I know what you might be thinking: "There's a new Elden Ring DLC out? What is Road to the Erdtree?" No, we've still got an undetermined amount of time before we can play some new Elden Ring content, but at the very least, you can enjoy what might just be the most ridiculous manga I've read.
This isn't the first FromSoftware manga adaptation. There's a Sekiro prequel published by Yen Press you can check out for yourself -- but it takes a totally different approach tonally. Elden Ring: The Road to the Erdtree, Volume 1 is a gag manga. What's that mean? It means, this story does not take itself seriously at all and makes you bust a gut in the funny sense, not the punishing sense as Elden Ring so often loves to do.
Elden Ring: The Road to the Erdtree, Volume 1 Is Completely Self-Aware
If you spent any amount of time playing Elden Ring, this first volume will be immensely relatable. Despite being an incredible non-serious take on the game, I found myself experiencing the same thoughts and moments that make The Road to the Erdtree so fun. The main character in The Road to the Erdtree is a tarnished named Aseo. He's been "chosen" by everyone's favorite spectral steed, Torrent. Melina, the Finger Maiden that accompanies players throughout the course of Elden Ring proper, plays a dominant role in this volume as well, though she is much more reluctant to accept Aseo as her Tarnished.
As it turns out, Aseo is an absolute fool. There are several jokes throughout that poke fun at the fact that he has little investment in intelligence stats, so Melina is always pushing to spend his precious runes on intelligence. Melina absolutely hates Aseo, and it's hard not to see why -- in addition to being an absolute dimwit, he's half-naked, wearing only the loincloth given to players that choose the appropriately named Wretch class.
Though Melina isn't afraid to, at times, verbally abuse Aseo for his utter stupidity, he is an endearing and relatable guy. I won't lie, when I played Elden Ring for the first time, I charged after that first Tree Sentinel players encounter and got absolutely destroyed. Aseo, fool that he is, thinks he can take on the Tree Sentinel as well and it ends about as you'd expect. Just before taking on this fearsome foe, he meets White Mask Varre. You know, the mysterious fellow that calls you "Maidenless?" Well, the same deal happens here, and the way the conversation proceeds is not totally unlike my thought process when first meeting Varre for myself.
As you can probably tell, you'll get to see plenty of recognizable characters in Road to the Erdtree, Volume 1. Melina, of course, but also characters like Ranni the Witch, Blaidd, Godrick the Grafted, and more. For the most part, these characters are highly exaggerated and satirical spins on their usual personality. Blaidd, for example, is a wolf man that quite literally acts like a dog. He's a bit more airheaded than his in-game counterpart and loves to chase after objects like any dog would. As Ranni's bodyguard, he is a loyal individual but takes it to a whole different level.
What would any Elden Ring gag manga be without Patches? Already he acts as the comic relief character in FromSoftware games, and so you can expect plenty of shenanigans with this roguish individual. Aseo, thinking himself completely useless, tries to join Patches's gang to get by. Even being a criminal is a tough job for Aseo, so some hilarity ensues as Aseo contends with Patches -- and even falls for some tricks players of Elden Ring will be very familiar with.
Writing aside, the art in The Road to the Erdtree is a feast for the eyes. Characters are richly detailed and backgrounds and familiar locale are faithfully reproduced in a drawn form -- though I suspect some screenshots from the game were taken and given a "illustrated' filter. Nonetheless, seeing some of my favorite characters and monsters illustrated by artist Nikiichi Tobita in such a meticulous way shows the series is in the hands of someone passionate and experienced in the craft. The opening color pages in the physical issue pop off the page and reproduces the opening of Elden Ring in such a beautiful way.
If I haven't made it clear, there are plenty surprises in store for Elden Ring fans. But do note, you ought to play the game before reading. It's a treat to fans of Elden Ring such as myself and a bit refreshing to see the grimdark world of Elden Ring portrayed in a more lighthearted way. While we only have one volume of The Road to the Erdtree, I can't wait to see Aseo's journey continue in subsequent issues.
TechRaptor reviewed Elden Ring: The Road to the Erdtree, Vol. 1 with a digital copy provided by Yen Press. It is available digitally and at local bookstores now.