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Is Shadow of the Erdtree DLC really harder than Elden Ring?

Elden Ring Shadow of the Erdtree key art

Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree expands upon an already challenging game, but is the DLC harder than the base game?

FromSoftware games are notable for their difficulty. Despite the guaranteed social media back-and-forth between people crying for an easy mode and how others are “cheating not only the game, but themselves,” the studio hasn’t wavered in its approach. From 2009’s Demon’s Souls to 2023’s Armored Core 6: Fires of Rubicon, FromSoftware has delivered its signature “tough but fair” experiences.

Shadow of the Erdtree is set to be one of the company’s biggest releases ever, despite being a DLC. So how does it stack up relative to Elden Ring itself? And how does it stack up against FromSoftware’s catalog overall?

Is Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree hard?

Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree is roughly as difficult as the late and end-game segments of the main game.

This shouldn’t necessarily be a surprise. The requirement for starting the DLC is defeating mid and late-game bosses Starscourge Radahn and Mohg, Lord of Blood. As with other FromSoftware games, the DLC is designed in a way that lets players potentially fold the DLC into a regular playthrough of the game.

This isn’t to say that the DLC isn’t difficult, though. The Elden Ring DLC is hard. For many, it will have the hardest bosses in all of Elden Ring but that won’t necessarily be consistent for all players.

Malenia is almost universally regarded as the toughest boss in Elden Ring and as possibly the hardest boss in any FromSoftware game. Not every boss in Shadow of the Erdtree is on that level, but some are or come close. Naturally, players’ builds and playstyle will impact how challenging they find some encounters. 

Elden Ring DLC is a guaranteed challenge with new level-up system

Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree is guaranteed to be hard for all due to the new level-up system.

The game forces players into a faux character reset with Shadow Realm Blessings. This is a new level-up system that is exclusive to the Land of Shadows. Players who expect to brute force their way through every encounter with 99 strength and a Lion’s Claw Heavy Greatsword +25 will find themselves feeling much less powerful than they do normally.

Alongside this, another major X-factor is the long layover between Elden Ring’s launch and the Shadow of the Erdtree DLC’s release. Many players will be jumping into Shadow of the Erdtree after not playing Elden Ring for two years, and Elden Ring was the first Soulsborne experience for many. Those who aren’t FromSoftware veterans and those who didn’t actively try to shake off the rust may find themselves struggling to regain muscle memory.

Ultimately though, the difficulty curve isn’t steeper here. Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree is just as hard as the base game, but isn’t inherently harder. It demands that players die again and again to learn attack patterns and enemy placement. Players will have to start that process over once again for the first time, but that’s something that should be welcome for fans of FromSoftware.

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Written by Steven Rondina

Steven Rondina has been playing video games since he was a toddler and appreciates every genre out there. He has earned the platinum trophy in every Soulsborne game, is regularly Master Ball-ranked on the competitive Pokemon ladder, and has spent thousands of hours missing shots on Dust 2. His work has previously been featured by Bleacher Report and The Washington Post, and he was an Assistant Editor at WIN.gg. You can follow him on Twitter / X at @srondina.

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