If you only try one of Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree's new weapons, make it Dryleaf Arts

A monk jumping
(Image credit: FromSoftware)

Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree's armoury is vast, doling out a slew of exotic weapons with every trip into the unknown. Gloves that spit out daggers, perfume bottles that set enemies on fire, shields designed for murder, and so many massive swords—in my playthrough, though, they've all been playing second fiddle to a fighting style that eschews weapons entirely. 

Dryleaf Arts falls under the fist weapons category, but it's actually a fighting technique rather than a new piece of gear. When equipped, you're entirely unarmed, relying exclusively on your hands and feet. But this technique turns your humble appendages into killing machines. 

(Image credit: FromSoftware)

After spending most of my time in Elden Ring wielding apocalyptic spells or massive, boss-felling swords like the Blasphemous Blade and Nagakiba, jumping into throngs of enemies without my arsenal was pretty terrifying. Busting out a flurry of poise-breaking punches before circling around to rip out a monster's heart, though? That's exhilarating. 

I've played around with lots of different weapons in the Land of Shadow, but I keep coming back to this one—even though the builds I've made with it can't compete with Elden Ring's most OP god-killers. It just complements the DLC so well. When you start Shadow of the Erdtree, you're probably going to be pretty tough. Dryleaf Arts forces you to get right up in your foes' faces, though, where the only thing preventing your death is a well-timed dodge. It gives you back this sense of vulnerability. It also encourages relentless aggression, where you unleash a constant barrage of blows. This fits right in with Erdtree, which seems to reward an agile, aggressive playstyle just a bit more than vanilla Elden Ring. 

There's also something brilliantly satisfying about taking on massive armoured giants with no weapons at all. And this is even more true when you enter combat with a flying, spinning kick that staggers a beastie the size of a building, potentially allowing you to take them out before they get even a single attack in. It's even more fun using the kick with big groups of enemies—you just leap into the middle of the scrum and wipe them out before they even know what's going on. It strikes a perfect balance between making you feel empowered and vulnerable. 

Daft monk

(Image credit: FromSoftware)

Dryleaf Arts is also very flexible, since you can swap out its Ash of War and choose a new affinity. I didn't vibe with the Palm Blast Ash it comes with, but that's not a big deal given how many different options you have available to you. I've really enjoyed using Bloodhound Step with the Keen affinity. It's definitely one of the more straightforward choices, but it's also effective and in keeping with the martial arts theme. 

With Bloodhound Step, you can stop burning through stamina with your dodges, and the low FP cost means you can use it throughout a boss fight without needing to take a swig of your flask. So there's nothing stopping you from continually harassing the enemy, slapping, punching and kicking your way to victory—aside from when you're using the Ash of War to dash out of the way of a killer enemy attack. 

You can make a serviceable bleed build, too, thanks to its rapid attacks. I've focused on dexterity builds, but it also scales with strength, so you can fashion yourself a bit of a bruiser if you fancy. Cold's another nice pairing—by slowing enemies down, you can take even more advantage of the technique's inherent speed. I'm quite partial to the Divine Beast's Frost Stomp Ash of War because it also gives me a bit of range, which is normally sorely lacking. And for NG+, make sure to throw Millicent's Prosthesis and the Rotten Winged Sword insignia into the mix—they really make Dryleaf Arts shine. 

(Image credit: FromSoftware)

It won't be long before properly deadly builds start appearing, but the potential for slaughter isn't what keeps me coming back to Dryleaf Arts. It's just really, really fun. Even if you've messed around with other fist weapons, this doesn't feel like any other Elden Ring weapon. So there's a big novelty factor at play. And while it might not be as fancy or weird as other weapons, the elegant simplicity of the technique actually makes it rise above the more exotic gear you'll be gathering on your adventure. I'm reminded of Sekiro in the way it favours skill and timing over cheesy tricks—which also explains why I'm dying so often. Just try to fight a sky-blotting dragon with only your fists—it's an experience. 

So, yeah, if you only try one new weapon, make it this one. But you should try them all. Shadow of the Erdtree offers up a bounty of riches—possibly my favourite selection of weapons in any FromSoftware game. I guess you'd better start gathering up a lot of larval tears. And while you're getting started in the DLC, make sure to check out our Shadow of the Erdtree tips

Fraser Brown
Online Editor

Fraser is the UK online editor and has actually met The Internet in person. With over a decade of experience, he's been around the block a few times, serving as a freelancer, news editor and prolific reviewer. Strategy games have been a 30-year-long obsession, from tiny RTSs to sprawling political sims, and he never turns down the chance to rave about Total War or Crusader Kings. He's also been known to set up shop in the latest MMO and likes to wind down with an endlessly deep, systemic RPG. These days, when he's not editing, he can usually be found writing features that are 1,000 words too long or talking about his dog.