Is Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree DLC Worth Playing? A Review

Two years ago, I gave Elden Ring a ten, not only because it’s a fantastic game but also because it set a higher standard for open-world games in general.

It is truly excellent in the manner that it rewards inquiry, promotes exploration, and forces you to come up with unique solutions for challenging combat situations by offering an abundance of viable spells, weapons, and other construction options.

Now, FromSoftware is returning to surpass everyone once more, but this time in terms of what you would anticipate from a “simple” DLC.

Although Shadow of the Erdtree doesn’t significantly alter the core game, it does feel, in some ways, like a condensed version of the same experience that captures the magic of playing Elden Ring for the first time, with more content than many expensive games.

There are a ton of new build possibilities to try out, new mysteries to uncover, and some of the hardest and most memorable boss encounters Souls fans have ever seen within its surprisingly expansive environment.

Having vanquished every major menace in the area, including Malenia, Mohg, Placidusax, and the Elden Beast, I entered Shadow of the Erdtree with the attitude of a confident Elden Lord.

With the most amount of flasks and fully updated gear, my level 150 character was prepared for anything, yet the Realm of Shadow quickly humbled me.

You’ll want to overtrain before entering this new arena because it is tough, even though defeating Radahn and Mohg is the only prerequisite to reach the new areas—which is certainly no easy task.

With some of the later boss designs in particular, From Software undoubtedly errs on the side of fairness, if not closer than before. Importantly, though, it never really crosses that line.

Instead, Elden Ring and the Soulslike genre as a whole are treated to some of the most exciting and fulfilling bosses around thanks to this skillful tightrope walk and some absolutely amazing boss design.

Screenshots from the Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree DLC review

Not only does Erdtree have more bouts than anyone else, but the quality of those fights is also high.

Is Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree DLC Worth Playing? A Review

We counted over forty bosses, ten of which are the large, spectacular battles that award you with a Remembrance upon winning. It’s a sizable portion when compared to the more than 100 in the original game.

We counted and there are more than forty bosses.

The Realm of Shadow may not appear to be very large when you first open the map, but because it is layered, it is extremely thick. Some paths take you deep below the surface, some lead upward toward ruins hovering in the sky, and some even tug you in directions you never would have thought possible.

Maybe in the distant corner of a castle rampart you’ll find a hidden ladder; however, you’ll have to follow that trail for an hour or so until it opens up into an entirely new, otherwise unreachable location.

I never felt lost or uncertain about where I should or should go next, though, despite all of the revelations that were ahead of me. Following in the demigod Miquella’s footsteps—who fled to the Realm of Shadow after leaving his body behind—is the primary objective of this DLC.

Large crosses neatly function as subtle signposts to indicate when you are approaching a plot-critical path, marking these footfall without ever feeling like you are being gently prodded in a single, clear direction.

In addition to the primary mission, you’ll come across a ton of new NPCs along the way, including seven of Miquella’s followers. Every one of them has a little questline that connects to the main plot; depending on what you do, those can even influence some of the later boss fights.

Even with my limited understanding of the deeper plot, I was still able to appreciate some pretty fantastic, eye-opening revelations towards the end of this story that are well worth the effort of reaching.

I consider myself to be a fairly casual enjoyer of Elden Ring’s extensive lore, compared to some of the scholars out there.

In a sense, Shadow of the Erdtree is a tiny version of the entire Elden Ring experience.

I conquered Shadow of the Erdtree’s last boss in approximately twenty-five hours, but I could easily see myself spending another fifteen or twenty hours on just one session.

Is Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree DLC Worth Playing? A Review

There are still some optional bosses I need to go back and finish, some unexplored regions on my map, some weapons and skills I haven’t had a chance to try out, and several sidequests I want to finish.

That makes sense considering that Shadow of the Erdtree is essentially a tiny version of the entire Elden Ring experience, as that is pretty much precisely how I felt when I finished my review of the base game after approximately 80 hours.

The entire experience is reduced to a relatively small amount, and it is all satisfyingly tailored especially for end-game characters who assumed they had seen everything.

Weapons of Choice

The fantastic art design, wide variety of areas to explore, and tantalizing rewards almost everywhere you look make the Realm of Shadow an enjoyable place to explore and discover, even though I haven’t experienced any “holy****” moments of awe like the first time I rode the elevator down to the Siofra River.

Eight entirely new weapon kinds are available, ranging from enormous odachi samurai swords to beast claws and throwing knives.

