Skip to main content

Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree is already wiping the floor with me

Elden Ring gameplay
FromSoftware
Summer Gaming Marathon Feature Image
This story is part of our Summer Gaming Marathon series.

Elden Ring was unanimously 2022’s Game of the Year. While many other fantastic games were released throughout the year, Elden Ring shut down all competition when it dropped in early March. It swept at awards shows and even landed a Game of the Year spot here on Digital Trends. It was the undisputed champ. Two years later, it’s now getting the Shadow of the Erdtree expansion. If a DLC ever had a chance at winning the top prize at The Game Awards, it could be this one.

Ahead of its June 21 release, I spent three hours with a hands-on preview of Shadow of the Erdtree. While it doesn’t offer anything drastically different from the base game, it’s still more of the same Elden Ring you love. It has an excellent atmosphere, fun exploration, and difficult bosses. More of the same isn’t a bad thing when that “same” is as beloved as this.

Return to the Lands Between

For those looking to pop in right on June 21, Bandai Namco clarified that players will need to have already beaten the bosses Starscourage Radahn and Mohg, Lord of Blood in order to access the expansion. Additionally, there are over 100 new weapons, some of which are not found in the base game.

The demo allowed me to pick between three different builds: warrior, knight, and sorcerer. While I typically like to fight from afar with magic, I picked the knight this time due to its straightforward playstyle. The demo generously provided me with a variety of weapons in my inventory. I decided to go with a new two-handed sword called the Fire Knight’s Keen Greatsword due to its strength and ability to light enemies ablaze.

Quite fitting for a game where you die often, the opening area in the Realm of Shadow is filled with transparent gravestones and ghostly apparitions. Right away, I was introduced to two new consumables: Scadutree Fragments and Revered Spirit Ash. Consuming these gives you temporary buffs rather than permanent level increases like how Runes do.

One of Elden Ring's castles
From Software

The Scadutree Fragments bolsters attack and defense while the Revered Spirit Ash makes summons stronger. Their effects are temporary in the fact that they remain active while you’re in the Realm of Shadow and have no influence outside of it, so you can’t carry them over back to the main game area. This is a great approach to separate the expansion so that you don’t get too overpowered if you went back to the main game.

These collectibles incentivize exploration in the Realm of Shadow as they’re hidden between every nook and cranny. While I didn’t collect enough of either of them to feel a huge difference in gameplay, I’m hoping that their effects will be noticeable as I find more of them in the full release.

In the demo, there were two main dungeons to explore, Belurat Castle and Castle Ensis. I first went to Belurat Castle, and if you have arachnophobia, this place isn’t for you. It’s filled with both small and giant spiders. The small ones weren’t hard to handle, but the giant ones were quite aggressive. They had many multi-hit attacks and getting caught in a single one nearly meant death. The aggressive enemies were a common thread throughout my time with the demo, and it had me keeping up my shield when I turned every corner, afraid that something would attack me out of nowhere.

You died

Of course, what’s Elden Ring without tough bosses? As I made my way up the castle, I reached the top and encountered the Divine Dancing Lion. This one was my favorite of the two main bosses I fought, as it really showed off Elden Ring’s art direction. The beast was able to control the elements of ice, lighting, and wind for its attacks, calling upon different weather effects to change up the pace of battle. When it summoned lightning, I had to make extra effort to dodge incoming bolts. With its ice powers, I had to be patient as every time it attacked, icicles would spike from the ground, so its vulnerability window was shorter.

The fight was incredibly tough, even though I had two allies in the form of Redmane Freyja (from the summoning pool right outside and my ash summon) and Black Knight Commander Andreas to help take it down. Once I did, the immense sense of satisfaction that every player feels when defeating a hard boss swept over me. That’s the Elden Ring way.

Elden Ring Knight
FromSoftware

I made my way over to the other side of the map to Castle Ensis, where I noticed a striking environmental design contrast. Whereas Belurat Castle has dark tones of red and brown, Castle Ensis is surrounded by lush forests and blue skies. When I made my way to the top, I encountered Swordswomen Rellana, the Twin Moon Knight.

