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Shadow Of The Erdtree’s mixed Steam reviews paint a different picture to the critical reception

The 'highest rated' DLC ever isn't for everyone it seems

Promotional Elden Ring: Shadow Of The Erdtree art of a player using a Thrusting Shield to slice into a knight enemy clad in black armour.
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Bandai Namco

Despite an overwhelmingly strong reception with critics, Shadow Of The Erdtree is currently sitting at a ‘mixed’ review rating on Steam, with nay-sayers citing performance issues and overbearing enemy design. The Elden Ring DLC is currently metacritic’s highest rated expansion of all time at 95, beating out the The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt’s Blood And Wine’s 92. However, roughly a third of the 41,000 user reviews on Steam are negative.

On the technical side, recent negative reviews highlight stutters, drops, and low frame rates. As for gameplay, there’s a thread of players hitting breaking point with boss and enemy design, both in terms of difficulty scaling and boss attack patterns. To elucidate, although not dismiss, these complaints: Shadow Of The Erdtree implements a new progression system where players are required to explore and collect Scadutree Fragments in order to be on par with much of the DLC’s content outside the base area. As such, the damage that Erdtree’s enemies both dish out and take is scaled differently from the base game. The DLC has only been out a few days, so its possible players are attempting to best the high level content without being fully prepared.

As for boss design itself, players repeatedly mention lengthy attack combos, unreadable boss tells, and encounters that otherwise seem to prioritise difficulty over enjoyment. These same criticisms were levelled against some of the bosses in the base game, and it seems the arms-race design of the DLC has, for some, exacerbated these issues.

Speaking personally, I’ve got mixed feelings on the mixed reviews. I’m sympathetic towards anyone who felt alienated by Elden Ring’s critical reception, homogeneous and aggressively superlative as it was. It feels like, in distilling both what was good and bad about the base game, FromSoft have pushed a section of the playerbase to voice their issues with the DLC. That said, and strangely enough, I’m actually finding most of Erdtree’s bosses to be far fairer and more thoughtfully designed than the more difficult encounters found in the original release. It feels as if FromSoft have returned to the boss design of old somewhat. However, I am wearing extremely heavy armour, and I’ve also scoured the map for Scadutree fragments, so I'm basically a tank at this point. I’ve seen clips of people getting one shot by bosses, which must be extremely frustrating.

I think pushback on universally well-reviewed games - providing it's presented respectfully - is a good thing. No-one wants a critical monoculture. Players should absolutely voice the criticisms they have, but I do find myself asking if they'd be any less disappointed if they’d beaten the thing in a weekend? If we can say anything about FromSoft's games, it's that their resistance to instant mastery or comprehension makes them monumentally unsuitable for the culture of accelerated, reactive discourse in which we find ourselves. Friction, I suppose, was inevitable, and I do hope these players eventually find the joy in the game they've bought, even if it's just in the bizarrely serene ghost worms.

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