Rise, Tarnished. FromSoftware isn't done with Elden Ring yet, and announced its Shadow of the Erdtree expansion just a few days after the first anniversary in February. While the name implies we're going back to the story's roots, the studio and publisher Bandai Namco remain tight-lipped, but that's not stopping us from imagining dozens of "what-if" scenarios.
That name and a single image shared with the reveal are the only official clues we've got, but we know FromSoftware's games are overflowing with environmental storytelling and grim details hidden in the shadows. All our hours spent investigating weird jar guys have got to be good for something, so let's break down everything we know about the Elden Ring DLC. There's a mountain of fan theories and datamines ahead.
When is the Elden Ring DLC release date?
There's no official Shadow of the Erdtree release date yet, but we assume the Elden Ring DLC will launch in late 2023 or early 2024. The announcement only acknowledges an expansion is "in development."
Left both maidenless and release dateless, we've all grown quite antsy waiting for Shadow of the Erdtree's launch and stuck giving a timeframe our best guess based on FromSoftware's history. Thanks to one PC Gamer editor, we're spared the tedious research averaging time between official Soulsborne DLC reveals and their release. The math points to the same conclusions we've seen in most fan guesses–an expansion seems plausible within a year.
How much will the Elden Ring DLC cost?
The Elden Ring Colosseum update delivered three new PvP modes for free, but don't expect other hefty additions to match that bargain. Within the last year, games have charged $20-$30 for story-heavy DLC, and we're betting an Elden Ring expansion will be on the pricier side.
Souls predecessors have always received a paid follow-up to the base game.. Dark Souls 3's add-ons cost $15 a pop, or $25 for the season pass bundle, but that was back in 2016. FromSoftware could easily be charging more than that now.
Assuming Shadow of the Erdtree follows the same path as the base game, Elden Ring's DLC should launch on PC via Steam.
Here's the Elden Ring Shadow of the Erdtree reveal teaser
On February 28, 2023, Elden Ring celebrated its first birthday with a late surprise, and FromSoft announced its expansion plans with a single piece of concept art. That doesn't sound like much, but that's all it took to drive a frantic storm of lore fiends into clicking "zoom in." As for actual footage, there's no Shadow of the Erdtree trailer yet, so your frame-by-frame analysis of distant decay and giant gods will have to wait.
After the short and sweet reveal, FromSoftware has left us in the dark in favor of Armored Core news. That silence felt a little worse after June's Summer Games Fest when we all held a collective breath, hoping to see that golden tree again.
What do Elden Ring leaks and datamines suggest?
Back in 2022, Soulsborne dataminer Lance McDonald shared the inside of a Colosseum-like structure spotted in Limgrave, which went on to serve as a PvP arena in December's DLC. That's where Sekiro Dubi dropped in, sharing more unused code hinting at possible DLC bosses.
Since then, we've seen a steady trickle of cut content and story fodder from the scene's most popular dataminers. Recent restorations include major character changes made to a cut NPC named Guilbert. Apparently, he was the precursor to Bloody Finger Hunter Yurah and Witch Hunter Jerren, sharing a fusion of armor and voice lines from the two.
And while some of those info dumps come from trustworthy sources, be careful who you believe—as covered in a report from Kotaku, a fake Erdtree leak that fooled thousands turned out to be just that, a fake. The too-good-to-be-true Reddit post detailed an expansion "as big as the main game map," complete with a phony fan-made trailer copped from another user's Artstation. It's a pattern not unfamiliar to the Soulsborne scene, which spent ages pining for the next FromSoft RPG based on a different, singular image.
In the midst of it all, FromSoftware may have low-key confirmed other rumblings around Elden Ring's Shadow of the Erdtree DLC. On Twitter, Elden Ring YouTuber Ziostorm (via GamesRadar) shared a Linkedin update indicating development on Shadow of the Erdtree may have started in April 2022. The project's timeline is still available on lead game designer Kenneth (Kin Yue) Chan's Linkedin profile.
What's the story and setting for Shadow of the Erdtree?
There are some obvious, at-a-glance details to glean: We see Torrent, or at least a horned horse that sure looks like your trusty steed, standing in the lower right with an unknown blonde rider. They're in a golden-hued field full of phantom gravestones with ruins littering the background while, most notably, the Erdtree towers in the distance. It's looking a little crispy, leaking some sort of golden ooze.
That leaves us with way more questions than answers. Who is that mysterious figure with perfect, flowing hair on Torrent? Is that even Torrent? What's that stuff coming from the Erdtree? And if that's supposed to be the tree we know, does that tell us when Shadow of the Erdtree takes place?
❗ Spoiler Warning: We'll try and tackle some of those mysteries by mentioning specific plot beats and Elden Ring's ending. Stop now if you're still working on the Tarnished's tale. ❗
Who is riding Torrent in the Shadow of The Erdtree artwork?
There are a few running theories, but the predominant one claims Miquella is our mystery rider. The elder twin of Malenia bears his own curse damning him to eternal childhood, and he tries to reverse the blight by creating the Haligtree. His brother, Mohg, snatches Miquella from his place of slumber in the tree, kicking off an entire questline in Elden Ring.
