Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree DLC stands tall as an essential addition to an existing masterpiece

I took the liberty of reviewing Elden Ring back in 2022, and I stand by pretty much everything I said then. It’s one of the most refined, polished and fleshed-out games within its genre, and a shining example of how the genre itself can evolve and grow, without sacrificing its roots.

The Shadow of the Erdtree DLC might be the only additional content we’re getting for Elden Ring. Now that sounds like a sad sentiment, but the further we delve into this review, I only hope I can convey, that this is one of the most well-crafted additions to an already fantastic experience.

Its new areas, bosses, weapons and levelling system all lend themselves to an incredible amount of variety that feels as dense as it is essential to the core experience when all is said and done.

The Realm of Shadow

Before we go any further, there are some things I think I should point out, as the Shadow of the Erdtree DLC requires a few steps to be completed in order to be accessible.

For those jumping in for the first time, it’s worth noting, that you will need the base game and have played a fair portion of it, beating the Starscourge Radahn at Redmane Castle and Mohg, Lord of Blood at Mohgwyn Palace, the latter of which you’ll face via the main story. That being said, I also strongly recommend jumping in with a character level of at least 100, although the higher the better. The enemies will be virtually untouchable if you’re not up to scratch with a build you’re comfortable with.

It’s definitely a small but certain gripe in my eyes, that this is in no way accessible to never or casual fans, and basically demands that you master its ebbs and flows before jumping in.

But at the end of the day, anyone who has finished the main story or at least beaten the required bosses can return to those areas to find a new gate to the Realm of Shadow. The story itself is relatively straightforward and sets the pace for an experience that will take around 20-30 hours depending on your dedication to exploration. You’ll follow in the footsteps of the demigod Miquella the Kind, who has fled into the Realm of Shadow.

It’s easy enough to follow along and the game does a fine job of pointing you in the right direction, even if you can explore to your heart’s content. Areas also look fantastic, incredibly varied from one another, but in a way that also feels unique and set apart from anything the base game had to offer.

While it’s not as large as Elden Ring’s main map, it’s incredibly dense with side-quests to take on and bosses to fight. It also finds its scale and scope from its decision to vertically pack the map into separate layers, which work their way up into the sky. But like Elden Ring, it’s that true sense of freedom that makes it so satisfying. As you work your way up to what’s referred to as the Shadow Keep, you can take your time, level up and explore new legacy dungeons. Or you can simply make a mad dash to the top to end things quickly.

Good luck if you choose the latter; I’ll get into why a little later on.

I personally love how Shadow of the Erdtree feels like a new journey of sorts for returning players, as the quality of the overall experience remains. You’ll meet a bunch of new NPCs, along with seven of Miquella’s followers, who will each give you their own quest to take on board in tandem with the main storyline. These help flesh out both Miquella and the Realm of Shadow itself, making the experience feel admittedly larger than it suggests.

‘Git Gud’… All Over Again

If a laundry list of new enemies wasn’t enough, the Shadow of the Erdtree DLC packs in more than 30 bosses to take on. Yes, you read that right. While only 10 bosses I’ve encountered through my playthrough are what I would consider main boss fights, it’s absolutely unreal how much they’ve packed in. Each encounter feels memorable in its own right, and it’s amazing just how well developer FromSoftware can reignite both the frustration and satisfaction that comes with them.

I spent a bit of time with Elden Ring before jumping into this DLC, and I felt like an absolute rookie as a result. But once that passion is reignited, this DLC makes sure you’ve got plenty of new ways to enjoy and interact with it. There are even eight new weapon types to find, as well as variants of existing weapons and shields, each with their own designs and stats.

The new weapons include thrusting shields, beast claws, new greatswords and katanas, to name a few. They’re all super fun to use, and while I imagine players will find their own favourites and styles relatively soon, I can appreciate the extra effort to simply pack in more.

There’s even new spells to cast and Ashes of War abilities to add to existing and new weapons alike. There are even Spirit Ash summons to allow you to call upon new allies in battle. Talismans can also boost and alter weapon abilities if you’re a glutton for punishment or a fan of a little risk here and there. For example, there’s a talisman that reduces cooldown times for spells, but essentially doubles the amount of damage you take.

The Shadow of the Erdtree DLC also prompts players early that it tacks on a new levelling system. These come in the form of three things: Crosses, Scadutree Fragments, and Revered Ash Blessings. Crosses look like glowing pillars of light and generally house Scadutree Fragments, similar to Elden Ring’s flask shards or Golden Seeds. Revered Ash Blessings, work like Scadutree Fragments but contribute primarily to your summons, which can imbue them with new powers and abilities.

Runes aren’t necessarily a thing of the past, but the levelling system here feels closely tied with dedicated progression through the Realm of Shadow as you beat new enemies and bosses, which helps tremendously with the pacing.

Final Thoughts

Combining all of this together allows me to circle back around to the start of this review, so buckle up for a larger ‘final thoughts’ portion. The Shadow of the Erdtree DLC does much of what Elden Ring already does so well. It plays that same. Bosses are ridiculously tough, and there were times I thought I would never progress.

But the world feels brand new. It might be smaller, but it feels so incredibly dense, packed with NPC side-quests, boss fights and legacy dungeons, that it makes even the most hardcore fans feel like they’re beginning something new, no matter how much they’ve played of the base game.

New weapons and Ashes of War spice up combat, while the new levelling system feels accessible to anyone who has made it this far, yet so unique in how it ties your progression to the overall narrative through the world, which helps with pacing. I also feel like I haven’t really touched on just how well the story builds upon its existing lore, all while expanding it to new horizons.

That being said, Shadow of the Erdtree feels like it has been aimed squarely at its more dedicated fans. That’s a bold move, as I’m sure there are plenty of newcomers interested in diving in, who might never get to experience this, simply because the base game is as tough and demanding as it is.

But if you were to persevere, or even return for a deeper dive, I guarantee, you will find one of the most polished and essential pieces of DLC ever created.


Highlights: Incredibly dense and varied new open world to explore; New range of weapons and abilities; Absolutely packed with epic boss fights
Lowlights: Incredible difficulty will still scare more causal fans away if they even make it far enough into the base game
Developer: FromSoftware Inc.
Publisher: From Software Inc., Namco Bandai Games America Inc., Bandai Namco
Platforms: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, Windows PC
Available: 21 June

Review conducted on PlayStation 5 with a pre-release code provided by the publisher.

Matthew Arcari

Matthew Arcari is the games and technology editor at The AU Review. You can find him on Twitter at @sirchunkee, or at the Dagobah System, chilling with Luke and Yoda.