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'Shadow of the Elder Tree' tries to kill you with kindness : NPR

'Shadow of the Elder Tree' tries to kill you with kindness : NPR


The Skadu Tree towers over the Land of Shadows, a negative photo of the Eld Tree. Bandai Namco .

Switch caption Bandai Namco

My palms were sweaty and my heart was pounding as I ascended the tower settlement of Bellat. A chorus of voices swelled as an ominous lion-headed beast stomped towards me. Resembling a Chinese dancing dragon, it sprinted around on a grotesque human arm, hurling lightning in all directions. After several tries, my trusty scimitar and I were finally victorious, and I felt a surge of relief.

i'm back.

Like tens of millions of players around the world, the release of Elden Ring in 2022 got me hooked on this exhilarating, sadistic gaming loop. After two years of community lore videos and incredible displays of skill, Shadow of the Eldtree is finally here. In just a few days, millions of players will be embarking on what is likely the biggest gaming release of the summer.

Miniature version of “The Lands Between”

The new expansion throws players into the Shadow Lands, a scaled-down version of the base game's vast realm. Giant, decaying Skadu Trees tower over the area, looking like a negative of the Golden Eld Trees from the original game. There's plenty to fascinate players in every direction: decaying castles, ghostly gravestones, and a giant Furnace Golem that looks like a giant walking wicker man (trust me, don't try to fight it!).

A dragon dancing in a divine daze, just before lightning strikes overhead. Bandai Namco .

Switch caption Bandai Namco

But while Shadow of the Erdtree is undoubtedly beautiful, I found it more frustrating than the base game. I often found myself running in circles trying to find a way down terrifying rock faces, and in the maze-like Ruins of Rauh in particular, I wasted hours fighting the same enemies and hitting the same dead ends. Traversal may be difficult, but it never mattered.

This endgame area not only requires players to have mastered the original content, but also gathers new resources that permanently buff damage and defense against Land of Shadow's enemies. While it's possible to get through without Scadutree Fragments, you'll likely need to comb the map to get them, as even the early bosses are no joke.

Sweet agony

Thankfully, Shadow of the Erdtrees' combat shines just as brightly as Elden Rings'. The duels are beautifully constructed, leaving you feeling powerless against giant scorpions, fire-wielding knights, shambling mutants, and more. Though they can be extremely difficult, these battles are always fair, and the joy you feel when you finally overcome them is pure video game ecstasy.

Mesmer Tepes takes center stage right after taking my life. Bandai Namco .

Switch caption Bandai Namco

In the week I spent playing the review version of Shadow of the Erdtree, I thoroughly enjoyed diving back into a world filled with wondrous vistas and fearsome foes. While the expansion doesn't feel as fresh as FromSoftware's best DLC (such as Bloodbornes The Old Hunters), it's still a breathtaking sequel to one of the greatest games of all time. As you continue your journey and delve deeper into the immense lore, you can't help but want to laugh every time you get stabbed, crushed, electrocuted, lacerated, poisoned, or set on fire.

James Perkins Mastromarino contributed to this review.




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