Elden Ring Shadow of the Erdtree Review | FromSoftware Has Done It Again

Shadow of the Erdtree is a worthy addition to Elden Ring that everyone should experience.

Over two years after Elden Ring’s release, the long-awaited Shadow of the Erdtree DLC is finally upon us. Given FromSoftware’s track record with Souls game DLCs, this release has a lot of hype behind it.

Looking back at the previous DLCs, they often feature the best bosses and areas of the games. For instance, Bloodborne fans often unanimously agree that Fishing Hamlet is the game’s best level, with Orphan of Kos or Lady Maria being among the best bosses. The same can be said for Dark Souls 3 as many fans think Slave Knight Gael and Sister Friede are the game’s best bosses.

After getting to play through the entire DLC, it’s safe to say that the hype is warranted. Shadow of the Erdtree features lots of highlights that match or even exceed the most memorable parts of the base game.

Perhaps its main highlight is the Realm of Shadow, a land that’s well worth exploring.

The Realm of Shadow Captures the Magic of the Original

In Shadow of the Erdtree, players are transported into the Realm of Shadow by touching Miquella’s withered arm. Back in May, I got to explore what I thought was a third of this new realm. It turns out that the area I explored was only around 1/4th of the entire map.

It’s tough to accurately explain the size of the Realm of Shadow. While Miyazaki mentioned that it’s around the size of Limgrave, the map seems much bigger given that the overworld has a lot of verticality.

While not an exact comparison, you can think of the Realm of Shadow as having the breadth of Limgrave, all while having the winding paths of Mt. Gelmir below. On top of the remarkable verticality of the overworld, the map’s environments look incredibly varied, to the point that there seem to be over six “biomes” that feature awe-inspiring vistas.

Sure, it may not be smaller than the base game’s map, but thanks to the more intricate and creative map design, coupled with the environment variety, exploring the Realm of Shadow will give you that same sense of awe and wonder as exploring the Lands Between.

I remember during my original Elden Ring playthrough that there were specific moments that had my jaw drop, among these are discovering the Grand Lift of Dectus, getting to the Mountaintop of Giants (and realizing that Leyndell isn’t the last part of the game), and discovering the Haligtree. In Shadow of the Erdtree, I also had lots of moments like these where I was just buzzing with excitement about discovering new parts of the land. I won’t spoil these specific moments, but if you loved the exploration aspect of the base game, then you’ll be delighted with this DLC.

On its own, capturing the magic of the original already makes the DLC worth the price of admission, but that’s not the only magic trick that the developers pulled off. Even with how varied the areas are, I’m impressed by how memorable the map is to the point that I essentially have the entire map memorized after simply exploring it. This speaks to how hand-crafted the entire new realm is.

What’s more, this incredibly dense map has new dungeons to explore, including familiar-looking Catacombs along with the new Gaol and Forge dungeons. Thankfully, these don’t feel like a chore to explore as unlike the base game (which had tons of Catacombs and Mines), there are only around three of these new dungeon types each.

Dungeons aside, FromSoftware also blurred the lines between dungeons and overworld areas. That’s because some areas that are technically part of the overworld seem more like legacy dungeons in how they’re laid out. The best way to explain these areas is as if they took Siofra River but made the design even more complex and rewarding to explore.

One specific overworld area comes to mind that’s quite well-hidden. I won’t mention what it is or where to find it, but this late-game DLC locale is now one of my favorite areas in the entire game because of how spine-chilling it feels to explore. In a way, I consider it Elden Ring’s counterpart to Bloodborne’s Fishing Hamlet.

Even with the focus on the more intricate overworld areas, Shadow of the Erdtree still has legacy dungeons. To be exact, there are three of them in this game, the first of which is Belurat, Tower Settlement – an area that I already explored during the earlier hands-on preview.

It turns out that Belurat was bigger than I thought as I didn’t know it had a big lower level that I completely missed during the media preview.

More than Belurat though, another of the DLC’s legacy dungeons is now one of my favorite legacy dungeon in the game. Again, I won’t mention what it is as it’ll be more rewarding for you to see it for yourself, but I can safely say that it’s on the level of Stromveil Castle and Leyndell in terms of its design and atmosphere.

Exploring the DLC’s overworld and dungeons is rewarding on its own, but you’ll also want to scour through every inch of these areas as you’ll need the upgrade materials to tackle Shadow of the Erdtree’s devilishly difficult boss fights.

Seriously Tough Bosses

One complaint about the base game is that there are only really a couple of unique bosses (i.e. bosses that you fight only once). After all, the base game reuses many boss fights, with some Remembrance bosses like Godrick and Mohg having copies.

This is not an issue with Shadow of the Erdtree as the game features 10 unique bosses; 11 if you consider another remembrance boss you can fight again in a hidden area but with a tough new set of attacks.

Players who want a tough challenge won’t be disappointed as these bosses are incredibly tough. Even when you upgrade your stats with Scadutree Fragments (which give you more damage and damage resistance in the Realm of Shadow), these bosses can still kill your character in a flash if you’re not careful. In terms of difficulty, most of them are around as difficult as Mohg of Malenia, that is if you fight them 1 on 1 given their mix of long combos that mix fast and delayed attacks.

