Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree hands-on — More of the best

Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree is largely more of the same, and that’s perfect.

I had a chance to play about three hours of the expansion at a preview event in Hollywood. Shadow of the Erdtree is releasing on June 21, so we all won’t have to wait long to get our hands on the full experience.

But those three hours were enough to get me excited about FromSoftware’s next big release.

A grave world

Elden Ring was the best game of 2022 by a lot of accounts, including my own. It took FromSoftware’s Souls formula into the open world in a way that rewarded exploration and persistence.

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Now, I know plenty of people who have played through the game multiple times since its release. I had my one big playthrough back in 2022 and haven’t been back since. At first, I was worried about rust when starting Shadow of the Erdtree. But you know that cliche about riding bikes? It’s just like that, but with an oversized sword and roll dodging.

Does that stance look familair?

The expansion has you enter the Land of Shadow, a new open area with its own landscapes, dungeons, enemies and bosses. It doesn’t look too dissimilar to previous Elden Ring locales. I was exploring ruins, fortresses, and other gothic/spooky locales.

But the Land of Shadow has even more of a deathly presence than the rest of the Lands Between. Ghostly gravestones phase in and out the open planes as you ride across them. It’s a gloomy, somber place.

Dealing with death

It’s also a dangerous one. I encountered a giant creature that looked like a humongous pyre roaming the land. It’s like if the Wicker Man could walk. I flailed about at his ankles for a bit, but he quickly stomped and burned me into oblivion.

I fared better in the ruins of a nearby fortress area, slowly making my way through challenging enemies, many of which had ghostly and undead appearances. Of course, I’d often die and have to restart from the nearest Site of Grace, but eventually I would make progress. This is pretty typical Elden Ring gameplay (at least for me, I’m sure you’re much better).


Eventually, I made my way to a boss. A ghastly, lion-like creature that was able to infuse himself with powers from different elements. He was also happy grab me and take a few chomps out of me (a move that would often leave me dead). This is one of the best enemy designs I’ve seen in Elden Ring, a game filled with fantastic foes.

I’m not going to lie, I probably spent about an hour of my demo just trying to beat this boss. Again, that’s not unusual for Elden Ring. You bang your head against an enemy over and over until you learn its patterns, optimize your own attacks, and maybe even get a little lucky. And when victory finally does come, it feels immensely satisfying.

Have you seen this god?

I’m not a giant Elden Ring lore head like some, but I appreciate the game’s world and story (even if I’m sometimes not entirely sure what’s going on). The narrative hook for Erdtree is an intriguing one. You’re looking for Miquella, a god often mentioned in the base game but never encountered. You might have ran into his sister Malenia, though. She’s considered by many as the hardest boss in the game.

Miquella comes with a lot of intrigue. What is he doing? Is he friend or foe? Is he, you know, going to be upset at us for killing his sister?

I encountered a few friendly NPCs (well, only friendly in that they didn’t want to kill me), and most of them were also looking for (and worshipping) Miquella. I can’t help but wonder if he’s really going to be the savior so many are hoping for. I doubt it!

Torrent is here too.
Torrent is here too.

Eldest ring

Again, this was a familiar experience. Sure, there are new weapons, new bosses, new areas, and lots of other new things. It’s more Elden Ring.

And that’s exactly what I want. It’s kind of amazing that I get a sizable new chunk of one of the best games ever to dive into. And it does seem sizable. I mean, I felt like I only saw a small part of this new world during my three hours.

There are a lot of Elden Ring fans out there, and they’re all about to be really happy.

Disclaimer: Bandai Namco covered my travel lodgings for this on-site preview.

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