Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree will crush you even as its new adventure delights

FromSoftware's expansion to Shacknews Game of the Year 2022 is a massive new journey full of delightful secrets and harrowing new battles.

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When I tried Shadow of the Erdtree out in a preview at the end of May 2024, it absolutely swept the floor for me. Not for lack of trying… I’ve always played high-risk-high-reward builds based in Dexterity and Arcane and I did at that preview as well. My gameplan lies in a plethora of status effects and I pushed through the base game on the back of poisons, Blood Loss, Glintblade Phalanx, big crits, and huge damage from weapons like Morgott’s Cursed Sword and the Dragonscale Blade. I knew even with my familiar tools, I was in for a challenge with Shadow of the Erdtree, and I was right. I could still push through it, but this is an extensive new adventure in a vast new land, and, for all of its secrets and beauty, it will take all Tarnished through the ringer with new fun and ridiculous challenges.

Follow the trail of gentle Miquella

Shadow of the Erdtree follows the story of the Empyrean known as Miquella the Kind, whom Mohg sought to lift to godhood, and who abandoned Mohg’s ambitions to shed his bodily form. In doing so, he escaped to the Land of Shadow and now travels a path there which other warriors known as the Followers of Miquella have chosen to investigate. Also, there is Messmer the Impaler, who led an unsung war and ravaged the land. You can learn more about the story in my previous preview.

What I can now add to that is that the Land of Shadow is vast, varied, and beautiful. Locations like the Belurat Tower Settlement and its massive fortress of citadels underneath a thorny gnarled keep, Scadu Altus sitting underneath the shadowed glow of what looks like a desecrated Erdtree, the dark and accursed Abyssal Wood full of murk and creepy creatures, and so much more play beautiful backdrops to a difficult journey. Perhaps one of my favorite things is that we learned far more about how Living Jars are made. It’s a chilling bit of lore delivered and I won’t spoil the ghastly truth here.

A warrior standing before a castle in Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree.

Moreover, Shadow of the Erdtree’s journeys will see you contend with a massive array of new quests and enemies to overcome. Early in the game features massive torch-headed golem that will likely prove to be most players’ Tree Sentinel from the first minutes of the base game. It won’t be much longer before you run into the Divine Beast Dancing Lion that unleashes wind, blizzards, and lightning as you continue to fight it or Twin Moon Knight Rellana, who uses a dual magic and fire sword style alongside deadly mobility. A lot of the new boss battles in Shadow of the Erdtree proved to be quite the challenge, even with the help of summons. But you almost always get participants from the ragtag Followers of Miquella if you need the help, right alongside your own Spirit Ash summons (and a few new ones).

The regular enemies are sometimes quite interesting in Shadow of the Erdtree as well. From baby and giant spider-scorpion creatures to half-rotted dragons to furnace golems, there’s a metric ton of new encounters to contend with as you determine your best path through or around them. It’s also worth noting that we got several new styles of dungeon and all of them with their own special harvestable loot (like Ruined Forges being a great place to find Smithing Stones for weapon upgrades). All of this is to say that Shadow of the Erdtree is bursting at the seams with beautiful and challenging content that will keep even seasoned players exploring for dozens of hours.

Get better than good

A warrior kicking another warrior in the face in Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree.
Source: Bandai Namco

I think Shadow of the Erdtree has one of the smartest expansion systems I’ve seen in FromSoftware DLC so far. Most of the Land of Shadow’s inhabitants scale to you. Whether you’re level 100 or level 900, they will challenge you. Your stats still matter, of course. Having good Vigor and Endurance means not getting one-shot and you still need stats to make use of new weapons. However, actually rising above the power of the Land of Shadow’s inhabitants requires two new resources: Scadutree Fragments and Revered Spirit Ashes.

Scadutree Fragments, when collected, will make your attacks do more damage against enemies and reduce the damage they do to you in turn. Revered Spirit Ashes will strengthen the power of your Summons and of your Spectral Steed Torrent. Why do these bonuses matter so much? Because they aren’t flat stat increases. They are percent increases. That means every time you buff your Scadutree Blessing, you are adding an additional percent increase of damage and defense to your game, vastly increasing your survivability. Unfortunately, while you can jump back and forth between the base game’s Lands Between and the Land of Shadow, Scadutree and Revered Spirit Ash blessing stat bonuses will only be in effect in the Land of Shadow. Kind of a shame that we can’t take that specific power back to the main game, but I do think it’s one of the smartest ways to introduce new difficulties in Elden Ring and add a player power creep to it at the same time.

A warrior and a Mimic Tear Spirit Ash facing off against a Death Knight with electric axes in Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree.

Of course, there’s all sorts of gear you can find to use throughout the Land of Shadow and even take back to the base game. In the preview, I quickly found a pair of curved swords that could summon horns of light under a targeted enemy at great range. I still like those, but I found a wealth of even better gear to explore. Rellana’s Twin Swords are a fantastic new Dexterity/Strength/Faith/Arcane weapon that let you stance up and unleash either light blade projectiles or an AOE tornado as it suits you. I also took a liking to the circular Backhand Blades once I found a talisman that powered up throwing attacks (their Strong Attack button).

I also saw a ton of gear that looked like it would be fantastic on a variety of builds. There were new gloves for a martial arts build, a massive meteorite Colossal Sword that could be used to dash and stab into opponents and then explode the blade, and twin axes that allowed the user to teleport forward and deliver an electric strike. Some exciting new spells allowed distant healing, powered-up enemy-tracking light swords, madness explosion spells, and a sustained Ghostflame breath attack that could do massive DPS, just to name a few.

A warrior on the spectral steed Torrent overlooking a foggy lake.

Shadow of the Erdtree most certainly features some throwaway equipment, but where some of its weapons and gear shine, they shine brightly. And I have a feeling that some of these items have the potential to change the meta in the base game and PVP for a lot of players. It’s an exciting new horizon of armors, spells, talismans, and weapons that will be a blast to mix and match as we figure out what works.

In the footsteps of gods

Warriors traveling alongside a fire giant in Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree.

Source: Bandai Namco

Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree was worth the wait. More than worth the wait, it’s a massive addition to everything we love about the game. It’s challenging, its lands are varied and interesting, its inhabitants are incredible and deadly, and the treasures for overcoming them are often deliciously rewarding. Thanks to the specific systems built for the Land of Shadow, even the most powerful players don’t have to worry about the challenge being trivial, but I feel it’s highly likely that players will also find incredible new equipment builds to take back to the main game, even if the blessing stats will stay behind. I don’t know if this is my favorite expansion FromSoftware has ever done, but it’s most certainly up there with Bloodborne’s Old Hunters and the original Dark Souls’ Artorias of the Abyss.


These impressions are based on a PS5 digital copy provided by the publisher. Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree comes to PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and PC on June 21, 2024.

Senior News Editor

TJ Denzer is a player and writer with a passion for games that has dominated a lifetime. He found his way to the Shacknews roster in late 2019 and has worked his way to Senior News Editor since. Between news coverage, he also aides notably in livestream projects like the indie game-focused Indie-licious, the Shacknews Stimulus Games, and the Shacknews Dump. You can reach him at tj.denzer@shacknews.com and also find him on Twitter @JohnnyChugs.

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