Elden Ring Shadow of the Erdtree


Review by · June 18, 2024

This review is for those who are satisfied with Elden Ring’s base game and are not sure if a return to The Lands Between is necessary. If you’ve done multiple playthroughs, love everything FromSoftware has done, and have already done some prep for the DLC, you know you’re buying it. Shockingly, not everyone has the same adoration we have. The tee-ell semicolon dee-arr is that Shadow of the Erdtree takes the best of Elden Ring and excises the chaff in a journey that feels like its own game.

Miquella the Kind, Tender Miquella, Son of Marika—we venture into the essence of slain Mohg (you did slay Mohg, right?) in pursuit of Miquella, finding pieces of his body along the way; truly, the most macabre breadcrumbs. As we play follow-the-leader, friends and followers of Miquella greet us all over the map, adding flavor and grounded communication to quell the abstraction that FromSoftware is known for. Rest assured, ruins, crumbling houses, and desolate landscapes await as we learn about the world through item drops and the environment. Play archaeologist, theologist, and historian while wielding sword, shield, and spell.

If you don’t care about any of that, don’t worry: Elden Ring is chock-full of fascinating new baddies, big and small. I have conquered most of the base game, including Malenia, so I was curious how the DLC would feel for someone with a hundred-and-whatever level character. Enter Scadutree Fragments and Revered Ash. While the calculations are unclear, Scadutree Fragments improve damage resistance and damage dealt, while Revered Ash improves summons and Torrent. These resources are everywhere, including in nooks and crannies in the overworld, deep within dungeons, and after defeating some bosses. In this way, a super-leveled character may not have much of an advantage over someone who had just beaten Mohg in the base game, though in order to do that a character needs some levels, anyway.

The Erdtree casting light through shadow in artwork for the Shadow of the Erdtree.
Is…is it wearing lingerie?

The end result is a satisfying sense of progression as you start off struggling and gradually get stronger. This became incredibly evident about halfway through the DLC when I decided to do some exploring in earlier sections and had a Goomba-stompy good time. However, this means that gathering runes isn’t necessarily the best way to become stronger. Shadow of the Erdtree leans heavily on exploration, thoroughness, and daring exploits as players venture into areas they aren’t necessarily suited for. Speculate that a Scadutree Fragment lies in wait up on that cliff, but you know for sure you can’t fight your way up? Do some fancy dancing on Torrent as you zig and zag between spells and giant clubs until you find—another level-four smithing stone. Great.

This is part of the fun in all of FromSoftware’s games, though, and Shadow of the Erdtree nails it: exploration giveth and taketh as players are never guaranteed riches. In fact, depending on how rigid you are in your build, 90% of the goods aren’t going to apply to you. However, the simple act of discovery is a constant exercise in feeling smart as we engage in this multi-hour scavenger hunt with the developers. Also, the item descriptions continue to have brief, satisfying insights into this new world we’ve been thrust into, so that’s nice, even if you don’t have 45 points in faith.

Runes still matter because leveling vigor, mind, and endurance seem unhindered; this also offers players the opportunity to stretch stats in other skills, such as arcane and intelligence. Somehow, this DLC maintains the core feeling of Elden Ring’s difficulty, as I continued my tactic of “this boss is way too hard, so I am going to go west instead.” Rarely did I find myself beating my head up against a boss I couldn’t thwart, and only used ashes a handful of times, mostly in the beginning. One big concern people had was difficulty, as the Dark Souls series boasted excruciating DLC content that seemed to favor challenge over fun. FromSoftware must have listened because this DLC is just as accessible as the core game, and the ashes are still there to act as a cheat button if the frustration mounts. A sadist for hard bosses? Don’t worry. There’s at least one boss that’ll get you sweating, and they aren’t necessary to beat the game. In fact, I’d argue that most of the core bosses and enemies on the road to credits rolling are tough but fair. Most.

Screenshot of Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree with a crouched figure near the ground.
No, this isn’t a Bristleback screenshot.

Crafting, new spells, unusual weapons, and ashes of war maintain Elden Ring’s identity and give players something new to try. Admittedly, I leaned on Malenia’s Blade for a good chunk of Shadow of the Erdtree because I earned that thing, damn it! But after a while, I decided to test out some of the other goodies and was much pleased to find multiple new options for weaponry, armor, and abilities.

Don’t expect much in the way of new mechanics or ways to play the game. Shadow of the Erdtree leans heavily into the nuts and bolts of the base game while supplying beautiful landscapes, novel enemy design, and a map that is constantly engaging and begging to be explored. Actually, the world-building and layers of Shadow of the Erdtree are some of FromSoftware’s finest work. Large and interwoven, players will be scratching their heads to figure out how to get to area A or B and have a fun time doing it.

As thorough as I was—and I do believe I found most of what this DLC has to offer—I gave up on two large sections of the map I couldn’t puzzle out how to get to, and I put some decent time into figuring it out. That’s okay, though: ultimate completion takes a backseat to a rewarding experience, and honestly, I’d be a bit disappointed if I could so easily find everything in a From Software title after only fifty hours of gameplay. Oh, that’s another thing: this is a DLC, but wow is it big! At forty dollars, I do believe folks will get their money’s worth, and that’s just after one jaunt. We haven’t seen DLC of this caliber since Witcher 3’s Blood and Wine.

Luminescent enemy in a scary forest.
In an attempt to innovate, From Software now lets you summon enemies to serve as a torch, freeing up that all-important left-hand slot.

If raw gameplay and heady histories aren’t all you’re after, Shadow of the Erdtree is beautiful to explore. Some sections absolutely pop with color and vibrancy, while others offer predictably somber, washed-out colors we’d expect from civilizations long past. Even if browns and grays aren’t your thing, the impact of weather, sunlight, and moonlight makes for an awe-striking experience visually. Musically, expect to fall in love with the cello. Deep, sorrowful strings are matched only by eerie, foreboding strings. Atmosphere aside, expect adrenaline-infused boss music that intensifies an already white-knuckled bout. Similarly, the voice actors carry their lines in expert fashion in a way that only FromSoftware characters can.

If I’m completely honest, though, not all is golden in Shadow of the Erdtree. One significant chunk of the map left me shockingly disappointed. The pedigree FromSoftware has established still leaves me doubting myself, as I found this sizable area unusually vacant, lacking substance, and not all that fun. This occurs later in the game, and while optional, most folks will want to explore it. Still, what perplexes me is how out of character this is from them.

Okay, with that grizzly nonsense out of the way, Shadow of the Erdtree is a staggering addition to the base game—and all of gaming. Once again, would-be designers should take note of what the developers have accomplished here, especially in terms of world and map design. To sleep on Shadow of the Erdtree is akin to depriving oneself a potential Game of the Year contender. Can DLC be Game of the Year? If it has the size, quality, and feeling of independence the way this DLC does, I say “Why not?”


Imaginative and labyrinthine map, tenacious difficulty, musically and visually outstanding.


Plays it a bit safe with few added elements, a questionably barren section of the map.

Bottom Line

An exemplary addition to Elden Ring.

Overall Score 95
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Jerry Williams

Jerry Williams

Jerry has been reviewing games at RPGFan since 2009. Over that period, he has grown in his understanding that games, their stories and characters, and the people we meet through them can enrich our lives and make us better people. He enjoys keeping up with budding scholarly research surrounding games and their benefits.