Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree – PS5 Review

It’s not very often you see downloadable content coming so long after a game’s release. Elden Ring was critically acclaimed in 2022 and From Software has a fairly solid history of worthy expansions. With a relatively hefty price tag, Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree has, at the very least, brought a lot to the table.

I’ll confess, I didn’t have a character ready for this. As such, I spent 35 hours reacquainting myself with the Lands Between. It was interesting to see how that open world developed and, in some respects, how the new content compares against it. Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree features a new landmass, the Realm of Shadow. Effectively a grim afterlife, this map opens with a gorgeous open plain. The landscape seems more desolate but the sense and isolation seems to have been turned up a notch.

It can be really striking to look at with some outstanding art direction helping frame some breath-taking vistas. You’ll have ample time to get adjusted to the new world with this area having it’s own level scaling system. Rather than rely solely on your character’s current stats, a player is tasked with hunting down Scadutree fragments which bolster your capabilities within the realm of shadow. In theory, it allows people to engage with it at any level. In practice, I’ve found it to work out.

I entered at level 109 after rushing through the main game. Well under the recommendation of the internet at large, I found I could compete after a handful of Scadutree blessings. There has since been a patch to help buff those early levels but I enjoyed the feeling of growth as I could take and dish out more damage. To begin with, I was being crushed by the simplest of enemies within two strikes. I still felt capable at dishing out pain but was more of a glass cannon. There is something quite fantastic about having to play so careful and those early hours have it in spades.

These fragments are scattered all across the land and there is a story reason for it. Miquella the Kind entered the Realm of Shadow in the hope of ascending to Godhood to start his age of compassion. He’s got the uncanny ability to compel others so you’re greeted shortly by his band of followers. The left behind fragments are typically tied to crosses which mark Miquella’s footsteps.

Whilst this conceit gives the placement of these upgrades a narrative reason for being, the reality can devolve into a wild goose chase. The first area has them scattered along the main path and they’re easy to spot. As I unlocked more of the map, it became harder to discern where they could be. It felt very scattered and I wish that was signposted or hinted at better.

It did lead to me exploring to make the most of the boost the blessings would give me. The joy of discovery was still there but it’s the busy work that felt required to get a foothold in the game. Traversing into new areas mostly felt like subterfuge. Tracing rivers into locales and traversing cliffs became normal avenues for navigation. There’s a good verticality to it. The wandering can hammer the pacing but, once those precious blessings have been acquired, proceedings can move swiftly.

Runes are easy to come by. By the end of it, I had gained fifty more levels and felt very accomplished. I’m glad I arrived at the DLC when I did. Runes never lose their usefulness and there’s always some benefit to chase. Opening up new build possibilities or simply increasing resistances is always helpful. For the most part, the combat is very comfortable. There’s no wild changes in mechanics so I could take my previously honed skills wherever I went.

There’s new enemy types to battle with the overworld packed with fodder that can still cause a threat. Flame golems look intimating, fly grabs are irritating. New bosses come with a couple of gimmicks that meant I wasn’t just taking on people in armour. There are new sub-dungeons called Gaols. Despite just a few of them being sprinkled over the map, they have a visual aesthetic more appealing than the base game’s catacombs. Admittedly, they all become very similar but the fact these diversions have been tightened up is welcome. Mausoleums present one-on-one fights that try to replicate the PvP experience. I’ve also noticed, as part of the balancing act, NPC summon signs are placed outside bosses according to your Scadutree Blessing level. If you’re a little under, there’s assistance in the form of a summon for you.

It does seem a little lacking in legacy dungeons. I love it when you’re given a tight, intricate dungeon to poke around in. There are a handful of required bosses to beat but only three of these have domains fit for a king. The final of these is a largely linear, gauntlet of electric death and sorcery hell. I despise it. There are few smaller dungeons but, again, they’re few and far between.

To counter-balance that, there is an abundance of new equipment, spells and crafting items to try out. This is probably where Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree‘s value proposition feels strongest. There’s plenty of worthwhile armour and weaponry which has helped stabilise my ramshackle build into something coherent.

Overall, I’m happy with how Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree turned out. I would’ve preferred something more focused and tighter. The dungeon count feels low and, whilst the scavenging for tree fragments can encourage exploration, there are times when the map can feel a little empty and points of grace very distant from one another.

Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree
8 Overall
+ Tremendous art direction that displays a great sense of scale.
+ The blessing system allows for more people to feel ready for the challenge.
+ Has some genuinely great moments of tension.
+ A wealth of new gear and items to play with.
- Feels very light on dungeon-related content.
- The need for early exploration can really dent the pacing.
- At times the map can feel barren and points of interest spread out.
Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree manages to compliment the base game in some good ways. The sense of scale is otherworldly and the levelling system does allow all players to have a place at the table. It does seem lacking in proper dungeons but the wealth of new gear makes the price justifiable. At times, the map can feel barren but the new bosses provide a stern challenge with plenty of flamboyance. It definitely feels quantity over quality but there was enough here for me to really enjoy.

About Mike

Mike gets all the racing games because he understands that stuff even though he doesn't drive.

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