Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree Review (PS5)


In the past couple of years, developers have attempted to reclaim the term “expansion”. Arguing there’s a difference between traditional DLC and fully-fledged add-ons, the likes of Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty and Horizon Forbidden West: Burning Shores have been used as poster childs for the movement. Whether there really is a difference between the two is up for debate, but if battle lines had to be drawn, Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree would laugh off claims it’s “just a bit of DLC”.

FromSoftware has returned to its open world masterpiece with a gigantic add-on that borrows the Andrea True Connection hit as its prime descriptor: “More, More, More.” Shadow of the Erdtree doubles down on all the hallmarks of the 2022 base game in a new location, complete with extra boss fights, fresh NPCs and quests, and so much more gear. It’s an extension in the 15 to 20-hour range if you stick purely to the main path, but set in the Realm of Shadow — where half the entire map forms optional content — critical progression only scratches the surface.

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Having fulfilled the requirements to enter the new area, you’ll be presented with a landmass on roughly the same scale as Limgrave, the Weeping Peninsula, and a bit of Caelid combined. It’s a sizeable expansion of the world that brings back the same structure as the original title: select Sites of Grace direct you along the main path, Legacy Dungeons represent grand locations to explore off to the side, and further optional catacombs, caves, and pits densify the map. It’s more Elden Ring, which is both a fantastic and ever so slightly anticlimactic thing. Magnificent in the sense you have the chance to return to one of the PS5’s all-time greats with new content, but it’s hard not to shake the fact you’re just going through the motions again.

New locations are what thwart that unfortunate feeling most of the time. Following in the footsteps of Miquella, the DLC spans towering castles, lush ancient ruins, sinister woodland, menacing mountains, and more. It manages to offer much more visual variety in a smaller space than the base game does, making each zone distinct in both look and feel. Some of the most enthralling places in the Realm of Shadow are entirely optional and take considerable effort to even reach, so venturing off the core narrative path will prove just as rewarding as overcoming any mainline boss battle.

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And what a set of boss fights awaits. FromSoftware has dialled its encounter design up to 11 in Shadow of the Erdtree, with new shape-shifting villains to eliminate alongside a fresh set of accomplices that populate the side dungeons. The brutal difficulty returns — Shadow of the Erdtree is very much endgame content despite the fact you can access it before slaying the Elden Beast — coupled with new things to consider like elemental shifts and projections. While you’ll have a better understanding of how the game plays based on years of experience at this point, the DLC makes up for it in the sheer damage numbers these bosses can produce.

One way to boost your own stats beyond normal level-ups is to engage with a new feature introduced in the expansion: the Shadow Realm Blessing. By collecting Scadutree Fragments and Revered Spirit Ash across the open world, you can increase your attack power and damage negation with the former and improve your spirit summons with the latter. The upgrades form a critical part of upgrading your character beyond their normal means as the standard levelling system will only be offering the most minute of enhancements once you’re ready to enter the DLC area.

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The system works well, providing reason to thoroughly explore new places. However, it’s also emblematic of the expansion as a whole: Shadow of the Erdtree provides considerable amounts of visual newness, but never does it change the way the overall package actually plays. While there are new weapon types to experiment with, your build from the base game will remain more than viable from the start to the very end of the DLC. Only a single new armour set proved objectively better than what we had equipped going into Shadow of the Erdtree, and our Lordsworn Greatsword was never bettered.

Of course, gear acquisition in Elden Ring is about more than sheer stat developments; you can spec towards a certain damage type, become the most fashionable Tarnished possible, or customise for a certain weight load. However, such is the sense of familiarity coursing through the expansion that you never really feel the need to change things up or approach the game in a new way. It’s still the same Elden Ring of 2022 in a big new playground. That’s going to be music to the ears of some returning fans, but it’s difficult not to feel like you’re simply doing the same things over again. While there might be so much for the eyes to see, your button presses never differ. It just feels a bit too familiar, especially coming more than two years after the base game.

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That sense of familiarity somewhat carries over into a few small technical drawbacks. Texture pop-in is once again a slight problem — particularly for grass out in the open world — while, rather strangely, it’s incredibly difficult to see sometimes when the in-game clock is set to night. It’s tough to say whether this is a glitch or intentional, but some of the visual backdrops (across the Scadu Altus especially) simply aren’t there when you leave a Site of Grace. Yet they will be if you fast travel somewhere else during the same time of day.


By doubling down on what made the base game so sublime, FromSoftware has crafted an Elden Ring expansion that’s just as great as it is familiar. Shadow of the Erdtree delivers more of the same style of content you loved two years ago rather than introducing new ways to engage. That’s enough to consider it a fantastic expansion, though it’s hard not to feel like you’re just going through the motions again. With a new land to explore, a fresh set of bosses to fight, and extra lore to consume, it’s so much more Elden Ring.

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