Last week, Elden Ring celebrated its first birthday. Here at GamesRadar+, we marked the occasion by looking back at our 12 favorite features in the Lands Between; while the game's publisher Bandai Namco celebrated with a livestream event which, to the dismay of many players, did not deliver an anniversary DLC announcement. Fast forward three days, however, and official Elden Ring DLC has now been confirmed.
At this stage, here is what we know: its name. Shadow of the Erdtree is the name of the upcoming expansion that's "currently in development". What we don't know with regards to the single image teased on the game's official Twitter feed is, well, pretty much everything else. And so now we speculate. What will the story focus on? When does it take place? Is it a direct follow-up to the base game, or does it unfold on a new timeline? Why is there so much fog rolling around the place, and who is that on the back of Torrent?
Read on for our best guesses on all of that and more, but before we do let's first address that last point: it's Miquella, right?
Read between the lines
In our Elden Ring DLC wishlist last year, we pondered how it'd be cool for future content to let us visit new areas that explore existing lore. Miquella fits that bill pretty perfectly. Because of all the key players in Elden Ring's speculative lore, Miquella remains unseen and unheard – playing a central role in the overarching narrative (being Malenia's twin brother, and all), but being resigned to background character status.
By giving us Miquella's Haligtree as an optional, fiercely challenging and tricky to unlock area at the end of the base game, we're already familiar with the character and his background, not least the fact that he's cursed to be forever young. Without wading too deep into Elden Ring's complicated lore, Miquella built the Haligtree to break this curse, to grow into an adult, and to purge the rot from his sister Malenia. Instead, a demigod named Mohg, Lord of Blood kidnapped Miquella in cocoon form, and planned to turn Miquella into a god who Mohg would work under. With Miquella locked in slumber, none of this worked out as planned – leaving this particular narrative door open.
Rise, Tarnished, and let us walk a new path together.An upcoming expansion for #ELDENRING Shadow of the Erdtree, is currently in development.We hope you look forward to new adventures in the Lands Between. pic.twitter.com/cjJYijM7MwFebruary 28, 2023
On looks alone, the person riding through the fields on the back of Torrent has the same long blonde and braided hair as Miquella, and the fact that intrepid dataminers uncovered unused Miquella dialogue not long after Elden Ring's launch last year definitely underlines this character's potential. To this end, stories of rumored Elden Ring cut content have featured in the news cycle regularly over the last year, including a Mimic Tear that was set to become self aware, a cut quest for Vyke (the cover art character), and the fact that there's space for up to 30 new bosses in future expansions. The specifics of the worst kept secret in the Lands Between – the long-rumored opening of the game's Colosseum dedicated PvP arenas – were first touted two months before their official release, with Sekiro Dubi's datamine being bang on on all points.
As expected, the internet is already ablaze with Elden Ring DLC theories on the whats and wheres and hows of Shadow of the Erdtree, with some suggesting the horseback character is a young Marika (Queen Marika the Eternal, the reigning divine sovereign of the Lands Between) but, for my money, I don't think that's right. Others also reckon it's Miquella, but that he's now awoken from his slumber and that the world depicted in the image is how things look after the base game's Age of the Duskborn ending. I'm not sold on that either, but instead subscribe to the idea that this is Miquella's dream – an isolated world that lets us explore Miquella's storyline without impacting or impinging directly on everything we've already experienced in Elden Ring.
When late game boss Sir Gideon Ofnir mentions Miquella's slumber, it's implied that he's not simply sleeping, but living or existing in the world of his dream. As alluded to on the Elden Ring wiki, if Miquella exists in his dream (and not reality), this would explain why Mohg could not successfully reach Miquella despite kidnapping his actual, physical body from the Haligtree.
As I write that, I can feel myself going off the deep end head first into the rumors, murmurs and speculation. Truth be told, I love it. I love how open to interpretation just about everything FromSoftware does, and I'm really excited to see how much bigger it goes in Elden Ring, as a game so much bigger in stature than anything the developer has accomplished before. Last year, Emma Kent said Elden Ring is an impossible mystery that absolutely deserves to be recognized for its narrative. I couldn't have said it better myself, but I now just want more – whether that's by the side of Marika or Miquella or whoever it may.
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