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News Opinions 01 March 2024, 04:01

In Shadow of the Erdtree, Malenia's Brother Enters the Scene, and I'm Hoping for New Ending

Gameplay trailer of Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree convinced me that FromSoftware studio did not waste the time that has passed since the release of the core game. I believe that the most outstanding work of the Japanese will become even better, although I was not sure if it was possible.

We might have expected that a year after the announcement of the Shadow of the Erdtree expansion, on the second anniversary of Elden Ring, the FromSoftware studio would choose to reveal the cards, but a sense of surprise and a wide range of expressions of excitement were awakened in us upon hearing the news that in just a few hours we would finally - at last! - discover something new about the Shadow of the Erdtree. To say that the gameplay trailer, released with great fanfare, didn't disappoint is to say nothing at all. It's true that it has smaller doses of "memeable elements" than in the base game trailer, where Godrick the Grafted delivered the iconic line "I command thee, kneel!" but overall it provided fans with an even more magnificent spectacle.

The greatest expansion

First of all, we have received confirmation that the Japanese devs didn't neglect their duties and that nearly two years of work on the expansion is no laughing matter, with the release of Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon in the meantime serving as a punchline - although the production of this game certainly had a considerable influence on the development process of Shadow of the Erdtree. The director of Elden Ring, Hidetaka Miyazaki, confirmed in an interview that we are dealing with the largest expansion in the history of FromSoftware.

So cool, but what does it actually mean? Assuming that the most extensive Japanese DLC so far is The Old Hunters for Bloodborne, completing it takes an average of 8 hours, one more than The Ringed City for Dark Souls III, so we can anticipate something even larger (data from Moreover, all indications suggest that the scale in relation to the "base game" will be maintained. Just as completing Elden Ring takes about 59 hours, finishing Shadow of the Erdtree will require at least a quarter of that time, similar to The Old Hunters, which makes up roughly a quarter of Bloodborne (with an average completion time of 33 hours).

Not much? Relax; I believe that it took me much longer than 59 hours to reach the end of Elden Ring. To be honest, when I first defeated the Elden Beast, I had spent two to three times as much time with the "base game." The game's open world contributed to this - with numerous dungeons and other mysterious locations to explore, many bosses waiting to be defeated, and items yearning for discovery, along with fragments of lore concealed in their enigmatic descriptions. Miyazaki revealed that Shadow of the Erdtree will have a structure akin to the main game, blending open spaces, smaller catacombs, and legacy dungeons. This leads me to believe that it will take a minimum of 30 hours to complete the DLC for the first time...

Challenge? Malenia, hold my beer

...although it's likely possible to squeeze a lot, lot more from it. The Land of Shadow area, to which this expansion will take us, is expected to be larger than the Limgrave (Miyazaki's choice of words suggests the presence of underground locations such as the Depths or the city of Nokron). Exploring this starting location of Elden Ring could easily take up to several dozen hours - the Weeping Peninsula isn't included here, of course, as it constitutes a separate region - particularly without resorting to the internet to find important locations and bosses.

In Shadow of the Erdtree, Malenyas Brother Enters the Scene, and Im Hoping for New Ending - picture #1

Nan, why do you have so many teeth...?Source: Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree, Bandai Namco, 2024.

In the expansion we are going to meet "more than ten bosses." Of course, we should care more about their quality than their quantity; after all, we remember the fights with Margit, Radahn, or Maliketh for years, while those with the Night's Cavalry or the Erdtree Avatars, although quite engaging, are only remembered for a short time. However, I have faith that this specific aspect of FromSoftware's expansion will be carefully developed in both quality and quantity, enabling us to confront 15-20 bosses (for comparison: Limgrave has 22 of them, and the similarly sized Caelid only 14).

