Shadow of the Erdtree is balanced around Spirit Ashes and NPC Summons

Shadow of the Erdtree will let players upgrade their Spirit Ashes to better survive the Land of Shadows' fearsome foes.

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Based on my recent hands-on with the game, it seems that Elden Ring Shadow of the Erdtree has bosses that are balanced around Spirit Ashes and NPC summons.

In the base game, Spirit Ashes can be incredibly powerful, with powerful ones like the Mimic Tear and Black Knife Tiche being strong enough to trivialize some bosses. Because of this, many players are wondering if this will also be the case with the Shadow of the Erdtree DLC.

I can’t say for certain yet if bosses will become a cakewalk when using a Mimic tear in the DLC, but what’s clear is that Spirit Ashes will still be an invaluable tool for many players. This is because the DLC has a new upgrade mechanic for Spirit Ashes.

Aside from the Sekiro-like Scadutree Blessings which enhance a player’s damage and damage reduction against enemies/bosses in the Land of Shadow, players can also find Revered Spirit Ash Blessings. These work in a similar way as using them will enhance all the Spirit Ashes of a player against the DLC’s enemies.

The hands-on build had three new Spirit Ashes, with the Black Knight Commander Andreas ash becoming my Spirit Ash of choice thanks to his powerful hammer. His lore is also pretty cool as he  commands the power of the Crucible and served as the commander of Messmer’s Black Knights, though based on the item description, he rebelled “upon learning of his liege’s serpentine nature.”

Even though he’s powerful, his strength isn’t enough to solo the two main bosses that I fought. In fact, I still had a tough time with the bosses even with the Spirit Ash summoned as I still needed to juggle the boss’s attention properly so the summon wasn’t wiped out.

Leda

Aside from Spirit Ashes, the two main bosses also had NPC summons available, most of whom are the major NPCs shown in the Story Trailer. For instance, the Divine Beast Dancing Lion boss has the NPC Redmane Freyja summonable, while Leda can be summoned against Rellana, the Twin Moon Knight along with another NPC.

The summons can hold their own, but they’ll still get killed by the boss if you’re not careful about juggling aggro. As such, they didn’t trivialize the boss encounters as they were still incredibly tough.

Personally, I liked how the fights were balanced. For instance, I summoned my upgraded Spirit Ash and the NPC Freyja against the Divine Beast Dancing Lion, and it still took me a couple of tries to beat it. That’s because its attacks were ferocious, with many AoE moves that can kill you if you’re not careful.

For Rellana, I only used the Spirit Ash summon, but I still had to play smart to beat the boss as her attacks can make quick work of Black Knight Commander Andreas if I let them fight without drawing aggro. That’s because Rellana has lots of multi-hit combos along with devastating AoE spells that the summon can’t doge. Even in my winning run, Rellana was able to defeat my summon before I managed to kill her.

Given the Spirit Ash upgrade system and the main NPCs being summonable, coupled with the movesets of the main bosses, it’s clear that Spirit Ashes and NPC summons are intended to be tools players can (and likely should) use against the DLC’s bosses.

As for balance, I think the bosses are tuned well even with summons as they are not at all easy even with some help. A lot of it is because of their powerful attacks and the fact that it’s hard to break their stance. Of course, this is based on the available Spirit Ashes and the special hands-on classes in our Shadow of the Erdtree hands-on.

Because of this, there’s a chance that these bosses can still be trivialized with some of the more “broken” weapons and Spirit Ash combos. Hopefully that’s not the case and that FromSoftware is able to nail the balance of the bosses when you use summons from the base game.

Regarding this direction for the DLC, players who prefer a “fairer” 1v1 fight may not like how ferocious the new bosses’ attacks are. On a more positive note, even if I thought the bosses were too much for me to 1v1, I still think the likes of Malenia from the base game are tougher to fight without any summons.

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