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Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree Opinions

Opinions 04 June 2024, 07:00

Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree Hands-on - Same Old, Same Gold

I bring some news after the Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree presentation. Only those who were expecting great changes on the scale of Phantom Liberty won't be happy. Everyone else should prepare for a real feast made by the chefs from FromSoftware.

Apparently, you don't enter the same river twice, but that's just philosophical bullshit. Occasionally, entering a familiar, comfortable, and sometimes slightly embellished situation is the best thing that can happen to us. Something like coming home after a long journey. Our roommates could have made some changes here and there, but ultimately it's the same apartment. And that's how I felt when I sat down to Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree at a private screening in Paris. Miyazaki serves more of the same - with a few new spices.

And you know what? Served this way, Elden Ring still tastes delicious. Shadow of the Erdtree is shaping up to be a fantastic expansion, perhaps not as groundbreaking as Phantom Liberty - but in a FromSoftware game, there has never been so much to fix, and no Souls DLC has ever reinvented the wheel. We are simply facing another great adventure in the Lands Between. With a few conveniences and novelties.

Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree, Bandai Namco Entertainment, 2024

It must also be admitted that Namco Bandai knows how to do a presentation. Journalists were summoned to the historic monastery in the heart of Paris. You couldn't choose a better place to play Elden Ring. And besides, as our friends say, "you can’t be more metal." I want to emphasize that predefined character builds provided for play posed a certain problem. They were too "basic" to fully enjoy the game as we would have by following Miquella's footsteps in our own way. Fortunately, we were able to return to the base location and quickly defeat whoever needed to get at least the basic weapon, making the gameplay more personalized. But it's actually a trivial matter.

There is no revolution...

You won't find many new mechanical features in Shadow of the Erdtree. However, the ones that have been introduced are quite specific. Miyazaki added two types of collectibles that we hunt for, just like we did with the golden seeds. Some are responsible for increasing the strength and resistance, others - for strengthening the companions summoned from the ashes. Of course, we continue to gather runes, but their importance has been somewhat reduced within the new land.

Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree, Bandai Namco Entertainment, 2024

The new collectibles are what really matters here, and it must be acknowledged that they are doing a great job on multiple levels. Thanks to them the development and power of our character depends on exploration. They integrate well with the lore and support interactions with the world. They also provide an interesting change, requiring a shift in thinking about characters and stats. I quite liked this very "Zelda-like" solution. I like games that reward exploration. This is also a safe solution for traditionalists. It won't throw off your balance in other areas, as it only functions in locations from the DLC.

...but (most likely) you'll have great fun

This and the other elements of the expansion looked incredibly polished and well thought out at the show. The new enemies, thanks to their very appearance and behavior, interestingly expand the plot and raise further questions. Are the shadow warriors and priests, attacking us from the beginning of the journey, poor fools who followed Miquella as if he were a savior, but the land swallowed them up? That was the thought that accompanied me at the beginning. Besides, shadows can be problematic - especially the larger and more aggressive ones. Basic enemies aren't a problem, but everything else is proving to be drastically effective in putting us down. And they look insanely good. Both humanoid foes and those with a few more limbs evoke a mild sense of unease. They suggest that we have strayed into the wrong neighborhood.

The difficulty level has increased. Maybe not very much, but clearly. Enemies can be defeated, you just have to put some effort into it. Stronger regular opponents can give a hard time and rarely back down. The bosses are fast, aggressive, and have strong area and direct attacks. During the show, we could fight with two of them. Well, I at least got that far. Miyazaki would probably think, "Ah, lovely sounds," if he were standing behind the curtain and heard our cries. And maybe make a cocktail from our tears. The first bartender mixing drinks from our suffering is the lion-headed monster we know from the trailers, and the second is the lady knight. The armored warrior woman bore some resemblance to Artorias from the Dark Souls DLC, but she relied more on magic.

Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree, Bandai Namco Entertainment, 2024

If you're not hiding an OP hero in your closet, prepare for a tough journey and very intense clashes. No prisoners, none will survive. But surely you will satisfy your sadomasochistic tendencies with these fights. The battles are tough, but this difficulty spike is known from all previous FromSoftware expansions. You'll probably hit the wall with the controller a few times, and you'll still want to keep going.

During the three-hour show, predefined character builds posed a certain problem. What Namco gave use (warrior, fencer, and mage) turned out to be too monotonous for me to play comfortably. Although we could distribute points between statistics however we wanted to, but we mainly had to use new weapons. I must that it is quite good and introduces some interesting maneuvers. I played as a knight focused on agility and swung a light, fast greatsword, which at times worked more like a fencing sword. Special attacks and combos looked like they were taken from a fencing anime. And that's good.

