Elden Ring Shadow of the Erdtree Review

Elden Ring Shadow of the Erdtree Review

FromSoftware is on top again with Elden Ring.

By GamesRecon

When Elden Ring hit the scene back a couple of years ago, it was pretty much a true jam and became 2022’s top-selling game. FromSoftware established the world as a gold standard for games that carry world-building experiences, providing challenging yet rewarding gameplay environments. This is exactly why I was ecstatic at the thought of the Shadow of the Erdtree DLC. Can this expansion possibly live up to the high bar the base game set? Having spent countless hours plumbing the depths, I can say it not only lives up to those expectations but in many ways exceeds them.

As soon as I walked into the Land of Shadow, I was on it. It felt like a completely new game, it wasn’t just expansion for me. The tone is darker and heavier, the mood meanders under a shroud of mystery. That very first place – a truly gigantic, open expanse overshadowed by the ominous Haligtree and crawling with fierce Furnace Golems – firmly established that this experience was at once familiar but excitingly new. The verticality of the map and level design combined with the scale took my breath away.

So, I thought nostalgic, but rather what stood out to me the most was that the gameplay felt old (obviously in a good way) and fresh all at once. The battles, the terrain, and the story were all ramped up to eleven. Mechanic upgrades such as Scadutree Fragments and Revered Spirit Ashes are just some of the layers this already texturous gameplay is built upon. I faced enemies that returned more menacing than before, uncovered secrets hidden in every nook and cranny on the map, and grappled with a narrative more engaging than ever. I went into Shadow of the Erdtree with high expectations, and it didn’t just meet them—it blew them out of the water.

Elden Ring Shadow of the Erdtree poster

One of the things that struck me about Shadow of the Erdtree was how it managed to condense the tone of Elden Ring into a more focused, yet equally rich experience. The gameplay feels familiar but fresh, with new mechanics and items that keep you on your toes. Scadutree Fragments and Revered Spirit Ashes are new collectibles that boost your stats within the Land of Shadow, providing a sense of progression that’s unique to this DLC.

Combat is as intense as ever, if not more so. The enemies in the Land of Shadow are faster and more aggressive. I quickly learned that my tried-and-true strategies from the base game wouldn’t always cut it here. I faced everything from harlequin-like enemies with rapid attacks to towering golems requiring precise tactics to defeat. Each encounter felt like a new puzzle to solve. FromSoftware has outdone itself with some of the most challenging and memorable fights I’ve ever experienced. One boss, the Blackgaol Knight, took me multiple attempts to defeat. His auto-crossbow attack right at the start of the fight was a brutal wake-up call. Another standout was the Dancing Lion in Bellurat, whose rapid, unpredictable moves kept me on edge for hours.

Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree image showing fight by using Moonveil Katana.

Experimenting with new weapons and builds was another highlight. Shadow of the Erdtree introduces many new gear, from the Milady greatsword with its elegant moveset to the martial arts-inspired Dryleaf Arts. Each weapon looks unique and valuable, giving new ways to approach combat. I started with my trusty Moonveil Katana and glintstone magic build but quickly found myself trying out new weapons and respecing my character to adapt to the DLC’s unique challenges.

The DLC also encourages you to step out of your comfort zone. Some enemies, like the Furnace Golems, can’t be hit or damaged without specific items. This forced me to craft new tools and rethink my strategies. The game’s subtle nudges to experiment with different builds and approaches kept the experience fresh and engaging.

Lore here in Shadow of the Erdtree is easier to access compared to scenes over the base game—that of Miquella, the semi-divine character at the heart of the expansion. From the religious teachings he spread to the chilling origins of iconic foes such as the jars; the story here is abundant and appealing. There was a single statement from an NPC about how Miquella had turned love into a weapon with which to “shrive clean the hearts of men” that gave even more chills than usual, simply for its thoughtfulness.

It also makes for interesting new characters that you encounter as well. Freyja fights alongside Radahn and has a taste for combat almost as much as she worships you, the player. A second, undisclosed character continued to double-cross me in ways that kept me wanting to know more. It neatly juxtaposes your rise to Elden Lord with a disturbing tour of the corpses hidden beneath the throne, rendering an additional layer of moral shade to your quest.

Elden Ring Shadow of the Erdtree screenshot

FromSoftware’s master level of world design is on full display in this expansion. The Land of Shadow is rich in detail, with many layers and hidden directions for you to explore. From winding corridors in a castle to a forest filled with hundreds of giant stone structures, there is always something for you to discover. There are nice and challenging environmental puzzles.

Very early on, I had to perform certain gestures at particular moments in order to uncover secret paths (yeah… I didn’t know that was a thing either). It means exploring something tangible, solving puzzles that give you just enough context about an object to make discovering its larger story significant. World-scale verticality also comes into play. Reaching the top of a peak will frequently expose you to new areas below and traveling down into the depths of a canyon could unlock an entirely different region.

Fighting with Freyja in Elden Ring Shadow of the Erdtree.

Shadow of the Erdtree is a ride; it was brutal in the early going, as I found myself in a tight spot fighting stronger foes and wandering around the maze of a map. But every loss was a lesson, and every win felt like a victory. After all, the difficulties of the DLC forced me to figure out what works and what doesn’t in all areas of my proficiency—and that made me a better player. One memory that sticks out was after hours of dying against a really hard boss, I finally bested it. It was next-level elation and a sense of accomplishment. This is the kind of stuff that makes FromSoftware games so great, they push, prompt you to step out, and confront the void with your skill and patience, but the rewards are deeply satisfying.

But of course, in looking back on my relationship with Shadow of the Erdtree, I know that it’s about more than just playing the game. It’s all about the ride, the fights, the victories, and the lessons. The wonder of finding something completely new and the pride that comes from going up against truly difficult challenges. This expansion wasn’t merely more Elden Ring; it was more reason to believe that this game is something rare and meaningful and it deepened my love for it.

Shadow Of The Erdtree Review screenshot - meeting with an NPC in rich open terrain.

No game is perfect, and Shadow of the Erdtree is far from it. It tells an incredibly rich story, but it is often a little too obscure. A few side quests that I ran into seemed to forget what their resolution was supposed to be or made the next step less clear than it should have been. Although this complexity is more often than not a bow in the game’s arrow, it occasionally made even navigation itself an exercise in patience. There is no subterranean toggle to only focus on the layers and paths.

Though it was generally not a huge issue, technical problems occasionally caused shimmers in the virtual world that broke immersion. Some bosses would just stop attacking me mid-fight, and some areas had sloppy collisions where I could walk into the terrain. Not frequent but a tad bit visible with these bugs. Also, the original game reusing some enemies was a bit annoying too. It was good to run into some familiar faces, but having Troll Knights and Finger Creepers pop up several times became monotonous. I would welcome more new types of bosses.

Final Verdict

Even with all these criticisms, Elden Ring Shadow of the Erdtree is a fantastic piece of DLC and one that any fan of Elden Ring should play. It distills the game into its core elements but hugely changes enough to make exploring the Lands Between a joyful fresh experience anew. The world design is a masterpiece, combat is as deep and rewarding as ever and the light narrative layer has welcome depth to the storyline. Once again FromSoftware reminds us why they are at the top with their production. This is far more than mere expansion content; it’s an adventure you’ll be humming the melodies of long after you set down your controller. Seasoned Elden Ring vets and newcomers alike can find something unique to enjoy in this DLC. Get ready, blade sharp, into the shadows we go. You won’t regret it.

Elden Ring Shadow of the Erdtree poster
Elden Ring Shadow of the Erdtree
Amazing 9
Our Score 9