Elden Ring DLC launches to "Mixed" reviews as players bemoan difficulty, PC performance in Shadow of the Erdtree: "There's a big problem with balancing"

Elden Ring
The Divine Beast Dancing Lion is one of the first bosses you'll encounter in the Elden Ring DLC. (Image credit: Windows Central)

What you need to know

  • Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree is a massive 30-40 hour DLC for FromSoftware's 2022 Game of the Year-winning open world ARPG, complete with a huge new map and 10 new major bosses to challenge.
  • Though it launched as the highest critically reviewed expansion of all time, it currently has a "Mixed" review score from players on Steam.
  • Most players bemoan the DLC's difficulty, which is very high even for a Souls-style experience. Many also complain that its enemies and bosses fight unfairly, and some report PC performance issues such as framerate drops and stutters.
  • Having reviewed Shadow of the Erdtree from start to finish, I think players need to have more patience and understand that they have to be active and aggressive while fighting bosses, rather than passive. If you're struggling, try rolling through their attacks towards them so you have more time to get hits of your own in.

The long-awaited Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree DLC is finally here, and boy, it sure isn't afraid to put you in your place. Even its first miniboss is bullying players new to the Land of Shadow, and as I wrote in my review, the battles and bosses spread throughout the expansion are some of the toughest encounters FromSoftware has ever made. The studio's releases are famous for their difficulty, of course, but Shadow of the Erdtree takes things to another level — and because stat soft caps result in severely diminishing level up returns, you can't overlevel to make things easier.

This has culminated in the Elden Ring DLC launching with a "Mixed" review score on Steam, with most negative reviews acknowledging the quality of its art direction and world design, but pointing to Shadow of the Erdtree's difficulty and voicing concerns about enemies doing too much damage or bosses being too aggressive. Some also report poor PC performance, including framerate drops and stuttering issues.

"While the world design and colors are really beautiful and a lot of enemy designs [are] too, there's a big problem with balancing," reads one review from user Filippikus. "Every enemy does a lot of damage, has a ton of health and has endless combos that leave nearly no openings, to then start all over again with their combos." Here's another from SlendySlasher: "Several new enemy types spam attacks nonstop. There is no ebb and flow to combat, only trading blows since they never stop spamming attacks unless parried." There are tons of comments like these in the reviews, which you can read yourself on the DLC's store page.

Rellana, like many other Shadow of the Erdtree bosses, is best fought aggressively. (Image credit: Windows Central)

While I can't really speak to the performance side of things — Elden Ring runs fine for me on an RTX 3070/i5-12600K rig save for a rare stutter here or there, but your mileage may definitely vary — I have to say that I strongly disagree with criticisms that Shadow of the Erdtree is unfairly difficult. I do think damage is overtuned a little, but every enemy and boss has completely learnable and dodgeable moves, along with reasonable windows for getting a few hits of your own in.

If you feel like you're never able to do any damage, you're likely not playing aggressive enough. Most Shadow of the Erdtree bosses are designed to punish passive play; if you roll away from their combos, you'll have to waste time you could have spent slashing them with your greatsword just to get close to them again. Roll through them, though, and you'll be rewarded with a few precious seconds where you can deal good damage before the boss remounts their assault. And yes, this works for the slower, heavier weapons used in Strength builds too, as I mained a colossal greatsword for much of my review playthrough.

Boss move combos are not "30-60s long" and "endless," though it may feel that way if you're waiting for a perfect opportunity to get in there. In many ways, Shadow of the Erdtree's bosses remind me of Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice and the way it seared the concept of "hesitation is defeat" into my brain. Stay in the boss' face as you dodge their attacks, and you'll be far more successful.

The Elden Ring DLC is massive, and there are plenty of helpful Scadutree Blessings all over it. (Image credit: Windows Central)

I also want to stress the importance of Scadutree Fragments (and Revered Spirit Ashes, if you use Spirit Ashes). These items allow you to get Shadow Realm Blessing upgrades that improve the damage you deal while reducing the damage you take in the DLC, and are essentially Shadow of the Erdtree's new "leveling" system. These don't make enough of a difference that they trivialize fights, but you'll definitely feel the improvements to your attributes, and will be able to both survive previously lethal attacks and end boss battles quicker.

Some players claim they've already maxed out their Scadutree Fragments, but I highly doubt that unless they've been speedrunning through the Land of Shadow (which you shouldn't do, by the way, because it's full of amazing places to explore and treasures to loot). This game-sized 30-40 hour DLC has only been out for a day or two, and tons of these things are scattered all over the map.

Overall, it will be interesting to see if Shadow of the Erdtree's Steam rating improves in the coming days and weeks as players progress further and get more experience under their belts, and when FromSoftware (hopefully) makes some improvements to Elden Ring's technical stability. Regardless of whatever the fanbase's general consesus ends up being, though, the DLC is a 10/10 experience in my eyes.

The Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree DLC is finally here, and it makes one of the best Xbox games and best PC games of all time even better. It's out now on Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PS5, PS4, and Windows PC for $39.99.

Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree | $34.89 at CDKeys (Xbox)

Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree | $34.89 at CDKeys (Xbox)

Shadow of the Erdtree is Elden Ring at its most refined, with the base game's overly formulaic elements cut away and some of FromSoftware's best boss fights. The result is a 40-hour-long masterpiece of a DLC that's an absolute must-play for any Soulsborne fan.

Also see: Shadow of the Erdtree (PC, $37.09) | Deluxe Edition (PC, $90.89)

Collector's Edition: Bandai Namco Store (€249.99)

Brendan Lowry

Brendan Lowry is a Windows Central writer and Oakland University graduate with a burning passion for video games, of which he's been an avid fan since childhood. You'll find him doing reviews, editorials, and general coverage on everything Xbox and PC. Follow him on Twitter.

  • Midi_Amp
    I'm not into "hard" game, but I believe the developer changed something in the game workflow that caught people off guard. If it's more of the same, then there should be no complaint.
  • John McIlhinney
    I wonder how many of the people complaining now have responded to others complaining about the difficulty of Elden Ring and other SoulsBorne or souls-like games before and told people why they're wrong and it's good that the games are hard. That doesn't necessarily mean that there aren't any problems but I wonder how many of their own comments would be appropriate responses to them now.
  • Brendan Lowry
    Midi_Amp said:
    I'm not into "hard" game, but I believe the developer changed something in the game workflow that caught people off guard. If it's more of the same, then there should be no complaint.
    I think the DLC's fights are, design-wise, similar to the base game's, but just way harder, to the point where people can't "get away with" some of the tactics they could in the base game. Bosses in Elden Ring were always aggressive, but not aggressive enough that you couldn't pull off some "run away and then poke at them between attacks" type stuff.

    Now you have to roll through their attacks and get in their face to take advantage of the narrow attack windows you get. I think that's throwing a lot of people off.