Elden Ring's DLC can only be reached from a very specific late game location – 13 years later, is this signature FromSoftware access method still practical?

Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree screenshot
(Image credit: FromSoftware)

The long-awaited and much-anticipated Elden Ring DLC is almost upon us, finally giving us the Miquella expansion we've wanted all along. As you might already know, the first official slice of added content to befall the Lands Between can only be accessed via Mohgwyn Palace, a spot that can be quite tricky to get to – which means if you've beaten the Elden Beast and have ventured into New Game+ (or beyond), you'll need to get yourself back to this very specific late game location between now and June 20, when the DLC arrives. 

Developer FromSoftware is, of course, no stranger to convoluted DLC access routes. The original Dark Souls is likely the worst offender, but Dark Souls 2 and Bloodborne enforce equally strict criteria to gain entry to a stretch of content that costs actual money. Accessing Dark Souls 3's post-release offerings, Ashes of Ariandel and The Ringed City, was far more straightforward in comparison, but with Elden Ring set to return to OG Dark Souls levels of complexity, a valid question is: why?  

Souls searching 

Dark Souls

(Image credit: FromSoftware)

Before we attempt to answer that question, it's probably worth recalling the aforementioned Dark Souls and Bloodborne DLC access routes in more detail. 

In Dark Souls, players are made to travel to early game area Darkroot Basin, reach its lowest level and defeat the three-headed water Hydra. After that, you're required to either quit out and load back in, or leave and return – after which a Golden Crystal Golem appears in one corner of the area. Defeating that frees a once-trapped NPC named Dusk of Oolacile; after which you're then required to visit late game area The Duke's Archives to fight a different, seemingly innocuous Crystal Golem in order to acquire the Broken Pendant. Return to the same place you freed Dusk and you'll find her gone, with a vortex portal-type thing leading to the Abyss in her place. Present the Broken Pendant to the void and you're transported to Oolacile, the setting for Dark Souls' Artorias of the Abyss DLC. 

Pretty exhausting, right? Dark Souls 2 is less complicated in that by purchasing the first of its three DLC portions, you're given a key item, the Dragon's Talon, straight up. The thing is, in order to use it, you're required to visit the game's absolute worst area, The Gulch, descend its poison-flooded base, fight and defeat a boss named The Rotten, and then carry on to the Primal Bonfire where a new portal exists to whisk you off to Shulva, Sanctum City, the setting of the game's Crown of the Sunken King DLC. 

Entry to Dark Souls 3's added content simply involves heading to specific locations and either chatting to specific characters or accessing specific bonfires. Bloodborne, on the other hand, involves defeating Vicar Amelia who, no matter if you're playing in New Game, NG+ or more, is a total bastard. Prevail here and you're required to return to the Hunter's Dream before acquiring The Eye of a Blood-drunk Hunter from a messenger on the floor. You'll then head back to the Cathedral Ward area, nip through to the graveyard on the left, locate a gravestone with a corpse draped over it, hang tight for several seconds, and watch in awe as an ethereal disembodied hands reaches over the fence, clutches you tight, and transports you to the Hunter's Nightmare, where you'll kick off Bloodborne's DLC. 

Against the grain  

Elden Ring Shadow of the Erdtree DLC

(Image credit: FromSoftware)

The Elden Ring Shadow of the Erdtree DLC access point stands at the end of a totally optional area that I missed entirely during my first playthrough. Despite having made it to Miquella's Haligtree and having defeated Malenia (thus being up to speed with Miquella's storyline), I didn't actually make it to Mohgwyn Palace to defeat Mohg, Lord of Blood. The reason for this was pretty simple, because while the path to the Haligtree is well off the beaten track, there's an easily readable order to getting there. Mohgwyn Palace, however, involves either completing White-Faced Varre's questline (also easily missed) or being teleported via a secret Waygate located in a far-flung corner of the Consecrated Snowfield – a massive late game area that can only be accessed after finding both halves of the Hildtree Secret Medallion. 

So now that the history lesson is out of the way, why do we reckon FromSoftware appears so keen, for the most part, to push these convoluted pathways to their DLC? For my money, it's a mysticism thing. As far back as Demon's Souls (which didn't receive added content at all), FromSoftware has gone against the grain. Its games are renowned for being more punishing than pretty much every other action RPG in the genre. They're unrelenting and stick rigidly to a formula that's steadily won over more and more players, over the course of a 15-year period. 

George R.R. Martin's involvement will have undoubtedly played a part in Elden Ring's unprecedented success at launch, but the fact that Elden Ring is Dark Souls 4 in all but name remains, again fitting the same tried and tested template FromSoftware has continually refined with each passing project. The difficulty has endured. The combat mechanics have endured. The massive bosses and sprawling landscapes have endured. The intricate routes to access DLC have endured.  

Of course, the fact that we pay good money for these DLC packs makes analyzing FromSoftware's motives, for me at least, slightly more complicated. I love the fact that the studio has interminably stuck to its guns, but likewise could totally understand if someone felt aggrieved for having paid $40 (£35) for Shadow of the Erdtree, only to learn they're required to retread old ground for hours simply to access the thing they've just purchased. I think things become even less clear on the devs' end when you consider the fact Dark Souls 3 basically lets you stroll into both portions of its DLC, assuming you'd finished the base game. 

All of which, I guess, is a long-winded way of saying: I don't have an answer here. I like that Dark Souls games, Bloodborne and Elden Ring make us work for everything, including access to their DLC added content. I reckon Miquella's story is the only one in Elden Ring that needed to be told, and so accessing it by reaching Miquella himself makes sense – with Malenia's twin now residing inside a cocoon at the back of the Mohg boss fight arena. But equally, given how freely Elden Ring allows for fast travel and teleportation between zones, maybe offering players access to Mohgwyn Palace from the off is the best of both worlds. In any event, those who want to enjoy Shadow of the Erdtree come June will either need to get on board with this or not. And if sales figures of the base game are anything to go by, not to mention the omnipresent hype around the ARPG's next steps, then I'm pretty certain the majority will choose the former. I know I will, even if I moan about the journey along the way. 

I've fallen in love with Elden Ring's absolute worst area – just like I did with Dark Souls and Bloodborne.

Joe Donnelly
Features Editor, GamesRadar+

Joe is a Features Editor at GamesRadar+. With over seven years of experience working in specialist print and online journalism, Joe has written for a number of gaming, sport and entertainment publications including PC Gamer, Edge, Play and FourFourTwo. He is well-versed in all things Grand Theft Auto and spends much of his spare time swapping real-world Glasgow for GTA Online’s Los Santos. Joe is also a mental health advocate and has written a book about video games, mental health and their complex intersections. He is a regular expert contributor on both subjects for BBC radio. Many moons ago, he was a fully-qualified plumber which basically makes him Super Mario.