Elden Ring Shadow of the Erdtree
Image via Bandai Namco

Review: Elden Ring Shadow of the Erdtree Weaves New Mysteries

A man sits in a dark room, his flaming red hair spilling from beneath his helmet. His eyes are golden, pupils slit though bearing the same cross found throughout The Lands Between. He raises a spear, a snake twining around his arm. Messmer the Impaler, the face of FromSoftware’s Elden Ring Shadow of the Erdtree DLC, murmurs secrets to me as he pulls back his arm and proclaims me an enemy. Leaping into the sky a ball of red flame gathers in the mouth of a serpent, and he comes crashing down nearly killing me in a single blow. But I fight back. I fight for my life as the jaws of that terrible beast come down on me again.

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Elden Ring Shadow of the Erdtree doesn’t open with the same kind of dramatics I described above. That’s solely saved for more cinematic boss fights. Instead you are transported to another realm beyond The Lands Between. It’s a new and foreign place where Miquella the Kind discarded his flesh and Messmer’s flame ravaged the world of the undying. The setup is compelling enough in its own right, pulling on narrative threads left unanswered in the base game, while still managing to weave its own set of mysteries throughout.

Improvement in performance is one of the best things to come with Elden Ring Shadow of the Erdtree. I did not experience major framerate issues, outside of a few instances when the game would freeze, somehow still be responsive to my inputs, and then rapidly catch up a few moments later. I do want to mention that this ended up affecting my entire system and my audio card. This has only ever happened with Elden Ring Shadow of the Erdtree. Outside of that, I did run into one other issue which was isolated to a specific area in the DLC where if I stayed in one spot for too long, I would clip through the ground and fall to my death. I cannot explain why this happened, but I replicated it several times just in case if this was a one time issue. It was not.

Image via Bandai Namco

While the performance for the Shadow of the Erdtree was a vast improvement, I still take umbrage with dropped frames or outright freezing in a game where movement and invincibility frames mean life, death, and progression. Obviously, this has impacted my overall score, which I think is fair given what I’ve just outlined. Elden Ring is a far from perfect game in that regard, but it is still functional enough that I was able to enjoy myself once I conceded that the build I had carried through the base game into the DLC was simply not going to cut it.

Through the course of my first review, I used the Reduvia Blood Blade to devastating effect. It carried me through a majority of the game before I switched over to the Hoslow Petal Whips that I enchanted with Frost and Bleed. These were powerful and had a significant amount of poise damage, on top of applying a generous amount of Bleed to common enemies and bosses. I’m not sure what happened between then and now, but whatever nerf happened made me hang up my whips and forced me to pick up the Reduvia once more before I ended up respecing to more effectively use Rivers of Blood and Mohgywin’s Sacred Spear interchangeably. Bleed damage is still king. With enough finesse, I was able to clear most bosses with relative ease through the use of both and my Mimic Tear Ash… when I remembered I could use it.

Boss fights in Elden Ring Shadow of the Erdtree are challenging and sometimes feel unfair. Some feel underpowered, while others feel vastly over-tuned in terms of mobility. There were a couple of fights that I did breeze through due to the sheer amount of Bleed damage both my Mimic Tear and I did in such a short amount of time, but others with more aggressive and agile movement were frustrating. The Dancing Lion shown in trailers more or less serves as a roadblock for players with its high mobility and how it dances between lightning and frost attacks. This isn’t the hardest boss however, but is more or less a sign of what you will come to expect.

That said, I felt like the Elden Ring DLC was definitely trying to funnel me into specific builds or build certain stats that I had neglected, like Vigor. Even through powering up my resistances through the use of Scadutree Fragments and Ashes, it never felt like quite enough. The add-on does expect you to be at least moderately skilled and at around level 150 if you want an easier experience. I made the mistake of going in at around level 100, which was fine. It just made the game significantly harder, at least in my opinion.

Image via Bandai Namco

The new weapons are also interesting, as their movesets are more agile than anything I’ve seen in the base game. A set of claws I took off of the body of a naked man I found wandering the forest with some animal companions had me leaping and lunging. A pair of twin blades I acquired from a boss allowed me to spin elegantly across the battlefield. But in the end I resorted to using my Rivers of Blood just to get through the DLC. I will probably go back and try out other weapons I acquired just to see what they’re capable of as I help my friends through Shadow of the Erdtree, or help them get to the point of starting the add-on.

