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Elden Ring DLC is getting review-bombed on Steam, is it justified?

Two characters site around a bonfire

Elden Ring’s highly anticipated DLC, Shadow of the Erdtree, launched on Steam with a surprising “Mixed” user reviews rating due to many saying that it’s too hard. The criticisms might actually be valid, though.

Shadow of the Erdtree received unanimous praise from critics and stands as the best game release of 2024 according to multiple review aggregators. Everything surrounding the DLC—its announcement, trailers, and marketing—had a positive reception. So, it’s a big surprise that Steam gamers do not like the massive expansion despite loving the base game. 

FromSoftware games are famous for their high difficulty and punishing combat. However, plenty of Steam reviews lament the high difficulty in Shadow of the Erdtree, with many even calling it quits. This isn’t all just the usual “FromSoftware should add easy modes” discourse, though.

What is the Elden Ring DLC controversy?

Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree is getting negative reviews from fans due to what they say is “artificial difficulty.”

Players are citing balancing issues related to the new Shadow Realm Blessing level-up system as a reason to “Not Recommend” the Elden Ring DLC. This has many players saying that Shadow of the Erdtree isn’t actually hard due to challenging enemy movesets or deep strategies. They’re instead saying that the issue comes down to needing to spend more time getting Scadutree Fragments and Revered Spirit Ash.

With over 61% of over 14,000 user reviews being positive, the scales are still tipped in the expansion’s favor. The expansion has plenty of PC performance issues, but most reviews only focus on boss difficulty and their relentless attacks. 

An armed rider stands on a cliff edge

In the case of Shadow of the Erdtree, players are calling bosses “unfair and unrelenting.” There’s some truth to this. One of the first mini-bosses players can face is a player character-style enemy named the Blackgaol Knight. A regular light attack can easily take off up to 60% of a player’s health even if they have significant investment in HP and decent armor.

Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree shipped with significant performance issues

The Elden Ring DLC’s review average is also dipping due to performance issues that cause freezing and inconsistent framerates. Even beefy machines are facing stuttering issues on the PC, which didn’t occur before the DLC shipped.

FromSoftware games have enjoyed a certain leeway when it comes to PC performance. Elden Ring launched at a 60 FPS frame rate cap without ultrawide support. The launch was also mired for PC players by major graphical bugs.

Usually, this would amount to a major backlash against the developer. In Elden Ring’s case, the game was so good that no one complained. 

Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree also didn’t bring any PC-centric quality-of-life features like an FPS slider or ultrawide display support, to the disappointment of many with a rig.  

How to overcome Shadow of the Erdtree’s difficulty

Players can overcome Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree’s difficulty by finding Scadutree Fragments. These can boost the player’s damage and defense in the Land of Shadows, and are essentially mandatory for advancing.

This feature is meant to encourage players to explore the huge new map and provide another way of character progression. That requirement to explore doesn’t sit well with many, however. 

Two horse riders engage in a duel during a sunset

The Scadutree Fragments are scattered across the map, similar to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild’s Korok Seeds. Collected fragments increase damage output and character resistance against the new enemies found in the expansion. Brute forcing with high vigor won’t be as effective in the Shadow of the Erdtree as in the base game. 

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Written by Bilawal Bashir

Bilawal is a software engineer who loves video games, comic books, and anime. But he will never love pineapple on pizza. In over two decades of gaming, he has only broken two controllers. His work has also been featured by TheGamer and WhatIfGaming.

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