It's not mere speculation, as the gameplay trailer showcased so many bosses that if, for instance, there were to be eleven in total, it would appear that we have already seen the majority of them. However, I don't think Miyazaki and his team want to take away the pleasure of discovering opponents on their own from the players. It's not entirely their style - they usually show part of the attractions, leaving the best bites for latter.

I'm happy about the fact that at least a few bosses from Shadow of the Erdtree are set to present a challenge as great as the infamous Malenia. Though, privately, I don't consider the fight with the Goddess of Rot as the toughest in the entire Elden Ring - I put the final clash on a pedestal - but I welcome this approach. This is one of those fights that - to quote Isshin from Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice - "makes my blood boils:" engaging, unforgiving, and breathtaking. Elden Ring has many well-designed bosses, but few made me feel extremely emotional. Malenia managed to do this, so it thrills me to think that she provided a reference point for developers.

In Shadow of the Erdtree, Malenyas Brother Enters the Scene, and Im Hoping for New Ending - picture #2

It's unlikely to be the result of a spell related to the magic of thorns. That's a pity, as it could result in a better understanding of the deity known as the Blood Star.Source: Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree, Bandai Namco, 2024.

I also hope that the goddess will want a rematch because although many characters in the game give her this title, she is actually a demigoddess. Furthermore, the description of the Scarlet Aeonia incantation states that Malenia will only become a "true goddess" after the third bloom, and there are a few clues suggesting that she has only gone through two (in the battle with Radahn and with us).

Miquella enters the stage

I don't doubt that the From Software studio would come up with a good explanation for such a clash, especially since in Shadow of the Erdtree we will be following the "way of Miquella" - the son of Marika and Radagon, condemned to eternal childhood, who is Malenia's brother and was deeply connected to his sister (but not in the same way as Jamie Lannister and Cersei in A Song of Ice and Fire, even though George R.R. Martin was involved in creating the Elden Ring lore). It won't be an exaggeration if I write that Miquella - or rather his spirit - literally permeates the "base game," although he himself only appears in descriptions of objects, in paintings, and sculptures. We probably owe him our spectral steed Torrent as well - Miquel was most likely his previous master - and the ring with which we summon him.

"Those stripped of the Grace of Gold shall all meet death. In the embrace of Messmer's flame" - we hear in the presented gameplay trailer. As we know, Miquella broke away from the Golden Order when it turned out that she was unable to cure Malenia from the curse. This resulted in the emergence of the Miquella's Haligtree - a location where we fight with the sister of its creator. This place hasn't fully realized its potential because Mohg stole the cocoon containing Miquella's abandoned body in order to elevate it to divinity - as it belongs to the Empyreans, this is possible - and then marry it.

In Shadow of the Erdtree, Malenyas Brother Enters the Scene, and Im Hoping for New Ending - picture #3

Miquella was right. The Golden Order is giving us a headache.Source: Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree, Bandai Namco, 2024.

However, Miquella's body didn't respond. Why? Now we know for sure that his master is in the Land of Shadow, he is in a state of sleep, and that's why there's no communication with him. Nevertheless, there clearly is a way to establish it. This mysterious woman, who we hear partway through and at the end of the trailer, and likely see at the beginning, appears to be the one to help us with this. It's hard to tell who she is, but her words: "Come now. Touch the [Miquella's] withered arm, and travel to the realm of shadow" leave no doubt that our "gateway" to the location from Shadow of the Erdtree will be the cocoon located in Moghwyn's Palace. This confirms my previous assumptions from a year ago, suggesting that reaching this location is necessary to begin the DLC (and, let's be honest, it's a rather an endgame area).

Future lies in the past

What is Miquella doing in the Land of Shadow? He is most likely pursuing at least two objectives. The first one is to discover a method to cure Malenia - her unwavering belief that "the brother will keep his promise," as he "possesses the wisdom, the allure, of a god" and "is the most fearsome Empyrean of all" (the latter is also confirmed by the words of Sir Gideon Ofnir, assuring that everything will be fine - if Miquella remains asleep). And the second - the resurrection of Godwyn the Golden, the first murdered demigod.

