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Review | Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree

FromSoftware demonstrates its talent by bringing us one of the best expansions ever created

In 2009, FromSoftware, one of the most prolific video game developers in Japan, launched Demon's Souls, a medieval fantasy game that its publisher in Japan, Sony, had no confidence in, which is why it ended up being made public in Europe by Bandai Namco and in America by Atlus. The game directed by Hidetaka Miyazaki, who until then had only been in the role of director for the project that was Armored Core 4, then represented an evolution for what the company had done in its beginnings with the King's Field saga, another saga also focused on dark fantasy. 

The result of said evolution from King' Field to Demon's Souls would prove to be just what FromSoftware needed to establish itself, not only as prolific, but also as synonymous with quality and trust within the industry. Demon's Souls would be a huge critical and sales success, as it offered something that seemed lost during the 2000s, a game that was not afraid to be difficult, but fair and that also found pleasure in trusting that players could explore and find the game secrets on your own.

The Demon's Souls concept would be refined in the Dark Souls trilogy and then repowered with the releases of Bloodborne and Sekiro, until reaching what is Elden Ring, a game that places the formula within the context of an open world, which allows developers and players immense freedom when it comes to creating content and how to experience it.

Elden Ring, FromSoftware's most successful game is back

Elden Ring then becomes the most successful game in FromSoftware's history and places the name of the company and its president, Hidetaka Miyazaki, in the popular consciousness. After critical and financial success, a multitude of awards also arrived and also more expectations from FromSoftware, since each of its games that has been published in conjunction with Bandai Namco has expansions, so logic told us that the same would happen with Elden Ring.

After much waiting, logic ended up triumphing and just a few weeks ago the Elden Ring expansion, called “Shadow of the Erdtree” is in our hands and without a doubt represents another achievement for FromSoftware and also a warning for the rest of the industry . 

It must be said first that Shadow of the Erdtree exceeds expectations in terms of what the industry offers when creating “expansions” for its most lucrative games. Previously, CD Projekt RED had raised the bar to new levels with its expansions for The Witcher 3, “Hearts of Stone” and Blood and Wine” with The Witcher 3 being a game that, in the words of its own developers, was influenced by the work by FromSoftware on Demon's Souls and Dark Souls. Now, FromSoftware reaches and arguably surpasses its students' creations with an expansion that alone offers more content, art, music, and hours of gameplay than many full games. 

Review | Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree

Of course, measuring the value of any game by its length is dangerous territory, but it would also be naive not to take it into account when it is a factor that the vast majority of players take into account when spending their money. Under a price of $40 Shadow of the Erdtree is in the category of the most expensive expansions in recent times, but the audience trusts and FromSoftware does not disappoint when on average there are more than 30 hours of gameplay within this expansion, scattered between exploration , quests, secrets and of course the famous bosses, whose battles have become cemented as some of the most iconic moments, not only created by FromSoftware, but also created in general within the video game industry.

A safe purchase for lovers of the base game

Shadow of the Erdtree offers more Elden Ring and that's good, because that's exactly what players wanted. So, it's pretty easy to say that if someone enjoyed the base game, chances are they'll also enjoy this expansion, as it provides more incredibly designed levels, a dense map with things to discover and places to go, excellent bosses with which to fight, music that will simply stay in your mind for months and also that feeling of discovery that is so important in these games. 

Review | Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree

However, despite offering more of the same, the success of the base game allows Shadow of the Erdtree to also allow FromSoftware to experiment in certain aspects, which, although not revolutionary, do allow the experience in this expansion to be sufficiently differentiated. of the base game, so that The Land of Shadow, the map where the expansion takes place, feels like its own place within the mythology built by FromSoftware in collaboration with George RR Martin, the author of Game of Thrones and Fevre Dream , a vampire novel that is one of my favorites, which is why it was a great surprise when Miyazaki himself makes it stand out among his favorite works by the American author. 

Within these experimental elements that make Shadow of the Erdtree sufficiently different from the base game, we find a much darker and gloomy art design, with areas that are distinguished by offering a much more earthly color palette than what the game offered. base game. Shadow of the Erdtree is permeated by a perpetual autumn, which fits perfectly with the fact that within the historical context of the setting, The Land of Shadow is a land abandoned by life, a land that was not allowed to start again and which is located precisely at that midpoint between life and death, a limbo for all the things that live there.

A new take on Shadowlands

The game also experiments when designing the map itself, as it opts for something much more vertical. The base game map contained, of course, countless levels for each area, but the expansion takes these ideas and takes them further, creating moments of profound surprise during exploration where it is difficult to believe that we are still going up or down some area, and then surprise us by revealing that everything is connected or that we are simply not going where we thought, but rather we are entering a new area.

There are also various bottlenecks within the map design that direct players towards certain areas quite naturally and are no doubt there to manipulate the pace at which players interact with the new content.

The verticality of the main levels is much greater, but the secondary dungeons that populated every corner of the base game have also undergone changes. First, these secondary dungeons have reduced their number, so we will not find one in every corner, but also each of the ones that do exist have been expanded, incorporating more of the verticality already mentioned or also adding some particular mechanics for each one. .

Without a doubt, at the level of scale, the secondary dungeons make those of the base game pale, while some also have more connection with the history of the game and reveal certain realities within the conflict, exists in the center of Shadow of the Erdtree, one involving free will versus divine intervention. 

