In their quest to become Elden Lord, the Tarnished has slain gods and men alike, overcome fearsome challenges, and explored The Lands Between with the guidance of Grace. Now, they make a detour to the Land of Shadow, following in the footsteps of Miquella the Kind in search of answers. What does the Empyrean hope to achieve in shedding his very flesh? Find out in this expansion to the 2022 Game of the Year, Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree!

Release Date: June 21st, 2024
Developed by: FromSoftware Inc.
Published by: Bandai Namco

"Beware Ahead: Spoilers Lie Within"

Promised Land

The Land of Shadow is, quite simply, enormous. "The size of Limgrave" this is not, regardless of what the director of Elden Ring, Hidetaka Miyazaki, would have us believe. You could argue he was underselling on purpose, but with hindsight (and enough map fragments) it is plain to see he was lying in that interview. The new continent we've been given to explore has a plethora of secrets and dangers, with an added touch of verticality the base game hinted at but didn't fully embrace. Shadow of the Erdtree wants - nay, demands - you explore the realm in search of power and hidden treasures, and your reward for thoroughness is to find even more of it to love.

Entire sections of the map could be found at the end of a dungeon, or hiding behind a secret wall - the Abyssal Woods, for example, requires you to notice a downward ladder tucked away in a corner of the Shadow Keep. This leads to a ruins guarded by Furnace Golems, then some precarious platforming down a waterfall further on, which ends in the Darklight Catacombs. Get through there, and, after defeating its boss, the way to the Woods will be cleared...only for another dungeon to be waiting on the other side! You can see the Abyssal Woods from atop the nearby cliffs readily enough, but that feeling of "ooh, how do I get there?" is present throughout the DLC.

Strewn about this landscape is a frankly-insane amount of stuff to collect, encompassing gear, spells, Spirits, and more. All told, you can expect to find:

  • 95 Weapons, with 8 new weapon types
  • 30 Armor sets
  • 10 Shields
  • 39 Talismans
  • 14 Sorceries
  • 28 Incantations
  • 20 Spirit Ashes
  • 25 Ashes of War

New weapon groups include: Backhand Blades, Beast Claws, Great Katanas, Hand-to-Hand Arts, Light Greatswords, Perfume Bottles, Throwing Blades, and Thrusting Shields. Each comes with new movesets, special abilities, and of course fashion. All told, with the size of the map, the numerous bosses to overcome, and the density of new equipment to play with, Shadow of the Erdtree is seemingly a full game in-of-itself! A price tag of $40 felt high originally but now that we know the full scope, it's practically a bargain, based on sheer content.

A Lowly Tarnished

Combat is basically the same as the base game, with no major shakeups beyond the Blessings. A more dangerous realm demands greater power, and by finding and upgrading your Blessings (in the form of Scadutree Fragments and Revered Spirit Ashes), you'll gain a percent increase to your Attack Power and Damage Mitigations. While not technically mandatory - some pros have already demonstrated successful "No Blessing" runs - they will no doubt make for a smoother path to victory. A recent patch even front-loaded this bonus, to make it easier on players just starting out in the expansion.

By the end of the DLC, I was swinging for twice as much damage, and taking about a third as much as I was in the base game...even if it only counted whilst within the Land of Shadow. Blessings exist to allow everyone to be on a similar page when entering the DLC: everyone should expect a challenge, (almost) regardless of their level!

Without the Blessings, you can expect even the lowliest of enemies to hit pretty hard. Elite foes can deal significant damage to your HP bar, while bosses will hit like a monster truck with nitro boost. This becomes much more manageable as you find the Fragments, leading back to the incentivization to explore the realm in search of them. That's not to say the Blessings automatically lead to an Easy Mode: even at a Scadutree Blessing of 19/20, regular enemies could destroy me if I was being careless. They're there to help even the odds, not play the game for you!

As for the bosses, I would say a lot of them are more creative than the base game. You still have your swordfighters and the like, but even then they can come with special twists to elevate the experience. The Twin Moon Knight Rellana, for example, begins as a dual-wielder of Light Greatswords; half-way through, she ignites her blades with magic and fire, and gains new abilities to enhance her swordsmanship. Of course, I have no imagery to provide - taking a screenshot mid-combat is hard enough, let alone one that looks nice - so you'll just have to take my word for it!

While they certainly look cool, the DLC bosses tended to be...shall we say, "combo-centric". Trading blows was generally frowned upon, given how hard they could hit you for, so a lot of the time combat resulted in dodge -> dodge -> dodge -> attack during their (brief) downtime. There's nothing inherently wrong with that, generally-speaking, but when every boss has a similar relentless flow to them, it can ultimately feel one-dimensional. The strategy becomes the same, unless you are in such a strong position that you can brute-force your way through problems. Which brings me to my next complaint: the fine-line of balancing the Blessings require.

