Praise the Erdtree! An expansion for Elden Ring has finally been confirmed by FromSoftware.
It's not much of a surprise considering there's precedent for DLC in the Souls series - not to mention a cool 20m copies of Elden Ring sold - but fans of the game will finally get more of the Lands Between.
Or maybe it's not the Lands Between at all? Which characters will be the focus of this expansion? And what's happened to that tree?
The expansion will be called Shadow of the Erdtree. Its announcement came with new artwork, depicting a blonde figure riding what appears to be Torrent. The land is desolate and foggy, with ghostly graves littering the ground. A giant tree stands in the background, corrupted and shrivelled.
So what does this all mean?
Who is the blonde figure?
The artwork prominently shows a blonde figure riding Torrent - how many other horned, goat-horses are there? Ahead of this DLC announcement it was widely theorised that any extra content would focus on Miquella and, from this artwork, that appears to be true.
So who is Miquella? As Eurogamer's own Zoe explains in her lore video (above), Miquella is the twin brother of Malenia - that rot boss everyone loves to hate - both the demigod offspring of Queen Marika and Radagon. Both were born with a curse, however: Malenia is afflicted with Scarlet Rot, while Miquella is doomed to be eternally young and never grow to an adult. He is depicted as a young child with long blonde hair (see header image).
Miquella devoted his life to attempting to cure Malenia of the Scarlet Rot, which he believed required him to grow to be an adult. He devised Unalloyed Gold, perhaps a new form of magic, which we discover in-game as the Unalloyed Gold Needle, allowing players to ward curses from the gods.
To become an adult, Miquella used the Haligtree (meaning holy) - the late-game Legacy Dungeon where players fight Malenia. Here Miquella lay in a cocoon, with the aim of growing older in parallel with the tree, even binding himself by watering the tree with his blood. He even intended for the Haligtree to grow into an Erdtree. Before he could complete his task, he fell into a deep slumber.
Despite this, players find Miquella's cocoon elsewhere, after defeating Mohg Lord of Blood. The depraved Mohg, wishing to become a god himself, stole the cocoon, morphed into blood, entered the cocoon and attempted to commune with Miquella through his dreams. When we see the cocoon, Miquella's arm is visible: now adult-sized, but unresponsive.
It seems pretty sure from the artwork released that Shadow of the Erdtree will focus on Miquella, then. But if he's not sleeping... where is he?
Zooming in much more on the figure on the horse, it's 100000% Miquella. Compare the braid around their head with the Haligtree Soldier Helm's decorative gold braid. pic.twitter.com/obkSAVvveC— Rath (@IAmRathsib) February 28, 2023
Which tree is that?
The other key part of the artwork is the looming tree in the distance. The title of the expansion, Shadow of the Erdtree, would suggest that this is the central Erdtree that dominates the skyline throughout the Lands Between. But if that's the case, what happened to it? Why is it corrupt?
The Erdtree isn't the only tree in the game though. In fact, the game's narrative is really one big family soap opera, and what better symbol than a branching tree? As mentioned above, Miquella and the Haligtree are - literally - intertwined. It's unclear from the artwork if it depicts the Haligtree, but thematically it makes sense. What's more, could that golden corruption pouring from the tree be linked to Miquella's Unalloyed Gold?
Lastly, there's The Great Tree. This was a primordial tree that housed a great crucible, generally considered a melting pot of creation. The Aspects of the Crucible Incantations are described as "an aspect of the primordial crucible, in which all life was once blended together". Many fans therefore liken the Erdtree to a parasite invading The Lands Between, absorbing the souls of the dead and taking over the ancient Great Tree. Could this be the titular shadow of the Erdtree?
The importance of dreams
As an extension of Miquella's slumber inside a cocoon, some fans have theorised that Miquella is in fact the reincarnation of St. Trina, the goddess of sleep. St. Trina is considered to be youthful and gender fluid, whose sleep is like a quagmire that irresistibly draws in its victims. Has Miquella been drawn into an eternal slumber? Or will the player's Tarnished be drawn into Miquella's dreams, just like Mohg?
What's more, dataminers previously discovered cut content that implied a dream subquest. In this cut quest, players would be given St. Trina's Crystal Ball by a monk character found at the Scavenger's Shack. This item would be used to collect Dream Mist from sleeping enemies found around the world. Could this mechanic be repurposed to enter the dreams of Miquella?
Lastly, there's the matter of those ghostly gravestones. Elden Ring players will be no stranger to graves or Grave Gloveworts, the flowers used to upgrade Spirit Ashes. But the desolate landscape and sheer number of graves in the artwork perhaps implies some sort of battlefield. But is this somewhere in The Lands Between? Or is this an alternate dream realm? Miquella what did you do?!
Of course, Shadow of the Erdtree could be about something else entirely. But Miquella's, largely untold, plotline in the game is certainly ripe for an expansion and a dreamworld would provide a separate area for it to play out. Could Unalloyed Gold provide a new branch of magic? Will we discover more about everyone's favourite, Malenia? Will Miquella suffer a similar fate at the hands of the Tarnished?
If one thing's for sure, judging by previous Soulsborne expansions, you can expect Shadow of the Erdtree to be mighty tough.