Elden Ring Erdtree DLC review 0
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Review: Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree

It's Elden Ring, what more do you need

With a game as big as Elden Ring, you better believe that it’s worth digging up every single scrap we can with multiple writers on the case. Read on as Steven Mills and I dissect the gargantuan, and frankly surprising, Shadow of the Erdtree DLC.

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Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree (PC [reviewed], PS4, PS5Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S]
Developer: From Software
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Released: June 20, 2024
MSRP: $39.99

Chris Carter: Well, here we are, at the likely end of the Elden Ring era (at least, as far as the first entry is concerned). While it sounds hyperbolic to call it an “era,” it really was! Everyone went crazy for this one, and many people who had never picked up a SekiSoulsBourne game grabbed this one for the first time.

I’m gonna be honest: I was blown away by this expansion. It reminds me of Artorias of the Abyss (the sole expansion-esque DLC for Dark Souls 1) in all the best ways, with a gigantic single sandbox to play around in. It’s one of my single favorite areas in From Software history. Thoughts?

Steven Mills: I totally agree, and here we are again with From Software exceeding my expectations in pretty much every way imaginable. This is the most solid overall DLC by From Software yet. I feel like it takes a lot of the good from previous DLC like Artorias of the Abyss, as you mentioned, as well as The Ringed City from Dark Souls 3 and even some Old Hunters from Bloodborne, while also still pushing everything forward. A gigantic sandbox is really the best way to put it. There’s nothing on rails in Shadow of the Erdtree, and The Land of Shadow gives us the freedom to explore however we want, just like most of the base game. A true “expansion” in every way.

Chris: Yeah, it really does take a lot from columns A, B, and C. One thing I think they really leaned into is the “spiderweb/spokes on a wheel environmental design.” Their philosophy has always incorporated this, especially with the Firelink Shrine in 2011 (time flies!), but with several of the specific areas in the Erdtree DLC, they can feel endless. Take one of the key areas, the Shadow Keep. I entered this zone fairly early in, and was finding new entrances and secrets in it 10 hours later.

Elden Ring Erdtree DLC review
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The best part is that if you actually want to just work through these areas and finish the DLC, you can. Nothing feels needlessly gated. You basically just go where you want, with a few story-related exceptions. It’s a fantastic way to approach a DLC, without making it feel too small or too pointlessly wide open like some other studios. It’s a skill they’ve honed for decades going back to their King’s Field era. This just makes me excited to see what they can do for their next project: assuming it’s not a Bloodborne PC port.

Steven: Oh yeah, the Shadow Keep is so massive and intricate that it quite literally feels like it could have been its own DLC, if this was an earlier Souls game. As for the actual level design, it’s kind of insane how many different regions and biomes have been squeezed into this single release. My first Elden Ring playthrough was back in early 2022 when it originally came out, but recently, I played through again to freshen up a bit and ended up taking this run in a very different direction  — both in terms of build/playstyle as well as the path I took along the way.

People will be able to do the same sort of thing with Shadow of the Erdtree; there is no definitive path you must take to get to most of the zones. Early on in the DLC when I realized just how much was here, I asked myself that very question: where does From Software go from here? Elden Ring, and now Shadow of the Erdtree are such massive steps forward for the genre that From Software has been pioneering for over a decade now, but like you, I’m excited to see what that could be.

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Chris: There are a few biomes that some people will likely never even see. And I will definitely be replaying this and taking a different route the next time I start up an Elden Ring run. It meshes so well, in the sense that you can completely ignore it or dive into it for as long as a chunk of the core game. That eventual all-inclusive Game of the Year edition is looking even more enticing.

What did you think of the new enemies and bosses? Even the tombs with the bite-sized NPC encounters and the DLC crypts felt fresh.

Steven: Yeah, it’s pretty amazing how there’s still very little overlap in boss encounter mechanics even after so many bosses! I will say, and I don’t think this is a skill issue, but the bosses in Shadow of the Erdtree as a whole feel a bit tougher than the base game. Elden Ring features encounters all across the board ranging from rather trivial (Rennala) to painstaking difficult (Melania)but I’d say most Shadow of the Erdtree bosses trend on the tougher side.

Speaking of Rennala, one of the earlier boss fights in Shadow of the Erdtree is her younger sister, Rellana. Unlike her sister, Rellana is no pushover. A dual Greatsword-wielding fighter, Rellana carries a level of grace as she masterfully danced around her arena carving me up. I’m not proud of how many attempts it took me to bring her down, but in classic Souls-like fashion I felt quite accomplished when I finally did. The encounter somewhat reminded me of Dancer of the Boreal Valley from Dark Souls 3, which is one of my favorite fights of all time.

How did you fare with Rellana? Is it a skill issue after all?

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Chris: don’t think it was a skill issue, haha. Rellana was a ton of fun, and I also thought of the Dancer of the Boreal Valley, as well as Pontiff Sulyvahn (Dark Souls 3 loves those elemental sword fights). I think people are going to be talking and sharing war stories all over again, especially in terms of the boss difficulty disparity, depending on people’s builds and approaches. Erdtree straddled the line between reusing enemies and introducing new ones, but it rises to the occasion and feels like its own unique thing.

Just like other Souls games, there are enemies some people will always run past and never beat, and several that folks will spend a ton of time on: and I’m not even talking about bosses, as the Erdtree DLC has these really neat flaming giants called Furnace Golems. You can see them stomping around from a mile away and they add to the danger of the zone, and tie nicely into its theme.

Steven: From Software really knows how to do scale, that’s for sure. The Furnace Golems are such a nice touch, both in terms of the added threat in this new area, but also in illustrating the scale. My first glimpse reminded me of reaching Atlus Plateau in the base game for the first time; the feeling of immediately feeling small and unprepared for what’s to come.

And I like that taking them down rewards you with new Crystal Tears, some of which have the potential to really change up some builds. But at the same time, I think someone could opt to just skirt around and not bother taking on the Furnace Golems. That’s another really cool aspect of Shadow of the Erdtree is that all the additions and systems are still complimentary to the core Elden Ring experience. Even the new progression systems adds new forms of player power while still respecting what players’ have achieved in the base game.

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Chris: Yeah, respecting time really is the core of what this DLC is about. You can explore for 20-30 hours and still feel like there’s more to do. I like how there could be all sorts of speedrun categories for this, including how many DLC buff items (Scadutree Fragments and Revered Spirit Ashes) to use. It can be as tough as you want it to be, or you can slowly gain power. It’s the best of both worlds, especially with how tough a few of the later bosses are.

Any closing thoughts? I was assuming this one would be a winner given how strong Elden Ring was as a whole, but it exceeded my expectations.

Steven: I think that’s the biggest point here, is that even though my expectations were high, Shadow of the Erdtree still managed to exceed them. From Software probably could have just added more Elden Ring and that would have been solid enough, but instead, Shadow of the Erdtree is yet another innovative iteration of the genre.

[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]

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Image of Chris Carter
Chris Carter
Managing Editor - Chris has been enjoying Destructoid avidly since 2008. He finally decided to take the next step in January of 2009 blogging on the site. Now, he's staff!
Image of Steven Mills
Steven Mills
Staff Writer - Steven has been writing in some capacity for over a decade now. He has a passion for story focused RPG's like the Final Fantasy franchise and ARPG's like Diablo and Path of Exile. But really, he's willing to try anything.