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Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree Is Bringing Back the Souls Series Biggest Tradition

Get ready for pain.

Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree
Bandai Namco

Dark Souls is a series that has redefined what video games can be, with dozens of developers following FromSoftware’s landmark example and trying to put their own spin on the Souls-like genre. Of course, Elden Ring proved that no one can design these games like its original creators, and now the Shadow of the Erdtree expansion, finally revealed in a massive trailer, looks primed to do that again. There are some wild-looking new enemies and weapons, including an automatic crossbow, but it also looks like the expansion is bringing back the longest-standing Souls game tradition, one that will likely cause players untold amounts of pain and suffering.

If you haven’t guessed already, I’m talking about the infamous poison swamps that have caused hundreds of hours of frustration. In an interview with Eurogamer, Elden Ring director Hidetaka Miyazaki confirmed Shadow of the Erdtree will include a brand new poison swamp. These areas live in infamy because of the sharp difficulty spike that often accompanies them: not only do you have to contend with increasingly more difficult enemies, but moving through pools of poison that sap your health and force you to use crucial items.

“In a word, yes," he says of the likelihood of a Swamp being included in the expansion. "But this was actually a point of introspection for me after creating the base game. It was only after creating it that I realised I really like to create poisoned swamps,” Miyazaki says, “And this was a little place of introspection and reflection for me. So maybe, when players reach the poisoned swamp in the DLC, they will feel a little bit of this retrospection."

Blighttown is the most infamous Poison Swamp in a Souls game, as the original release of Dark Souls was painfully difficult but also filled with frame rate and technical issues.

Bandai Namco

That’s genuinely a hilarious thing for Miyazaki to say because it confirms what people have thought about the legendary designer for years: he delights in torturing players. For years, players have talked about how Souls games almost feel sadistic in the way they put gamers through the wringer, always upping the ante from one ridiculous boss fight or surprise boulder trap to the next. To be clear, though, that’s not a bad thing, as a huge part of what has given the series such notoriety is an intense difficulty that feels so satisfying to overcome.

From what Miyazaki says, the creator seems to be reflecting a bit on his ideas around game design and how he likes to both challenge players and design worlds. Every single Souls-like game developed by FromSoftware, even Sekiro, has featured a Poison Swamp, and they’re often big events that intentionally break up the rhythm you’ve gotten into forcing you to adapt new tactics to battles and traversal.

Elden Ring already featured an area sort of like a Poison Swamp with the Lake of Rot, which had water that would build up the Scarlet Rot status effect. But this area was smaller in scope than the likes of Blighttown in Dark Souls, and the status effect doesn’t work quite the same way as poison. The new area being made for Shadow of the Erdtree very much sounds like the typical Poison Swamp we’re used to seeing. It’s exciting to see the tradition come back, and see how it might be integrated with Elden Ring’s thoughtful design, especially when given some of Miyazaki’s other comments in the interview.

Elden Ring’s Lake of Rot is similar to a Poison Swamp, but feels a bit smaller in scope.

Bandai Namco

"This time, we wanted to go more in depth and bring a denser and richer level design, which brings these types of layout together a little more seamlessly. There of course will be large open areas, there of course will be legacy dungeons, but we've also experimented with something a little more in-between these as well to bring a more diverse gameplay experience,” Miyazaki says.

Elden Ring did such a phenomenal job of integrating the Souls-like formula into a more open world exploration-focused experience, and it certainly sounds like that’s being doubled down on for Shadow of the Erdtree. That means this might be the most intense version of the Poison Swamp we’ve seen yet, so prepare yourself.

Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree launches on June 21 for PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and PC.

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