I answer your Elden Ring DLC questions: NG+, difficulty, achievements, new spells, and more in Shadow of the Erdtree

Elden Ring Shadow of the Erdtree companions
The followers of Miquella will join you on your journey into the Land of Shadow. (Image credit: Bandai Namco)

The highly anticipated Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree DLC is finally here, and it's somehow managed to shatter everyone's sky-high expectations. Though this follow-up to 2022's Game of the Year-winning fantasy ARPG is technically an expansion, it's the size of an entirely new game — and as I wrote in my review, it's an amazing refinement of the base game's concepts, complete with a denser, more organic open world and some of FromSoftware's all-time best boss battles. However, given its colossal size and brutal difficulty, it's natural that many fans have questions about how to best approach it, what they can expect to find in its new map, and other topics.

We took to social media on launch day to see if you had any inquiries like these you wanted answers for, and having put well over 60 hours into the Elden Ring DLC at this point, I'd be happy to give some. Without further ado, here are (spoiler-free!) answers for your biggest Shadow of the Erdtree questions.

Should you play the Elden Ring DLC in NG+?

A Tarnished champion rides Torrent into the Land of Shadow. (Image credit: Windows Central)

The biggest question players had for us is whether there's a big difference in how the DLC feels to play in New Game Plus (NG+) compared to a "first playthrough" save or not, and also if it's okay to play through it for the first time in a NG+ cycle. For the unaware, Elden Ring — like most other ARPGs and FromSoftware's own Dark Souls titles — allows you to restart the game with your endgame character once you've beaten its final boss, giving you a chance to play through it again with enemies that have meatier health bars and higher attack power. Each NG+ cycle you start on the same character continues to buff enemy health and damage even further, with this scaling capped once you reach NG+7.

Like the base game, foes and bosses in Shadow of the Erdtree scale with NG+. Also like the base game, though, I've found that NG+ — the first two cycles of it, anyway — doesn't make a hugely noticeable difference in the DLC's difficulty. Mind you, you're still going to have a rough time since the expansion's enemies do very high damage in general; it's just that NG+ and NG+2 don't add much on top of that. For that reason, I'd say you're good to head to the Land of Shadow in one of these early NG+ cycles (keep in mind you'll have to complete the boss fights part of the Elden Ring DLC requirements again).

Most players agree NG+3 and above is when the scaling starts having a sizable impact in the base game, and while I don't have any characters this far into NG+ myself, I hear the same holds true for Shadow of the Erdtree. Therefore, if you've progressed past NG+2, you may want to make a new character for the DLC.

Does the Elden Ring DLC have new achievements?

The base game of Elden Ring had achievements for major boss fights, but its DLC does not. (Image credit: Windows Central)

A few folks also wanted to know if there were new achievements added with Shadow of the Erdtree. After all, Elden Ring launched with achievements for beating every major "Remembrance" boss and some minor ones, too, along with some for collecting all of the rarest and most unique gear pieces in the game.

Unfortunately, I have bad news for the achievement hunters out there: the DLC doesn't add any new achievements. The reason why is unclear, but perhaps FromSoftware will reconsider its decision not to include them and add them at a later time.

New spells and weapons in the Elden Ring DLC

Yes, this is a spell you can get. And yes, it rules. (Image credit: Bandai Namco)

We also got a few questions about some of Shadow of the Erdtree's new gear, including its new sorcery and incantation spells and also its new weapon types. Specifically, we were asked if there are any spells from the DLC that will be considered "OP"; I'm not sure if any of the magic will feel overpowered, per se, but it will definitely be effective, and I expect to see lots of the new spells — the incantations, in particular, though there are good sorceries too — get recognized as some of the best Elden Ring spells.

And as for which new weapon type I think is the best? My favorites are probably Light Greatswords like Milady, as they have wonderfully versatile movesets that combine the best elements of Greatswords, Straight Swords, and Thrusting Swords into one elegant package. In terms of raw damage output, though, Backhand Blades will be fiercely competitive with Curved Swords as one of the best Elden Ring weapons to use for speedy Dexterity or status effect-based builds. They also get an incredible Ash of War called Blind Spot in which you perform a pair of quick dashes (with iframes!) to an enemy's side before slashing them; this attack does excellent damage and ignores shields, making it very strong in PvP.

There are a few Backhand Blades in Shadow of the Erdtree, but the easiest one to get is actually next to a coffin located just northeast of the Gravesite Plain Site of Grace where the DLC starts. New spells, on the other hand, can be found all over the Land of Shadow (this Elden Ring DLC interactive map can help you track them down).

How to "git gud" in the Elden Ring DLC

The key to success in Shadow of the Erdtree is to be aggressive. (Image credit: Bandai Namco)

Would it be a FromSoftware release if it wasn't challenging? The Elden Ring DLC is hard — perhaps harder than anything else the studio has ever published — so I'm not surprised that we were asked "How do I stop dying?"

I explain this in more detail in a full article I wrote on the subject, but the best tip I can offer you if you're struggling is to play aggressively and stay close to the DLC's enemies and bosses instead of trying to roll away from them. Your instinct is naturally to get away from attacks, especially since the damage enemies do in the Land of Shadow is brutal. However, the windows you get to punish them after dodging their moves are very narrow, and you won't have time to get your own hits in if you have to keep getting close to them again. By rolling through their attacks and towards them, however, you can capitalize on openings.

Another thing I can't stress enough is that Scadutree Fragments and Revered Spirit Ashes — upgrade materials that, when used at a Site of Grace, improve damage and damage reduction for both you and your Spirit Ashes, respectively — make a massive difference. Hunting these down is essentially the expansion's new "leveling" system, so if you're having a hard time staying alive or dealing effective damage, consider exploring for more of them.

Could there be a balance patch due to difficulty?

Shadow of the Erdtree bosses are absolutely brutal, and I wouldn't be surprised if some of them got nerfed. (Image credit: Bandai Namco Entertainment Inc.)

Shadow of the Erdtree is so hard that it's debuted to "Mixed" reviews on Steam, and understandably, some are curious if FromSoftware may choose to release a balance patch that makes the DLC easier. Ultimately, it's possible — the developer famously nerfed the Starscourge Radahn boss after Elden Ring's launch back in 2022, after all — but if adjustments are made, I'd expect them to be just that: small adjustments, and not large, sweeping changes.

FromSoftware's DLC expansions have always been the most arduous parts of the games they're for historically, and are purposely designed that way to give players a greater challenge to overcome. The developer might tweak aspects of Shadow of the Erdtree's gameplay and boss fights if the player base feels they're unreasonable or unfair, but I'd bet all the runes I have that the DLC's brutally difficult nature will remain as is.

Have other questions? Drop them below!

Those are all the big questions we were asked, but if there's anything else you'd like to know about Shadow of the Erdtree, please drop a comment below and I'll reply with an answer ASAP.

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.