Elden Ring Shadow of the Erdtree Impressions | Worth the Wait

Shadow of the Erdtree is already shaping up to be another FromSoftware classic!

MSI Laptop 20th Anniversary Promotion

It has been over two years since the game’s launch, and finally, Elden Ring’s long-awaited Shadow of the Erdtree DLC is coming soon. Ahead of the DLC’s launch later this month, I got a chance to play it in a recent media preview by Bandai Namco, meaning I got to experience the first area of the Land of Shadow, including two major dungeons.

Having played all the other Souls games and their DLCs, I had high expectations for Shadow of the Erdtree. After all, Souls DLCs feature exceptional levels and bosses, not to mention Elden Ring’s DLC has been in development for a long time.

So, after four hours with the DLC, I can already say that the wait is worth it as Shadow of the Erdtree is shaping up to be a must-play for any and every Elden Ring fan.

Scratching That Exploration Itch

If you asked me what my favorite thing about Elden Ring is, I’d have to go with the incredible feeling of discovery that journeying through the Lands Between gives. Sure, the tough bosses and excellent dungeon design are also praise-worthy, but the game’s exploration is its most memorable aspect. I can still remember the sense of awe upon setting sights on Leyndell for the first time, as well as the sense of achievement of finally discovering how to get to the Consecrated Snowfield and the Haligtree without any guides.

In Shadow of the Erdtree, players are transported from Miquella’s cocoon at Mohgwyn Palace into the Land of Shadow. The hands-on preview did not have the entire Land of Shadow open. If I had to guess, the accessible areas during the demo are around a third of Limgrave. Despite this, playing through the DLC’s opening hours brought back that sense of discovery and wonder of my first playthrough.

That’s because the Land of Shadow’s initial area is a beautiful and rather haunting vista, with a view of the Scadutree (yes, that’s what the Land of Shadow’s tree is called) looming over. In this opening area, you’ll also see ruins – a reminder of Messmer’s destruction as seen in the story trailer.

The first major enemy that you’ll likely see is the Furnace Giant. This Wicker Man-like foe is an imposing presence that may seem daunting to face. For most Elden Ring veterans though, the Furnace Giant should be fairly easy to dispatch. That’s not to say it’s a bad enemy though as it does teach the value of jumping to dodge. This is a helpful lesson, especially against some of the DLC’s bosses.

Another thing that should catch the eyes of players in the opening is Miquella’s Cross. This is the rune-like light that was also shown in the story trailer. In the story, these are remnants of Miquella’s body that he cast away, and they contain Scadutree Blessings. These blessings can be used at Sites of Grace to bolster damage and damage reduction.

Yes, this is the new Sekiro-inspired system that FromSoftware introduced for the DLC. The fact that these blessings can be found in the overworld (at least in the beginning) should incentivize exploration. This also means the game isn’t like Sekiro where you have to beat bosses to get stronger. That is unless Scadutree Blessings are locked behind bosses later in the DLC.

Aside from these, there are also Revered Spirit Ash Blessings which enhance Spirit Ashes. This also means Spirit Ashes remain a key component in the game’s combat, a fact that I’ll get into later when talking about the bosses.

Before you face these bosses, you’ll first have to go through dungeons. In our hands-on, we got to explore the DLC’s first Legacy Dungeon called Belurat, Tower Settlement. Once again, FromSoftware has delivered a level that’s quite challenging, all while having the studio’s signature looping-level design.

Take note that Belurat isn’t as complex as Stormveil Castle or Leyndell, with its design feeling a bit more linear than these. Still, it’s a compelling dungeon to explore, with a difficulty level that I’d say is on par with Elphael or Crumbling Farum Azula, albeit with fairer enemies. Though take note that the hands-on featured pre-made characters at Level 150.

Another dungeon I got to explore was Castle Ensis. This is described as a mid-size dungeon, meaning it’s akin to something like Castle Morne.

It may be smaller than a Legacy Dungeon, but I found it fairly challenging as its enemies hit like a truck. Still, I managed to get through it and was rewarded with an incredibly tough boss.

Along with these two, there are other places in the opening area that I only got a glimpse of as a lot of my four hours were spent exploring every nook and cranny of the dungeons, as well as exploring more areas of the overworld.

Even though my time with the game was basically just me scratching the surface, I’ve already met a lot of NPCs as they seem to be a focal point of this DLC.  To be exact, the NPCs I met were Miquella’s followers who were shown in the final moments of the Shadow of the Erdtree story trailer.