But my favorite weapon in the new armory is the light greatsword—the Milady, to be exact. As promised, the Milady boasts a very regal-looking moveset with combos that hit powerfully and flow well together. However, in comparison to real greatswords, it also travels rather quickly.

It’s a nice spot for me. I actually utilized one of them to rock a Strength/Dexterity-focused build instead of my powerful dual Bandit Curved Sword bleed build (albeit sans the White Mask, which I squandered my opportunity to earn) and found tremendous success for much of the DLC.

Because there were so many opportunities to gather more Ancient Dragon Smithing Stones, both the standard and Somber versions, I also experimented with a few other weapons.

In all of my excursions, though, I discovered that none of the new weapon types could match the might of the weapons I brought over from the original game, even though they are entertaining to use in hand-to-hand combat against an army of hands.

I was expecting to go over Erdtree with a fresh build, but it’s possible that there are certain talismans I was lacking to truly make the new ones sing.

When things became hard, I had to switch back to my basic damage build to obtain the amount of damage I required. Still, that build had two years to be optimized through the initial endgame.

I couldn’t help but wish Larval Tears were more common because there are so many intriguing new constructions.

Furthermore, Erdtree is one spicy dish, and variety is the flavor of life. To accommodate a vast variety of playstyles, there are an abundance of new spells, Ashes of War, Spirit Ash summons, and talismans in addition to the numerous new weapons.

There is currently a talisman that improves two-handed attacks; another that significantly reduces spellcasting time but increases damage taken; still another that amplifies the damage of stance-based abilities; and still another that amplifies damage each time you vanquish an opponent.

Indeed, there are a lot of them that are basically upgraded versions of highly helpful talismans that you most likely already own, and it’s okay to keep with what functions.

As I started to run out of Larval Tears by the time I completed Erdtree’s campaign, I couldn’t help but wish they were more numerous so I could respec my character a little more freely because there are so many intriguing new builds. I’m excitedly starting my second playthrough to see all the possible builds I still want to try.

The Happiness of Independence

The layout of The Realm of Shadow’s trip is remarkably similar to that of The Lands Between, with the map divided into several distinct areas. You can go anywhere you want to right away.

Is Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree DLC Worth Playing? A Review

You can follow the original Miquella Cross to the first large “legacy dungeon,” called Belurat, and battle the new, terrifying scorpion enemies there.

Alternatively, you can cross a bridge to the east and make your way to the magical Castle Ensis, where you must deal with this jerk and face one of the most difficult bosses of the DLC right away.

Alternatively, you can figure out a way to avoid having to go through either of those and go directly to the Scadu Altus, which essentially acts as the Realm of Shadow’s hub.

Once there, you might go straight to the Shadow. Continue climbing it to confront one of the main bosses, or use one of its other exits to access areas of the world that would otherwise be unreachable. Though not nearly as expansive, it offers the same masterful level of open-world architecture and a freeing sense of freedom as the original game.

Of course, that’s a whole other story entirely from whether or not you should run like crazy towards the Shadow Keep.

You will likely not level up as quickly as you did in the original campaign because this is endgame stuff, but there is a distinct power-scaling mechanism that only activates when you are in the Realm of Shadow.

Scadutree Fragments, which you can gather and turn in at Sites of Grace to boost your overall damage and resistances, are strewn around the landscape.

Similarly, you can obtain blessings for Revered Spirit Ash to boost the damage and endurance of your Spirit Ash Summons. These two very astute additions cleverly preserve some of the original endgame’s balance if you’re daring enough to take on this DLC before going back to beat it.

They add a much-needed sense of progression, a priceless reward for exploration, and something else to hunt for if you’re getting destroyed by a boss and need to come back when you’re stronger.

Conclusion

It’s fortunate that, as long as you’re not expecting it to do anything significantly outside the box, it’s difficult to imagine a better DLC than this. FromSoftware claims that Shadow of the Erdtree is the last addition Elden Ring will receive.

All of the things I cherished about the first version have been distilled into a very compact product that is larger than many stand-alone games and is only “small” in relation to the incredibly vast Elden Ring universe. Erdtree is crammed full of secrets, priceless treasures, difficult boss fights, and terrifying monsters to fight.

You can also play around with and use a variety of new weapons, spells, Ashes of War, Spirit Ashes, talismans, and other items to find even more creative ways to take on the game’s unforgettable, gory battles.

This DLC expansion is undoubtedly one of the greatest I’ve ever played, especially when you include some really intriguing lore revelations, amazing visuals, and amazing soundtrack to go along with its larger-than-life bosses.

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