How Elden Ring Shadow Of The Erdtree’s new levelling system makes life easier for newcomers… or harder for veterans

Yes, I’ve played a portion of Elden Ring’s expansion Shadow Of The Erdtree and I think it’s brilliant. But there’s one thing I didn’t flesh out in the preview and that’s the DLC’s standalone levelling system, brought to our attention a month or so ago. Well, here I am to flesh it out! Be warned, though, the role of the system is a jarring thing to condense into words.

For context, I spent around three hours with Shadow Of The Erdtree’s opening area, the Gravesite Plains. So my thoughts on the levelling system aren’t set in stone, nor are they definitive just yet. That’ll have to wait until I get my hands on the entire thing.

Essentially, though, the standalone levelling system revolves around three things: Crosses, Scadutree Fragments, and Revered Ash Blessings.

Crosses are scattered around The Land Of Shadow and look like brilliant, golden shafts of light. Various NPCs you’ll talk to early on mention that they’re the “footsteps of Miquella” and that you’ll want to follow them. One maggot-faced individual eventually hands you a map – inspectable in your inventory – and asks you to track down as many as you can find within the Gravesite Plains. Presumably if you do, you get a reward? Either way, it cements one of their purposes as a pseudo-Site-of-Grace, guiding you to new areas in the DLC. Crosses are distinct from Graces, mind you: you can’t interact with them in the same way.

Belurat, a tower settlement from Elden Ring Shadow Of The Erdtree.
Image credit: Bandai Namco

Crosses are also where you’ll often find Scadutree Fragments, which are the new levelling system’s key resource. Acting in a similar way to flask shards or Golden Seeds from the base game, you have a choice whether to cash in Scadutree Fragments when you rest at Graces. Do so and you’ll receive a flat buff to your stats, but ONLY in the DLC areas. The moment you leave the Land Of Shadow, you’ll lose the buff.

As for Revered Ash Blessings, they act in much the same way as Scadutree Fragments, but grant your summonable pals flat buffs. Again – only in the DLC areas. I can’t quite remember how I found these Ash Blessings, but I sort of recall getting one after beating a tough miniboss or as rare, super glinty loot in hard-to-reach areas.

I’ve been umming and ahhing over what exactly FromSoft’s going for with these Scadutree Fragments. Based on my small slice of the DLC, I see the buffs they offer as a necessary way to grow stronger for most players, or to offset characters who’ve entered the DLC a little underlevelled (players who may not have done all the optional stuff in the base game, say).

But making your redemption of the Ashes and Fragments optional also opens the door for masochists who want a tougher challenge without the buffs. Again, it’s hard to know just how much harder it’ll be without them, but I’ll suppose we’ll find that out soon enough when the expansion launches on June 21st.

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