Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree Review – Generational Expansion

Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree Review

Two and a half years after the release of Elden Ring in 2022, the long-awaited expansion titled “Shadow of the Erdtree” is finally upon us. In order to start the DLC, players will need to have beaten the boss “Mohg, Lord of Blood” (aka  Shardbearer Mohg). This is a hidden endgame boss, so it requires having put significant work into the game already. If you are new to the game you won’t be able to start the DLC immediately. Behind the Mohg boss players can interact with the “Withered Arm” to be transported to the Realm of Shadow, which is the new area. This is a completely separate island away from the main game map. The recommended level is 150+.

While you will stand a chance at lower levels, some story bosses can be quite challenging. On the other hand, at level 200+ some bosses will feel too easy. To not make it trivial for high-level players, the DLC implements a secondary “leveling” system in the form of Scadutree Fragments and Revered Spirit Ashes. These are frequently found at Sites of Grace, which makes exploration worthwhile, and they grant permanent damage negation. The more of these items you gather, the easier it will get. Leveling your regular player stats is still important but how much damage you suffer from enemy attacks is partially impacted by the amount of Fragments and Ashes you found. If you are too overleveled you can opt not to redeem these items to make it harder, likewise if you are too underleveled you can spend time exploring for these items to make it easier. Leveling up your player stats is no issue in the expansion, as some single bosses give 400,000 runes and standard enemies also give a lot.

An Epic Adventure with Secrets and Bosses everywhere

While at first glance the map looks ‘only’ as big as Limgrave, it is actually much larger. The map has multiple layers, the total explorable area is about the size of Limgrave and Caelid together. There are the elevated “Plains” where you start and then there is a second layer consisting of valleys below you, effectively doubling the playable game size.

FromSoftware has outdone itself with the world design here. The world looks amazing, seeing giants walking around from halfway across the map instantly creates a sense of adventure and wanting to explore these far-flung regions. Each new area brings with it an epic journey filled to the brim with secrets and bosses everywhere. I’d go so far as to say this is the best DLC I have ever played, and is even better than the main game areas. There’s a bit of everything: from meadows to dargon-infested mountains, to spooky forests, coastlines, castles and labyrinth ruins.

Fully exploring the entire map and figuring out all secrets and side questlines took me over 60 hours. FromSoft pulls out all its tricks: expect hidden walls, making gestures to open hidden paths, and taking some leaps of faith. I can’t remember how many times I thought to myself “no way they did this, how do they come up with these ideas?”. After finishing the story I was sure I had Shadow Keep fully explored, only to find out there was another entrance that led to new sections. This is exactly how games should be designed, leaving you to make discoveries on your own. Instead of handholding you from one waypoint to the next, the attraction is figuring out the next step by process of elimination. You just get dropped off in the new play area with no hint what to do. The sense of adventure is unlike anything I’ve played since… well, since Elden Ring the main game. What they do super well visually is the use of color effects and sparks/particles distinct to each region, many hidden paths, weather effects, the long draw distance that lets you see unexplored areas across the map, the multi-layer map design, the enemy design in general, and the Scadutree looming over you from the distance.

The DLC also features two of the hardest bosses in the entire game, one atop the Jagged Peak and another in the final story area. You will know them when you reach them. Speaking of bosses, there are more than 30 unique bosses total (plus some duplicates). The vast majority of them are optional side bosses, with almost every dungeon featuring one. Some characters mentioned in the main game also make an appearance, expect some surprises hidden away in the furthest corners of the DLC.

Story plotholes revisited

The story revolves around Miquella and his followers. On your journey you will encounter other NPCs who are also on Miquella’s tracks. The NPCs have their own optional questlines which in usual FromSoftware fashion involve plenty of puzzles and out-of-the-box thinking.

A bunch of plot holes that were left unanswered in the main game are being explored in the Realm of Shadow, too. Overall, how much they managed to pack into this is phenomenal. Each time I thought I had fully explored the map, I kept finding more stuff. The expansion runs flawlessly on PS5 with no bugs or crashes encountered in my 60+ hours playtime.

Lots of new items

There are new items of all types: new weapons, armor, spells, incantations, talismans and so on. Regardless of what class you play there will be something new for you to try. Although most players will likely stick with their tried-and-tested main game weapons.

For the trophy and achievement hunters it deserves special mention that this expansion features neither trophies nor achievements. Most of FromSoftware’s DLCs have not featured these so it’s not a huge surprise.

For $40 you get an open world RPG that is bigger and better than almost any full-priced game. The only barrier to entry is that you must have made significant progress in the main game. To see everything plan in 60+ hours of playtime. If you loved the main game, you will love this too. It’s a continuation of what made the Elden Ring fantastic in the first place. An epic adventure!

***PS5 code provided by the publisher for review***

The Good

  • Incredible world design
  • Secrets and bosses everywhere
  • Amazing sense of adventure
  • New NPC questlines

The Bad

  • Trophies/Achievements not supported
  • A few repeated bosses