Published on June 19th, 2024 | by Nathan Misa

Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree PS5 Review – Messmer Rising

Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree PS5 Review – Messmer Rising Nathan Misa

Summary: A must-play DLC expansion with an impressively hand-crafted new region filled with fun new quests, characters, and lore.


Messmer rising

In an era of battle passes and microtransactions, Shadow of the Erdtree is a refreshing reminder the best downloadable content (DLC) are the straightforward expansions of your favourite game, with new, high-quality content delivered in one package.

Shadow of the Erdtree is set to be the first and only add-on for Elden Ring (read our review), introducing a whole new region to the game called the Land of Shadow. Roughly the size of Limgrave (perhaps a bit more) in terms of content and scale, this expansion introduces a staggering number of new dungeons, field bosses, enemies, weapons, upgrades, and secrets for returning fans and new players to indulge in. If you’ve been craving more reasons to start your next Tarnished playthrough, this DLC is it – and more.


As someone who is enamored with the unconventional storytelling and lore-heavy exposition of Elden Ring, I did sometimes find the base game lacking in a clear and compelling narrative drive. That is not the case with Shadow of the Erdtree, where the stakes are established immediately and effectively. This substantial new DLC’s story is centered around the mystery of Miquella the Kind, the twin brother of Malenia, a background character in the original game who was an Empyrean cursed with perpetual youth. For reasons unknown, Miquella discarded his corporeal form and demi-god lineage and disappeared into the Land of Shadow, where the new expansion entirely takes place.

The Land of Shadow, as previously covered in our hands-on preview, is a new map physically separated from the Lands Between, and only accessible after you defeat Starscourge Radahn and Mohg, Lord of Blood, after which a portal to the shadowy region opens in Mohgwyn’s Palace. After entering the new realm, your Tarnished is quickly introduced to a ragtag band of new characters who also followed Miquella, and your goal is clear – find out what really happened to the ‘Kind’ demigod.

Right from the onset, the open-world areas of the Land of Shadow stands out from the Lands Between with its distinct atmosphere of dread, melancholy score, and grimdark aesthetic. Obscured by a towering Erdtree on the horizon, its wild, dangerous lands are rocked by an ancient war between the local people and an invading Golden Order crusader army, led by new (and very cool) antagonist Messmer the Impaler. Every corner is physically ravaged, and filled with burned down ruins and churches, decaying forts, and harrowing dungeons. From the ethereal mass graves of Gravesite Plain to the glowing blue fields of the Cerulean Coast, all the way to the eerie Finger Ruins of Rhia, the DLC presents a variety of interesting areas to explore, made more challenging by a heavy emphasis on vertical traversal and illusionary obstacles to find its most valuable secrets.

With Torrent’s help, I set off and found many seemingly dead-end paths, hidden Spiritsprings and cleverly obscured sub-areas spread throughout the grisly new region, and more often than not, my curiosity was rewarded with exotic armor sets, unique weapons, powerful spirit ashes, and a wave of unexpected, but very epic boss encounters in both the open-world and hidden within optional side dungeons, such as the smaller Catacomb caves, themed areas such as Bonny’s Village which tease the mysteries behind the Living Jars. Mid-sized dungeons like Ruined Lava Intake Forge, meanwhile, contain no bosses, but offer very valuable weapons and key items.

To say most of this high-quality side content was hard-to-find would be a severe understatement. For instance, Rivermouth Cave, a harrowing grotto filled with bloodfiend cultists performing an ancient ritual, is at the end of a hard-to-reach river with no indication anything interesting lurks there, while Fog Rift Fort, filled with hardened Messmer crusaders, requires you descend downwards to access its battlements. FromSoftware clearly went the extra mile to fill the map with reasons to wander off the beaten path, and if you’re like me and love just taking in the sights and picking a direction to travel in the open-world, you will be catered to very well with this DLC. With 25+ hours logged so far, I’m nowhere near finished with my exploration of the entirety of the Land of Shadow, so if you’re on the fence about value, you more than get your money’s worth.

