Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree has the coolest arsenal FromSoftware's ever made, but I think I picked wrong my first time through

Double headed wizard man holding arms up looking sad
(Image credit: FromSoftware)

In the lead-up to Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree, FromSoftware talked a big game about the expansion's weapons, with Hidetaka Miyazaki saying the arsenal was "a selling point" for the DLC. And you know what? He was absolutely right, but somehow I hitched my horse to the wrong wagon on my first playthrough.

For some background, on my main guy, the first character I made and then beat Elden Ring with, I was always going for a Sekiro kind of vibe: katanas, shinobi/assassin chic for my fashion souls, you get it. I had the most weird and nerdy of all possible anxieties going into Shadow of the Erdtree: "What if none of the new stuff matches the role-playing theme I'm going for?"

Star-Lined Chore

ELDEN RING DLC Weapons: Star-Lined Sword KATANA Moveset - YouTube ELDEN RING DLC Weapons: Star-Lined Sword KATANA Moveset - YouTube
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The Star-Lined Sword seemed to be the answer: this katana is used by the boss, Demi Human Swordmaster Onze, and his companion spirit ash, Demi Human Swordsman Yosh. It has sick lore, a gorgeous and unique weapon model, one of the coolest looking weapon arts FromSoft has ever made, and, most importantly, it fit my guy.

I still think it's the best katana in the DLC, but that's just because there isn't much competition in the category: Great Katanas are another thing entirely, and the only other vanilla katana, the Sword of Night, feels more like a PvP weapon with its shield-piercing damage and limited stat scaling, but I found it lacking in PvE.

Shadow of the Erdtree guides

Elden Ring Shadow of the Erdtree trailer screencap of a red haired character holding fire in their hand

(Image credit: Bandai Namco)

Erdtree map fragments: Uncover the Land of Shadow
Scadutree fragments: How to level up in Erdtree
Erdtree bosses: A full hit list for the DLC
Leda quest: Track the Erdtree main quest
Ansbach quest: Help the former servant of Mohg
Hornsent quest: Complete the quest for vengeance

I think the reason I'm so fixated on the Star-Lined Sword is that it's so cool, so close to being an unambiguous winner, it feels tragic that it isn't a better weapon. Its combo moveset feels amazing, a sequence of acrobatic slashes with the glowing blue sword, a seemingly cursed weapon that led the monkey sword fighters Onze and Yosh to ruin and madness with its promise of some kind of celestial perfection of blade mastery⁠—that's rad as hell!

But in practice, it's just ok. The scaling and damage are merely fine, while that distinctive ash of war is useful against groups of enemies and miniboss-tier foes like the new Black Knights. But as PCG Australia editor Shaun Prescott wrote recently, Shadow of the Erdtree's difficulty is heavily weighted toward the bosses and away from what's in-between

Pretty much any character will have an easy go of it in the expansion's levels and open world, while these brutal boss encounters are where you need your build to shine. PCG staff writer Harvey Randall was on to something when he pointed out that these challenging bosses make it hard to play a sub-optimal, but maybe more fun or role play-centric character.

Against Erdtree's toughest customers, you can forget about landing anything other than the first portion of the Star-Lined Sword's combo, and those two dinky swings just don't do enough to recommend them over your other options for dealing damage. Even with a boosty from the ash of war-buffing Shard of Alexander, the first portion of Onze's Line of Stars is roundly outclassed by moves that require less commitment like jump attacks or the Deflecting Hard Tear's Sekiro counters

That's not to mention other, far more powerful ashes of war on other weapons: I weep real tears seeing how everybody else chunks boss health bars with the Blasphemous Blade, the base game's stinky Faith greatsword that's covered in worms, while I had to respec my guy to use the far more optimal Rivers of Blood to bring it home against Erdtree's final boss.

(Image credit: FromSoftware)

Shadow of the Erdtree's first balance patch came and went with no salvation for my wimpy-yet-beloved monkey man sword, but I still have the faint hope that FromSoft might show it some love. Adding more damage and stagger build up to the first two strikes⁠—at least in PvE⁠—would go a long way toward making the Star-Lined Sword a worthwhile option against bosses.

I've also got a notion that swapping its bleed stat for frostbite (or just having both) would be a perfect move: Absent Arcane damage scaling on a weapon, you're stuck with some pretty lackluster bleed build up, while frostbite scales with a weapon's enhancement level. Moreover, it'd just fit the Star-Lined Sword: Onze inflicts frostbite against you with the blade in his bossfight.

He also has a nasty frostbite blade explosion move that'd be nice to have, but I know when I'm pushing it.


(Image credit: FromSoftware)

But that's just the poison of hope I've infected myself with, and since FromSoft didn't touch the Star-Lined Sword in its first balance patch, the outlook is not great, while the rest of Shadow of the Erdtree's arsenal has lured me away with its siren song. I'd written off the new Backhand Blades at first, finding their default Blind Spot ash of war lacking⁠—apparently it's good in PvP⁠—but their basic moveset is great, while the Swift Slash ash of war you can get for them later is absolutely killer, a fast-firing, versatile dash attack that ends with a Waterfowl Dance blade explosion.

While recently nerfed in PvP, if it isn't clear already, I don't really care about PvP. In PvE, Swift Slash remains an absolute monster I can see being viable with the expansion's limited windows to attack bosses. Most crucial of all, both the weapon and art fit the bill for my main guy's ninja theme, and I might be taking those bad boys into new game plus on that character.

(Image credit: FromSoftware)

The Milady light greatsword, meanwhile, has found a home on the character I've been replaying Shadow of the Erdtree with. The "en garde, my liege" flowing duelist moveset really belies what a boring name "light greatsword" is, and the Wing Stance ash of war completes the package with alarmingly good damage and stagger build up on both its light and strong attacks. After 50 hours of trying to make Onze's Line of Stars work, these unambiguously strong weapons felt like a revelation: "Oh, the game can be this easy?"

Later down the line I've got a martial arts character with PCG online editor Fraser Brown's favored Dryleaf Arts ready to go, while I've got a fourth character at an early portion of Elden Ring's base game who I'd like to build into Rellana's Twin Blades⁠—but only after a much needed Elden break.

I haven't lived a charmed enough life that running Star-Lined Sword on my first Shadow of the Erdtree character is even close to a notable regret, but I still kinda wish I could send a little message back to myself a few weeks ago saying "hey, dummy, use the Backhand Blades instead." It's a weird, minor gripe in the face of some of the best work FromSoftware has ever done, but compared to that excellence, slight imperfections stand out all the more.

Associate Editor

Ted has been thinking about PC games and bothering anyone who would listen with his thoughts on them ever since he booted up his sister's copy of Neverwinter Nights on the family computer. He is obsessed with all things CRPG and CRPG-adjacent, but has also covered esports, modding, and rare game collecting. When he's not playing or writing about games, you can find Ted lifting weights on his back porch.