Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree Review – Pure and radiant

Reviewed June 19, 2024 on PS5


Xbox One, PS4, PC, PS5, Xbox Series X|S


June 21, 2024


Bandai Namco Entertainment



After two years since Elden Ring’s release, Shadow of the Erdtree is well worth the wait. Step into the mesmerising expanse of the Shadow Realm, where the echoes of epic battles against Elden Lords resonate with grandeur. This expansion invites players into the heart of a labyrinthine domain brimming with secrets and delivering some of the most thrilling and challenging encounters in FromSoftware’s storied history.

Look before you leap

To access Shadow of the Erdtree, you must first overcome two tough later-game bosses: Starscourge Radahn and Mohg, Lord of Blood. This requirement might seem like a steep barrier for a pricey expansion, but it is well-justified by the narrative and difficulty. The enemies in the Shadow Realm hit harder, demanding better skill and gear.

Entering the Shadow Realm around level 100 was a humbling experience. While the DLC doesn’t impose strict level requirements, being underpowered in the area will hinder progress significantly. Bosses and even regular enemies will be a chore, prompting a strategic retreat to the main game for levelling up. Reaching levels 140-150 made a noticeable difference, empowering me to face enemies more confidently.

As such, Shadow of the Erdtree isn’t readily accessible to all upon purchase. It rewards those who have invested time in Elden Ring, leveraging higher levels and honed skills. Some might view this as a flaw. Instead, I believe it underscores FromSoftware’s unwavering commitment to a difficult experience, prioritising the integrity of the artistic vision over game sales.

As of June 2024, Steam statistics reveal that approximately 62% of players have not yet defeated Mohg, Lord of Blood. So, this DLC caters to the 38% who have, and those who may rise to the challenge in the future. Narrative coherence is a hallmark of FromSoftware’s design philosophy, where the universe and its lore take precedence, even if it means locking new content behind main game bosses only a minority have achieved. In this day and age of the games industry, that’s a rare quality to see.

A journey into darkness

From the moment you step into the Shadow Realm, the depth and character development are clear. The goal is Miquella, a missing deity whose fate holds profound implications for the world’s balance. Guided by Needle Knight Leda and supported by allies, The Tarnished delves into a land scarred by an ancient conflict between the Golden Order and the inhabitants of the Shadow Realm. This journey is fraught with new dangers, promising a relentless test of skill and resolve.

“The expansion does an excellent job of weaving into the already intricate tapestry of the Lands Between.”

Once in the Shadow Realm, a host of new characters greet you with elaborate storylines. Central are the followers of Miquella, a diverse group bound by an enchantment of amity placed upon them by Miquella himself. This enchantment ensures their cooperation and loyalty, providing players with essential aid and information. These followers each have unique roles to play, often intertwining with the main quest.

Needle Knight Leda’s devotion to Miquella drives pivotal story beats and guidance through crucial battles. Redmane Freyja, once a loyal soldier under General Radahn, also offers combat support and a nuanced perspective on the realm’s inner conflicts. The English voice acting and writing are terrific, providing charming faces throughout the depths of the Shadow Realm, along with many other new NPCs.

The storytelling in Shadow of the Erdtree is as puzzling and absorbing as the main game. It is loaded with lore, mystery, and interconnected stories. The new characters are well-developed, each with backstories, motivations, and quests adding depth to the overall journey. The expansion does an excellent job of weaving into the already intricate tapestry of the Lands Between—a seamless continuation of the Elden Ring universe.

Blessed by the Scadutree and spirits

One of the expansion’s standout features is the introduction of two distinct character progression systems exclusive to the Shadow Realm: Scadutree Blessings and Revered Spirit Ash Blessings. Scadutree Blessings enhance survivability and strength, while Revered Spirit Ash Blessings empower allied spirits. It’s essential to find as many of these as quickly as possible to progress in this untiring zone. The buffs they apply have no effect in the main game. Some may view this as pointless after completing Shadow of Erdtree but it is still great way to ensure balance across the entire game.

“Whether you’re a huge fan of optimising builds or a bit of a fashionista, there’s plenty of fun and powerful gear to play with.”

Exploration is further enriched by a wealth of new equipment, spells, and skills, offering expanded tactical options and customisation. Among them, the Beast Claws and the reverse-hand swords stand out with their aggressive, exaggerated attacks tailored for dexterity builds. Great Katanas offer a blend of swift katana finesse with increased power, incorporating bleed to appeal to both quality and strength builds. Meanwhile, Light Greatswords emphasise agility and speed without sacrificing reach, offering a nuanced alternative to heavier weapons.