Review | Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree

A new progression system in Elden Ring

Experimentation not only stops as far as level design is concerned, but also heavily involves the progression system within the expansion, a decision that has caused mixed reactions within the community and with good reason. On the one hand, the progression system within Shadow of the Erdtree is very different from that of the base game, where the proven rune/blood echo/soul system was applied, which has accompanied most of these games since Demon's Souls . 

In this case, the progression system is a little more similar to that of Sekiro where after defeating a strong enemy, it gave us an item that we could use to increase our stats, making us stronger and more resistant to damage.

The expansion relies on the use of “Scadutree Fragments” to increase the strength of our characters within “The Land of Shadow”, but these items are not tied to defeating bosses as in Sekiro, but more to exploring the map. Without a doubt, this decision was made to force players to explore the map to become stronger and not simply believe that arriving with their high-level super characters from the base game could overcome the challenges of the expansion with ease. . 

On the one hand, this progression system forces players to explore and interact with everything the expansion has to offer and on that hand it seems like an appropriate decision, but on the other hand, and when we start talking about a second or third game, it seems that leveling can start to feel tedious and taking our characters to even higher levels will be something that will take much longer than in the base game.

You'll make better use of your arsenal with the new content

Meanwhile, the rune system is almost inconsequential within the expansion, although we will continue to use them mostly to level all the new weapons we find, since the expansion clearly suggests to us that all weapons must be brought to their maximum level if we decide to use them .

Shadow of the Erdtree also offers changes in this aspect, making the materials necessary to take our weapons to the maximum level more common, so deciding which weapons to take to the maximum becomes a much easier decision. Here we must also count the numerous new weapons, including new types of weapons, eight in total, along with more spells, talismans and enchantments, which will make the number of builds that can be created in the game much more numerous and entertaining. when building. 

As for the bosses, which serve as a focal point within the game, to mark our progress within it, each one is a spectacle and the combination of visuals and soundtrack creates quite striking moments. Accompanied by the new level of difficulty, each of these encounters will vary in quality for each person, but for my part I believe that for the most part they all offer an adequate level of difficulty, but fail to be as memorable as the bosses within the base game and this is where I have to talk about some of the things that I feel don't quite work within Shadow of the Erdtree. 

Impressive visuals, but rough at times

The base game is full of memorable encounters, not only with bosses, but also in sequences that turn out to be unique throughout our passage through the world. However, despite the level of visual spectacle that many of these bosses provide, I feel that only a couple, including what I think is the expansion's best boss, come across as memorable, not just for the way they fight and the battle itself, but also by their visual design, what they represent within the game's mythology and the path to them. 

In the Elden Ring expansion, many of the bosses manage to pass with high marks within the visual and mechanical aspects, but their positions within the lore and the path that takes us to them seem to be a bit rough and sometimes unsatisfactory. Especially within what is the second half of the expansion, the bosses begin to come much more quickly from one to another and that is why I feel that none of them have enough room to breathe in this second half. While this also occurs within the base game, said bosses manage to have an almost constant presence within the game, so by the time you get to them, it feels like something that obviously had to happen. Meanwhile, in Shadow of the Erdtree, many of these final bosses come a bit out of nowhere and their impact is much less.

As for the level design and the map itself, the verticality is quite impressive, but the extension of the map also leaves many empty places, places that in the base game would have had a catacomb, even if it was small, an item of relevance, here They remain empty and generate a feeling that perhaps we are missing something, when the answer itself is that there is simply nothing there. The same happens with many of the rewards when exploring, because for each Scadutree Fragment, or new weapon that we find, we find twenty lower-rank items that are simply disposable in that case or also a thousand cookbooks, which give recipes for items that we will rarely or never use. Because of this, much of the joy of exploring within the expansion is diminished in contrast to the base game.

Review | Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree

The new weapons are cool, but there seem to be fewer of them than I expected. Over 100 new weapons were promised, but for some reason after thoroughly exploring every corner of the map, I ended up feeling like I found very few, especially when it came to the new variations, which end up having a maximum of three or four. examples, which seems very few. 

It must be taken into account that Shadow of the Erdtree simply did not have the same development time as the base game, so comparing the two is unfair in some ways, but it is also true that in certain aspects it is below what was expected. it was done in the base game and it feels, as at this point in the story it seems that only FromSoftware can compete against itself, with challengers like Lies of P, Stellar Blade and Phantom Blade 0 getting closer and closer to the finish line. 

Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree is without a doubt one of the best expansions ever created. The artists at FromSoftware demonstrate their talent by creating something that far surpasses many full games in terms of art design, music and gameplay, and while it doesn't surpass or match the base game, it allowed FromSoftware to experiment a little more with the formula that they continue to perfect in each release, which fills me with excitement to think what will happen with their next project where they will surely apply many of the things learned on this trip through the land of shadows. 


This review was made on PC and the code for Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree It was loaned by Bandai Namco Latin America. The DLC is now available on PlayStation, Xbox and PC consoles.

SUMMARY

Although it fails to reach the heights of the base game, Shadow of the Erdtree cements itself as one of the best expansions ever created, offering quantity and quality that other studios can only dream of.

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Although it fails to reach the heights of the base game, Shadow of the Erdtree cements itself as one of the best expansions ever created, offering quantity and quality that other studios can only dream of. Review | Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree