Shadow of the Erdtree is Elden Ring on hard mode — and I can't get enough of it

Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree is a gold-standard DLC expansion

Screenshot from Elden Ring Shadow of the Erdtree
Editor's Choice
(Image: © Bandai Namco/FromSoftware)

Tom's Guide Verdict

Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree is one of the greatest DLC expansions ever. It doesn’t bring anything fundamentally new to the open-world experience but packs some of the game’s most memorable, enjoyable and difficult encounters.


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    More Elden Ring

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    Challenging bosses

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    Rewarding exploration

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    New weapons and items


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    Slower upgrades

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Elden Ring Shadow of the Erdtree review: Specs

Platforms: PC, PS4, PS5 (reviewed), Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S
Price: $39 / £34
Release Date: June 21, 2024
Genre: Action RPG

If I’ve taken one lesson away from my 25 hours (and counting) with Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree, it’s the dangers of hubris. 

Before beginning my quest in this new DLC expansion for Elden Ring, I decided to sharpen my skills by mopping up some miscellaneous dungeons in Caelid, an area of the base game I’d somewhat neglected in my original playthrough. I was grossly overpowered for the mid-game location with my level 140 character and breezed through its toughest bosses without breaking a sweat. I was unstoppable. This DLC would be a cakewalk, I told myself. 

Naturally, I barrelled into Shadow of the Erdtree feeling like an invincible Elden Lord, only to be thoroughly wrecked by the first enemy I encountered. And it wasn’t even a boss. It was a garden-variety overworld foe. My ego was bruised but I was also struck with the same sense of awe and intimation that I experienced the first time I booted up Elden Ring in 2022. 

I share this anecdote not just to poke fun at my arrogance, but also to say that Shadow of the Erdtree recaptures the same magic that made Elden Ring developer FromSoftware’s most gripping game to date, and arguably the defining title of this current generation. 

Shadow of the Erdtree is not just an excuse to play more Elden Ring, but also one of the best DLC expansions ever; offering some of the most challenging and rewarding content in the Elden universe to date. Read on for my full Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree review…  

Elden Ring Shadow of the Erdtree: The Basics 

  • What is it? Shadow of the Erdtree is a new DLC expansion for Elden Ring. It offers players an entirely new area to explore, lots of additional weapons, armor and loot to collect alongside the game’s toughest boss battles.
  • Who is it for? As you might expect, Shadow of the Erdtree is primarily aimed at Elden Ring players craving more content. This DLC won't be for you if you bounced off the base game.
  • What's the price? Elden Ring Shadow of the Erdtree costs $39 for the standard edition or $49 for the Premium Bundle with a digital artbook and soundtrack. You can also get a bundle with the Elden Ring game for $79.
  • What other games has the developer made? FromSoftware, the Japanese studio behind Elden Ring, Bloodborne and Dark Souls, developed Shadow of the Erdtree.
  • What games is this similar to? Elden Ring Shadow of the Erdtree shares significant DNA with From’s own Dark Souls series but mixes in the open-world aspects found in other popular fantasy RPGs. 

A world of shadows

Screenshot from Elden Ring Shadow of the Erdtree

(Image credit: Bandai Namco/FromSoftware)

One of Elden Ring’s greatest strengths is that it strips away much of the unnecessary complexity of FromSoftware’s Dark Souls games while retaining its unapologetically demanding nature. This is a philosophy that Shadow of the Erdtree very much continues. 

Accessing DLC chapters in previous From games has required an extensive series of steps that were often so unintuitive that following a guide felt almost mandatory. However, starting Shadow of the Erdtree is simple: Beat a late-game boss (Mohg, Lord of Blood), interact with the large egg at the back of his palace, and you’ll be whisked away to a brand new area.   

This new location is known as The Land of Shadows, and it’s a pretty vast map roughly the size of the base game’s Limgrave and Liurnia of the Lakes combined. Most importantly, it’s densely packed, even more so than many areas in the original Elden Ring. Parts of the map are stacked on top of each other, with underground caves and mountaintop passes aplenty. 

Screenshot from Elden Ring Shadow of the Erdtree

(Image credit: Bandai Namco/FromSoftware)

In fact, just deciding which direction to head when you first step into the Land of Shadows is tricky. Expect to feel pleasantly overwhelmed with new points of interest to explore. This masterful world design feeds into an immense sense of exploration. Often I would set out with a particular destination in mind but along the way would get so distracted by unexpected discoveries and optional areas that it would be hours before I reached my initial goal.  

However, returning players hoping for a radical departure from the world design of the base game will be a tad disappointed. The Lands of Shadows is comprised of the same crumbling ruins, toxic swamps and jaggy cliff sides as The Lands Between. But the inclusion of ethereal tombstones strewn pretty much everywhere does give the area a pleasantly spooky quality. 

Prepare to die, a lot

Screenshot from Elden Ring Shadow of the Erdtree

(Image credit: Bandai Namco/FromSoftware)

It does Elden Ring, and by extension Shadow of the Erdtree, a disservice to solely focus on its difficulty. There’s so much more to appreciate about FromSoftware’s work than its penchant for crafting seriously tough enemy encounters, but there’s no denying that the studio’s popularity is (to some degree) because of its uncompromising approach to difficulty. 

