Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree Review

Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree Review – A Masterful Sequel-Sized DLC

Two years ago, FromSoftware elevated the Souls gaming landscape with their greatest work yet: Elden Ring. The beautifully grim, open environments coupled with swifter exploration thanks to Torrent and the refined combat rhythm made for arguably the greatest (and most accessible) Souls game to date, one that ushered in waves of newfound masochists at levels previously unseen. With upwards of 25 million copies sold, Elden Ring blew well past the likes of Demon’s Souls, the entire Dark Souls trilogy, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, and Bloodborne. It’s a testament to the core game’s brilliance and inescapable allure, qualities we couldn’t have agreed with more in our original review.

Given Elden Ring‘s popularity and unchallenged seat on the subgenre’s throne, countless eyes have been glued to the impending drop of the desperately awaited Shadow of the Erdtree expansion. I’m not only here to tell you that Elden Ring’s first, and likely last, DLC is nothing short of a masterpiece, but also that it proudly sits alongside the greatest expansions in gaming’s history, such as The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt – Blood and Wine, Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare and GTA IV: The Lost and the Damned, to name a few. Yes, it’s that good. The DLC is of a level quality and scale that could nearly be considered a sequel in its own right.

Prepare to Die (Again)

Shadow of the Erdtree is everything we loved about Elden Ring cranked back up to eleven, ensuring that new and returning players alike find ample challenge in the all-new Realm of Shadow environment. In fact, let me tell you right now that the Shadow of the Erdtree is a humbling experience, even from someone who beat pre-patch Malenia (and countless other optional bosses) and possesses a character level in excess of 150. The misguided ego of this overconfident “Elden Lord” was quickly crushed into a fine dust by formidable introductory enemies and the early skill check that is Rellana Twin Moon Knight, a required boss that makes Dark Souls 3‘s Dancer of the Boreal Valley look like a sluggish geriatric by comparison. It was at this point that I realized Shadow of the Erdtree isn’t messing around; it wants to make even its most devoted player base feel like they are stepping into the game for the first time again.

That’s not to say FromSoftware has completely stacked the deck against us in the expansion. Shadow of the Erdtree boasts a wealth of new weapons, armor, spells, talismans, Spirit Ash summons and Ashes of War to revitalize build crafting and push players towards finding different combinations that are better suited for contending with the intimidating opposition spread throughout these lethal lands. Not only are there new weapons, but there are new weapon types. If you have ever wanted to live out your firebender fantasy in-game, the Dryleaf Arts is a new hand-to-hand weapon that utilizes a special set of martial arts maneuvers and animations. Couple that with a fire affinity and you will be able to bring the world of Avatar (not the James Cameron one) to The Lands Between. This example is only one of eight DLC weapon types. Reverse-grip swords, beast claws, thrusting shields, throwing blades, light greatswords, giant katanas and perfume bottles round out the other freshly added options awaiting your discovery.

Path to Power

To further tip the scales in your favor, there are items called Scadutree Fragments and Revered Spirit Ash. These can be found at Miquella’s Cross landmarks, which also act as guidance tools to direct players through the content, by defeating certain enemies, and through simple exploration. Using these items at a Site of Grace bolsters the character’s damage output and negation as the Scadutree Blessing is leveled up. However, such effects are restricted to the Realm of Shadow; you won’t be taking this newfound power back to the bosses residing in The Lands Between. FromSoftware has implemented the blessing system to create a standalone difficulty scaling experience for the new content. Additionally, veterans and masochists can choose to forgo the mechanic entirely to keep the difficulty at its peak. This certainly makes Shadow of the Erdtree one of the most modifiable Souls experiences.

The Realm of Shadow containing all of this shiny new loot may not look as vast as the core game, but the map is deceptive in its scale. The Realm of Shadow is densely packed and has a fair amount of verticality. Whether it’s scaling the several stories of Shadow Keep or wandering deep underground in Bonny Gaol, the environment contains no shortage of areas to explore. Not only is there an insane amount of verticality, but there is wild amount of variety in the biomes tucked within the Realm of Shadow. The Gravesite Plains are brimming with swaying reeds, somewhat reminiscent of Sekiro; the Cerulean Coast, as the name implies, sports blue-tinted flora brightening its grounds; the lightly sepia-tinted Belurat is home to crumbling, divine architecture and horrific scorpion beasts; and the Ancient Ruins of Rauh show lush, vibrant nature reclaiming dilapidated structures. No matter where Torrent takes you, the surroundings are sure to delight (as much as danger and death-filled locales can).

Regardless of which direction the journey takes you, an abundance of lore, mission strings and NPCs are out there begging for the player’s attention at every turn. The narrative sitting at the core of it all surrounds the fleeing of Miquella, the sibling to Malenia and child of Marika and Radagon, which is where the player comes in to follow the demigod’s footsteps. Surprisingly, Shadow of the Erdtree offers up an almost uncharacteristically straightforward narrative as far as their Souls games go. That’s not to say that lore heads won’t find plenty of nooks and crannies to dig through to unearth new narrative tidbits, but the central plot is cohesive enough to provide an adequate payoff for those trekking a mostly straight path towards the conclusion. And there is the added benefit of gaining extra context on characters from the base game.

Editor's Choice

Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree Review Verdict

Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree: Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree is a top-tier DLC that embodies all which makes a great expansion. The Realm of Shadow is a diverse, dazzling deathtrap that is begging to be explored (and conquered). FromSoftware continues to maintain their already high bar of excellence with Elden Ring's first and final add-on, once again showing that the developer is undoubtedly still the master of the Soulslike subgenre they created all those years ago. Joshua

von 10

Editor’s Note: Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree was reviewed on PC and a copy was provided to us for review purposes.

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