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Elden Ring Shadow of the Erdtree Review

In this article, I’ll give you my Elden Ring Shadow of the Erdtree Review, with a full look into the expansion after having spent nearly every single waking moment of the past two weeks with the DLC. Playing over 120 hours myself and a collective 250+ hours as a team, we have managed to complete most of the content and unlock most of the DLC secrets, although some NPC questlines will require a replay to fully figure out. Is the DLC worth 40 USD? Was it worth the two year wait? What can you expect in terms of content and how does it affect the base game? We have all these answers and more.

Elden Ring Shadow of the Erdtree Review

This review will not go into specific story, location or NPC details and we will keep it as spoiler free as possible only showcasing the very beginning parts of the DLC, mostly areas already shown in trailers and in events, but if you are deathly against spoilers, simply listen to the video or read the article version. Of course, it’s impossible not to spoil some basic intrinsic mechanics that have already been widely revealed, so we’ll assume everyone knows about them. Feel free to skip to gameplay if you want to know nothing of the story and setting, we don’t really reveal anything that happens or any names but perhaps you already know you will like the story.

Shadow of the Erdtree is one of the best expansions ever released for a game, giving you what would be a game from another studio as an add-on to what is one of the best games of all time. This review will explain the highs of the DLC, but I will also mention its small negatives and my few criticisms to give you the most balanced view possible. I’d like to preface that you should not read too much into these, as I really love the expansion and its very much worth it.

  • Genre: Action RPG
  • Developed by: From Software
  • Published by: Bandai Namco
  • Release date: June 21st, 2024
  • Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC (Reviewed on PC & PS5)
  • Launch Price: 39.99 USD

Shadow of the Erdtree Story & Setting Review

The world of Elden Ring was wondrous to discover, and the lore of the game has kept a dedicated subset of the fanbase going for two years, as people piece together details of the characters, places and events of the base game. In this regard, the DLC has the rather intimidating task of inserting new elements and characters without disrupting anything that has been established before, while perhaps adding to the understanding of the base game.

Shadow of the Erdtree takes you to the Shadow Realm, which is separate and rather independent from The Lands Between, but has been subjected to Marika’s actions nonetheless, adding to the multidimensional animosity that the war for the Elden Ring created across the Lands Between. The events of the DLC do not affect the base game in any way, and no NPC questlines or endings are changed or intertwined with the expansion. But, of course, you can find out more about characters you may already know from reading about their adventures or actions in another realm.

I arrived at the Lands of Shadow after two years of producing a lot of lore shorts (over 100 now, you can find them on the channel). I was not prepared for the ground-breaking revelations of the DLC and I was genuinely shocked by some of the details that I pieced together, that really changed how I looked at one of my favorite characters. Moments like that where things tie together but still surprise you are rare in any form of storytelling, but it does make me appreciate the work behind this game’s story. It is said that GRR Martin had written of the events of the Lands of Shadow during his initial World Building project, so this is FromSoftware now revealing to us parts that had been kept from our eyes, and I feel it was quite well done.

I was also pleasantly surprised to find NPCs be more talkative and less cryptic, often leaving notes and pointed references of their objectives or destinations, which many will appreciate to not break questlines and get satisfaction from seeing things through. I did, however, feel that the efforts to make these more straight forward took away some of the mistique or sense of discovery of the DLC, but since this was one of the main complaints about all NPCs in souls in general, I think most people will be pleased with the change.

Overall, the DLC main story and its NPCs are tightly woven together and deliver a very interesting perspective, and I expect another hundred lore shorts are in my future!

Shadow of the Erdtree Gameplay Review

Shadow of the Erdtree Gameplay follows the base game but has a somewhat different tempo to what feels like the natural progression you experienced before. The most prominent new mechanic, that was heavily publicized via interviews and previews, is the addition of Scadutree Fragments and Revered Spirit Ashes, two types of items that can be found and used to provide a “blessing” for your character that increases your damage done and decreases damage taken when in the Realm of Shadow.

Scadutree Blessings & Their Impact on Gameplay

This mechanic was added as a way to balance the DLC to the player and provide new progression for characters that have maxed out weapons, optimized armor, amazing talismans and high levels. This is a quite smart approach to the powercreep issue, as it also prevents the DLC from becoming the source of the most powerful items in the game and ruining everything that came before in the original title.

