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Elden Ring: Shadow Of The Erdtree review: A graceful journey's end

Elden Ring: Shadow Of The Erdtree review: A graceful journey's end

It's more Elden Ring, how could you go wrong?

Elden Ring: Shadow Of The Erdtree in many ways feels like a FromSoftware’s greatest hits tribute, reintroducing some of the developer’s best ideas, as well as some of its worst…

As an expansion to the critically-acclaimed Elden Ring I’d say it does everything you’d want it to. There’s a brand-new world to explore with its own mysteries, stunning sights and world-ending threats to make it stand out from the Lands Between, and it offers a challenge for even the most-seasoned Elden Ring players like myself.

Check out the most recent trailer for Elden Ring: Shadow Of The Erdtree below

To access the DLC you’ll need to defeat Starscourge Radahn, as well as Mohg Lord Of Blood, which will then unlock the way forward via Miquella’s corpse-egg-thing in Mohg’s arena.

Upon entry you’ll be greeted to a whole new world, the Shadow Realm, along with a new mission: Find Miquella.

First let's talk about the Shadow Realm. While it’s not as big as the Lands Between, it’s a sizable expansion that you’re not going to explore quickly. While it’s a much more linear experience you’ll quickly find there are several locations that you seemingly can’t access even with some clever parkour on Torrent.

Verticality is a huge part of the new map, so scanning the cliffs for a way down that won’t result in you shattering your skeleton is essential to see everything the DLC has to offer, something even I haven’t done yet - not for lack of trying.

Like the base game, the scenery is gorgeous and varied, where simply changing the time of day can make an area you’ve already been to look like an entirely new world. I’d often stop in my tracks to peer out towards the sea as the sun began to set, which gave me major Dark Souls 2 Majula vibes.

Elden Ring: Shadow Of The Erdtree-
Bandai Namco

However, while the stunning vistas are a huge part of Elden Ring, it’s the gameplay that makes you stick around for the long haul, so how does it hold up when compared to the base game?

Well I’m sure the masochists out there will be glad to hear Shadow Of The Erdtree is one of the most challenging DLCs FromSoftware has made so far, comparable to Dark Souls 3’s The Ringed City in terms of overall difficulty.

Even with fully-upgraded gear, my +10 Mimic Tear, and all the powerful new weapons and talismans the DLC has to offer, Shadow Of The Erdtree gave me a serious run for my money. Yet despite the challenge, and a few instances where I thought “I don’t think I can beat this thing,” I persevered and felt an immense amount of satisfaction upon finally felling my enemy, which is exactly what you want in a soulslike.

Make no mistake though: that satisfaction must be earned, and the new bosses will do anything but go down quietly. I’d like to avoid spoilers so the bosses I’m going to use as examples are the Divine Beast Dancing Lion and Messmer The Impaler, both of which are seen in the gameplay trailer.

The Dancing Lion is the first boss you fight, and my Lord what an introduction. I’ve always said the trick to mastering soulsborne combat is to treat it like a dance, and this fight was that idea personified. The boss bounds across the stage, spins, twirls, somersaults over you, all while unleashing a wide range of elemental attacks many of which will be your end if you’re not paying close attention.

Elden Ring: Shadow Of The Erdtree-
Bandai Namco

A little later down the line you meet Messmer, the face of the DLC and a real contender for my favourite boss in the entire FromSoftware catalogue. Without getting into spoilers I found him to possess all the qualities a good boss should have, an intriguing story, a radically cool design, a diverse moveset and most importantly, spectacle, that overwhelming feeling that this is one of the most important fights of your life. Messmer had that in spades, and I can’t wait to see what the fanbase makes of him.

All of the bosses, except for a handful, felt incredibly well-designed. Movesets often felt fair and well-telegraphed, meaning your death was due to your own mistakes or lack of knowledge rather than something wrong with the enemy. While there are a few bosses I’d consider to be too hard at times, they’re certainly doable, and I’m sure a few will be tweaked with balancing updates.

However if you still find yourself struggling, fear not, as Shadow Of Erdtree has a variety of tools and help to assist you on your journey should you need it.

There are loads of new weapons, cracked-tears, spells, armour sets and talismans to find, with some hidden out in the world, some stashed away in dungeons, and a few locked behind bosses or field enemies.

While there are far too many to list here, there’s enough to bolster existing character builds, as well as plenty to create brand-new builds exclusively for the DLC. My personal favourite is the new martial arts, which sees your character perform a variety of awesome kicks and leg sweeps, no weapon required. There was also a talisman that buffed two-handed weapons, as well as a spell that can heal allies from a distance, great for those who like to summon allies or use Mimic Tear.