For anyone who’s fought Malenia, arguably the hardest boss in the base game, Rellana certainly brings back some memories. She was easily the harder of the two bosses I faced, as she had similar mechanics and attack patterns as Malenia. What makes her so difficult is that, like Malenia, she can heal herself by landing hits. As a result, the strategy I used against the Dancing Lion boss wasn’t very effective here since she would just heal herself whenever she hit my summons.

I was able to get her down to about half of her HP, but that’s when she started enchanting her swords with magic and fire, which did enormous amounts of damage. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to beat her with my current setup and I eventually exhausted the rest of my demo time while futilely trying to take her down.

Despite my frustrations with Rellana, this was exactly what I was expecting from Elden Ring: the roller coaster of emotions of failing over and over again while attempting to defeat a boss, and then finally beating them. Shadow of the Erdtree is just more Elden Ring — and I’m completely fine with that. I can’t wait to see what else is in store when I tackle the expansion with my character.

Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree launches on June 21 for PLayStation 4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and PC.

Editors' Recommendations

George Yang
George Yang is a freelance games writer for Digital Trends. He has written for places such as IGN, GameSpot, The Washington…
Batman: Arkham Shadow is more faithful to the series than you think
Batman stands near fire in Batman: Arkham Shadow.

During Summer Game Fest, Meta revealed a new story trailer for Batman: Arkham Shadow. While the clip only delves into story, an accompanying blog post confirms that the gameplay staples of Rocksteady's Arkham series are all coming to VR.

Batman: Arkham Shadow was announced earlier this spring as a Meta Quest 3 exclusive. Positioned as an official entry in the Arkham game series, the news was met with a mixed reception from critics of VR. Meta has followed up with a blog post detailing exactly how the new game will play, even if it isn't showing that in action just yet.

Read more
Ubisoft Forward 2024: how to watch and what to expect
Yasuke in Assassin's Creed Shadows fighting an enemy. He's dressed in his samurai armor.

Ubisoft is having a great 2024. Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown started the year off strong by being critically acclaimed, while the successful launch of XDefiant and a promising early access roguelike in The Rogue Prince of Persia continued that momentum in May. Next week, Ubisoft will hold its annual Ubisoft Forward game showcase to show us what's in store for the rest of the year.

More specifically, this is where we'll be getting our next looks at Star Wars Outlaws and Assassin's Creed Shadows. If you're interested in those upcoming Ubisoft games, you'll want to tune in. Here's everything to know about 2024's Ubisoft Forward showcase ahead of its airing.
When is Ubisoft Foward 2024
2024's Ubisoft Forward begins at 12 p.m. PT on Monday, June 10. There will also be a 30-minute pre-show that begins at 11:30 a.m. PT if you're interested in more minor updates for Ubisoft titles that are already out. Including the pre- and post-shows, Ubisoft Forward often streams for around two hours.
Where to watch Ubisoft Forward 2024
Ubisoft Forward: Official Livestream - June 2024 | #UbiForward

Read more
Behemoth blends Skyrim and Shadow of the Colossus into one VR epic
One of the title characters in Behemoth looms in an image from the upcoming game.

Skydance Games has something big on its hands with Behemoth, an upcoming fantasy action VR title for Meta Quest 2 and 3, PlayStation VR2, and PC VR. And when I say “big,” I’m talking about its titular Behemoths themselves. From the first person perspective of the lead character, standing near the base of those beasts has a way of making you feel very small by comparison. But that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to fight them, and the entire plot of the upcoming VR game hinges on their defeat. 

Digital Trends was recently invited to Skydance Games’ office in Santa Monica for a hands-on demo of Behemoth. Shawn Kittelsen, vice president of creative for Skydance Interactive, was there to walk me through the demo, which takes place about three hours into the game. According to Kittelsen, the area explored in the demo will be populated with more enemies in the final game. But in order to keep the demo to just 45 minutes, some subtractions were made. In the short time that I had to play, I got a taste for what feels like a promising cross between Skyrim VR and Shadow of the Colossus.
Slaying the Behemoths
Behemoth is a first-person VR adventure with an emphasis on sword-swinging combat and light exploration. Both Skyrim and Shadow of the Colossus are apt comparisons because Behemoth thrusts the players into a dark fantasy realm and puts them into the mountainous terrain of the cursed Forsaken Lands. The player character is a mighty warrior who has also been cursed, and the only way to cure the land is to rid it of the Behemoths.  

Read more