Chris Zombik


I am a big fan of the 2022 video game Elden Ring. In addition to having beaten the game pretty comprehensively before, I have watched easily 500 hours of gameplay videos on YouTube (mostly speed runs and challenge runs). This game is an obsession so central to my life that I have not fully reckoned with its impact on me. Nothing but D&D has ever been so squarely in the aesthetic, mechanical, and media-community sweet spot for my brain.

So anyway last week a big Elden Ring DLC came out and I have played for around 10 hours. While I’m not remotely close to done with it, I’ve formed some clear impressions and want to record them here.

The Good

The Bad

The Verdict

Without question, Shadow of the Erdtree is more Elden Ring. If you liked Elden Ring, you will like this DLC, too. Just be forewarned that it doesn’t really hit its stride until you get a couple hours deep.


The DLC experience has caused me to reflect on why exactly this game is so attractive to me. I did not totally click with Dark Souls III (to which you could reasonably consider Elden Ring a successor), nor have I sought out any other of the “Souls-like” games that are cropping up everywhere nowadays. There is something unique in the Elden Ring formula—the ambitious scope, the striking art, the crisp gameplay, the clear fingerprints of George R. R. Martin in its nigh-inscrutable and absolutely buck-wild lore—that makes it feel like more than a video game. Elden Ring is not just a computer program. It is an artwork, a game the playing of which elucidates something about what a video game is and how one gets made. As a writer, DM, and gamer myself, I find it endlessly engrossing and stimulating. I don’t just pour energy into it and leave burned out and empty handed. Like the best shows and movies and novels, I come away feeling somehow more awake and alive to what creative arts—and thus humanity—can achieve.