Shadow of the Erdtree: A Bright Future for Soulslike

Written by Allen

July 3, 2024

Elden Ring took the world by storm. No one can question the success that Miyazaki and From Software achieved with their highly anticipated title. And what the fans learned not too long after the initial release was that an expansion DLC was already in development. Considering how long we waited for Elden Ring itself after it was announced, waiting another two years for new content was something everyone was okay with. And now that it’s here, it’s brought us some stuff to talk about.

Given how I and many, many people have sung this title praise. I don’t think it would be useful for you to be given the usual review for Shadow of the Erdtree, the highly anticipated DLC.

There’s one thing that I’d like to bring up first, though. And that includes Easy Anti-Cheat for the PC version of Elden Ring, which is where I played it. While I do understand the need for safety features within the game to not only protect against piracy for the publisher but also to prevent hacking incidents during online play, I don’t have to like what else it does. Anti-Cheat software is well-known to affect game performance, which lets itself be Felt on my humble 16 GB RAM along with my RTX 3060Ti. Don’t get me wrong, I did still get a very good frame rate for most of the game, but I never encountered frame stuttering, freezes, and straight up kernel-level crashes during my play of the base game.

 

 

I do recognize that I’m also running recording software, making me more prone to something going wrong. And it did quite a bit I even lost my 100+ hour save file to corruption. And man, I certainly went through the 5 stages of grief to manage that one. Did that make me want to drop the game? Yes, for about 8 hours. I then continued to another half-finished file. I couldn’t resist the draw of fighting the bosses that I learned I would be going up against in the realm of Shadow. This also served as a sudden opportunity to revisit the base game, which will give me a clearer position to compare how both the base game and the DLC measure up to each other.

 

 

Now look, I’ve reviewed the original release of Elden Ring. And going over so many details all over again seems redundant. So instead, I’m going to give you what Miyazaki and From Software have done to answer the issues within the base game, and if I think these are good changes or not. And try to decipher the true intent behind what the developers have been doing for the Elden Ring expansion. That way, if you’re an old player coming back to Elden Ring, you have an idea of what you’re getting into. And if you’re a completely new player considering if you should pick up the game, then I’ll be giving you something to look forward to.

First, let’s talk about the size of the DLC. They did say that it would be much smaller and that the time to clear it would be maybe 30-50 hours depending on how much of it you want to complete. And unfortunately, I haven’t had the time to fully clear the game to agree with this. But I’m already inclined to say “No, not really.” I mean, not everyone will play similarly, especially on how long they take to finish bosses. I took the better part of 4 hours to kill Star Scourge Radahn, and yet somehow only took 30 minutes to slay Mogh. Please don’t ask how long it took to kill Malenia, but let’s just say the changing of the sun and moon was involved. Anyway, what I’m getting at is that maybe you’ll hit those hour estimates if you’re either very good at the game, or you’re likely running with a guide.

 

 

Sure, the map is maybe a quarter the size of the base game, in terms of floor area. But points of interest are so close together, that it feels like a much, much denser version of the Lands Between. You can be at another dungeon, grace, or boss to fight within a minute. And that’s great considering what you have to do to progress in Lands of Shadow.

To be able to access the DLC in-game. You have to beat two skippable, powerful bosses. One is Star Scourge Radahn and the other is Mogh. Mogh is so much harder to find naturally, and beating him would mean you are more or less ready to already finish the game. Yet that also means that a Lv 100, or Lv 500 character can access the game. How does From Software guarantee that despite a huge level disparity, both types of players can end up with a similar gaming experience? Their answer to this is to add a separate way of scaling damage in the Shadow realm. Where your base level almost doesn’t matter in comparison, and that is Scadutree Fragments (which is pronounced as “Shadow Tree” and yes it’s weird but we already have them spelling “jail” as “gaol”). These are similar to golden seeds in the sense that you consume them at sites of grace and they make you stronger in both dealing and mitigating damage. And I strongly recommend finding as many of these as you can.

 

 

As these fragments are hidden across all the areas of the DLC, it pretty much ties in with how you scale in the game by how much you’re willing to explore the map. This may very well go against how some people like to play, which is to beeline directly to anywhere they think there may be bosses. On top of that, where some of these fragments are placed is quite obscure, and can be frustrating to reach.

