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Elden Ring Shadow Of The Erdtree Review: A DLC Brimming With The Grace of Gold

Elden Ring Shadow of The Erdtree may take place in The Land of Shadow, but this DLC is brimming with gold, from its world to its bosses, and everything in between.
Elden Ring Shadow Of The Erdtree Review: A DLC Brimming With The Grace of Gold

When the first call to the Land of Shadow was made, none of us anticipated just how masterfully Miyazaki and the FromSoftware team would cook with the release of Elden Ring: Shadow of The Erdtree. From its gameplay to its lore and everything in between, this DLC has once again shaken the gaming community just as the base game did in 2022.

But does it deserve all the high praise? Does it successfully carry the torch from Elden Ring and offer players a fitting expansion to the groundbreaking experience we had in The Lands Between? Spoiler alert: yes, it does. However, there are a few caveats to that conclusion. 

A Full Souls Game Through And Through

To kick things off right into third gear, players need to expect one thing when entering the Shadow of the Erdtree DLC: to die, again and again. Many players, myself included, expected a tough but manageable time in the DLC with our 150+ level Elden Lords from the base game.

Elden Ring Shadow Of The Erdtree Review A new challenge
Diving into Shadow of The Erdtree for the first time will have you greeted by a crushing reality that you aren't as strong as you think you are...yet. (Picture: Shane / FromSoftware)

But oh, how quickly we were humbled, smushed into the ground, and resigned to treating the DLC like a fresh run of a brand-new Souls game (more on why later). I'd argue that Shadow of the Erdtree is more like a smaller Souls game attached to the base game, rather than an expansion with a few new areas and a handful of bosses (Dark Souls 3's The Ringed City and Ashes of Ariandel come to mind for me—brilliant additions, but ultimately short and felt like a DLC).

Shadow of the Erdtree's Land of Shadow in comparison, is a massive map. It's roughly the size of Limgrave, Caelid, and a decent chunk of Liurnia of the Lakes combined, with paths leading underground, essentially stacking on top of one another. Despite the map's vastness, there is no dead space; colonies of new and old enemies wander the Land of Shadow, each requiring different approaches to take down.

Elden Ring Shadow Of The Erdtree Review Enemies and bosses
The DLC isn't just an expansion; it's an entirely new game featuring a massive map, numerous new items and resources to collect, and of course, new enemies and bosses to defeat. (Picture: Shane / FromSoftware)

Of course, there are also bosses—a whopping 42 of them by our count, but as you'll see next, there's a reason you should be cautious when traversing the world and challenging bosses willy-nilly.

Starting From Scratch in The Land Of Shadow

What makes this feel especially like a fresh run of a new game is that your stats are "technically" set back to base levels, as Shadow of the Erdtree employs Scadutree Fragments (pronounced "shadow" tree fragments). These add Shadow Blessings to your character, increasing the damage you deal, and decreasing the damage you take, specifically in the DLC. In addition, there are also Revered Spirit Ashes, which boost summoned spirits and the spectral steed's abilities to deal and negate damage.

Elden Ring Shadow Of The Erdtree Review New Sysem
Players need to adapt to the new Scadutree system, which enhances their attack and defense in the DLC, ultimately becoming the key to overcoming the challenges ahead. (Picture: Shane / FromSoftware)

This means if you have low Shadow Blessings or Spirit Ashes and haven't collected all the Scadutree Fragments and Revered Spirit Ashes, you'll essentially feel like you're playing a new Souls title with completely under-leveled characters. This initially sparked some negativity towards the game, landing it in a "mixed review" status from players stating it was too hard, despite the developers almost begging players to use the Scadutree Fragments at the very least to get stronger.

Needless to say, this complaint evaporated over time, and now the game is back to a "mostly positive" review as the general population has begun to find more fragments, get stronger, and beat the DLC. This is ultimately the gameplay and mechanical experience you can expect when diving into Shadow of the Erdtree, and I love it.

Elden Ring Shadow Of The Erdtree Review Overall experience
Overall, the DLC offers the classic Souls experience, beginning with your character starting weak, and gradually empowering them as you conquer increasingly challenging areas, enemies, and bosses. (Picture: Shane / FromSoftware)

You start strong, yet weak and are thrust into a new world to follow in the footsteps of Kindly Miquella. As you progress, you need to learn the new Scadutree Fragment system while holding your own against enemies that are tough even with the Fragments at your side. But as you explore the massive world to find more weapons, defeat more bosses for Remembrances and Runes, and upgrade your character, you are rewarded with more strength and experience. Regardless of what build you choose, you can overcome the challenges set before you.

Isn't that the mantra of the Souls games? The challenges are set and the world ahead of you is calling; you have all the tools you need to overcome them with time, patience, exploration, and perseverance, so what will you do?

Weapons, Armor, Quests, Lore, Oh My!

As you would expect from a new FromSoft expansion, there are tons of new armor sets and weapons to find around the Land of Shadow. From throwing knives, backhand blades, and Great Katanas to new armor sets such as the Night armor set.

Elden Ring Shadow Of The Erdtree Review New weapons
New weapons and armor sets are scattered throughout the DLC for you to discover, along with some brand-new boss weapons that are sure to satisfy your desire for power. (Picture: Shane / FromSoftware)

Of course, bosses that drop Remembrances (there are ten of them in the DLC) also give you the option to get your hands on their new weapons, which are fantastic choices for your build, in my opinion. Rellana's twin blades are visually stunning, and Messmer’s spear is just so cool (and being able to hurl his spear at faraway enemies, blowing them up with Messmer’s flame? Yes, please).

