Let's speculate way too much about the Elden Ring expansion image

An unknown protagonist rides towards the Erdtree.
(Image credit: FromSoftware)

The funniest thing about the announcement of Elden Ring's DLC is that it came two days after the game's anniversary, which gave the community just enough time to gnash their teeth en masse at the lack of a DLC announcement. It is the most FromSoft move of all to let that date pass without comment and then unceremoniously announce it with a tweet at 3 am US time.

Still, now there's an image, so computer: ENHANCE. No seriously, you can download this thing as a wallpaper from Bandai Namco's press site, and the 13331 x 7499 pixel image is a whopping 114MB.

First question: Who is riding Torrent? The go-to answer for the majority of folk is Miquella. Given his links to Malenia and alive-but-comatose presence in the game, that makes sense, but others think Marika, and I've even seen the cut character St. Trina suggested. Just to confuse things, St. Trina was probably going to be Miquella, but that's based on cut content that wasn't in the final product.

It's Miquella that has the fan theory momentum however, mainly thanks to those long flowing locks. Miquella has an androgynous look and, of course, bright blonde hair that can be seen in the game: It's the specific braids that have people convinced this is Malenia's brother, as seen in this comparison image.

This is Miquella in the image 100% . All the braids align from r/Eldenring

Malenia says this in the game: "My brother will keep his promise. He possesses the wisdom, the allure, of a god. He is the most fearsome Empyrean of all."

If Miquella is the focus of this expansion, that raises the question of whether this is the 'real' Lands Between or some sort of demigod's dream. In Elden Ring, Miquella is alive but in a state of suspended animation. No spoilers but a key part of the Dark Souls lore is a slumbering god that is deliberately kept that way, and what happens when they are woken by the player. Across the Soulslike games Miyazaki and his team have shown a fondness for painted worlds, time-travel loops into the past / future, and of course the whole of Bloodborne revolves around whether it's all the Hunter's dream… or nightmare.

So yeah… illusory spirit graves, the general fogginess of the lands, the corrupted tree or trees… this looks a lot like a dreamscape, and Miquella already being in a dream of some kind… well done internet, we did it!

Other details include the arches that share their design with those seen in the Uhl Castle Ruins and the Siofra Ruins, the description of the latter reading: "this vast region is said to be the grave of civilizations that flourished before the Erdtree."

Am I wrong if I think that DLC's tree looks more like Miquella sacred tree than the Erdtree itself ? from r/Eldenring

One thing I definitely didn't notice when first looking at the image is that the tree in the distance actually looks like two trees twisted around one another, with the golden saplike substance oozing from where they meet. This looks like deathblight, but it could easily be something else (some fear this DLC will be a deathblight swamp, which would certainly fit with Miyazaki's sense of humour). As for the trees: this could be the Erdtree wrapped around the Haligtree (which as they're in different places supports the dream hypothesis), or something else entirely.

Another observation, from Redditor KillmepIss, is that "The ghostly crosses are all making the Rune of Death sign no?" There is a definite resemblance there and in the logo, though these versions appear more stylised. The Rune of Death is core to the pre-game events of Elden Ring and was used by Marika to make her and her demigod offspring immortal and establish the Golden Order, the world's main religion.

Finally, here's one good reason to scrutinise the high-res version: Did you see the ghost warriors? They're extremely hard to make out and can only be seen in the super-duper version (well, with my old eyes anyway), but here's a zoomed-in view of what looks like horse-riding spirits around the graves. The Elden Ring's own Wild Hunt? Dare to dream…

This is all speculation, and if there's one thing FromSoft is good at it is misdirection. The studio has a habit of planting red herrings, both within and without its games, to the extent that whatever seems obvious is usually anything but. The evidence for this being somehow Miquella-related seems strong, but it could be someone else entirely, the expansion could be future or past, and so on: Don't get too wedded to any theories.

Tiny violins and that but, to take us home, you do have to slightly feel for this YouTuber, who decided their latest stunt would be to kill one NPC a day until Elden Ring DLC was announced. They got to day two.

Rich Stanton

Rich is a games journalist with 15 years' experience, beginning his career on Edge magazine before working for a wide range of outlets, including Ars Technica, Eurogamer, GamesRadar+, Gamespot, the Guardian, IGN, the New Statesman, Polygon, and Vice. He was the editor of Kotaku UK, the UK arm of Kotaku, for three years before joining PC Gamer. He is the author of a Brief History of Video Games, a full history of the medium, which the Midwest Book Review described as "[a] must-read for serious minded game historians and curious video game connoisseurs alike."