NPCs are aplenty in Elden Ring Shadow of the Erdtree. This realm between realms is populated with them, each a servant of Miquella the Kind. I had no issues completing their quests, as they seem to be complete, with progression allowing me to summon specific NPCs as companions during boss fights integral their own backstories. One of my favorites was Ansbach, a follower of the Blood God Mohg. I thought his decision to forgo worshipping Mohg was strange until I reached a specific point in the story, which began to unravel more and more of the narrative which is arguably a lot more clean cut than Elden Ring or anything from the Dark Souls series. These characters’ motivations are made clear and you understand where their allegiances lie, but there are still mysteries to be found and context clues scattered in items you can find around the map. One of my favorite additions in Elden Ring Shadow of the Erdtree is how NPCs will actually talk during certain boss fights, allowing you to glean more lore. Ansbach had a lot to say during one specific encounter, with more dialogue spoken between Ansbach and several adversaries depending on how long it took me to kill certain enemies. Or even finding a random NPC after slaying a dragon that asked me to summon him for another fight to learn even more bits of lore. These were neat little touches.

Summoning them does have a downside, as they will affect how much health a boss has by specific increments. But I more or less bit the bullet and summoned them for at least one or two attempts to get as much dialogue out of them as possible. Even if it was something of a double-edged sword. It is also worthwhile going back and speaking to NPCs whenever you complete a boss fight or make any kind of progress, as they tend to move around the map constantly.

While I was interested in how Messmer the Impaler would fit into the lore and overarching narrative of Elden Ring, I felt like his inclusion in the DLC story was perhaps one of the weakest, with the aforementioned NPCs being the strongest additions. Messmer exists to be feared and is implied to be the favorite of Marika, but little else is known about him outside of obvious parallels to Jörmungandr. Miquella’s role in the conflict between the Gods is expanded upon, along with his implied seduction of Mohg. You learn about this supposed realm of undeath, what the Warrior Jars truly house, and the misery that has swept over this world. Some of it feels superficial, and at times shallow, answers to questions we did not ask, but help flesh out certain narrative elements that existed in the base game. As you can imagine, there is a lot to sink your teeth into, and lore hounds will more than likely love this DLC. (It’s me, I’m a lore hound.)

Image via Bandai Namco

In regards to the map, Shadow of the Erdtree is smaller by far, but has more verticality. I was navigating up and down cliffs on the back of Torrent, carefully teetering on the edges of rocks and gravestones to find monochrome fields of red chrysanthemums, or racing through plains of dried grass. The castles and keeps are impressive, sprawling structures that reminded me of Anor Londo, though not half as large. There were other areas I chanced upon as well, which keeps the spirit of exploration alive that was present in the base game. And as I navigated these areas and discovered more secrets and defeated more bosses I clocked in around fifteen hours of total playtime. But I’m almost certain there is still more for me to do.

Shadow of the Erdtree is more Elden Ring, just with a much better performance. However, I was underwhelmed by some of the locations and felt as though the boss fights weren’t challenging in a way that felt rewarding when I did manage to beat them. There’s a lot of good in Shadow of the Erdtree, but as I sat on my feelings once I defeated the final boss, I realized that I thought it was really just alright. If you aren’t a massive fan of FromSoftware games or adore the lore in Elden Ring, this DLC might be something you want to wait and purchase later. But if you adored Elden Ring, you will probably fall in love with the game all over again through Shadow of the Erdtree. Regardless, I’ll probably spend another twenty or so hours in it, digging for nuggets of lore I might have otherwise missed.

Reviewer’s PC Specs

  • Processor AMD Ryzen 9 5900X 12-Core Processor 3.70 GHz
  • Installed RAM 32.0 GB
  • Graphics Card: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3060

Elden Ring is available for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, and PC. Elden Ring Shadow of the Erdtree will be available on all mentioned platforms on June 21, 2024.

Elden Ring Shadow of the Erdtree

Elden Shadow of the Erdtree takes players beyond the Lands Between to explore the Land of Shadow, a completely new world from Elden Ring. Players can seamlessly travel back and forth between its vast maps interspersed with diverse situations and meticulous dungeons where menacing enemies roam. PC version reviewed. Review copy provided by company for testing purposes.

Elden Ring Shadow of the Erdtree builds upon Elden Ring's narrative to weave new mysteries for players to uncover.

Food for Thought
  • Shadow of the Erdtree continues that feeling of limitless exploration Elden Ring nailed.
  • If you haven't played Elden Ring recently, prepare to cry. In frustration.
  • It's more of the same, which means if you love Elden Ring you'll love this DLC.

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Kazuma Hashimoto
Senior staff writer, translator and streamer, Kazuma spends his time playing a variety of games ranging from farming simulators to classic CRPGs. Having spent upwards of 6 years in the industry, he has written reviews, features, guides, with work extending within the industry itself. In his spare time he speedruns games from the Resident Evil series, and raids in Final Fantasy XIV. His work, which has included in-depth features focusing on cultural analysis, has been seen on other websites such as Polygon and IGN.