Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree Review – A Masterful Blend of Everything FromSoftware (Xbox)

Tarnished, once more.

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Two years after its release, Elden Ring still feels like journeying into an abyss that attracts my curiosity. Despite its punishing environments and enigmatic narrative pieces, it’s an open world that’s welcoming enough to hold my hand through some of the deepest and darkest pieces of gameplay I’ve ever experienced in my life.

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Shadow of the Erdtree took me beyond my comfort zone within the Lands Between, into the dark corners of a house I’ve grown to call home in the Land of Shadow. It’s unforgiving, it’s terrifying, it’s beautiful. It’s FromSoftware.

To newcomers, Shadow of the Erdtree will feel like an entire game of its own. To longtime fans of Hidetaka Miyazaki’s works, it’s another ode to the studio’s impeccable game design repertoire. It’s a testament to what the studio does best: incomprehensible worlds filled with storytelling hidden under the garb of daunting gameplay. 

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Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree arrives on Xbox Series S/X, PlayStation 5, and PC on 21 June 2024.

ELDEN RING Shadow of the Erdtree | Official Gameplay Reveal Trailer

Brief spoilers may follow.

Welcome to the Land of Shadow, Elden Ring’s Dream-Esque Realm

Games from FromSoftware manage to use cryptic prologues and cutscenes to welcome you into their unique worlds. In the case of Shadow of the Erdtree, I couldn’t help but smile at all the familiarity that shone brightly through its many components as I stepped into the Land of Shadow.

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The backdrop to this new realm is filled with an orchestra’s soft and bitter melodies. An open field of tombstones, spirits that lack purpose in their stride, and structures I could almost hear whispering words of encouragement to me.

It's easy to lose yourself into the awe-inspiring and terrifying landscapes this world has to offer.
It’s easy to lose yourself in the awe-inspiring and terrifying landscapes this world has to offer.

Is this like Limgrave, or anything even close to it? No, not quite. These are the footsteps of Gravesight Plain, a space that tries to resemble the first few hours of Elden Ring. With Torrent at my side and courage in my step (that would quickly be humbled in a matter of minutes), I decided to brave this new realm.

FromSoftware may have set our expectations a bit differently from what you can truly expect to see in the game. Right from the beginning, these open fields don’t hold back their secrets. Move towards the left, and you can find an NPC ready to obliterate you with a new type of mini-crossbow. To your right, you will be stopped by a gorgeous vista that overlooks the heart of this new dimension.

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It's all fun and games until you're obiletrated by something or someone. It's almost unsettling how FromSoftware manages to make this enjoyable.
It’s all fun and games until you’re obliterated by something or someone. It’s almost unsettling how FromSoftware manages to make this enjoyable.

However, it’s not in the grandiose level design wherein lies the beauty of this expansion. It’s in the little things. For instance, I found myself jumping onto little platforms instead of using a ladder to climb down from a tower. Or, how I found a Light Greatsword by simply exploring the fields that had no marks of invitation on them.

This happened quite a few times as I explored different spaces. Castles, waterfalls, ravines, and fog-ridden forests. There’s a lot to uncover here. Even though the game never truly stopped me from exploring something, I couldn’t help but sit in silence and admire this large landscape.

Something about feeling “small” in a massive FromSoftware world feels hauntingly rewarding.

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A Dance of Ice, Fire, and Magic

Shadow of the Erdtree gracefully hides a key component from its players that gives it so much life. Every inch of this expansion is expressed through movement. Whether it’s weapon movesets, Ashes of War, boss encounters, or new enemy types. 

Light Greatswords are simply one of the favorite new weapon types in the game.
Light Greatswords are simply one of my favorite new weapon types in the game.

From the moment I picked up the newly introduced Light Greatsword (called Milady), I knew I was going to have fun swinging it around. What I didn’t expect was how graceful all of it felt. By simply holding up a “stance”, I could use the sword to sway and dodge through enemies, almost feeling like I was a student of Malenia, Blade of Miquella.

I could switch to any other weapon type (there are a total of eight new ones), and it would feel different from anything I was used to in the base game. For instance, the Backhand Blade would give me the impression of a young Shinobi who recently mastered the art of spinning slashes and deadly swings. Which brings me to how the bosses reflect the same.

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Dance and cavort, cleanse all that thou wilt.

Cruelty, woe, and those who plague the tower.

– Excerpt taken from Empyrean Grandam (encountered in an old storeroom).

One of the first bosses I encountered was the Divine Beast Dancing Lion, whose animations and movements alone distracted me from building any kind of strategies I’d otherwise have in mind. Similarly, enemies like Rellana, Twin Moon Knight gave me a better idea of the world of hurt I was up against as I delved into the game.

Even after all these years, the studio's knack for conceptualizing memorable boss fights is quite admirable.
Even after all these years, the studio’s knack for conceptualizing memorable boss fights is quite admirable.

Rellana wielded two swords, one doused in flame while the other breathed ice. Soon, magic too became a part of Rellana’s movement. Right as I thought I had figured this out, Rellana birthed two moons and a huge sword out of sorcery that made me quit the game. And then play it again. It’s safe to admit that the only flaw I may have noticed with this DLC was my own skillset. 

The Fallen Leaves Tell Another Story

Just like you, some of them are here to find their calling.
Just like you, some of them are here to find their calling.

Between tough boss fights and pesky scorpions (among other evil flora and fauna), several NPCs helped me understand my journey better. Not only acting as tour guides to the punishing Land of Shadow but also giving me brief insights into this world’s principles.

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You can expect to learn much more about Miquella’s journey throughout the storyline. Moreover, the way these characters themselves are figuring out their place in this realm, just like I was. The collaboration between George R.R. Martin and Hidetaka Miyazaki has successfully found yet another canvas to paint fantastical stories.

Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree is sometimes an epic of its own, having little to do with the events of the base game.
Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree is sometimes an epic of its own, having little to do with the events of the base game.

The culture around FromSoftware suggests that we should never expect stories to be directly told to us, and that remains true with Shadow of the Erdtree. I’ve always been an admirer of art that mimics life. In the context of Hidetaka Miyazaki’s undying legacy, I do believe that Shadow of the Erdtree is yet another work of art that builds on the studio’s history of delivering polished gameplay.

Whether you choose to wield a fresh, exciting weapon like the Death Knight’s Twin Axes or play with something trustworthy like the Rivers of Blood from the base game, Shadow of the Erdtree will still be a fulfilling journey worthy of your time, attention, and courage. 

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Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree – 10/10

10 out of 10
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Written by Tanay Sharma

Articles Published: 564

Tanay wears more hats than Red Dead Redemption 2 characters. He's a musician, writer, voice-over artist and adores interactive media. His favourite games are the ones with memorable stories and characters. He's pursuing a master's degree in Behavioural Sciences. No, he won't read your mind.