Elden Ring Shadow of the Erdtree review: FromSoftware’s most ambitious expansion to date

Erding out

Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree
(Image: © Bandai Namco)

TechRadar Verdict

Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree is quite anomalous among modern-day downloadable content. Some jaw-droppingly gorgeous areas, a huge variety of fun new weapon types, and, of course, loads of teeth-gratingly difficult boss fights make for FromSoftware’s biggest and arguably best DLC expansion to date. It’s more Elden Ring, but that is what you’ve signed up for, right?


  • +

    Stunning environmental design

  • +

    Amazingly fun new weapon types

  • +

    Some of FromSoft’s best bosses to date

  • +

    Plenty for lore heads to scratch their noggins over


  • -

    Legacy dungeon level design is (mostly) a slight step back

  • -

    Some truly infuriating standard enemies

  • -

    Occasional visual oddities and performance dips

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Review info

Platform reviewed: Xbox Series X
Available on: PS5, Xbox Series X|S, PC
Release date: June 21, 2024

I realized something while playing through Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree; it’s been a proper long while since we’ve had an honest-to-goodness FromSoftware soulsborne expansion or installment of downloadable content (DLC). Seven whole years, to be exact, since Dark Souls 3’s The Ringed City expansion, and while that’s certainly a fondly remembered content pack, it pales in comparison to the overwhelming scope and ambition present in Shadow of the Erdtree.

Simply put, Shadow of the Erdtree is massive. Game director Hidetaka Miyazaki has compared the size of the DLC’s map to that of the base game’s Limgrave area. This isn’t inaccurate (so long as you’re also factoring in the Weeping Peninsula and maybe even a bit of Caelid), but the sheer variety of biome design and a smattering of huge legacy dungeons make Shadow of the Erdtree feel so much larger than that aforementioned size comparison.

With that in mind, it’s also accurate to say that Shadow of the Erdtree is absolutely just ‘more Elden Ring,’ and that includes both the good and the bad. Compelling new weapon types and phenomenal level and boss design are occasionally marred by performance issues and the odd 10-string-hitting standard enemy that made me want to yeet my controller into the abyss.

Still, such issues aren’t nearly enough to muddy the experience I had with Elden Ring’s DLC. Most DLC packs, at best, typically offer a handful of extra levels or bits of gear to unlock. But Shadow of the Erdtree isn’t ‘most DLC packs.’ There’s enough content here to practically be considered a game in its own right; now I just wish there was a standalone version available. 

And if you're planning on grabbing the expansion (which you totally should) you might also want to visit our guide to the best controllers for Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree to prepare yourself in a hardware capacity.

Between the Lands Between

Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree

(Image credit: Bandai Namco)

The narrative of Shadow of the Erdtree takes place a good ways into the base game; you’ll need to have beaten Starscourge Radahn and Mohg, Lord of Blood before access to the DLC area opens up in the latter’s arena. There, you’re greeted by a new non-player character (NPC) by the name of Needle Knight Leda, who invites you to the Shadow Realm in an ongoing search for Miquella the Kind. If you’re even remotely brushed up on Elden Ring’s lore, you’ll know that Miquella is one of the game’s most impactful characters despite never once making an in-game appearance… that we know of, at least.

The search for Miquella will take you all across the Shadow Realm, which feels like a compact, dark reflection of The Lands Between. In place of the Erdtree, the colossal Scadutree looms in the far distance, appearing far more broken and warped when compared to the shining radiance of the former. 

Similarly, areas in the Shadow Realm are typically analogous to Lands Between counterparts, but they always feel a little off. Deliberately so. The Gravesite Plains, for example, appear to be a more run-down and wartorn variant of Limgrave, while the Cerulean Coast by contrast feels like an amalgamation of Liurnia’s waterlogged environs and Caelid’s rot-stricken swamps. There are still plenty of surprises to be had in terms of environmental design, however, with some late-game areas in the DLC looking utterly breathtaking visually and unlike anything we see in the base game.

It’s worth noting, though, that these are some of the most detail-dense areas in the entirety of Elden Ring, and that means that performance often takes a hit on both console and PC. One area in particular, later in the DLC, is particularly dense with objects and plenty of foliage, causing the framerate to noticeably plummet. It’s far from unplayable, though do expect your framerate to occasionally dip to around 30-40fps on the console version’s Performance mode while you’re here. 

Fight like a lion

Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree

(Image credit: Bandai Namco)

Shadow of the Erdtree’s art direction is unsurprisingly on point, then, but how are the dungeons? As in the base game, Shadow of the Erdtree features several legacy dungeons spread throughout the map, named so for their being what you’d expect from classic FromSoftware level design.

FromSoftware is on point here once again in Shadow of the Erdtree, with dungeons made up of intricately-woven pathways, rooms infested with monsters and valuable loot, and intelligently-placed shortcuts that make backtracking much less of a pain. And while there’s very little here to match the sprawling, mazelike, and ingenious design of the base game’s Stormveil Castle or the Academy of Raya Lucaria, Shadow of the Erdtree’s legacy dungeons nonetheless offer more of that treacherous, exploratory level design you’ve been craving for two-plus years since Elden Ring’s launch.

The first legacy dungeon you’re likely to visit is Belurat, a clearly once prosperous city populated by the beastlike Omen, now brought to ruination by war and tyranny at the hands of Messmer - the DLC’s flagship antagonist. As mentioned, Belurat and legacy dungeons like it fall just shy of the intricacy found with some of the base game’s locales. That is until you reach the Shadow Keep and Specimen Storehouse - a sort of two-parter legacy dungeon that combines a dangerous fortress with towering verticality. It’s one of the highlights of the DLC and took me hours (and not an insignificant number of deaths) to fully explore and pick clean of lootable goodies.