New tools, old pains

The new greatswords and ultra greatswords brought a lot of joy. They weren't as effective as my standard toolkit and didn't really suit my play style, but I think once I got used to them I'd consider one of them to be among my favorites. It's just that fighting with them requires more attention. To speed up the progress, I ran for the Bloodhound's Fang, one of my basic weapons (though not my favorite, it's not the Blasphemous Blade - Hubert the Noob strikes back!).

A new type of weapons is added - Miyazaki's furious fists. Various melee gloves will allow you to realize your fantasy of playing as a monk. Or as Jean-Claude Van Damme. Or Bruce Lee. Or... As Batman from the Arkham series. Ultimately, the most important thing is that the hand-to-hand combat looks fun, spectacular, and deals quite a bit of damage. That's what Elden Ring is about -the balance between fun, receiving some beating, and player efficiency.

Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree, Bandai Namco Entertainment, 2024

I admit that I gave up using with the new magic spells, because it's not my cup of tea, and I wanted to get as much as possible out of the game. However, journalists opting for such a build seemed satisfied.

As you can see, there will be something to play with. New gear, new aspect of character development, new enemies. However, it's still the good old Elden Ring with extra spice. Because what I described here are mainly bells and whistles that the fans will appreciate. There will also be something for the newcomers. It is still surrounded by an aura of adventure and leads through a path of suffering. And it still looks insanely good. Or maybe even better.

Postcard from hell

The views I could admire were breathtaking. It seems we've seen it all already - mountains, graveyards, castles, barricaded bridges and undergrounds. And yet... And yet the things I saw had even more punch. Each location hides some narrative - visual detail that we can think about. We will always find something that diversifies the landscape and gives rise to more questions. The environments are very Gothic and fairy-tale-like.

I felt as if FromSoftware had treated me to a tour of Caspar David Friedrich's paintings. And even the conviction that I was dealing with a more eerie, autumnal, and cemetery-like equivalent of Limgrave did not prevent me from getting absorbed. Because it's not a copy. It's a complement to that place. An artistic closure and a missing element of the painting. I was struggling with my compulsive habit of taking Steam screenshots. I fought this battle for you and for the good of that showcase.

Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree, Bandai Namco Entertainment, 2024

The least I can say is about the plot. It begins as enigmatic and poetic as the introduction to any arc that has appeared in Elden Ring. After killing Mohg, we follow Miquella's trail. The demigods had a very toxic relationship, which is typical for the Lands Between. We know only that Malenia's brother is desperately trying to abandon his nature and cut himself off from the Golden Order. For now, we can only guess what this means for the Lands Between and for us.

Will Miquella be an enemy, an ally, a guide? Maybe a little bit of everything? My current theory is that first we fight him, and then we will start talking. Or maybe he will act as a guide first, and then betray us? Either way - I can only hope that we will spend a little more time with such an intriguing character. As usual, we can assume that someone has done terrible harm to the place we are wandering through - and most likely also to the beings that we will send to the Golden Order.

Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree, Bandai Namco Entertainment, 2024

After these three hours, I have no doubt that Miyazaki knows what he's doing. Together with FromSoftware, they will provide a worthy complement of the Tarnished journey. There isn't much innovation here, but we will find enough not to feel cheated. It's still the same project, creative approach. Similar problems with balance, the same challenge. And the same kind of beauty. Beauty, which will most likely now be emphasized by the last, sweeping stroke of the brush. And then we won't be able to imagine how did Elden Ring look without it.

Hubert Sosnowski

Hubert Sosnowski

He joined GRYOnline.pl in 2017, as an author of texts about games and movies. He's currently the head of the film department and the Filmomaniak.pl website. Learned how to write articles while working for the Dzika Banda portal. His texts were published on kawerna.pl, film.onet.pl, zwierciadlo.pl, and in the Polish Playboy. Has published stories in the monthly Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror magazine, as well as in the first volume of the Antologii Wolsung. Lives for "middle cinema" and meaty entertainment, but he won't despise any experiment or Fast and Furious. In games, looks for a good story. Loves Baldur's Gate 2, but when he sees Unreal Tournament, Doom, or a good race game, the inner child wakes up. In love with sheds and thrash metal. Since 2012, has been playing and creating live action role-playing, both within the framework of the Bialystok Larp Club Zywia, and commercial ventures in the style of Witcher School.


Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree

Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree

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