Considering all of this, it's possible that in Shadow of the Erdtree we will confront both Miquella and Godwyn. We will definitely come across the previously mentioned Messmer the Impaler on our journey, who appears to wield power over the Land of Shadow and enforce its law along with his mother. It's worth dedicating a few words to him, but not just because of the prominent role he will play in the expansion. What first caught my attention was Messmer's appearance. He reminds me a lot of Radagon. Radagona, who went the blasphemous way of Rykard.

In Shadow of the Erdtree, Malenyas Brother Enters the Scene, and Im Hoping for New Ending - picture #4

Messmer seems to have something in common with Radagon and Rykard.Source: Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree, Bandai Namco, 2024.

This provides hope that the expansion will explore the history of the preceding Elden Lord and his somewhat ambiguous connection with Marika (those who played the game know what I mean, I prefer to spare the rest of the spoilers... I will only mention the crazy theory according to which he is to Marika what Piccolo is to Kami in Dragon Ball... yes, it's strange, but it makes sense). We will definitely find out some information about the past, as the Land of Shadow are described as a place concealed by the Erdtree where "the goddess Marika first set foot," and as an location "purified in a forgotten battle, burned by Messmer's fire." Based on the characteristics of its inhabitants - horns, wings, etc. - we can assume that we will also deepen our knowledge about the Crucible.

So, it seems that Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree will take us on a journey into the past, where we will gain a better understanding of the Greater Will - and possibly other Empyreans - and fill in some of the gaps in the stories of the previously met characters. However, I notice, nomen omen, a shadow of a chance that the addition will also bring an alternative future for the Lands Between. In other words, taking "Miquella's way" can result in an additional ending to the game itself, just as the Phantom Liberty expansion allowed V's story to lead to a new, bittersweet finale.

Magnum opus 2.0

In Shadow of the Erdtree, Malenyas Brother Enters the Scene, and Im Hoping for New Ending - picture #5

He looks like a boss, although he may turn out to be a "regular" opponent, similar to giants.Source: Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree, Bandai Namco, 2024.

Perhaps you are wondering if those who value Elden Ring lore and find the gameplay more appealing should anticipate familiar elements from Shadow of the Erdtree or something fresh. Well, if the new location and bosses aren't enough for you, know that the expansion will introduce eight types of weapons not available in the base game. Let's emphasize this clearly: eight types of weapons, not eight pieces. With other new items such as armor, spells, incantations, ashes, and a wide range of equipment from Elden Ring, this will enable experimentation with character builds like never before, even though it already seemed like we had countless options.

Do I need to mention how thrilled I am about the above screenshot? I am aware that I'm not the only one feeling tremendous excitement, based on the reactions of internet users, friends, and colleagues from the editorial office. I only hope that we won't get too carried away. Elden Ring is undoubtedly FromSoftware's magnum opus to date. Since expansions typically turn out exceptionally well for the Japanese - often better than the "base games" - with Shadow of the Erdtree, they might raise the bar so high for themselves that they will never be able to surpass it again (hopefully I'm mistaken about this last part). Did J.R.R. Tolkien experience similar inner conflicts while writing The Lord of the Rings, though?

Hubert Sledziewski

Hubert Sledziewski

Has been writing professionally since 2016. He joined five years later - although he has known the service since he had access to the internet - to combine his love for words and games. Deals mainly with news and journalism. A sociologist by education, a gamer by passion. He started his gaming adventure at the age of four - with a Pegasus. Currently, prefers PC and demanding RPGs, but does not shy away from consoles or other genres. When he's not playing or writing, he enjoys reading, watching series (less often movies) and Premier League matches, listening to heavy music, and also walking the dog. Almost uncritically loves the work of Stephen King. Does not abandon plans to follow in his footsteps. However, he keeps his first "literary achievements" locked away deep in a drawer.