What is Elden Ring’s Shadow of the Erdtree expansion about? Setting and timeline hints
Shadow of the Erdtree only has one piece of artwork, but it has a lot of hints about the future of Elden Ring.
FromSoftware has finally confirmed that Elden Ring is receiving DLC in the future, as the Shadow of the Erdtree expansion was announced shortly after the game’s first anniversary celebrations ended. Unfortunately, little is known about Shadow of the Erdtree, as only a single piece of key art has been released for the expansion, but this artwork hints at the setting and timeline placement of the DLC.
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Elden Ring Shadow of the Erdtree could happen in the past
The announcement for Elden Ring’s Shadow of the Erdtree expansion came with artwork showing a mysterious golden-haired figure riding Torrent through the Lands Between as the Erdtree bleeds amber in the distance. The figure’s identity is unknown, but their design points to either Queen Marika or Miquella, both of which are believed to be alive but inactive during the events of Elden Ring.
The presence of Miquella or Queen Marika may hint at a flashback story, where the player gets to visit the past and see the world of Elden Ring before the Shattering. This would give FromSoftware a chance to reuse many of the bosses from the base game as the player faces off against younger versions of the demigods in newer, more brutal fights.
The prequel storyline could also offer insight into Queen Marika, as she is a major part of the backstory of Elden Ring. Yet, little is known about her motivations or personality. Similarly, Miquella is also a mysterious figure who could have had a much larger role in the backstory of Elden Ring than initially realized.
Shadow of the Erdtree could happen after the ending
The other central figure in the Shadow of the Erdtree artwork is the Erdtree itself, which has ashes falling from its body, while golden amber spews from its center. This could point to the Shadow of the Erdtree being a direct continuation of the story of Elden Ring, starting from the ending the player chose in the main game.
The presence of the mysterious rider in this scenario could be a case of that character waking up and being able to take more of an active role in the story. According to the story of Elden Ring, Miquella is sleeping in a cocoon, and the DLC might involve his return to The Lands Between, where he becomes a new antagonist, especially if the player murders his sister, Malenia.
Queen Marika is also a possible candidate for the rider in a sequel scenario, but her fate differs depending on the ending chosen by the player in Elden Ring. There is one piece of evidence leaning in Queen Marika’s favor, as a cut ending in Elden Ring shows the player restoring her, and it might have been removed to leave the door open for an alternate explanation as to how she returned to The Lands Between.
Shadow of the Erdtree is likely open-world
The artwork for Shadow of the Erdtree shows The Lands Between in its glory, with mysterious new characters and altered locations in the distance. This suggests that the player will explore a new iteration of The Lands Between, regardless of when it occurs on the timeline, which will play to Elden Ring’s strengths.
One fear fans had about any future Elden Ring DLC is that it would involve a few legacy dungeons sewn together into one area, as that would be easier to develop than a revamped version of the existing open world. Shadow of the Erdtree will likely include new dungeons and bosses, but they appear to be part of the open world that fans loved so much.
Mysterious ghosts in The Lands Between feature in Shadow of the Erdtree
The last interesting feature of the Shadow of the Erdtree artwork is the presence of numerous white ghosts inhabiting the fields of The Lands Between, which resemble tombstones. These may be a new type of enemy that the player will face, having been called from beyond the grave by the power of the mysterious rider. A pessimistic view is that this can be a cheap way to recycle foes from the base game, as the player is forced to face opponents they have already slain.
The other possibility is that these reference the white spirits seen in Elden Ring, which are visions of other online players. This could hint at a more prominent multiplayer element in Shadow of the Erdtree, where players are encouraged to tackle bosses together or must face each other in PVP fights for new rewards. Whatever the case, the Shadow of the Erdtree artwork hints at some significant supernatural presence in The Lands Between for players to fight, which could pose even more of a threat than the monsters already there.