When your Shadow Tree blessing is at around level 10, the game more or less feels like the ideal scaling for dealing and taking damage. This seems to be the intention as they’ve tweaked the numbers of the game around that. The maximum is 20, and the amount of fragments you can find in-game is exactly that amount. So how are you supposed to find all of these without a guide? I think the Scadutree Fragments would be easier for many to accept if there were either more to go around with than needed or if there was a way to find them easier.

But the other thing that people would want to find is the new weapons and spells within the lands of Shadow. Which I think are amazingly designed for what they need to be. None of the new weapons outshine the ones you find in the base game. However, they provide some very interesting new options. For the most part, builds that players went with in Elden Ring switched between magic wielders or melee types that generally spam jump attacks. Of course, some outliers try to hybridize, but that’s about it.

Weapons in Shadow of the Erdtree pretty much give a new path to having more options available to you. Ringed blades can allow your melee assassins to have ranged attacks. New types of shields and armor make it possible to never have to dodge. A katana can be designed to deal more damage to dragons. I think the coolest weapons yet are the ones that let you learn kung-fu just by equipping fists. Now I’ve gotten VERY comfortable with my Relic Sword and the convenience it brings when coming up against mobs. But I’ll probably try a few new builds down the line, they just look so different and exciting to try.

 

 

Weapons and spells aren’t the only new things in Elden Ring, either. Up until fighting Mesmer, the poster boy for the DLC, I haven’t fought anything that I’d say was from the base game. There are so many new enemy types and many new bosses, and it’s pretty exciting to fight them. I’m already playing a duo run, and I think the scaling they get when you have an ally is also just right. Of all the fights I’ve had so far, my current favorite is the one that makes you into a true Drake warrior! I think they’ve done a great job of making new enemies to fight and teach you about how the new weapons work. And having to fight many of them twice over hasn’t changed my enjoyment. I’d have to say that many bosses are well-designed, and some are notably much more tuned than the ones you find in Elden Ring. Nothing to the level of Malenia in terms of difficulty but, they do raise the bar all the same. They are much more aggressive, they can have combos that are longer and harder to decipher, and they all have moves you haven’t seen in the game before.  Some problems like the lack of good camera movement, and the inability to adjust how a lock-on registers on giants, are something that will simply be part of their legacy. It already feels like they’ve designed it as part of the difficulty. Something I don’t agree with, but again, I can choose to not use it if I’m so bothered.

Finally, I’d like to talk about the story and characters that Shadow of the Erdtree presents. First, there are fewer characters to get involved with, leading to much easier questlines to follow based on these characters. Since they all easily relate to one another, following one questline can naturally lead you down to another. How they talk about each other and the story ahead of them is much easier to follow as well. Where my favorite ones would be Ansbach and Igon, and I hope you agree once you see them in action. Finally, the lore implications, if you’re willing to follow, really answer so many questions and reveal so much more about the world of Elden Ring. I for one, am enjoying all the analysis videos coming out of it.

 

 

To round this out, it’s clear that they’ve recognized some issues with the Elden Ring’s design for the base game, and addressed it through the DLC. Though there are some issues where scaling may have been better applied, or some bosses may be overturned, it maintains giving freedom to players however they want to engage with the content. As if the creators would show you a wall, letting you know that you can use any method you deem fit. Some will just attempt to bulldoze through it, no matter how many times they must bash their head against the wall. Others will look for ways around the problem. And some others may try for a little while, but decide to come back later when they are better prepared.

Miyazaki himself mentioned that this new release is pushing the envelope on what players should be capable of, trying to test the game and its player base to its limits. And it has driven people to the edge. I think the difficulty curve, the inclusion of ashes of war, and the new possibilities of mixing and matching spell it out for me. This will be the future of the Souls series. While sticking to your good old greatsword and relying on nothing but your instinct and reflexes is still viable, and similar challenge runs can still be done if you put your mind to it, I don’t think there will be any going back for Miyazaki and From Software after such a spectacular release.

I genuinely believe that the only thing that can beat this release is Elden Ring 2.

 

Shadow of the Erdtree expansion is now available on the PlayStation and Xbox consoles as well as on Steam. The Elden Ring base game is required to play the expansion.

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