Filling such a variety of locales are several terrifying (and fun) new enemy types to fight, ranging from tough-hitting undead soldiers loyal to Messmer, Black Knights, Shadows of the Dead (the local populace, with skin the colour of shadows turned raving mad), spider-scorpions (yes, they are as scary as they sound), man-flies, bird-gargoyles, giant ursine, and multiple colossal-sized furnace golems, roaming the open-fields with perpetually flaming torches for heads. There are also many familiar foes, including sorcerers from Raya Lucaria, giant crabs, and vulgar militia.

I found the enemy design of the DLC to be appropriately frightening, with the humanoid enemies displaying blood-curdling war cries, hard-hitting moves, and a noticeably more aggressive disposition that punished me whenever I tried to rush through areas or fail to identify ambushes. The monsters, meanwhile, are appropriately bizarre, confronting and full of surprise attack animations that may or not ruin your perfect run through the area. All I’ll say is be prepared!

The new equipment, meanwhile, is nothing short of amazing, and I look forward to the new PvE and PvP builds that will emerge with their introduction. In addition to several new crystal tears, crafting materials, talismans, elemental-based Ashes of War and Spirit Ash summons, there are over 100 new weapons and eight new weapon categories. I found a lot to experiment with as a STR-based barbarian warrior with a penchant for big hammers, including the new Smithscript Hammer, which can be thrown at enemies, the Beast Claw for up-close-and-personal melee combat, and the Dueling Shield, which can be used offensively while on the back-foot in fights.

Magic and dex-based builds will also be happy to discover several new spells (including some fun incantations for dragon communion followers) and weapons such as the Backhand Blade (it’s as cool as it sounds) and Perfume Bottles (a new throwable weapon type). For Fashion Souls (or should I say Elden Bling) enthusiasts, there’s just so many cool armor sets to mix and match, with my personal favourites being the crusader-esque Mesmer Soldier Set, the Roman-style Horned Warrior, the revealing Gravebird Set, and the Leather Armor set, along with a few surprising unorthodox “helmets” and masks that are acquired (or, should I say, skinned) after defeating special bosses.

So, what about the main quest?

The main quest progression of Shadow of the Erdtree takes place across three legacy dungeons, filled with the kind of complex puzzles, interconnected pathways and considerable challenge Elden Ring fans have come to expect, and each demand your Tarnished be over at least Level 100 to be able to sufficiently keep up with the new hard-hitting hostiles. Belurat is your first introduction to the decaying Shadow realm, a ruined tower settlement that hints at the horrors of Messmer’s crusade and contains an electrifying boss fight against the Divine Beast Dancing Dragon seen in the trailers. Castle Ensis, meanwhile, is a more regal stronghold hiding an intriguing (and infuriatingly hard) boss connected to a beloved head of the Carian Royal family back in the Lands Between. Finally, the Shadow Keep is the main challenge of the Land of Shadow, a non-linear dungeon located at the center of the map, with multiple entrances and important exits that lead to hard-to-reach optional areas. Here, you’ll discover a sprawling military encampment filled with puzzles, bosses and revelations about Messmer, Mohg, Radahn and your new companions, as well as piece together the truth about Miquella and his intentions.

In terms of new lore and quests, I found the new cast of friendly NPCs and antagonist bosses to be less obtuse and more interesting than the Roundtable Hold, with just about everyone offering compelling motivations to learn and secrets to unravel. There’s Redmane Freya, a former soldier for Radahn looking for answers on a vow made between Miquella and the General; Ansbach, an old and wise war veteran who once served Mohg and is now gathering intelligence on Miquella; Thiollier, a disciple of St. Trina and vendor of poisons with some interesting conflicting interests; and Horsent, a dour native of the Shadow realm wanting revenge for his tribe. The voice acting for every new character is top-notch, and their differing backgrounds really does make the entire Shadow of the Erdtree story arc feel like a ‘fish-out-of-water’ kind of tale, involving friends who would otherwise be foes.

