As the Elden Ring DLC beats the snot out of players, Hidetaka Miyazaki says toning difficulty down would "break the game itself"

 Elden Ring.
Credit: Windows Central

What you need to know

  • Elden Ring's DLC, Shadow of the Erdtree, is now officially available on all platforms, including Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Windows PC, PS5, and PS4.

  • The expansion is proving to be very difficult, which is unsurprising given FromSoftware's "tough-but-fair" design ethos. Shadow of the Erdtree, though, is perhaps one of the toughest pieces of content the developer has ever released.

  • In my experience, the DLC is extremely difficult, but also, ultimately, completely fair. This made overcoming its challenges incredibly satisfying, which is the feeling FromSoftware targets with its action RPGs.

  • In a new interview with The Guardian, Elden Ring director Hidetaka Miyazaki stated that toning down the difficulty would "break the game itself" while discussing the design philosophy of Elden Ring and FromSoftware's other games.

The Elden Ring DLC, Shadow of the Erdtree, is out now for everyone — and just about everyone playing it is currently getting absolutely rocked by its lethal enemies and bosses. FromSoftware's action RPGs are known for their difficulty, of course, but Shadow of the Erdtree is one of the hardest pieces of content the studio has ever released, perhaps only surpassed by Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. Having played through its entirety last week for my review, though, I can confidently say that it's not unfair, as every foe possesses learnable movesets with consistent, readable telegraphing (the base game actually had a few problems with this).

This "tough-but-fair" design ethos is at the heart of the developer's games, and mastery of the challenges born from it is what gives "Soulsborne" fans the immense satisfaction they crave. It's why I've always wanted FromSoftware to stick to its guns amidst difficulty complaints, and based on what game director Hidetaka Miyazaki said in a recent The Guardian interview, it seems like the studio is indeed not planning to change fundamental approach for Elden Ring and games like it.

“If we really wanted the whole world to play the game, we could just crank the difficulty down more and more. But that wasn’t the right approach,” Miyazaki said of Elden Ring. “Had we taken that approach, I don’t think the game would have done what it did, because the sense of achievement that players gain from overcoming these hurdles is such a fundamental part of the experience. Turning down difficulty would strip the game of that joy — which, in my eyes, would break the game itself.”

Elden Ring
Elden Ring

While Shadow of the Erdtree is home to some of FromSoftware's toughest ever boss fights, finally taking them down after hours of patient perseverance led to some of the highest highs I've ever felt playing a game. I couldn't help but loudly cheer despite the fact it was 1:30 in the morning (sorry, neighbors) when I finally beat Rellana, Twin Moon Knight — the first or second boss you're likely to encounter — in a (self-imposed) duel with no summons. After battling it on-and-off for two days between expeditions around the DLC's new Land of Shadow map, achieving sweet, sweet victory over its final boss left me shaking and numb.

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It's not just the boss fights or enemy encounters, either. Part of what makes Elden Ring special is that the developer's design philosophy permeates its open world; remarkable hidden locations and underground secrets are often obscured by seemingly ordinary caves or structures that are either easy to miss or difficult to reach, making discovery of these things through the game's organic icon-free exploration especially meaningful. Shadow of the Erdtree takes what the base game did and does it better, cutting away most of its formulaic side content like simple mines and catacombs and giving its players a denser world with more bespoke and original things to find.

Neither pillar of Elden Ring's gameplay would give me the satisfaction they do if the experience was designed to be easier or to hold my hand, so I'm in full agreement with Miyazaki's comments. FromSoftware has perfected the art of making friction fun, and I'd hate to see it move away from that.

Elden Ring
Elden Ring

Besides, Elden Ring and Shadow of the Erdtree, like the studio's other games, aren't without tools that help lessen the intensity of the challenges that await. In fact, that's a big part of why the Land of Shadow is so enjoyable to explore — new weapons, armors, spells, talismans, Spirit Ashes, and more are scattered all throughout the DLC's various zones, with particularly special items often located within or at the end of side dungeons.

There are also Scadutree Fragments and Revered Spirit Ashes, which improve damage dealt and reduce damage taken in the Land of Shadow by you and your Spirit Ash summons, respectively. These, along with everything you've brought from the base game, will prove useful each time you brave a boss' fog wall.

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)

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)View Deal