Friendship ended with Ranni the Witch, now Dryleaf Dane is my best friend

Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree

(Image credit: Bandai Namco)

Shadow of the Erdtree, like all prior FromSoftware expansions, features a generous collection of new weapons, armor sets, and items for you to obtain, all littered throughout the Shadow Realm. And much like the base game, you’ll need to pick the map apart with a fine-toothed sawblade if you want to find its most valuable treasures.

Naturally, the new weapons are the highlight here, and I ended up swapping between a bunch of them by the time I finished the DLC. An early stalwart was Milady, a light greatsword that manages to balance the power of a chunkier weapon with the agility of lighter ones. I was also a huge fan of the Dancing Blade of Ranah, a pair of swords that come with a unique Ash of War skill that turns your Tarnished into a whirling dervish of death (provided you remember to dodge attacks in time).

Best bit

Elden Ring

(Image credit: Bandai Namco)

Shadow of the Erdtree’s boss fights are the highlight of the expansion. From towering lion creatures to elegant dual sword-wielding knights, there’s an impressive variety of boss encounters that manage to outshine even the base game.

But for me, the cream of the crop has to be the Dryleaf Arts - a weapon in the form of handwraps obtained early on from a monk NPC named Dryleaf Dane. I’ve wanted a true hand-to-hand weapon option in Elden Ring since launch. And unlike fist weapons like the Caestus, the Dryleaf Arts offer a unique martial arts fighting style that feels exceptionally powerful. It’s what I ended up running with for the majority of my playtime with the DLC, and I’m really looking forward to bringing them into a fresh New Game Plus run.

One last thing to note on the weapon front is that FromSoftware has rather generously made most stat requirements to be on the lower side. This means that no matter your build going into the DLC, you’ll by and large have the stats to give everything a go, making it very easy for players to find a new favorite to bring back into the base game.

And, if you’re finding the Shadow of the Erdtree’s enemies and bosses to be a little too tough, new items within the Shadow Realm - namely Scadutree Fragments and Revered Spirit Ash - can boost your attack and defensive stats permanently (though only while you’re in the DLC area). I found these helped to even the odds in the most difficult encounters, but I also felt like I needed them to even stand a chance, thus highly encouraging thorough exploration of the map to find these items. 

18 inches of Messmer, and his friends

Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree

(Image credit: Bandai Namco)

I’ve saved the best element of Shadow of the Erdtree for last - that being its almost universally excellent boss fights. One thing that was apparent as I progressed through the DLC is that there’s a great amount of variety when it comes to its strongest opponents.

For example, Belurat’s boss, Divine Beast Dancing Lion, is astoundingly creative, angrily hurling its body in all directions in an attempt to hurt you. As you whittle away at its health, it’s able to bring several elemental effects into the arena, including lightning storms and icy blizzards. And in a very nice touch, if you defeat the boss while one of these elements is in play, its associated weather effect will remain after the fight.

Then, capping off the Castle Ensis legacy dungeon is Rellana, the Twin Moon Knight. This towering humanoid foe wields a pair of swords that are imbued with Fire and Magic elements as the fight progresses, unlocking her deadliest abilities. I spent a long while on Rellana, and if I had to guess, I think she’ll be the ‘gatekeeper’ boss of this expansion, presenting an early difficulty spike similar to Bloodborne’s Father Gascoigne or Dark Souls’ Ornstein and Smough - albeit much harder than either of those encounters.

Overall, the high quality of these fights had me begging for a boss rush option for Elden Ring, each one managing to throw in surprises when it comes to their design and move set. Some of them do still suffer from a particularly irksome post-Dark Souls 3 design element in that they’ll have seemingly endless combos that are a nightmare to fully avoid. However, as in the base game, a huge part of these fights is the learning process, and boy does it ever feel good to finally put down a boss that’s been giving you hours of conniptions.

Overall, Shadow of the Erdtree is must-play content for fans of Elden Ring. It manages to condense that open-world experience elegantly on a smaller scale. There’s more than enough content here to justify the higher price tag (relative to your average piece of DLC), and the experience was so fulfilling that I’m dying to tackle it all again with a completely different build in mind. If you loved Elden Ring, you’ll simply adore what’s on offer in Shadow of the Erdtree. 

Should I play Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree?

Play it if...

You simply want more Elden Ring
Shadow of the Erdtree is, perhaps unsurprisingly, even more of what you loved from the base game. If you’re keen to play what is essentially a miniature sequel to Elden Ring, then this DLC is a must-play.

You want to test your limits on some seriously hard fights
Shadow of the Erdtree’s boss fights do not mess around, and even with NPC or co-op summons, they provide a hugely satisfying challenge.

Don't play it if...

You were hoping for something more innovative
If you were looking for some evolution in Elden Ring, Shadow of the Erdtree probably won’t sway your opinion as it’s essentially more of that albeit in a relatively bite-sized scope. 

How we reviewed Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree

My playthrough of the Shadow of the Erdtree DLC took just over 30 hours on Xbox Series X using the Victrix Gambit controller. This included thoroughly exploring most areas and defeating all bosses required for progression as well as many optional ones. After besting the DLC’s final boss, there were still some parts of the map left unexplored. So if you’re a completionist, expect to spend upwards of 50 - possibly even 60 - hours in order to see and do absolutely everything. 

Rhys Wood
Hardware Editor

Rhys is TRG's Hardware Editor, and has been part of the TechRadar team for more than two years. Particularly passionate about high-quality third-party controllers and headsets, as well as the latest and greatest in fight sticks and VR, Rhys strives to provide easy-to-read, informative coverage on gaming hardware of all kinds. As for the games themselves, Rhys is especially keen on fighting and racing games, as well as soulslikes and RPGs.