You don't meet Miquella like Malenia, but Mohg's storyline reveals the youthful demigod isn't dead—though Mohg snatched the twin in a bid for godhood. Mohg's whole plan to use his sibling for power doesn't work out, and Miquella remains unbothered in his dreaming stasis. It's entirely possible Miquella's dreams will serve as our playground, or maybe the DLC will happen before Miquella's nap.
As for appearances, the elegant figure fits the bill. VaatiVidya, one of Elden Ring's most thorough lore scholars, points out several statues in the Lands Between bearing Miquella's likeness, some of which are relatively easy to miss. In a longer lesson on the sleepy god, VaatiVidya delivers an in-depth analysis of Miquella, drawing connections to some of Elden Ring's cut content around Saint Trina.
Depictions of Miquella within the world convince us this is the most likely choice, as both sport the same braids, youthful stature, and flowing gown.
Marika is another guess. As the mother to Elden Ring's tortured demigod kids, we know she's the starting point for much of its twisting narrative. She's also responsible for shattering the game's namesake.
We know she was the Elden Ring's vessel, and the wars she stirred led to her imprisonment within the Erdtree. Depictions of her in the introduction show Miraka's striking resemblance to the blonde figure, sharing similar braids and cuffed accessories along the arms. However, those scenes suggest we only know her as an adult, and the smaller stature of the rider certainly seems deliberate.
Alternatively we're all wrong and that's Just Some Guy, but that option isn't as fun or clever.
Is the Shadow of the Erdtree horse Torrent?
Elden Ring's pony achieved Epona-level icon status in just a year. Even if FromSoft doesn't confirm their identity, we're convinced the white, horned horse featured in the Erdtree art is Torrent.
The why and how Torrent got there is a little more complex. Your spectral steed doesn't get a detailed background, but we know the horse chooses to accompany the player Tarnished. This Reddit thread from CrayolaClock tracks and links together pieces of Elden Ring's world that relate to the horse, and one thing's for sure: Melina and Ranni are acquainted with Torrent.
Regardless, the key to Torrent's importance here must lie with who summoned the mount before or after the events of Elden Ring. Fan theories point to figures like Melina, Ranni, Marika, or Miquella, but nothing concrete.
What's going on with Elden Ring's Erdtree?
Assuming that's an Erdtree in the artwork, it doesn't look like healthy. This one seems rotten or charred.
At the end of Elden Ring you either have to burn the Erdtree yourself or leave the deed up to someone else, but one way or another, that tree is kindling.
Suppose it's not our Erdtree, though. FromSoft may pull the ole bait and switch, and upon closer inspection, some Elden Ring lore-heads think that's two trees in the background. It's not super obvious, but give it the "computer, enhance" treatment, and boy, that sure looks like one parasitic plant coiling around another. Plenty of back and forth in Reddit threads suggests it's a Deathroot twisted into the mix, while other fans like SanctaVita think we may be looking at the Haligtree.
When does Shadow of the Erdtree take place?
Our kneejerk reaction wants to say it continues after the story in Elden Ring, but the evidence in FromSoft's teaser doesn't limit the expansion to any particular timeframe.
If the DLC takes place post-game, we're probably looking at the remains of the Erdtree after your Tarnished burned it down at the end of Elden Ring. Reddit users like NCR_Veteran_Rangers were quick to compare side-by-side screenshots of the golden, glowing tree we're familiar with versus the skeletal visage looming in the artwork. The framing makes it convincing.
A prequel works within what we know about the Lands Between and its anguished timeline, too. If the expansion takes the Queen Marika route, the story could explore the earliest days of the Erdtree and the Golden Order, delivering a younger Marika we're unfamiliar with.
PC Gamer's Rich Staton also explained how this perspective works with Miquella. In Staton's breakdown of DLC possibilities, he highlights Miquella's activities before Elden Ring takes place. Prior to imprisonment, we know he sought to cure Malenia of the accursed rot. Thus an expansion "exploring Malenia's origins and the doomed quest to save her" passes the lore check.
As for that glistening gold sap, perhaps that's a reference to Miquella's earlier machinations. When the Golden Order couldn't rid Malenia of her rot, Miquella looked elsewhere, and we see that carried through to his fascination with Unalloyed Gold. Reddit User Allingwyrd delivers a succinct breakdown of what Unalloyed Gold may signify, highlighting the incredible power of items like the Unalloyed Gold Needle. Thanks to an in-game description, we know it "wards away the meddling of outer gods" and is "thought capable of forestalling the incurable rotting sickness."
That doesn't necessarily lock us into a prequel, but the tragedy that befell Elden Ring's twin demigods sure makes a compelling case.
What else can we expect from Elden Ring DLC?
FromSoftware has a long history of fascinating lore dives, cosmetic updates, PvP-driven challenges, and other goodies packaged in beefy expansions. Like, really beefy.
On Reddit, IkonJobin shared each entry's DLC completion time compared to the length of the base game, and the average gives us something around a quarter of the original's playtime. Considering Elden Ring's massive world, that seems awfully lofty, but thousands of users have high hopes with one poll suggesting that most fans expect 26-29 hours of content.
Regardless, you've got plenty to keep you busy in the wait for more Elden Ring. FromSoftware's next launch, Armored Core 6, is out on August 23, 2023. The series mastermind, Hidetaka Miyazaki, is also finding work that keeps him inspired by checking out other games with multiplayer features, like Escape from Tarkov.