I had a LOT of good things to say about Elden Ring when it launched back in 2022, with my review stating that:

“Elden Ring is a magnificent game that takes all of the best bits of FromSoftware’s previous releases and evolves upon them in spectacular fashion. It’ll feel so familiar to those who’ve enjoyed the team’s other titles, yet so unique in the way it introduces all of the established mechanics to a mesmerising open-world.”

It was one of the easiest perfect scores that I have awarded to a video game, and even two-years on, I’ll regularly think back to the fun I had playing through its brilliant adventure. Now, with the release of the Shadow of the Erdtree, I’ve had the chance to re-visit it with all new locales to explore, enemies to vanquish, and weapons to use, and you know what? It’s equally as superb as the base game.

Check out some screenshots down below:

Let’s get something out of the way early: the game’s difficulty. Elden Ring was already a tough game, but you might have read online about how Shadow of the Erdtree really ups the ante when it comes to punishing the unskilled. And yes, it can be really challenging, with some of the bosses proving to be absolutely brutal to take on. And if you thought you’d be prepared by having a high-level and well-equipped character ready beforehand? You’re a fool, the bosses will STILL eat you alive.

That’s because Shadow of the Erdtree’s difficulty is balanced out by a new collectible called Scadutree Fragments, which essentially determine your power when exploring the Land of Shadow. These Scadutree Fragments can be found across the open world, in dungeons, or other key locations in the game, and as you collect them, they can be spent to increase the level of your Shadow Realm Blessing. The higher the level of your Shadow Realm Blessing, the more damage you’ll dish out and the less damage you’ll take from enemies, making some of the foes that caused you a lot of problems early on less of a threat.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel some early frustrations when playing and dying a lot (and I mean a LOT), but once I’d figured out how the Shadow Realm Blessing system worked, it became a much more manageable experience that encouraged me to take the time to explore and find those Scadutree Fragments. It was ALWAYS satisfying to come across them, and whilst there was a steep difficulty curve in place during the exploration process, it was equally rewarding when I was rewarded with a Scadutree Fragment for my efforts. You can really feel the difference made with the Shadow Realm Blessing and how it alleviates the tough challenge that Shadow of the Erdtree brings, with it easily comparable to that initial hurdle faced in the base game with Margit. When you do get the ball rolling, though? It makes the game so damn fun to play, with players having to rely on more than just levelling-up their base stats if they hope to reach the end of the journey.

“Elden Ring was brilliant to play and so is Shadow of the Erdtree, with it delivering everything I could have hoped for from a DLC expansion and on a much larger scale than I expected.”

One of the things that surprised me the most about Shadow of the Erdtree was the sheer scope of its world, with this no ordinary DLC release. Whilst the Land of Shadow isn’t quite as big as the Lands Between from the base game, it’s still absolutely massive and brings with it a vast landscape to explore full of wondrous sights to gaze upon, varying biomes that help make each area feel distinct, and, of course, plenty of secrets to discover. Players really do have this epic and gorgeous new world to explore, and believe me, it’ll take a LONG time to see everything that it has to offer. And, much like the base game, a lot of its brilliance is found off the beaten path, so be sure to explore all of your surroundings and venture further afield to discover all of the world’s secrets (and, of course, some more Scadutree Fragments).

Each part of the map is packed with different locales to explore, and whilst the map might not be as big as that found in the base game, the sense of verticality it brings ensures you’ll easily spend hours within each part before you fully unravel them. You’ll be working both up and down as you scour every nook and cranny, with dangerous gorges joined by the likes of hulking towers that’ll reward players who take the time to explore them. That might be with a new piece of gear, a Scadutree Fragment, or even an almighty boss… no matter what it is, the brilliance of the game’s design ensures it’s always a treat.

There’s plenty of new equipment to find and tinker around with too, with weaponry, shields, talismans, and so forth allowing players to develop their skills further and even learn some new tricks along the way. However, I’d be lying if I said I really experimented with it all that much – with Shadow of the Erdtree embracing the core mechanics from the base game, I was comfortable with the build I had and still found myself basing my gear around that. Whilst some of the new equipment suited this, a lot of the time I found myself sticking to what I know as opposed to trying to mix things up too much, especially with the high difficulty of the experience. Of course, that’s more of a ME thing than anything (and I’m sure plenty of players will love trying out new weapons or changing up their build to tinker with the new styles of play), but it did mean I ended up ignoring a lot of the fresh additions just to stay in my comfort zone. But hey, there’s plenty here to suit all sorts of build varieties, so Shadow of the Erdtree is commendable for allowing players to stick to their own build or completely re-invent themselves for the new challenge they’re going to face.

Check out some screenshots down below:

For me, the stars of any FromSoftware game are the enemies it pits the player up against, and Shadow of the Erdtree delivers some absolute banging boss encounters that are up there with its very best. Not only do they look absolutely stunning in motion (and you can even expect a familiar face to show up), but they’re genuinely enthralling encounters that’ll push your skills to the absolute limit with their dynamic attacking range and unpredictability. There’ll be some that’ll DESTROY you if you make one wrong move, but they still manage to feel fair in design to ensure each showdown is gripping and meticulous in design. Some are monstrous, some are elegant, and some are just terrifying to encounter (I’m talking about you, Furnace Golem), but they all make for a mesmerising showdown that easily live up to the high standard that Elden Ring has set itself.

Oh, and the standard enemies? They’re equally brilliant, with the new array of vicious roaming baddies sure to make your life hell with their brutality. I was surprised at just how often I was one-shotted by a NORMAL enemy, but it just pushed me to, of course, ‘git gud’.

Ultimately, I think what makes Shadow of the Erdtree so special is that it is essentially just MORE Elden Ring. When I beat the base game, I felt like something was missing from my life and that I wasn’t quite ready to say goodbye to its world. And now? I get to re-visit it, make all new discoveries, and face fresh challenges that push me to learn how to best even more formidable foes. Best of all? It introduces new ideas with the Shadow Realm blessing to make it feel fresh despite its familiarity. That familiarity is also its greatest strength though, because why fix what isn’t broken? Elden Ring was brilliant to play and so is Shadow of the Erdtree, with it delivering everything I could have hoped for from a DLC expansion and on a much larger scale than I expected.

Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree Review

Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree is an excellent DLC expansion that manages to freshen up the brilliance of the base game with its dazzling locales, gripping enemy encounters, and focus on collecting Scudatree Fragments. Don’t get me wrong, it’s tough as nails and can be a little frustrating early on, but it brings with it a difficulty curve that’s as rewarding as that found in the base game, with those who take the time to explore their surrounding the most likely to survive its dastardly challenges. Add to that the thrilling boss encounters, the abundance of new gear to find, and the fact that it just so happens to be massive in design, and it’ll be hard not to find yourself in awe of what’s on offer in Shadow of the Erdtree.

Developer: FromSoftware
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Platform(s): PlayStation 5 (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PC
Website: https://en.bandainamcoent.eu/elden-ring/elden-ring