Alden Ring: Shadow of the Aired Tree Review – A loud exclamation point

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    Following Alden Ring is a huge task. It’s one of my favorite games of all time, and the base adventure doesn’t lack for content, intrigue or surprises. Shadow of the Erdtree doesn’t detract from the base campaign, but rather expands upon it, adding a fun and exciting new zone to the Realm of Shadows. With fun new dungeons, a challenging fresh slate of bosses, and a great new look for progression, Shadow of the Erudy Tree gives fans of Alden Ring more than anything that worked in the main game and once again many of its It’s a wonderful excuse to take risks.

    Software expansions are notorious for being unusually more difficult than the base game. Shade of Erdtree is difficult overall, but the degree to which will of course vary based on the character you’re bringing into it. Since defeating Radahn and Mohg is the only prerequisite for starting the expansion, and since Shadow of the Erudite must be owned in the base game, players are likely using late game or new game + characters. For context, I started the expansion using my endgame (level 165), a playthrough character who proved more than willing to take on new threats – at least for a while.

    Because of these conditions, your character likely needs a lot of runs to level up. The software clearly took this into consideration and introduced smart new progression items called Scadutree Fragments and Reverned Ash Fragments. Scattered across the map, spending these items on outposts improves overall damage output and resistance: Scadutree for yourself and Reverned Ash for your Spirit Ashes (although this only has an effect in expansion). It’s a nice, smooth way to build up your character, and I like not having to rely solely on grinding to collect tens of thousands of runes just to level up once. It’s also great for boosting maxed-out Spirit Ashes, allowing me to roll with my favorite(s) when they peak in the base game. These pieces won’t suddenly turn your tainted into an unstoppable spell, but it’s a noticeable, if small, difference that doesn’t throw off the game’s balance.

    Without being too specific, Shadow of the Eredtree also goes out of its way to provide an extra smithing stone to upgrade a plethora of new weapon expansions (that you can use in the base game). This makes a strong argument for retiring old favorites in favor of trying something new. In the early hours, I stubbornly stuck to the loadouts that got me through the main game. Eventually, I discovered countless cool and powerful weapons, armor sets, spells, enchantments, and charms that eventually led me to create new, powerful loadouts. Shadow of the Erudttree inspires the experience just as much as the main game, if not more so, thanks to its roster of intimidating, weird, and, in some cases, downright weird new enemies.

    Needless to say, Shadow of the Erdtree is no walk in the park. An awesome new class of armored opponents that would probably be considered mini-bosses in the base game now roam the map as normal enemy types. They are tough enough that I was surprised to see them respawn after spending a lot of time and effort defeating them once. The basket-like fire giants roaming around the map will also be wearing insignias because of how obscenely powerful and strong they are in “mess and explore”. Creative new boss encounters offer fresh – and infuriating – challenges that had me screaming in agony in defeat and jumping for joy in victory. I won’t spoil any of them, but certain enemies can challenge Milnia on difficulty. They’re all fun to knock down, and, like in the main game, the sting of a defeat can often be remedied by simply moving it to another location.

    The Shadow Realm may be smaller overall, but it’s still huge and sports several postcard-worthy locations, many of which are hard to get to. Don’t be surprised to go dozens of hours before the map is de-fogged because of how well the software uses the circle of shadow vertices to hide important paths and hole layers. I appreciate how this layered cake approach to world design makes exploring the Realm of Shadows feel completely different from roaming the Midlands. Trekking up or down is usually the answer to most navigational problems, with the former often offering beautiful views of the landscape and the latter taking players through underground passages to hidden ruins, villages, and more. show Despite the increasing challenge of figuring out where to go next, the thrill of discovery remains a powerful motivator after 40-plus hours of play, and my curiosity usually leads to a cool place, a useful object, or a was blessed with a terrible enemy.

    New dungeons, including repeatable ones like the Smelting Forges and Underground Gallows, beg to be thoroughly explored thanks to some clever and sinister secrets, offering more excellent examples of From’s exceptional level design. While mind-boggling discoveries like the underground cities in the main game are hard to beat, a few points of interest gave me pause to appreciate them and have a unique visual identity. Meeting the strange and believable faces that occupy these areas is its own treat. Even if you don’t quite understand (or don’t care) what’s going on with Mikaela and her followers, enlist the help of characters like a shadowy mage or strange benevolent Bug Warriors. Engage with extended head tilts but contribute to attractive attention.

    A boring but ultimately accurate shorthand to sum up Shadow of the Erdtree is that it’s more of an Alden ring. The incredible sense of discovery, stunning dungeon design, entertaining deep combat, and fascinating lore and characters defined by Software’s 2022 masterpiece all apply to this expansion. The software didn’t drop the ball and Alden didn’t make the ring any worse, nor do I believe it fully topped what it had achieved before. Shadow of the Aired Tree retains a heavenly quality, even if it loses a bit of magic this time around by being a known quantity rather than a complete surprise. Still, Shadow of the Aired Tree is one hell of a mic drop that cements this adventure as one of the best ever created.

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