NPCs Will Play a Big Role

The hands-on started at Mohgwyn Palace, and there you’ll see Leda, the knight that was shown in the story trailer. She’s the one that beckons you to “touch the withered arm” to get transported into the Land of Shadow.

While you won’t meet her upon arriving, you’ll soon come across more NPCs that were shown in the trailer. One of these is Freyja, a former Redmane Knight who served under General Radahn during the clash between Radahn and Malenia’s forces. Another NPC that you meet is Sir Ansbach who formerly served under Mohg. These two along with the other NPCs I saw during my hands-on all had one thing in common – they left their previous masters and followed Miquella.

There are many NPCs in the base game, but Shadow of the Erdtree seems to give these followers of Miquella a bigger role. For instance, after defeating one of the main bosses, Freyja shared how she followed Miquella after he helped heal her of Scarlet Rot.

Then there’s an NPC called the Hornsent which hates the Tarnished for what they’ve done to the Land of Shadow, though he still gives you a map of Miquella’s Crosses as you’re allied in following Miquella’s footsteps.

Leda also has a note in front of the mid-size dungeon Castle Ensis which gives the player directions on where to go next.

Based on these interactions with NPCs, it’s clear that they will play a big role in the story. This is an interesting choice given that NPCs are mostly relegated to side quests in most Souls games. So, as someone heavily invested in the lore, I can’t wait to find out more about these characters and what role they’ll play as the story progresses.

What’s more, these NPCs will also be summonable against the main bosses. For instance, Freyja is available to summon against Belurat’s boss while Leda can be summoned in the Castle Ensis boss fight.

Tough New Bosses

During my playthrough, I only defeated three bosses. I discovered a fourth one in a Mausoleum, though I ran out of time to beat him.

I did face off against the preview’s two main bosses though, both of which dropped remembrances. The first one is the Divine Beast Dancing Lion which was shown in the DLC’s gameplay trailer. It’s an incredibly tough fight as the boss had elemental attacks with a wide AoE, and I was only able to beat it thanks to a Spirit Ash Summon along with Freyja.

The next major boss is at the end of Castle Ensis – Rellana, the Twin Moon Knight. Yes, I checked the remembrance and Rellana was formerly a Carian Princess (likely related to Renalla) who chose to become the “Sword of Messmer.”  As such, Rellana is a tough foe, with a moveset that’s rather reminiscent of Dark Souls 3’s Pontiff Sulyvahn. Though she’s even faster, has longer combos, and has ferocious magic attacks.

While you can summon Leda for this fight, I was able to beat her thanks to the new Black Knight Commander Andreas. Based on the fact that there are NPC summons for the two main bosses, coupled with there being Spirit Ash upgrades, it seems that the bosses in the DLC are designed with summons in mind.

Of course, you should still be able to beat these two bosses on your own as I’d still say Malenia is a tougher 1v1 fight. Both the Divine Beast Dancing Lion and Rellana don’t have an insta-kill move like Waterfowl Dance which should make a 1v1 fight more doable.

Players who prefer fighting without summons may not like how the first two bosses are balanced as they may be on the side of being a bit too tough for a 1v1 battle.

On the flip side, I did enjoy how they were balanced even with Spirit Ashes and NPC summons. In my playthrough, the Spirit Ashes and summons couldn’t solo the bosses, meaning I still had to be active in juggling the boss’s attention to win, not to mention that I still had to avoid attacks and get in my own attacks actively. Thus, beating them even with summons felt incredibly satisfying.

My only hope is that this holds true even with the more “broken” builds like the Moonblade or Mohgwyn Sacred Spear plus Mimic Tear ash combo which can make quick work of Malenia and other endgame bosses.

Shadow of the Erdtree Initial Impressions: A Must-Play

Four hours with the Elden Ring DLC flew by in a flash. By the end, I wished I had eight hours to experience Shadow of the Erdtree’s opening areas. Even then, I’d still have a hard time putting the controller down.

Essentially, this DLC is more Elden Ring as it gives the same sense of discovery that the base game has, complete with great level design for dungeons. The mob enemies are also tough yet still balanced, while the bosses should offer a challenge. Best of all, the fact that NPCs will play a big role here makes delving into the new land and discovering more about Miquella even more exciting.

From the looks of it, this DLC is definitely a must-play for every Elden Ring player, and it even has the potential to be one of FromSoftware’s best expansions yet.

Elden Ring Shadow of the Erdtree will be released on PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, and PC on June 21, 2024.