So, if you’re seeking well-crafted bosses who will seriously test your Elden Ring skills, you’ll be delighted with the large handful of new battles in the Land of Shadows. The optional overworld foes don’t put up much of a fight — apart from the Furnace Golems which present a stern challenge, especially for melee builds — but the mandatory bosses pull no punches.  

I’m fearful of divulging any spoilers (a cardinal sin in Souls circles), so I'll refrain from talking about the memorable bosses found deep within the DLC. But, I will say Shadow of the Erdree includes some of my favorite battles in any FromSoftware game, with one mid-game fight highly reminiscent of Dark Souls 3 (in a very good way) and the Divine Beast Dancing Lion boss, which has been heavily featured in pre-release marketing, another highlight. 

Screenshot from Elden Ring Shadow of the Erdtree

(Image credit: Bandai Namco/FromSoftware)

There are a few too many dragon encounters for my liking, though. These fights feel largely repetitive as the strategy for taking down a fire-breathing variant is identical to the method required for slaying a lightning-imbued dragon. One section throws four dragon fights at you in quick succession and by the third, I was starting to feel fatigued. Fortunately, the fourth switches things up a little and is absolutely brutal. Truth be told, it’s a boss I’ve yet to beat. 

Amassing more armaments

As you’d expect Shadow of the Erdtree does offer players a whole new set of tools to handle its many tough bosses. There’s an impressively large selection of new weapons to discover, including my personal favorite Red Bear Claws, which effectively let you become Sabertooth from the X-Men. But there are also various new swords, daggers, shields and magic items. 

Screenshot from Elden Ring Shadow of the Erdtree

(Image credit: Bandai Namco/FromSoftware)

To assist you in upgrading these new weapons quickly, hidden caves and dungeons are packed with valuable resources. Finding consumable Smithing Stones has never been easier. However, the high difficulty of Shadow of the Erdtree encouraged me to stick with my well-established melee class instead of experimenting. When the odds are already stacked against you, the last thing you want is to be wrapping your head around a new loadout. 

Alongside a whole armory of new weapons, The Land of Shadow is packed to bursting with new spells, armor pieces, Ashes of War, Spirit Ashes, talismans and other useful knickknacks, but the most important new collectibles are Scadutree Fragments. These hard-to-find shards increase your Scadutree Blessing, which increases your damage output and lowers damage taken. A high level can be the difference between victory or defeat. 

Screenshot from Elden Ring Shadow of the Erdtree

(Image credit: Bandai Namco/FromSoftware)

Unfortunately, the importance placed on Scadutree Fragments does somewhat negatively affect the DLC’s character progression loop. In base Elden Ring, if you get stuck on a tricky section, you can always explore somewhere else and come back safe in the knowledge that you’ll be stronger upon your return after leveling up using runes. However, in Shadow of the Erdtree, if you get stuck, you better hope you can locate some Scadutree Fragments quickly, otherwise your only option is to attempt to push through the difficulty barrier.  

Another key collectible is Revered Spirit Ashes which buff your Spirit Ashes. This boost is particularly useful for players who need a helping hand during the DLC’s toughest moments. But fear not players looking for the most extreme challenge possible. You can entirely ignore Scadutree Fragments and Revered Spirit Ashes if you want the ultimate test of your skills. 

Hauntingly beautiful sights

Screenshot from Elden Ring Shadow of the Erdtree

(Image credit: Bandai Namco/FromSoftware)

Elden Ring’s open world is a visually striking setting, and that’s again true of Shadow of the Erdtree. While it may not offer an assortment of wholly unique biomes, each location leaves an impression. For example, to the south, you’ll find ocean-adjacent fields covered in blue flowers, with a rocky overpass specced by red flowers above, which looks stunning. 

From’s practically legendary ability for creating intricate and grotesque enemies is on full display in Shadow of the Erdtree. There are some recycled enemies, but also plenty of new combatants that will have you marveling at their designs, before they send you to an early grave. Not to repeat myself, but I feel compelled to give Dancing Lion another shout-out.  

Screenshot from Elden Ring Shadow of the Erdtree

(Image credit: Bandai Namco/FromSoftware)

On a technical level, the DLC succeeds too. During my time with Shadow of the Erdtree I’ve only experienced minor bugs and a few frustrating moments where the camera’s rogue movements caused me to take a hit I could have otherwise avoided. However, prepare for pop-in when you spawn at a Site of Grace as the world takes a few seconds to fully load.

Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree verdict

Shadow of the Erdtree Tree is a microcosm of everything good about Elden Ring. It’s a meaty DLC addition bursting with new secrets to discover, challenging bosses to slay and mysterious new characters to meet (though the story remains too cryptic for its own good). 

This expansion stands alongside The Witcher 3’s Blood and Wine and Bloodborne’s The Old Hunters as a vital DLC chapter that refines and expands on the best bits of the base game. Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree doesn’t reinvent what came before, but when the already established formula is practically perfect, more of the same is easily enough to satisfy. 

Rory Mellon
Entertainment Editor (UK)

Rory is an Entertainment Editor at Tom’s Guide based in the UK. He covers a wide range of topics but with a particular focus on gaming and streaming. When he’s not reviewing the latest games, searching for hidden gems on Netflix, or writing hot takes on new gaming hardware, TV shows and movies, he can be found attending music festivals and getting far too emotionally invested in his favorite football team.