’s at least plausible that it could lead into the mountainside.
So once you get to the elevator, you’re inside the mountain. And the Iron Keep is stated to have sunken into the lava because of its weight, so it makes sense. Well, it doesn’t really make sense that an elevator presumably built to get to the original castle now leads to the sunken one, but eh. The directors Yui Tanimura and Daisuke Satake pointed out in Dark Souls 2 Design Works that Iron Keep was sitting in the caldera of a volcano (thanks to Red Scholar in the comments of the video for that specific source).
There’s some ways they could have fairly easily fixed this, for example by adding a mountain closer by in the skybox of the Earthen Peak exterior, and maybe made the passage at least a bit longer. But since people assume that the elevator goes up the center of the tower, it wouldn’t help much. There’s an extensive fan reworking of the game underway, so it will be interesting to see whether that changes anything. I would also love to see a remaster of the game, since it’s still my second favourite in the series.
But for now, I hope this at least explains how the elevator in Earthen Peak makes sense. Sort of. Or, you know, we’re in a strange land where relations shift and all that.