Real talk: there’s nothing that truly prepares you for jumping into a Souls game. But even FromSoftware knows a fair warning about what’s coming can go a hell of a long way. So, take it from one who has traversed the Realm of Shadow and (sorta) lived to tell the tale, there’s a few things I can tell those who will be walking in Miquella the Kind’s footsteps. Here are X things I wish I had known before starting Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree.

Order Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree: Amazon | Best Buy | Humble Bundle

You did kill Starscourge Radahn and Mohg, Lord of Blood already, right?

Because as FromSoftware itself has mentioned, if you didn’t, you ain’t going nowhere just yet. While those two boss fights are optional to get to the base game’s ending, they’re now required to be able to access the DLC.

For returning Tarnished for whom Mohg’s already dead, the entrance to the DLC is right in Mohg’s boss room, southeast on the Underground map. The Site of Grace is called Cocoon of the Empyrean. You’ll know you’re good to go, because there’ll be an NPC there to bid you welcome. When you’re ready, interact with the arm sticking out of the cocoon, and strap in.

A map showing the location of the DLC entrance.

Screenshot: FromSoftware / Kotaku

And you did actually install the DLC, right?

It’s not as bizarre a question as you might think. I’ve spoken to multiple folks before launch who had a similar problem, where Radahn and Mohg are dead, but there’s no prompt at the cocoon. Well, as it turns out, Shadow of the Erdtree is its own separate install from the main game, and while buying it unlocks access to it, it doesn’t seem to automatically download the extra data. If you wanna make absolutely sure, on PS5 and Xbox, from the main menu, press Start/Options on the tile for Elden Ring, go to Manage Game, and while Shadow of the Erdtree should be there, it may require a proper download, which will be another 16GB.

Make sure to look out for Miquella’s Crosses

One of the first things you’ll notice when you start out on the Gravesite Plain, aside from one of those wild chakram ninja things kicking your ass, is there’s a new symbol visible on the road, a golden cross with a crescent moon.

It looks kinda like those crosses the people who got Tanged in End of Evangelion turn into. Turns out, that’s kind of an apt comparison too: These are Miquella’s Crosses, and while not all of them have a Site of Grace nearby, the ones that don’t all have a Scadutree Fragment—Shadow of the Erdtree’s new stat-enhancing items. Also, they typically have an NPC who’ll reveal a little more about what exactly is going on in the Realm of Shadow. These are also the folks you’ll be able to summon during the critical path boss fights. Make friends with them, they’re nice. Not by choice, but still.

These markers also serve a nifty passive purpose. Interact with them, and you’ll read the words carved into them by Miquella. The vast majority will just tell you that here, Miquella abandoned his flesh, but the mission-critical areas of the DLC will detail a body part Miquella shed here. A new body part notes you’ve reached the next stage of the story, and this means, unless you’re in a big rush to see the ending, it’s worth going back where you came from to explore more. Why? Because what’s next is definitely about to mess your shit up in a novel way. Speaking of….

Kicking a baddie right in his baddie face.

Screenshot: FromSoftware

The enemies are gonna hit a whole lot harder

If you’ve already beaten Radagon and the Elden Beast at least once, you’re in a good place to tackle the DLC from a sheer skill perspective. In terms of raw numbers, I’d recommend being at around the level 120 mark before jumping in.

For this writer’s part, going into it, my main character was a lvl 157 tank on two legs wearing the Bull-God armor set with a Dragon Towershield. Some of the most dangerous bastards walking the Lands Between have tried to put a dent in me and had all the impact of a spitball. And then I walked into Shadow of the Erdtree and spent the first few hours getting clapped up in two hits by basic enemies.

Sure, being high-leveled is a nice idea, especially since weapons and magic are just as effective as before, but even at high levels, the attack stats on the new enemies wandering the Realm of Shadow scale up accordingly. For quite some time, if you don’t respect their damage output, they will put an end to your journey in a hurry. Even more than the base game, Shadow of the Erdtree is less about how much you can get hit and keep getting back up, but rather avoiding getting hit as much as humanly possible. That means, for tanks, you’re definitely going to want to find a way to knock your Equipment Load down to a point where you keep a medium roll. You’re gonna need it.