Before and after each major boss, these NPCs will be around to guide your next move and comment on each other’s next plan of action, with side-quests and storyline endings that can be influenced depending on your actions in the DLC. One thing I massively appreciated is that it’s far easier to find out where these interesting characters and vendors congregate and move upon each completed story beat, as Miquella’s Crosses, a new type of landmark which show where Miquella discarded his flesh, act as meeting points for major characters and Sites of Grace.


The Crosses of Miquella often are also the location of two new valuable key items in the DLC, the Scadutree Fragments and Revered Spirit Ash items. These act as character progression systems activated at Sites of Grace in a similar manner to shards, offering damage negation for you and Torrent to better survive the odds (and are only active when in the Land of Shadow).

Clearly, there’s a lot of new content to take in when diving into the new expansion, but accompanying Shadow of the Erdtree are a few new features, too. A new menu window displays all of your recently acquired items in one-easy-to-access place, which is a god-send considering the huge amount of equipment, crafting materials, key items and lore you’ll be finding in the DLC. A planned free update alongside the expansion’s release will also introduce five new hairstyles for your Tarnished, balance adjustments, bug fixes and some summoning pool changes.


So, are there any downsides to the DLC?

There were two very minor issues I experienced during my review playthrough that may be fixed with a few patches. The first is that while I was able to run off in several directions as soon as I entered the Land of Shadow, my progression for the main story was prematurely accelerated upon entering a new sub-region before I defeated one of the main story bosses, without any prior indication from the characters or pop-up notifications that this would happen, resulting in the characters revealing things I was very much not ready for and perhaps spoiling my playthrough somewhat. Hence, my recommendation is to follow the critical path closely, and only explore the adjoining open-world only when you have the map revealed, and have defeated the local boss.

The second issue was that some parts of the map (specifically, the Finger Ruins of Rhia and Cerulean Coast) were deceptively solid, resulting in my Tarnished unexpectedly falling through the map to his perpetual doom. Thankfully, most of these spots are in very obscure areas that only my over-curious exploration led me towards, but hopefully this will be fixed shortly after the DLC’s launch.

One final minor reservation I have about the DLC expansion is FromSoftware’s decision to gate it behind two very difficult, optional bosses in the base game. It’s a questionable choice, especially considering that repeat playthroughs will require a fair bit of planning to get back to the Land of Shadow. But ultimately, Shadow of the Erdtree does heavily revolve around both Radahn and Mohg’s connections to Miquella’s fate, and its place as a late-game expansion is well realised.


The Final Verdict 

Shadow of the Erdtree serves up a straight-forward but hefty content expansion of Elden Ring’s story, with a new region filled with a sprawling open-world, complex legacy dungeons, and tons of fun characters, weapons, armor, summons, crafting recipes and lore-filled secrets to uncover.

In my experience, the DLC serves up the type of high-quality content additions I had hoped for, and the two-year wait-time was well worth it. In total, Shadow of the Erdtree is up there with the best add-ons FromSoftware has released (yes, including Bloodborne: The Old Hunters). A must play for hardcore fans and new players who (wisely) waited for the full package, and highly recommended overall.

Game Details

Primary Format – Games – Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X | S, Xbox One
Game Genre – Action role-playing game
Rating – MA15+
Game Developer – FromSoftware
Game Publisher – Bandai Namco Entertainment

About the Author'

A senior writer for and former writer for MMGN and Ninemsn, Nathan has been reviewing video games and interviewing talented developers since 2012. As a nostalgia tragic eternally tied to the glorious 1990s, he's always playing retro gaming classics whenever he's not entrenched in the latest RPG, or talking your ear off about why The First Law book series is better than Game of Thrones - to anyone who dares listen.

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