Other more creative options include hand-to-hand arts focused on combos and kicks, appealing to players seeking a high-skill, monk-like approach. Throwing weapons and perfume bottles add versatility with longer-ranged items that are status-inflicting weapons. Finally, Thrusting shields combine defensive capability with offensive thrust attacks, balancing defence and offence. The new weapon types add plenty of combat variety for builds, previously dominated by Eleonora’s Poleblade.

From arcane artifacts to armaments, these additions not only diversify combat strategies but also cater to aesthetic preferences, ensuring both substance and style in gameplay progression. Whether you’re a huge fan of optimising builds or a bit of a fashionista, there’s plenty of fun and powerful gear to play with.

The expansion’s Legacy Dungeons, like Belurat and Shadow Keep, are sprawling citadels ripe with treacherous paths, hidden traps, and strong enemies. Each dungeon demands careful exploration and thoughtful engagement to come out unscarred on the other side with newfound gear, secrets, and conquered bosses. Our initial review of Elden Ring touched on some repetition in dungeons as one of its only critiques, but Shadow of the Erdtree certainly offers a fresh variety of environments to fight through.

Conquering titans of the shadows

Shadow of the Erdtree introduces a range of foes that elevate the challenge and excitement. True to FromSoftware’s legacy, these enemies are designed to test combat skills and adaptability.

The earliest imposing enemy encountered is the Furnace Golem. These gigantic war machines from Messmer’s army are an awe-inspiring sight, appearing as colossal flaming titans with vulnerable blazing baskets on their upper backs. The Furnace Golems stand out for their sheer size, the area of effect on their powerful moves, and their dynamic attack patterns. Almost like fighting a colossus.

“Every major fight proved to be a contest, requiring me to rethink my gear and tactics…”

The Divine Beast Dancing Lion is the first major boss and unleashes a storm of lightning and ice, testing players with its fast movements and abrupt elemental shifts mid-battle. Its dynamic behaviour ensures no encounter feels static and no one strategy alone is viable. The way this thing charges at the start of the battle and swiftly moves around the Belurat arena is not only an animated marvel but also horrifying to deal with, resulting in an energetic battle.

Rellana, Twin Moon Knight, is another one of the initial bosses of the DLC. Her dual-phase combat mechanics and resistance to magic require quick and creative thinking. Defeating her after mastering her complex attack patterns is as rewarding as the loot itself. The clever boss design is not only consistent but evolves as you progress. Every major fight proved to be a contest, requiring me to rethink my gear and tactics, take many breaks to recollect myself, and try again. Shadow of the Erdtree is for masochists like me.

Artistry in adversity

The DLC showcases Hidetaka Miyazaki’s unparalleled vision, pushing the boundaries of the Elden Ring universe while staying true to its core. The Shadow Realm’s hauntingly beautiful yet dangerous terrain extends the masterful style of the main game.

Areas like the Cerulean Coast and Ellac River burst with lushness, providing a serene yet mysterious atmosphere. Charo’s Hidden Grave contrasts sharply with a harsh, rocky landscape dominated by orange-red hues. The rugged terrain and ominous caverns evoke a sense of danger and desolation. The Abyssal Woods takes a darker turn, abundant with despair and decay, as twisted trees and shadowy paths create an oppressive atmosphere. But even gothic marvels like the Cathedral of Manus Metyr stand as a testament to the game’s detailed architectural design, a chilling backdrop for the battles that unfold within its walls.

“The Shadow Realm’s hauntingly beautiful yet dangerous terrain extends the masterful style of the main game.”

The artistic brilliance extends to its character and enemy models, each reflecting the expansion’s diverse environments and themes. Moore is one of my favourites, depicted with a stoic, almost stonelike presence. His earnest personality is mirrored in his look, embodying strength and resilience. The Furnace Golem is a towering testament to the game’s creative enemy designs with its flaming form and mechanical parts making it visually stunning.

Complementing the visual, the music in Shadow of the Erdtree is integral to its atmospheric depth, with each area accompanied by distinct scores. The soundtrack is filled with haunting melodies that underscore the game’s darker themes. These brooding scores build tension and anticipation. Especially when enemies are near, each encounter feels more dramatic and urgent. Each zone within the DLC has a unique musical identity, adding to its character.




  • Shadow Realm is rich with lore and narrative
  • Challenging and varied combat
  • Superb visual and audio
  • Creative environments and level design
  • New weapons and spells are a great addition


Shadow of the Erdtree not only expands upon Elden Ring’s lore and gameplay mechanics but also enriches the experience with its atmospheric storytelling and intricate world design. It beckons players to embrace the daunting journey through the Shadow Realm, promising a gripping adventure that resonates with the hallmark blend of challenge and discovery. What’s on offer is one of the best FromSoftware experiences to date, capturing everything that made Elden Ring special and more.