Should Elden Ring DLC be able to win 2024 GotY after stellar reviews?

The reviews for Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree are in and the question now is whether it should be able to win 2024 Game of the Year honors as a DLC.

On the cusp of Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree’s release, publications have released reviews in droves. The vast majority gave the massive DLC glowing reviews, handing out perfect scores like candy. Even the lowest reviews still praised the DLC overall, continuing FromSoftware’s track record for delivering strong expansions.

As of this writing, the DLC stands as the best-reviewed “game” of 2024, with a roughly 95% average review score across multiple review aggregators. Some fans are now wondering if it’s eligible for 2024 Game of the Year. It’s a contentious and ultimately subjective topic, but the simple question has so much room for discussion. 

Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree reviews say the DLC is 2024’s best game

Historically, a DLC has never won a major Game of the Year award.

Shadow of the Erdtree is far from the first DLC people praised for being a pseudo-sequel. The Witcher 3: Blood and Wine garnered similar acclaim, with a runtime equalling a third of the base game’s length with new stories and locations to explore. Many considered it their favorite “game of the year” despite being DLC for an existing GotY contender. 

Going farther back, Warcraft 3: The Frozen Throne is practically Warcraft 4 despite being on the same engine. Despite being an expansion, it is practically a standalone game. The campaign takes just as long in Frozen Throne as it does in Reign of Chaos too.

Shadow of the Erdtree certainly expands on the base game in the same way the expansions above did. It introduces new locations, enemies, mechanics, and storylines not present in the base game. Why shouldn’t Shadow of the Erdtree count as its own game? Well, the answer’s complicated. 

When should DLC count as standalone games?

DLC only works as standalone games if they do not require the base game to function. That makes it hard to argue that Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree is 2024’s game of the year, even if the DLC is receiving rave reviews.

No matter how massive a DLC can be, it can’t be considered its own entity if it needs the base game to run properly. Players need Elden Ring to play Shadow of the Erdtree, which makes it impossible to separate from its originator. It wouldn’t be fair to judge Shadow of the Erdtree on its own because it’s tied mechanically and narratively to the base experience. 

Not to mention, Shadow of the Erdtree could qualify in other categories of The Game Awards. Cyberpunk 2077: The Phantom Liberty nabbed four nominations in 2023 for Best Narrative, Best Performance (Idris Elba), Best Ongoing, and Best Community Support. While not quite GOTY, it’s certainly worthy of nominations.

All that said, does it really matter if organizations don’t consider a person’s favorite DLC as Game of the Year? Ultimately, these awards shows boil down to opinions or, in the worst-case scenario, fan voting. As long as players enjoyed the experience on their own merits, that’s valid enough.

Maybe the real Game of the Year was the failed Shadow of the Erdtree runs made along the way.

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Written by Gab Hernandez

Gab Hernandez has a particular love for video games that give players control over the narrative direction, such as Divinity: Original Sin 2 and Disco Elysium. Gab spends just as much time playing games as they do gushing about them online to anyone who will listen. Their work has also been seen on TheGamer, Gfinity, and Wargamer, and you can follow them on Twitter / X at @HardlyWorkinGab.

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