Review: Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree


With a game as vital as Ring of Fire, you better believe it’s worth digging up every scrap you can by collaborating with the many writers on the subject. Read on as Steven Mills and I analyze the gigantic, and frankly surprising, Shadow of Erdtree DLC.

Screenshot by Destructoid

Chris Carter: Well, here we are at the likely end Ring of Fire era (at least when it comes to the first entry). While calling it an “era” sounds hyperbolic, it really was! Everyone went crazy for it, and so did many people who had never experienced it SekiSoulsBourne the game captured this option for the first time.

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To be straightforward: this expansion surprised me. This reminds me of Artorias of the Abyss (the only DLC expansion for Dark souls 1) in all the best ways, with a giant single sandbox to play in. This is one of my favorite areas in From Software’s history. Thinks?

Steven Mills: I completely agree and here again From Software exceeds my expectations in almost every possible way. This is From Software’s most solid DLC to date. I feel like this takes away a lot of what was good from the previous DLCs Artorias of the Abyssas you mentioned, also City of Rings With Dark Souls 3 and even some Old Hunters With Transmitted by blood, while pushing everything forward. Giant sandbox is really the best word. There’s nothing on the rails Shadow of Erdtree, and Shadowland gives us the freedom to explore as we wish, just like most of the base game. A true “expansion” in every respect.

Chris: Yes, it really takes a lot from columns A, B and C. One thing I think they really went for is the “spider web/spokes on the wheel environmental design”. Their philosophy has always taken this into account, especially with the Reunification Shrine in 2011 (time flies!), but with a few specific areas in Erdree Tree DLC, may seem endless. Capture one of the key areas, the Shadowkeep. I entered this zone quite early and 10 hours later I was finding recent entrances and secrets there.

Elden Ring Erdtree DLC Review
Screenshot by Destructoid

The best part is that if you really just want to work through these areas and complete the DLC, you can. Nothing feels unnecessarily closed. Basically you just go wherever you want, with a few plot-related exceptions. It’s a fantastic way to approach DLC without making it feel too petite or too wide open like other studios have. It’s a skill they’ve honed over the decades, going back to their own Royal Field era. It just makes me excited to see what they can do with their next project: assuming it’s not a file… Transmitted through blood Computer port.

Steven: Oh yes, Shadowkeep is so huge and complicated that it literally feels like it could have been its own DLC if it had been before Souls game. In terms of the level design itself, it’s kind of crazy how many different regions and biomes are crammed into this single release. My first Ring of Fire the gameplay returned in early 2022 when it originally released, but I recently played it again to freshen up someti ended up going in a completely different direction – both in terms of build/game style and the path I took along the way.

People will be able to do the same with Shadow of Erdtree; there is no specific path to follow to get to most zones. At the beginning of the DLC, when I realized how much there was here, I asked myself the same question: where is From Software going? Ring of Fire, and now Shadow of Erdtree is a huge step forward in a genre that From Software has been pioneering for over a decade, but like you, I can’t wait to see what it can be.

Elden Ring Erdtree 3 DLC review
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Chris: There are some biomes that some people will probably never see. And I’ll definitely play it again and take a different route the next time I start Ring of Fire start. It meshes together so well, in the sense that you can completely ignore it or immerse yourself in it for as long as it is part of the base game. The final, comprehensive edition of Game of the Year looks even more tempting.

What do you think about the recent enemies and bosses? Even the tombs with their bite-sized NPC encounters and DLC crypts felt fresh.

Steven: Yeah, it’s pretty amazing that there’s still little overlap in boss encounter mechanics, even after so many bosses! I’ll say it, but I won’t do it think it’s a matter of skill, but the bosses in Shadow of Erdtree as a whole it feels a bit more challenging than the base game. Ring of Fire offers a variety of encounters, from the rather petty (Rennala) to the tedious and challenging (Melania), but I would say most Shadow of Erdtree bosses tend to be on the tougher side.

Speaking of Rennali, one of the earlier bosses is fighting here Shadow of Erdtree this is her younger sister, Rellana. Unlike her sister, Rellana is not a pushover. Rellana, a warrior who wields two greatswords, has a certain level of grace to her as she expertly dances around her arena, sculpting me. I’m not proud of how many tries it took me to beat it, but it was a classic Souls-much like fashion, I felt quite accomplished when I finally did it. This encounter reminded me a bit of the Boreal Valley Dancer Dark Souls 3, this is one of my favorite fights of all time.

How did it go with Rellana? Is it ultimately a matter of skill?

Elden Ring Erdtree 6 DLC review
Screenshot by Destructoid

Chris: I don’t think it was a matter of skill, haha. Rellana was great fun and I also thought of the Dancer of the Boreal Valley as well as Pope Sulyvahn (Dark Souls 3 loves these lively sword fights). I think people will talk and share war stories again, especially when it comes to the differences in boss difficulty depending on people’s build and approach. Erdtree walks the line between reusing enemies and introducing recent ones, but it rises to the occasion and feels like something special.

Just like the others Souls there are enemies in games that people will always run past and never defeat, and a few that people will spend a lot of time on: and I’m not even talking about the bosses, because the Erdtree DLC has some really cold flaming giants called Furnace Golems . They can be seen stomping from a mile away, which adds to the danger of the zone and ties in nicely with its theme.

Steven: From Software really knows how to scale, that’s for sure. The Furnace Golems are a really nice touch, both in terms of the added threat in this recent area and in terms of illustrating scale. My first glance reminded me of the first time I reached the Atlus Plateau in the base game; the feeling that you immediately feel petite and unprepared for what is to come.

I also like that defeating them rewards you with recent Crystal Tears, and some of them can really change some builds. But at the same time, I think someone could decide to just skip it and not bother fighting the Baking Golems. This is another really cold aspect Shadow of Erdtree is that all add-ons and systems still complement the core Ring of Fire experience. Even the recent progression systems add recent forms of player power while still respecting players’ achievements in the base game.

Elden Ring Erdtree 7 DLC review
Screenshot by Destructoid

Chris: Yes, respect for time really is the basis of this DLC. You can explore for 20-30 hours and still feel like there’s more to do. I like that there can be different speedrun categories, including the number of DLC power-up items (Fragments of Scadutree and Ashes of the Reverend Spirit) that can be used. It can be as challenging as you want, or you can slowly gain power. It’s the best of both worlds, especially considering how tough several of the later bosses are.

Any final thoughts? I assumed this one would be a winner considering how forceful Elden Ring was as a whole, but it exceeded my expectations.

Steven: I think the most vital thing is that although my expectations were high, Shadow of Erdtree still managed to surpass them. From Software probably could have just added more Ring of Fire and that would be solid enough, but insteadShadow of Erdtree is another creative version of the genre.

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