I did find though that these fragments replaced the traditional character progression that I really enjoyed from the base game. I completed the DLC with an admittedly very powerful 150 Build, without ever leveling up once and the only change I made was to slot an upgraded Ash of War. I picked up lots of new equipment, and it opens up so many new build possibilities, but the way to get stronger wasn’t to make a new build or upgrade my weapon, it was to get more fragments. It is a small but not insignificant issue, as I felt like I was a bit “on rails” getting more power from a consumable permabuff rather than thinking about how to optimize my build.

This by no means makes it a bad mechanic, and I think it’s a fantastic approach to ensure balancing and the reason they have been able to add so many new weapons and equipment, which ultimately will have a deep impact on everyone who can replay the whole game with the DLC items.

Additionally, everyone will be pleased to hear that the DLC features tough and interesting mobs and Bosses, and since Fragments are now the great equalizer, combat performance comes down to your base build and skill. This means you will want to have a decent setup that works for the area, but after that you will have to use mechanics wisely to approach exploration and fights. If you need help, we have day 1 DLC builds ready for you at launch, and you can begin now by exploring our extensive library of builds with our new Build Selection tool.

Exploring the Realm of Shadow

Exploration has to be one of the most appealing aspects of Elden Ring, and the Shadow of the Erdree map delivers a new level of inter-connectivity and verticality that is truly and genuinely impressive. I also found the new Legacy Dungeons to be really well done, and their scale and design is without a doubt some of the best FromSoftware has ever made. It will be by far everyone’s favorite part of the DLC, merging what we all love from Dark Souls into what we have come to love from Elden Ring. I truly cannot emphasize enough how good these dungeons are and how much I enjoyed exploring their secrets.

As with the base game, there’s a decent amount of recycling, and you will notice base game enemies and minibosses going about, as well as some copy-pasted landmarks or building pieces. It did not deter my enjoyment, as the whole is more than the sum of its parts, but I felt it was something that I should mention since so many base game enemies and bosses can be found in the DLC.

Shadow of the Erdtree will demand your attention and ingenuity to navigate its landscape and find ways to reach new destinations. When compared to the base game, the level intricacy of the map is on a completely different scale. I completely disregarded the review guide and played 100% blind and it gave me a great sense of achievement to slowly figure out how to do everything and unlock every corner of the map, find hidden walls, resolve NPC questlines that reveal new locations, and interact with legendary characters thought lost to time.

Unfortunately, I also found a lot of very empty landmass with truly nothing there, which was severely disappointing after having been spoiled with so much content in earlier zones and the base game. In some ways it really felt like Shadow of the Erdtree was not truly ready to launch as the second half of the map did not feel as fleshed out or as full of content as the first half, even though it was still light years beyond what other developers typically deliver.

Regardless of this, the overall scale and intricacy of the map and dungeons, as well as the many extra locations provide more than enough content to fill a whole separate game, so let’s delve into that.

New Content & Builds

You can expect to find many new Marked Locations, in addition to 3 extremely good Legacy Dungeons and several smaller but well designed caves, catacombs and gaols with rewarding content. Most notably, you can expect some really challenging boss encounters, the last boss of the DLC is without a doubt the hardest FromSoftware boss I have ever done, it makes Orphan of Kos and Malenia look laughably easy.

Game expansions should be judged by more than the new levels and exploration content they add, and considered with their impact on the game as a whole as well. In this regard, Elden Ring is some of the best expansion content ever made for any game, as it adds to how you can approach the base game by giving you 8 new weapon categories, plus:

This is a very significant content injection that means my 100+ Builds are about to become 200+ easily. The new weapon categories have interesting movesets and when combined with new Skills will diversify gameplay and pvp even further. Many of the new armor pieces have special effects, which make them appealing, and the new talismans add extras that everyone will want for the base game as well. I won’t go into details of these but if you want the information on what all of these do and where to find them, head to the wiki and check out the Shadow of the Erdtree Map page which will be filled out at launch.

Shadow of the Erdtree Performance & Audiovisuals

And now we arrived to the most contentious part of the review – audiovisuals and performance. It’s no secret that I am of the unpopular opinion that FromSoftware is due an engine upgrade or graphical overhaul, as I feel their incredible art direction and style deserves better textures and detail. Shadow of the Erdtree is indeed absolutely beautiful and some of the most compelling location design I have ever seen in a game period, and I still wish the textures and distance rendering were better.

