Erdtree’s Shadow Doesn’t Mind if You’re Not Good at Elden Ring

Shadow of the Erdtree kicked my butt. We were marching straight into the endgame kitted out with powerful gear and a Level 150 character, so a steep challenge was to be expected.

I’d beaten Elden Ring, so naively didn’t think that revisiting any of my previous saves ahead of the event would be necessary. Boy was that a mistake…

It wasn’t long until I was trying to remember the controls as I was viciously slapped around by fire-breathing birds and greatsword-wielding knights. Elden Ring has always been tough, but like a lot of FromSoftware expansions, Erdtree is happy to take that experience one step further.

Prepare to get served when it launches this month. Not because they are any less difficult, but thanks to the non-linear nature of its vast open world, you are free to turn away, get stronger, and come back when better prepared.

It is more than possible to power level past the majority of encounters, but true satisfaction will come from fighting bosses again and again and again as you subconsciously pick up on the attack patterns, animations, and tactics until you’re good enough to triumph. You’d expect to abandon this train of thought during a time-limited preview, but I did the exact opposite.

Shadow of the Erdtree is vast, and the second you step foot into its new realm you can head in myriad different directions. You will eventually hit a fog wall and need to duke it out with all its big bads, but I could have lost several hours here, seeing each route through to its inevitable roadblock, and in some cases, I even took on the boss and won without much trouble.

Summonable NPC spirits sit outside boss arenas which, while they double the health and damage output of enemies, turn tense one-on-one encounters into a far more chaotic affair. Like many of the Hunters in Bloodborne, you can learn how she moves and turn the battle into a graceful dance of swords and slashes.

Or just cheese the whole thing by summoning shades and beating the living hell out of her. Both will work.

The Divine Beast Dancing Lion wasn’t nearly as easy to manage. Featured in the recent CG story trailer, this frolicking, snarling, sharp-toothed beast is an absolute menace.

It’s huge for starters, making it difficult to predict how it will move as it darts throughout the stage and into the air using its long, bulky form. As you deal damage, it switches between a variety of different elemental properties such as ice, lightning, and wind – all of which you must learn to deal with and predict, because their behaviour can change drastically with each one.

Sitting next to a fellow journalist, we both hit our heads against this boss repeatedly during the last hour of the preview, with neither of us managing to emerge victorious. But despite my failure, it still felt like I was learning something with each run as I grew stronger and refused to give up, knowing it could all change with my next encounter.

Just one more try and maybe I’ll finally come out on top. I’ve developed a sort of false confidence in Soulsborne games over the years, a feeling that I am more than good enough to waltz into the majority of new areas without fear, because even if I still have something to learn, I know how these games work and how to master them.

But I am proven wrong each and every time, whether it be a new environmental hazard or a harsh new enemy type that swoops in from nowhere to kill me in a single hit. You’ll scream out with frustration, only for a smile to form in its wake as you prepare to take on the foul beast that just killed you.

Difficulty is frequently discussed as a barrier to games like this, and I’m in agreement that it simply wouldn’t be the same if you introduced options to lessen the challenge. Learning the intricacies of every location, every enemy, and every mechanic is crucial to success, and it is clear from only a few hours with Shadow of the Erdtree that it will be no different.

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