Having a good amount of Blessings helped take the edge off immensely. You're encouraged to explore and find them, but find "too many" of them and you'll outpace the challenge. I don't mean to brag when I say this, but most of the bosses I took down in 1-3 attempts total. Did I find too many Blessings before each one? Were they not balanced against using Spirit Ashes and the various other tools at my disposal? Fighting them was by-and-large an enjoyable experience...but what I lacked, what I wanted most of all, was the feeling of satisfaction from overcoming them. And I did not get that for most of Shadow of the Erdtree.

Bereft of Grace

I'm going to pause the review for a bit and talk about the plot-revelations from the DLC - I do this not to spoil, per se, but to segue into my finer point about Shadow of the Erdtree.

Based on what I gathered regarding the rather-opaque story of Elden Ring and its expansion, "Miquella the Kind" is not who we were led to believe. In the base game, Miquella was implied to be more of a victim in the war following the Shattering, an innocent soul trapped forever in the form of a child. He sacrificed his body to create the Haligtree, in the hopes that it would eventually purge his sister Malenia of the terrible Scarlet Rot that afflicted her and her people. Before Miquella could truly finish, Mohg, Lord of Blood, snatched him away, looking to use his essence/soul to empower himself and form his great "Mohgwyn Dynasty".

Turns out, this was mostly a lie. Miquella's hidden power was the ability to charm others into being his followers; as we discover partway through Shadow of the Erdtree, when he shatters his Great Rune. The charm lifts from the Followers of Miquella, and they react in various ways as their free will is returned to them. We seemingly learn from this and other information that Mohg didn't steal Miquella away for his own ends: he was manipulated by Miquella to do that, so that Miquella could access Mohg's body. He sought to take Mohg's form and use it as a vessel for the soul of Radahn. Radahn had pledged when the two were younger to be Miquella's consort; while it can be assumed that Radahn might have moved on and grown up from this pinky-promise, Miquella never did, and conspired against everyone else to get his way.

Malenia's war against Radahn, where she drowned Caelid in Scarlet Rot and drove Radahn to madness after he was afflicted? That might very well have been Miquella's fault, pushing his sister to do that so that the otherwise unbeatable General would (eventually) be slain. He could then revive Radahn in the body of Mohg, and charm him into being his consort after all. As Miquella shed his flesh, his love, and his fears, proceeding through the Land of Shadow in an effort to become a god, he further lost his way, and in-so-doing became a master manipulator rather than "Miquella the Kind" as the other characters knew him for.

What does this have to do with my review? Well, in essence, I feel manipulated.

I feel manipulated by the marketing, creating the illusion that Messmer the Impaler was the final boss - or even a major figure at all, rather than what felt more like a roadblock to reach Miquella. I feel manipulated by the grand promise of 8 new weapon categories, when in reality most of those have only 1-3 weapons in them. While there are other Smithscript weapons you can throw, only the Smithscript Dagger is a "Throwing Blade" with the ranged basic attack as seen in the trailers. I feel manipulated by the map itself: for all its grandeur, the density of some areas is matched by the complete emptiness of others, wandering around a forest or a field only to find dangerous enemies guarding a simple Cookbook.

Most of all, I feel manipulated by FromSoftware encouraging us to find all the Blessings, deriving myself of the challenge and thus satisfaction in overcoming said encounters. This can be extrapolated further into the use of Spirit Ashes and the like, which exist to make things better for the player but can also sand off the edges of difficulty, to the point where a great debate is held in forums and elsewhere as-to the "right" way to play Elden Ring.

In my opinion, self-made challenges are fine if you want to do that, and using everything at your disposal is acceptable as well, but there exists a messy line between them wherein I find myself: looking for a challenge, but not to tie my hand behind my back just to make things sporting. Perhaps this is a side-effect of the open world nature of the game; it could be that a more tailored experience is what I seek. I did not feel this way about the base game, though, so something about the Blessings might be disrupting my enjoyment of Shadow of the Erdtree. Or perhaps my time with Elden Ring has simply run its course for now.


All-told, I enjoyed Shadow of the Erdtree for what it was. $40 for 50 hours of extra content is a great deal, and that's not even including the ability to go into New Game+ with all the gear and spells, further enhancing subsequent playthroughs. The bosses were cool and interesting, even if I defeated them with relative ease via being overprepared. The dungeons and catacombs were much better and more involved than the base game, as well. I have my complaints, and I wouldn't necessarily consider it "Da Best DLC Evar", but if you're a fan of Elden Ring, I can definitely recommend the purchase.

Have you played Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree? What do you think of it? Would you consider it one of the best DLCs ever? Let us know in the comments below!