3 fascinating Elden Ring DLC theories to dream about as we count the days until its release

Elden Ring Malenia
(Image credit: Tyler C. / FromSoftware)

It wouldn't be a FromSoftware RPG if there weren't a pre-launch phase where fans obsessed over every tiny shred of information they can find. Elden Ring fans have of course spent the last 10 months picking apart the Shadow of the Erdtree DLC announcement artwork, hoping to find clues about what might await us when it finally comes out.

The gigantic image depicts golden fields of wheat below a darkened sky. Ghostly gravestones overlap the grass in the foreground with a figure riding what looks like Torrent, our loyal horse. In the distance is the silhouette of a tree, twisted, and dripping golden sap. It may seem sparse for a teaser, but the artwork suggests we may finally get some resolution to the big questions Elden Ring leaves unanswered by the end of the game.

This article contains spoilers for Elden Ring. You've been warned!

(Image credit: FromSoftware)

For a quick refresher, let's go over the most recognizable parts of the image:

  • The feminine figure riding the horse is likely Miquella, the younger brother of Elden Ring's hardest boss, Malenia
  • The setting seems to be The Lands Between—the same as the regular game—but we don't know when or where.
  • The ghostly gravestones are very similar to all the trees, animals and other structures we see in the second half of the game
  • The tree could be a version of the big golden Erdtree, the Haligtree from late in the game, or two trees wrestling each other

Theory #1: Time travel, baby

Elden Ring Hyetta quest

(Image credit: From Software)

FromSoft fans know time travel is never off the table. The original Dark Souls has time travel, Dark Souls 2 has a little bit, and so does Sekiro. And those are just the most explicit about it. You could argue that the other games involve time travel, too, Shadow of the Erdtree might continue the trend.

The biggest clue is how the version of The Lands Between in the art compares to what's in the game. Altus Plateau would be the most similar-looking spot, but it sits far above the other regions and is home to the capital city Leyndell. None of that is visible in the art, and the empty fields and mountains don't match either. But The Lands Between seems to have shifted over time, so its possible Altus rose upward due to some event below—and we know there's a lot going on underneath the surface. It could also just be an entirely different place that was inaccessible in the game. Wherever and whenever it is, the weirdly similar-looking ruins you can see suggest it will still be around the same time frame as the game.

Reddit user AnonymouseMurphy thinks we're looking at the frozen Consecrated Snowfield some time before the events of the game. They believe the tree is Miquella's copycat Erdtree, the Haligree, at the moment of its death.

"Topographically I think it makes sense; we know the Consecrated Snowfields sit above Leyndell but far below the Mountaintop of the Giants, which you can see down and to the left from where you first exit the [Grand Lift of Rold]," they wrote. "It is kinda strange a region far below the highest point on the map would somehow have a colder/stormier climate unless something happened to make it that way."

Alternatively, as many have pointed out, the tree in the background might actually be two separate trees twisted around each other. One of the turning points in Elden Ring's lore is the death of the demigod Godywn and his transition into the Prince of Death, spreading ink black roots, or Deathroot, throughout The Lands Between. After the end of the game, the Erdtree's power is significantly diminished (depending on the ending you choose), which would be a great time for a rival tree to forcefully take over.


Elden Ring guide: Conquer the Lands Between
Elden Ring bosses: How to beat them
Elden Ring map fragments: Reveal the world
Elden Ring weapons: Arm yourself
Elden Ring armor: The best sets

Theory #2: The last demigod

Elden Ring - Malenia

(Image credit: FromSoftware)

Technically, it's still a theory that the character in the image is Miquella, the young demigod who we see in the opening cutscene but never directly in the game. Their clothing, hair, and affiliation with Torrent all match with what we learn in Elden Ring. It might be a bait and switch, but everyone is pretty confident that this is Miquella.

Miquella wanted to find a way out of the Erdtree's grip and to cure his sister of the rot eating away her body. He failed, however, as we see the desiccated remains of the Haligtree and what we're told is his corpse deep into the game. But FromSoft doesn't typically center characters in its opening cutscenes without resolving their story.

Elden Ring's sleep-inducing items all have to do with Miquella, as he took on the identity of St. Trina at some point before you show up. It's possible he isn't dead, but lost or waiting in a dream. We might be summoned into a dream world to help (or encourage) the death of the Erdtree. The ghostly graves and the strange, empty version of The Lands Between could easily be a version that exists in Miquella's mind rather than some far off place we've never seen before.

The risk is that Miquella won't be happy to see us. We killed most of his remaining family members and, if you take on the optional area, his sister, too. Miquella's relationship with everyone other than Malenia is fraught, but I can't imagine he would have nothing to say about what we've done. A boss fight feels like too obvious of an ending. Miquella might appear friendly and reveal later on that he used us—a common FromSoft twist. You can't trust anyone in these games.

Theory #3: Road trip to the afterlife 

Fia ending

(Image credit: FromSoftware)

This one is fun. Reddit user LiesOfTimChalamet lays out a theory about the Erdtree and, well, trees in real life. They argue that the Erdtree is based on oak trees and that FromSoft uses pine trees for anything related to the afterlife—something you can see in the Mountaintops of the Giants. By comparing the trees with the peculiar Helphen's Steeple sword, which looks like a tree, LiesOfTimChalamet suspects that the DLC could take place in the afterlife with the black tree at the center.

This is evidence for MuchyMozzarella's theory on Tumblr that the spirits in Elden Ring's world are drawn to the afterlife via a tree shaped like the weapon. "Personally, I’d like to imagine the spirit world as a mirror image of the Lands Between, but with less terrain; it’s a sea of a ghostflame with Helphen on the place of the Erdtree," they wrote.

That is the exact kind of left turn that FromSoft often takes with its DLCs. It was rare for the Souls DLCs to clarify the biggest mysteries in the base game. Instead, they would offer another perspective or give you a peek into other parts of the world that are only briefly mentioned in item descriptions. And considering the importance of death and the Erdtree's relationship with death and immortality, a trip to the afterlife sounds like the kind of thing you'd get to do to wrap Elden Ring's story up.

Associate Editor

Tyler has covered games, games culture, and hardware for over a decade before joining PC Gamer as Associate Editor. He's done in-depth reporting on communities and games as well as criticism for sites like Polygon, Wired, and Waypoint. He's interested in the weird and the fascinating when it comes to games, spending time probing for stories and talking to the people involved. Tyler loves sinking into games like Final Fantasy 14, Overwatch, and Dark Souls to see what makes them tick and pluck out the parts worth talking about. His goal is to talk about games the way they are: broken, beautiful, and bizarre.