Shadow Of The Erdtree Already Sounds Like It’ll Have The Best FromSoftware Level Design So Far

Elden Ring's level design is changing for the better in Shadow of the Erdtree.

Story Highlights

  • Miyazaki has mentioned the level design for Elden Ring’s DLC will be a bit different.
  • Legacy Dungeons and open-world areas will be more seamlessly interlinked.
  • This can pave the way for interesting gameplay opportunities and exciting encounters. 

Shadow of the Erdtree has generated a lot of hype ever since the first preview trailer was released. While there were tons of things to look forward to in it, one element got my attention the most. This was the level design that might be featured in Elden Ring’s upcoming DLC. While the trailer by itself wasn’t enough to tell fans a lot, the subsequent interviews Miyazaki did with some publications shed a lot more light on it.

It already sounds like Shadow of the Erdtree might be changing Elden Ring’s level design for the better. Miyazaki has mentioned that zones in the DLC be interlinked with one another, allowing the open-world areas of the game to merge seamlessly with the more linear “Legacy Dungeons.” This is just one of the several reasons why I think Shadow of the Erdtree’s level design will be amazing. Here are some others.

The Overall Flow Will Be Better

Elden Ring’s open-world areas, despite being interesting, definitely felt like they got tiresome by the time you reached Altus Plateau. There is a lot to see and do in these areas, but for fans of the original Souls level design, these weren’t exactly the highlights of Elden Ring. Most people seem to agree that the Legacy Dungeons is where the best of FromSoftware’s level design can be found.

One of the new areas players will be visiting in Shadow of the Erdtree.
One of the new areas players will be visiting in Shadow of the Erdtree.

The problem is that most of Elden Ring’s gameplay takes place in sandbox-like open zones. While it’s up to players to decide just how much they want to explore, for fans who like to explore every nook and cranny, it can all feel a bit overwhelming. It doesn’t help that the segmentation between where the open-world areas end, and Legacy Dungeons start is pretty obvious in most cases.

Miyazaki has stated that with Shadow of the Erdtree, the line dividing these two things will be much less clear. While there will still be the classic Legacy Dungeon and new open-world zones, they will be more effectively mixed. From the way he mentioned it, it really sounds like we’ll get something closer to the original Dark Souls 1’s level design, which featured a ton of interconnectivity between areas.

This should help to make the overall flow of the game feel a lot better, with none of the open-world areas feeling like they are just way too big compared to the Legacy Dungeons.

The Exploration Will Feel More Directed

One of the compromises that I’m sure FromSoftware had to come to terms with when designing Elden Ring was that you can’t really control how players choose to explore the game. Once you step foot in Limgrave, the entirety of the Lands Between is open to you, or most of it at least. FromSoftware really can’t force players to go to one area over the other.

The DLC might feature more directed encounters.
The DLC might feature more directed encounters.

And while this is a good thing when it comes to player agency and choice, it’s not always the best option. That’s because having a more linear approach to exploration allowed FromSoftware to add in more directed encounters that can be planned for. If the developers know that players will be going through the zones in a set order, they can design fights, ambushes, and engagements with that pattern in mind.

I think it can pave the way for encounters feeling similar to how they did in the Souls games, rather than in Elden Ring’s open areas, where you had large clumps of enemies seemingly standing in groups, waiting to be fought. While this worked for the base game, I think a repetition of the same formula might not be as well-received in the DLC. 

The Devs Can Also Now Experiment More With Smaller Dungeons

I’m also excited to see how this new level design will incorporate things like caves, mines, and catacombs. In much of the base game, these areas feel quite repetitive after a while. While the layouts might differ, you still know that at the end of every cave, you find a single boss, and are teleported right back to the start. By having smaller dungeons mixed in with Legacy Dungeons, FromSoftware could allow for unique passageways and secrets.

Catacombs in Elden Ring.
Catacombs in Elden Ring.

Imagine if in a Legacy Dungeon, there is a cave or catacomb, that serves as a shortcut to a boss. Or maybe even a gauntlet that can be cleared to fight a secret boss. On the other hand, a seemingly abandoned mine in the open world could be the entrance to one of the Legacy Dungeons, and it’s only by clearing the mine that you get access to it.

There are tons of possibilities for interesting and intriguing level design opportunities thanks to FromSoftware’s new approach. And I for one can’t wait to see how they will surprise fans with whatever they have got cooking for us once the DLC drops.

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Danish is an opinion piece writer at eXputer who loves sharing his takes on the industry. He is a long-time PC gamer with a passion for delving into the discussion and discourse surrounding the titles that he plays. Often eager to jump right into the fold and formulate his take on the latest topics, his noteworthy presence on gaming forums, and keen insight help him understand the gaming community in a thorough manner. This helps him provide a more nuanced look into any topic or discussion.

Writes Opinion Pieces at eXputer || Education: Bachelors in Mass Communication.

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