Elden Ring Shadow of the Erdtree review: A sublime swansong that removes all Tarnish

Sam Smith
shadow of the erdtree

After the original release took the Dark Souls concept and brought it to a vast open world, Elden Ring is considered FromSoftware’s finest work to date. The game has taken on an almost mythical status at this point, already adorning many’s best game of all time lists.

That is what has made the wait for Elden Ring Shadow of the Erdtree so excruciating. It took so long that discussion sprouted on whether FromSoftware should take the assets designed for the DLC and instead put them towards an Elden Ring 2

In that silence, once fan excitement regarding the expansion died down, came the concern. Would Shadow of the Erdtree live up to the base game? How substantial would it be? And, who’d be able to play it at launch? That was quelled as subsequent trailers revealed more features about the DLC.

FromSoftware also teased a new progression system that promised to shake the game to its very foundation, but could that all really add to one of the best games ever made? Well, as we’ve learned many times in the past – you shouldn’t ever bet against FromSoftware.

Elden Ring Shadow of the Erdtree key details

  • Price: £39.99/$39.99
  • Developer: FromSoftware
  • Release Date: June 21, 2024
  • Platforms: PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PC
marika elden ring
Marika has kept a lot of secrets, will they all be revealed in Shadow of the Erdtree?

Rise again, Tarnished

Elden Ring Shadow of the Erdtree is worth the wait. Those who enjoyed the base game have been given new lease to fall in love with FromSoftware’s masterpiece all over again. As with previous Souls expansions, Shadow of the Erdtree adds a plethora of new content and even enhances the original experience in a couple of ways too.

Shadow of the Erdtree takes place either before or after the ending of Elden Ring, depending on where you are in the story. As some endings to the base game change the Lands Between irrevocably – only dropping the player back in for open-world convenience – the DLC should be considered to take place before the player becomes Elden Lord within the lore.

Once you’ve defeated Radahn, and much later, Mohg, you’ll now spot a new NPC examining Miquella’s cocoon in Mohg’s lair. Then, and only then, will you be able to begin Shadow of the Erdtree’s content. 

To catch you up on the lore side, during the Shattering War for the Elden Ring, Mohg stole away with his younger brother Miquella and turned him into a monster, hoping to rule through his more powerful sibling once the other demigods had all been defeated.

However, the story trailer to Shadow of the Erdtree revealed that Miquella found a way to escape his villainous brother’s clutches. He then left a trail of breadcrumbs for the new would-be Elden Lord to follow. There is a problem though, Miquella has traveled to the Shadow Lands – a new region free from the influence of the gods, and ruled over by a despotic tyrant called Messmer the Impaler.

elden ring new areas
Some of the new regions are unlike anything from the base game.

Welcome to The Shadowlands

The Shadow Lands is an immense new region that exists separately from the Lands Between. While not as large as the base game’s sprawling landscape, the Shadow Lands is considerably bigger than any previous Souls DLC, surpassing that of Bloodborne’s The Old Hunters, Dark Souls 2’s The Three Crowns, and Dark Souls 3’s two Painted World expansions.

As you’d expect, the expansion is brimming with new enemies, bosses, weapons, and armor sets to discover. While there is a logical order to the new four main Legacy Dungeons, you’re free to go exploring and carve your own path. This is something FromSoft encourages you to do too, as the more you explore, the more special items you’ll find that’ll strengthen your character against the dangers of the Shadow Lands.

Those dangers don’t take long to emerge either. The difficulty of enemies in Shadow of the Erdtree has been dialed up to eleven. Even those who were at an exceedingly high level in the base game, such as level 300 and beyond, aren’t going to find the DLC a cakewalk.

The good news is, by locating two new items, players can endow themselves and their Spirit Summons with “Blessings” that permanently buff them – at least while they’re in the Shadow Lands. These buffs don’t follow you back to the base game, but will always be waiting for you in the expansion when you return.

So, if you’re struggling with the DLC or a particular boss, hunting down more of these Blessings is a great way to make things easier. Should you ever start to feel over-confident in your newfound power – don’t worry, there’s always another boss or optional dungeon that’ll be happy to show you how wrong you are. Players who enter the DLC under level 200 will get a lot more from these Blessings than those who go into the DLC at much higher levels, helping them get on an even footing. 

These new Blessings are a great way of allowing less accomplished players a shot against the harder bosses. At the same time, players who are over level 300 may decide to forgo them altogether to keep their challenge up. They allow for self-regulation, with From putting the power in your hands on just how hard you want the experience to be. 

Shadow of the Erdtree screenshot
Furnace Golems are all over the Shadow of the Erdtree.

The final shard of Elden Ring

Shadow of the Erdtree fleshes out Elden Ring’s world by giving us more cryptic answers to questions and theories fans have been pondering for two years. It does this through subtle environmental storytelling or simply through character dialog.

Characters that were previously only referenced in the world’s history become a much bigger deal in the DLC. The expansion cleverly weaves these mysteries together and uses them as a backdrop for many of the new locations, enemies, and items. Even once you’re done with the main story quest, there’s tons more to discover and unearth. As with the base game, there’s much more to do after defeating the final story boss.

The DLC does exactly what all the best Souls games do, and what Elden Ring did back in 2022 – it makes every new discovery feel exciting. As ever with a FromSoftware game, you’re going to die a lot in pursuit of your next objective. However, you’ll want to keep pushing forward as the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is always worth it.

Every new weapon you get your hands on could herald new build ideas. Or you could find something as simple as a Talisman that could completely change your existing build, making it more potent. After two years of the same builds in the base game, this is a dream come true for long-time players. The new weapon types, and spells, mean the possibilities to express your creativity in your builds are greatly expanded.

While you can’t take your Blessings back into the Lands Between, you can take your new weapons, gear, and builds. This means that after exploring every inch of the DLC, there is still new life to be breathed into Elden Ring. Many players are likely going to jump into their next NG+ journey and play through it in an entirely new way. Not only has Shadow of the Erdtree provided a generous helping of new content, but it also enhances what came before.

Elden Ring Shadow of the Erdtree DLC Sites of Grace
The DLC will encourage you to follow in Miquella’s footsteps, but what’s the destination?

Walk with us

Elden Ring Shadow of the Erdtree was worth the patience. It expands on an already vast game and transforms it for the better. FromSoftware has looked at what worked in the original game and doubled down on that in the DLC. It’s reflected in the environments, bosses, and other design decisions permeating this beloved, yet grotesque world.

Those who’ve built powerful high-level builds will be able to test their might against new challenges. Those who are less powerful will be able to catch up quickly, ensuring those who’ve made it far enough to access the DLC aren’t locked out of enjoying the new content.

Shadow of the Erdtree ties up many of the loose ends from the original game and offers some satisfying answers to long-speculated mysteries. Of course, this doesn’t apply to everything, as much is still left to our interpretation. For now though, the DLC ends this chapter of the story satisfyingly.

The Verdict 5/5

Shadow of the Erdtree is a fitting tribute to Elden Ring and a stunning finale that manages to surprise and shock us all over again. Those who enjoyed the base game will find much more to get their teeth into. 

This signs off the Elden Ring chapter of FromSoftware’s journey so conclusively and impressively, that it invokes questions about how they will ever top it again. 

Reviewed on PS5