It’s time to return to Elden Ring

Elden Ring developer FromSoftware recently announced details on the game’s highly anticipated expansion, Shadow of the Erdtree. This meaty new addition to the role-playing game’s already massive open world will arrive this June, letting players visit an unexplored region known as the Land of Shadow. Like FromSoftware’s past expansions, expect challenging new bosses to battle and powerful new weapons and abilities to wield.

June is a long way away, though, especially when viewed from the perspective of waiting for new Elden Ring content. But in terms of getting your Tarnished ready and reorienting yourself in the world, there’s no time like the present to revisit the base game. Take a hint from the tens of thousands of players, according to Steam Charts, who have returned to the game over the past month: It’s high time to return to the Lands Between.

I jumped back into the game just a few days after February’s announcement of Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree for a few reasons:

  • I needed to write a guide about how to access Shadow of the Erdtree’s content, which can only be accessed by progressing at least a few hours into the game and beating a demigod-class boss;
  • On a lark, I had recently revisited another FromSoft game, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, and realized I had completely lost any muscle memory I’d acquired by beating that game multiple times;
  • I had recently spoken with a friend who attempted to revisit Cyberpunk 2077 after a yearslong pause between that game’s troubled launch and the release of the Phantom Liberty expansion. He found it disorienting to try to jump into a heavily modified game after extended away time.

Returning to Elden Ring and starting with a new character helped me remember a few things. The early hours of the game can be grueling, even if Limgrave, the first area, is enjoyable to explore on the back of your steed, Torrent. Battling tough enemies like the Tree Sentinel and Margit, the Fell Omen were especially punishing at low levels with the lousy equipment of my new character. I needed to, once again, get good.

A screenshot of Ranni the Witch in front of a moon from the game Elden Ring Image: FromSoftware/Bandai Namco

The best reason for returning to an old game like Elden Ring is rediscovering — and in some cases, discovering for the first time — its many layers and secrets. During this new playthrough, I found a Crystal Tear I hadn’t encountered in my previous 200 hours with the game. What’s more, I had barely paid attention to Elden Ring lore as I hurriedly played through the game initially for review. This time, I actually listened to the dialogue dispensed by Melina, Ranni the Witch, and others, so I could be better prepared for whatever story beats await in Shadow of the Erdtree. I’m now going slowly, poring over item descriptions and digesting lore videos in an attempt to make sense of Elden Ring’s opaque storytelling.

Starting from scratch with a new character may benefit me in another way: I won’t be starting Shadow of the Erdtree at a new game plus (plus plus plus) level of difficulty — if that even matters. Game director Hidetaka Miyazaki says that Shadow of the Erdtree will have “an element of leveling unique to the DLC,” which may make my concern moot, but I don’t want to approach the expansion either over- or under-leveled. In an interview with Famitsu, Miyazaki likened the new leveling element to the attack power system in Sekiro.

“Separate from the original level system there is an ‘attack power’ that is only enabled in the DLC areas,” Miyazaki said in comments translated from Japanese. “This was introduced in order to give freedom to meet the threats mentioned earlier, so you can do something like exploring other areas before going back to challenge bosses that were too strong the first time, allowing you to more easily experience this even in the high-level range.”

Whatever that new leveling system turns out to be, I’d like to be prepared. Whether that’s with one of my advanced high-level characters or my brand-new one, I’m happy to have multiple options. I’ll be ready and waiting, within arm’s reach of Miquella’s gross egg sac, for my first steps into the Land of Shadow.