by Anthony O'Connor

Year:  2024

Director:  Hidetaka Miyazaki, Yui Tanimura

Rated:  MA

Release:  Out Now

Distributor: Bandai Namco

Running time: 20-50 hour campaign

Worth: $18.00
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… a superb continuation of a generation defining video game.

When Elden Ring dropped in 2022, it hit the games industry like a bomb. Not only was it the most popular game from developers FromSoftware – the mad Japanese geniuses who gave us Dark Souls, Sekiro and Bloodborne – but it also made the glut of bloated, repetitive open world games look creatively bankrupt by comparison. The game was a huge hit, both critically and commercially, and won numerous Game of the Year awards from all over the world. It seemed inevitable that DLC would follow and now, two-and-a-bit-years after launch, we have it in the form of Shadow of the Erdtree. And it’s great, but also punishingly hard and makes a couple of curious choices.

Shadow of the Erdtree follows the path of Miquella, a gender-changing demigod who was thought dead but in fact scarpered to the Land of Shadow, via a creepy-looking egg in the Mohgwyn Palace.

If that all sounds like a bunch of nonsense to you, don’t worry, even veterans of these games can barely follow the story and lore (without a VaatiVidya Youtube lecture anyway), so all you really need to know is you, the Tarnished, have unlocked a bunch of new areas, weapons, spells, enemies and massive, bad arse bosses. Your ability to get through this fresh crop of nasties will depend on your level of skill and patience, because some of these newly-minted antagonists are the hardest that the game has to offer.

Shadow of the Erdtree is intended as endgame content. The recommended level to play is 150 and even 10-20 levels above that, you’re still going to get your arse kicked with alarming alacrity. Yes, FromSoft have wisely provided the new Scadutree Fragment system where you can beef up your character’s damage output and ability to tank hits, but we’re still talking about a game where a character with 60 points in Vigor can still quite easily get two-shot by some of the tougher enemies, much less the bosses.

Even more than the base game, Shadow of the Erdtree will not be for everyone.

Erdtree’s greatest asset is once again exploration. While the DLC is smaller than the (massive) main game, it’s far denser with levels on top of levels and areas that are brimming with secrets cleverly hidden. Even after putting in 30+ hours and finishing the main quest, there remain dozens of hours of extra gods to fell, weapons to wield and brick walls to bash one’s head against.

The game does lose points with some of the boss design, however, which are very heavily freighted in the “big thing that never stops attacking” style. The final boss, in particular, is tuned so high that it becomes absurd and not much fun. FromSoft have spent their whole careers riding the thin line between tough and torturous and with Erdtree, unfortunately, they occasionally put a toe over. That said, the DLC also contains some of the game’s best boss encounters and environments, with the twisted creativity of Hidetaka Miyazaki and crew on full display.

Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree is a superb continuation of a generation defining video game. It will likely test even the most hardened veterans of the game, in ways that aren’t always super fun, but there are enough epic moments, surprise discoveries and jaw-dropping vistas to keep that Elden Ring magic thrumming deep in your bones. If you have a hankering for obtuse, atmospheric, dark fantasy adventures, then Shadow of the Erdtree is your logical destination. Just remember to breathe. It’s tough out there.


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