Hunt down all the new enhancement items

So, the good news is that even though it’s still gonna kick your ass, Shadow of the Erdtree has its own special enhancement items to jack up your stats throughout your journey. Scadutree Blessings can be found at every single one of Miquella’s crosses, as well as a special drop if you chase down any of the shadowy folks carrying pots on their heads. These specifically boost your attack and defense stats. Meanwhile, Revered Spirit Ash Blessings can be found on statues of Miquella found throughout the Shadow Realm. These power up your Spirit Ashes, though you can’t actually see those numbers nor how much they go up.

Both work much like Golden Seeds, in that you’ll need more and more of them to level up over time. In the early going, it’s worth wandering around the Gravesite Plains areas before Ellac Greatbridge to collect the first few, in order to make earlier major challenges a bit easier on yourself. Oh, and there is one major downside: they’re only effective in the Realm of Shadow. So don’t go thinking you’ll get out of here and one-shot Malenia or something.

I'm pretty sure this character was in the Labyrinth.

Screenshot: FromSoftware

Know what you’re fighting for

There are a few different types of minor Dungeons scattered around Shadow of the Erdtree’s Shadow Realm. If you’ve frequently run into that dilemma of wondering if all the beatdowns you’re about to take will be worth the risk, let’s make it nice and simple:

If it’s a Catacomb, you’re getting a Glovewort by the end (i.e. the items you need to level up Spirit Ashes) and a new Spirit Ash.

Ruined Forges will get you weaponry (and, usually, a bunch of the resources you need to upgrade them).

If it’s a Gaol, you’re getting a Hefty Pot.

Go west, life is slightly less terrifyingly violent there

Near the start of the DLC, you’ll literally come to a crossroads. One direction leads across a massive bridge with a gorgeous view, another leads to an imposing castle guarded by a giant scorpion, and the last leads to a swamp and a diseased village.

Not that we’re telling you what to do, it’s your life, but we strongly suggest taking the road west to Belurat first. For one thing, there’s another Miquella cross in front of it for an easy Scadutree Fragment. For another, there are two other NPCs to meet over there. And third, despite being a fairly lengthy area, it’s actually maybe the “easiest” task to take on in the early going.

The place is loaded with at least one new and useful item for any and every class. The boss, Dancing Lion, is no joke, and may put you in the dirt a few times, but the reward for taking him down is one of the most versatile (if obstructive) pieces of armor in the early game: the Divine Beast Head. At this stage, it all leads to a dead end at the top of the tower, but, when you’re headed back out and east a few levels stronger, you’ll be thankful for the detour.

Wiglett makes a cameo appearance in Elden Ring.

Screenshot: FromSoftware

Look up (and down) more

One of the fascinating things about the Realm of Shadow is that it’s a lot more vertical than much of the Lands Between. Objectives are often further up than you think, the best way out of a sticky situation may be the platform 100 feet under you. Meanwhile, shortcuts into special areas might need you to go spelunking without a parachute.

As such, it’s an extremely good idea, if you haven’t already, to pump a few more points into Dexterity, since it governs your fall damage. Yes, you can do that old trick of stripping off your armor and jumping down, but there are a few of those types of jumps where there’s a group of new, extremely trigger-happy baddies waiting at the bottom. Tread lightly, but not stupidly.

You don’t need to just march right into Shadow Keep

Once you’ve looted the Gravesite Plains area and made it to Scadu Altus, the next big obstacle is the Shadow Keep. It’s a massive, ruined kingdom full of magic, mystery, and, for some reason, giant crabs. It’s actually so massive that it almost functions as its own little contained overworld. Sure, you can walk up to the front door and knock, but there are a couple of side entrances and exits as well, with switches and secrets that unlock other parts of the keep for exploration. And of course a couple of hard-as-nails boss fights in there too. The Scadutree Avatar, in particular, can kiss the blackest part of my ass. A three-phase battle? At that part of the game? In this economy?

Anyway, point being, you’re going to hit a big brutal wall at a few points tackling this place, and it’s worth remembering it’s worth maybe circling around a bit, especially to the west, and finding another way in, or indeed looking around for some new ways to kill some of the high-level baddies roaming around.

Order Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree: Amazon | Best Buy | Humble Bundle

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