Getting your hands on these weapons and armor sets is vital to your progression, as the enemies in the DLC hit a lot harder, meaning you’ll need stronger armor and weapons. Thankfully, the DLC is jam-packed with regular, Somber, and Ancient Dragon Smithing Stones to find and level up your character. It's a smart choice from the developers, as it mitigates the need to hunt for upgrade materials and gives all players the chance to max out more than one weapon during a single playthrough easily.

Elden Ring Shadow Of The Erdtree Review Story and lore
As you battle bosses and discover new gear, you'll also traverse the Land of Shadow, engaging with NPCs and unraveling the narrative left behind by Miquella. (Picture: Shane / FromSoftware)

So, equipped with all this gear and high-level weaponry, what awaits you in the Land of Shadow? According to many sources, including Miyazaki himself, the DLC takes place concurrently with the base game’s story, kicking off after you defeat Mohg, Lord of Blood. From there, the goal is to follow Miquella the Kind’s footsteps throughout the Land of Shadow as he discards his flesh to ascend to godhood.

In between, you’ll encounter NPCs who will be either allies or foes, each of them giving you small slivers of lore and insights into your purpose in the Land of Shadow. Of course, I’m no lore expert, so I recommend checking out Vaati’s new video on the topic for those wanting to deep dive into the lore often obscured in random item descriptions and world design details.

Criticisms and Lost Potential

Now, this wouldn’t be a fair review if I didn’t touch on some of the issues I faced in Shadow of The Erdtree. While there aren't many, they warrant recognition and are a good reason this DLC doesn’t garner a perfect score. The first issue is the performance problems that plagued the game upon release and still occasionally persist. 

Elden Ring Shadow Of The Erdtree Review Performance
The DLC does suffer from some performance issues, most notably during the final boss's second phase, which is particularly unfortunate as this fight is otherwise fantastic. (Picture: Shane / FromSoftware)

The final boss, Promised Consort Radahn, has a second phase with a large burst of Light AoE attack. Whenever this move launched, my frame rates crumbled, as they did with many other players. Hopefully, this is an issue FromSoft can rectify in the future, but I don't see why it needs to be released in this state. Taking some extra time could have made the game a lot more polished around the edges.

Bosses in the DLC offer hefty challenges, but I couldn't help but feel reminded of Dark Souls 2. Some bosses could be defeated quickly without consuming half of my Crimson Tears Flask. I'm not sure why these bosses felt so lackluster (aside from their pitifully low health pools), but bosses like Demi-Human Queen Marigga and Curseblade Labyrinth didn’t feel like bosses. They seemed like filler to pad out the boss count, unlike standout bosses like The Lion, Messmer, and Radahn.

Elden Ring Shadow Of The Erdtree Review Exploration criticism
While exploration is rewarding in the DLC at first, it tends to thin out and become slightly boring as you approach the late-game sections. (Picture: Shane / FromSoftware)

Lastly, I want to touch on exploration and endgame content. I finished the mainline bosses first and then moved on to the side bosses. During this time, I could explore more freely and at a more leisurely pace, but it felt less rewarding than the beginning of my journey. Some areas felt empty, with not much going on aside from random enemies I could easily dispatch. While I can’t expect every second of this DLC to be packed with content, my rushed approach to finishing it likely contributed to feeling like I hit a ceiling a bit earlier.

But you should know that as you wander around killing bosses and discovering new items and gear, the world isn't evolving. You're there to see it to its bitter end, nothing more, nothing less. The only highlight after the main bosses, in my opinion, is Bayle, because Bayle is just... Bayle. Good luck, by the way.

Final Thoughts

With all that said, let's wrap things up with a final verdict. Elden Ring: Shadow of The Erdtree is a flawed masterpiece. Overall it’s an experience that is not only a fantastic follow-up to one of the greatest games of all time, but stands firmly on its own as a "game" and not just a DLC or expansion. 

Elden Ring Shadow Of The Erdtree Review Conclusion
While Shadow of The Erdtree has its flaws, the DLC overall is a fantastic experience that outshines these imperfections with a golden aura befitting the successor to Elden Ring. (Picture: Shane / FromSoftware)

You can expect all the hallmarks of a great FromSoft game in this DLC: a mesmerizing and captivating world, punishing and thrilling bosses and enemies to defeat, and weapons and armor that make you feel like a true Elden Lord in the making.

This DLC has firmly delivered on the hype in my opinion and is worth the money for anyone considering picking it up, whether you haven’t touched a Souls game in a while or you're a veteran player. This DLC is brimming with gold, and in my opinion, calling it a masterpiece (with flaws) is more than appropriate. 

Elden Ring Shadow Of The Erdtree Review See you again
Sadly, this DLC is the last additional content we’ll get for Elden Ring, but we hope to see you all on the next journey as we eagerly await what comes next from FromSoftware. (Picture: Shane / FromSoftware)

Good luck to all my fellow Tarnished who have yet to complete the DLC and are currently fighting their way through it, or for those wanting to start the journey for the first time. May we meet again on the battlefield, brave warriors.

Elden Ring: Shadow Of The Erdtree - The Verdict:
Elden Ring: Shadow of The Erdtree is a groundbreaking experience for gamers worldwide, exemplifying what a DLC should be while continuing the legacy of the base game brilliantly. The Land of Shadow is filled with adversity and danger, but you have everything you need to overcome the challenges and emerge as a true Elden Lord.
Review code was provided by the publisher.
Reviewed on PC