To make things easier, you can summon your favorite Spirit Ash against them, which you can also upgrade with Revered Spirit Ashes. As with the base game though, many of these bosses can be taken down fairly easily by using “broken” weapons like the Moonveil or Mohgwyn’s Sacred Spear along with the Mimic Tear. Plus, around half of the bosses have NPC summons to make the fight easier.

In terms of balance, the Shadow of the Erdtree bosses is an extension of the base game’s design philosophy. That’s because the unique bosses have insane combos that give you little to no room for error if you’re fighting solo.

Of course, there are bosses that I think are great 1 on 1 fights, with one Scarlet Rot-wielding Remembrance boss being one of my favorite bosses in the game now. But for many of the other bosses, I think they’re tuned too strongly for 1 on 1 fights, at least at my skill level.

This boss design is great for players who want the hardest challenge possible, all while still being accessible for players (like me) who are fine with using Spirit Ashes and NPC summons. That also means that players who want the Dark Souls 3 or Bloodborne-style balance where bosses are “fairer” in 1 on 1 fights may be disappointed.

Boss design isn’t the only thing that the developers doubled down on for Shadow of the Erdtree. Even the DLC’s storytelling and NPC questlines are straight out of the base game.

Signature FromSoftware Storytelling and Quest Design

Elden Ring’s story is perhaps the most character-driven and detailed in FromSoftware’s roster, but many of the events are still very much up to interpretation. This is also the case with Shadow of the Erdtree as its story answers some questions from the base game but also introduces even more mysteries.

Miquella is one of the most intriguing characters from the base game, and what I can say without spoiling too much is that his goal is finally explained quite clearly through an intriguing NPC questline that is thankfully straightforward to experience.

As someone deeply interested in Elden Ring lore, the reveals in this DLC have my mind buzzing with various theories, not just concerning Miquella, but also Marika and the other denizens of the Realm of Shadow.

Of course, a lot of that is because I enjoy FromSoftware’s storytelling style. On the flip side, if you’re not a fan of this style, you might be frustrated at the DLC for leaving too many questions unanswered.

What I do think could use improvement is the NPC quest design. Much like the base game, the other NPC quests are a bit too vague, enough that I feel I missed a lot of developments with the other NPCs.

In the grand scheme of things though, this is a small complaint as when it comes to lore and story, Shadow of the Erdtree features enough details that I imagine it will generate discussions and story-explained videos for years to come. That’s great given that this is Elden Ring’s only DLC.

Lore deep-dives aren’t the only thing going for the game when it comes to longevity as the sheer number of fun new weapons will make you want to explore the Lands Between and the Realm of Shadow again and again with different builds.

The New Weapons Will Make You Want to Replay Everything

I have to admit that for most of my initial playthrough, I used weapons from the base game. When I finished exploring the Realm of Shadow after well over 30 hours, I cycled through the new weapons that I gathered throughout my adventure.

After checking out their movesets, I suddenly got an itch to go to New Game+ in my character. For reference, I don’t really like playing New Game+ in most games. That’s how fun the new weapons are.

Sure, the base game already has plenty of fun weapons, but the DLC adds even more new equipment with fun movesets and skills. Aside from the new weapon classes like the Light Greatsword and Great Katana, I particularly love the new Remembrance weapons that have powerful skills.

Many of these Remembrance weapons seem to be made for Strength builds, but don’t worry as plenty of builds got a lot of love. I even saw weapons that make for an intriguing INT/FTH build.

Thanks to these weapons, many Elden Ring players would no doubt have reason to return to the game again and again, potentially even years down the road. After all, if the other Soulsborne communities are still alive and well, Elden Ring will no doubt have plenty of staying power given its breadth of weapons and potential builds with the addition of the DLC.

Final Verdict – 10/10

Having played all the Souls DLCs, I had high expectations for Elden Ring’s new expansion. After experiencing what the Realm of Shadow has to offer, I can confidently say that this is one of the best DLCs by FromSoftware, enough that it finally dethrones The Old Hunters in my ranking.

Shadow of the Erdtree is no doubt a must-play for any and every Elden Ring fan thanks to its incredible new map, memorable boss fights, and the sheer number of weapons with fun movesets and skills.

To top it all off, this DLC will take around 30-40 hours to experience in just one run, meaning its scale is even bigger than that of many full releases. That’s not even factoring in how much it will give players the itch to replay the game with the new weapons.

Even though the 1 on 1 boss fight experience and the storytelling style may not be for everyone, the fact that Shadow of the Erdtree captures the same magic as the original while adding a load of improvements in terms of map design makes it worthy of the highest score that we can give.

This review was made with a DLC code for PS5 provided by the publisher.


Shadow of the Erdtree is another top-notch Souls DLC by FromSoftware as it features a massive and dense new map that's a joy to explore, all while adding tough unique bosses and a load of new weapons that will make you want to replay the game.