Elden Ring sleuth cracks Shadow of the Erdtree to unmask NPCs, finds a new nod to Berserk manga: "This is From's most Guts-like guy in a long list of Guts-like guys"

Berserk manga Guts
(Image credit: Hakusensha / Dark Horse Comics)

When Shadow of the Erdtree first launched, many players were quickly wrecked by an early optional boss: the unassuming Blackgaol Knight. And I mean right when the DLC launched – this boss is just around the corner from the first Site of Grace checkpoint, which makes for a humbling introduction to the Land of Shadow. It turns out this knight isn't just some guy with a big sword, either, but the guy with a big sword. In more ways than one, the Blackgaol Knight is basically Guts from Berserk. 

We know this now thanks to reputable FromSoftware sleuth Zullie the Witch, who recently cracked Shadow of the Erdtree open to peer under the helmets and masks of its many new NPCs, sneaking a peek at the oddly detailed faces we never get to see. One of those characters is the Blackgaol Knight (2:16 in the video), also known as the Knight of the Solitary Gaol, and as Zullie puts it he is "From's most Guts-like guy in a long list of Guts-like guys." 

Elden Ring - Unique faces from the DLC - YouTube Elden Ring - Unique faces from the DLC - YouTube
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Elden Ring's creators and fans are no stranger to Berserk references, but this character truly is a dead ringer for Guts, the protagonist of the dark fantasy manga by Kentaro Miura – who died in 2021 at age 54 – which codified several ideas and elements now common in much of the dark fantasy genre across mediums. Our knight has short dark hair, a stern expression, and a (much larger) horizontal scar across the nose, which is extra wild when you realize that players would never see this in-game. Zullie had to manually unmask NPCs to find this detail. FromSoftware put it in either for fun or for the modders and lore hounds who go to these lengths. 

The knight's heavy armor, massive greatsword, and unconventional ranged weapon are already eyebrow-raising clues, especially given the nature of that greatsword. The Blackgaol Knight's Greatsword of Solitude is a normal, non-colossal weapon, yet it carries a hefty 27 Strength requirement – the highest of any normal greatsword, and perhaps an echo of the famous heft of Guts' iconic sword, said to be more like a hunk of iron than a blade.  

Plenty more NPCs are unmasked in Zullie's video, and it's fascinating to see the time that FromSoftware has invested in functionally invisible appearances. Somehow several characters look exactly as I would've expected, their face and hair matching their voice and demeanor perfectly. 

Here's how to beat the Shadow of the Erdtree Blackgaol Knight for yourself. 

Austin Wood

Austin freelanced for the likes of PC Gamer, Eurogamer, IGN, Sports Illustrated, and more while finishing his journalism degree, and he's been with GamesRadar+ since 2019. They've yet to realize that his position as a senior writer is just a cover up for his career-spanning Destiny column, and he's kept the ruse going with a focus on news and the occasional feature, all while playing as many roguelikes as possible.