Elden Ring: Shadow Of The Erdtree-
Bandai Namco

There are also new collectables to find which unlock Scadutree Blessings and Revered Spirit Ash Blessings. The former increases your overall damage and damage negation, whereas the latter buffs your spirit ashes. This is a great way to evening the odds when you’re struggling to progress, but it’s in no way mandatory. It’s a great way to ensure you’re not too outmatched if your level is slightly behind the recommendations.

These blessings only apply to the DLC too, so upon exiting the Realm Of Shadow you’ll be back to normal

I spoke about it before but Shadow Of The Erdtree feels similar to Dark Souls 3: The Ringed City, in a sense that it feels climactic. It feels like the end of Elden Ring’s story, and while I was a tad disappointed by the ending cutscene, I think the final boss and the build up towards it was the only way this game could possibly end. However as much as I adored this DLC, I did have my fair share of problems with it.

For starters I think locking the DLC behind Mohg Lord Of Blood was a strange move. As I’m sure many veteran players will know, many players like to pop into the DLC worlds FromSoftware creates for an early shopping trip. While you’d be almost always underleveled, you’d still brave the DLC anyway to grab that weapon you want to carry you through the base game, or that armour set you want to see in some of the game’s cutscenes.

Fighting Mohg early-on, while achievable, is an absolute nightmare which is why you’d only really fight him towards the end of your playthrough when you’ve already got a strong build you’ve grown used to. While I gave several DLC items a try I still found myself relying on my Black Blade, Golden Vow and armour from my base game playthrough, as it was easier than having to learn a brand-new moveset or build. I’m interested to see how stashing it behind Mohg affects the replay value, and how players will go about integrating the new DLC items into their playthroughs outside of NG+.

Elden Ring-
Bandai Namco

Another issue is with the map itself. As I said before it’s far more vertical, which makes it a lot harder to figure out where to go and how to get there. While sites of grace will point you to where you need to go to advance the story, I can guarantee many players will completely miss some of the more impressive areas purely from not being able to figure out how to get there. You can only ride around aimlessly for so long before you question if the locked-off area is even worth seeing, and that’s not a good feeling to have for a game like Elden Ring, because 9/10 it is worth seeing.

Last but not least, I said at the beginning that Shadow Of The Erdtree feels like a FromSoftware greatest hits tribute. What I meant by that is it boasts elements from the Dark Souls series, Bloodborne, and more, some of which were really great ideas whereas some, not so much.

Of course this is entirely subjective, but corner ganks, recycled enemies and moves, and there were even two bosses that I swear felt like reskins of Orphan of Kos and Darkeater Midir, complete with unfair hitboxes and general jankiness. While I’m sure many fans will praise these things, calling it nostalgic or part of the DNA of a soulsborne, I couldn’t help but see it as an attempt at an easy-win, and even lazy at some points. It wasn’t enough to change my overall opinion of the DLC, which is overwhelmingly positive, but after being smacked by enemy from around a corner for the 10th time I was starting to get sick of the cheap shots the game was throwing my way, especially when it was so gloriously juxtaposed by the well-designed boss fights.

All in all, Elden Ring: Shadow Of The Erdtree is a fitting conclusion to FromSoftware’s biggest, and most-successful title to date. It guides the player by the hand into a brand-new world of mystery and intrigue, treats them to some of the most memorable fights in the series, and rounds things off the only way FromSoftware knows how, leaving you wondering what the hell just happened.

Elden Ring: Shadow Of The Erdtree-
Bandai Namco

Rest-assured though Elden Ring fans, it’s one hell of a send-off, and one that’s definitely worth the cost of admission.

Pros: A fitting and challenging continuation and send–off to Elden Ring, features some of the best boss fights FromSoftware has designed so far, the Shadow Realm is huge with plenty to see and do, new equipment will completely change established builds

Cons: FromSoftware traps and tricks aren’t clever, they’re annoying, the new open-world is much harder to navigate

For fans of: Dark Souls, Bloodborne, Nioh, Lies Of P, and other soulsbornes

9/10: Exceptional

Elden Ring: Shadow Of The Erdtree will launch 21 June for Xbox (version tested), PlayStation and PC. Review code was provided by the publisher. Find a complete guide to GAMINGbible's review scores here.

Featured Image Credit: Bandai Namco

Topics: Elden Ring, Fromsoftware, Reviews, Xbox, PlayStation, PC, Xbox Series S, Xbox Series X, PlayStation 5, Dark Souls