The world, enemy and character design are outstanding, the vistas fascinating, the movesets dazzling! The performance…. well, the performance stutters. This is not the bad 14 FPS that I had pre-patch on the base game, but rather “grabs” and freezes then fast-forward that make you feel you are playing an MMO and rubber-banding. Cas, Fex and Tyr all played, from different computers, and we all experienced this issue repeatedly and often at the worst of times during difficult boss fights. This was not gamebreaking, it didn’t ruin the experience, and I’ll take it any day over the performance issues I had pre-launch with the base game or the performance issues that plague many other games, but I must mention it as I want to be absolutely honest that while I love the game and I’m a fan of the studio, performance needs a patch as soon as possible.

Besides this and some pop-in, the game’s general performance is good and I’m sure these small issues will be quickly resolved, and most people will focus on admiring the fantastic location and armor design, and marveling at the fascinating boss movesets and effects that From has come up with.

Audio is as always very well done, with excellent voice acting that matches the story and setting, and I was particularly fond of Messmer’s lines that were delivered flawlessly. I should note that in contrast to that, the overall music score for the DLC seemed to fall a little below the base game. The idle and zone music is soothing or eerie as always, but I didn’t find myself as addicted to it or the boss tunes as I was with the original launch. Still well above industry standard as is all of this DLC.

Elden Ring Expansion Review: Scale, Replayability, Multiplayer

How big is Shadow of the Erdtree? Much like the base game: It’s massive! The expansion adds an extra game as a DLC, as we outlined with the content list above. But it goes beyond this as one must consider that all of that extra content is now also available to interact and affect the base game. I can’t stress this enough! Every single build will find something interesting to add, and those progressing through the game will find new ways to play and enjoy thanks to this DLC.

This ramps up the replayability of the base game even further, meaning your last two years of playing and enjoying exploration and boss fights with different setups can now be enhanced further and will surely provide as much gameplay as you got with the base game originally.

Multiplayer is also a factor, and the DLC allows for more seamless coop exploration, a highly requested feature that we could not test as the servers were not working, but we are very much looking forward to.

Elden Ring DLC Review: Pricepoint – Is it worth 40 USD?

It has been nine years since my Bloodborne review asked whether The Old Hunters was worth 20 USD. Back then, I said it categorically was one of the best expansions ever and very worthy of the price. FromSoftware has once more outdone themselves and provided an enormous DLC that is very much worth its price tag. It is also worth playing it now and getting to enjoy communal discovery and the rush of exploration and online activity that comes with a launch. I absolutely recommend that you get this as soon as possible and get to experience this amazing adventure.

Final Thoughts

Shadow of the Erdtree is a masterpiece expansion for a fantastic game. Catering to veterans with incredible bosses and to newcomers with clearly explained mechanics and systems, it has something for everyone and will delight the entire playerbase with its secrets and twists. I have minor complaints about the landmass design and performance, but both are easily overlooked when taken into the whole of what is offered.

The lorehunters will feast on the bounty of information, reveals and unexpected twists and turns. The build-makers will find hundreds of new insane combinations. Jolly cooperators will rejoice at their extended sessions while pvpers get to discover entire new ways to fight and defend themselves. The challengers will go crazy for the new bosses. And of course, the explorers and casual adventurers will find the new, massive and convoluted landscape the most worthy of adversaries.

This expansion is what gaming should be all about, and it should probably win Game of the Year on its own right, as anyone who doesn’t play FromSoftware games would be easily fooled into thinking it’s an entire game.



Story & Setting 9
Gameplay 10
Design, Audiovisual, Performance 9
Length, Replayability, Multiplayer 10
Pricepoint 10


Shadow of the Erdtree is an incredible expansion that no gamer should miss out on, adding even more value to an already outstanding game. With only minor performance issues and a few misses on the landscape, the expansion is challenging but rewarding, and full of secrets to discover. This is the kind of DLC every studio should aim to deliver, and very few can claim to do.

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1 response to “Elden Ring Shadow of the Erdtree Review”

  1. Regarding your point about the visuals: I wouldn’t seriously object to a change with their engine as long as they stay far, far away from Unreal, which tends to give the game of every studio that uses it this strange same-y feel. Personally, I’ve grown sort of fond of the FromSoft engine over the years, along with its little quirks here and there, and how it gives their games a unique visual veneer that stands out from all of the UE clones. The best option, IMO, would be for them to keep their current engine, and just work on improving performance and graphical fidelity. I definitely don’t subscribe to the notion that their current engine is “holding them back” or some such nonsense. As they prove time and again, art direction is vastly more important that raw graphical fidelity, though I can concede having both would be optimal.

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