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Elden Ring director Miyazaki Hidetaka discussed the upcoming Shadow of the Erdtree DLC in an interview in the 28 March 2024 issue of Weekly Famitsu.

The interviewer begins by mentioning how Elden Ring sold over 20 million copies worldwide in a year and won multiple awards, and asks Miyazaki how he feels about this. Miyazaki apologizes in advance for the simple answer, and says that he is very happy.
Miyazaki says that when they make video games, they make what they themselves think are interesting and have value, and the fact that players all over the world enjoy their games and find value in them is something that brings them great joy and emboldens them.

Elden Ring’s theme of gaining a feeling of accomplishment through overcoming hardship is something unchanged from previous games, and the main concept of Elden Ring was to add more freedom to this theme to make it more accessible to a larger number of players. The open field was a means to that end, and Miyazaki thinks that it worked well.
Miyazaki adds that for him, at the heart of game development is his desire to have players experience and feel what he wants them to, which includes things such as “I’d like to die here in this way.” He does say, however, that his opinion is not absolute, and when he tries to do something that may have problems or could be done in a better way, other developers are open and honest with telling him so, and in most cases he accepts what they say. He feels that this is a huge merit in working on something with other people, and that it is something he looks forward to.

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The interviewer brings up the fractured narrative used in Elden Ring, and Miyazaki says that his tendency to employ this form of storytelling comes from several reasons. First of all, he wants the player’s gameplay experience itself to be the player’s story, and so does not want to set a story in stone. Next, he wants to leave some leeway for the player’s imagination, partially due to the former reason and also because he thinks that filling out the blanks is itself fun. Finally, he thinks that piecing together what does exist to figure things out is also fun as well.

The interview moves on to Shadow of the Erdtree, with the interviewer asking when development on it started, and Miyazaki says he started thinking about it around the end of the development cycle for Elden Ring. In the overall plan for Elden Ring, they ended up with elements that would not fit into the main game in any way, and so Miyazaki started to think it would be good if they could release them as DLC.

This was only a thought in his head at the time, however, and actual development only began after the game was released and they were mostly done with updates for it.

Realm of Shadow
The Japanese subtitles on the trailer indicate that “Realm of Shadow” corresponds with the “影の地” Miyazaki speaks of in the interview

Next, Miyazaki is asked about the meaning of the title, and says that the tree seen in the concept art released in February 2023 is the titular shadow of the Erdtree, known as the “Shadow Tree” (影樹) in Japanese. The DLC thus takes place not in the Lands Between, but in what is called the Realm of Shadow (影の地). There is also another hidden meaning to the title, however, but he says that this is something for the players to find.

In regards to the concept art, the interviews asks if the person riding Torrent is the demigod Miquella, and Miyazaki acknowledges this, saying that Miquella is a keyperson in the story of the DLC. While the main story of Elden Ring had the player following the guidance of grace, the DLC has them following Miquella’s trail into the Realm of Shadow.
The player is not alone in following Miquella, and there are NPCs doing the same as well. These NPCs serve as the DLC’s storytellers, and can be friends or foes to the player.
Additionally, another key focus of the DLC is the past of the Realm of Shadow, and the past of Queen Marika.

In regards to the DLC’s story being about the past, the interviewer asks if this means that the DLC takes place in the past, and Miyazaki denies this, saying that it takes place in the same timeframe as the main story, and the past of the Land of Shadows and Queen Marika is told in the same way that the history of the Shattering War is told in the main game.

Another thing that the DLC is about is, like Elden Ring proper, heroes. The new character seen in the key art, Messmer, is also a hero, and Miyazaki points out that the throne he sits in is identical to those seen in the place where Morgott is fought. This is because he is a being of the same stature as Godrick, Malenia, Radahn and Rykard, and is called a “child of Marika.”

The interviewer asks if George R. R. Martin was involved with the DLC’s story, and Miyazaki says that Martin’s involvement remains the same as how it was with the main story. Like the main story, the DLC’s story is only based on the mythos Martin wrote, and in the DLC’s case it is actually a part of what was constructed during the development of the main game. As such, Martin did not write any additional content for the DLC at all.

Next, the interviewer points out how Dark Souls III and Bloodborne’s DLC was released about a year after the respective games, and that due to the longer wait for Elden Ring’s players are having inflated expectations for its DLC’s size. Miyazaki first apologizes for the wait, and goes on to say that in regards to volume, Elden Ring’s is without a doubt bigger than any of the DLC in the Dark Souls series or Bloodborne, and that it is the largest piece of DLC they have ever worked on. The reason for its size is because it was necessitated by them wanting to have the DLC still give players an Elden Ring-like experience: Huge threats to overcome, the freedom of how to go about that, and the excitement of exploring the unknown and finding things are all things they had to include.

In regards to the field, Miyazaki says that it is a completely new field, different from that in the main game. There is of course the open field, and also legacy dungeons and other smaller-scale dungeons. Overall, it is larger and more diverse than Limgrave in the main game.

The DLC’s area is not directly connected to the main game’s map, and is access via a warp, with the entrance being the withered arm hanging from the cocoon in the Mohg, Lord of Blood boss fight arena. Also, once accessed, the player will be able to enter and exit the DLC area freely. Warping to sites of grace found works the same as in the main game.

Additionally, the player has to have defeated Starscourge Radahn and Mohg, Lord of Blood in order to access the DLC. The interviewer asks if this means that the difficulty level in the DLC is high, and Miyazaki says that in terms of stats, it is balanced around the assumption that the player is in the later stages of the game. That being said, the actual approach to difficulty is unchanged from the main game. The player is given freedom to tackle problems, and like Malenia in the main game, there are also especially tough bosses that are completely optional.

Next, the interviewer asks if progress in the DLC will affect the main game’s ending, and Miyazaki says that it will not, and also says that progress in the main story does not affect the DLC’s content in any way either. The DLC’s story is completed within itself.

Miyazaki is asked if the DLC adds any new gameplay elements, and he says that system-wise, there is a new leveling system only used inside the DLC. He describes it as something like Sekiro’s Attack Power, that exists independently of the player’s other stats and only applies within the DLC. This is something they added for the sake of giving players freedom to tackle problems: They wanted high-level players to still be able to experience finding a boss too powerful for them and deciding to go explore instead. Of course, this also means that players also have the freedom to not raise their “Attack Power” and take on threats at a low level.

Several of the new weapons mentioned by Miyazaki can be seen in the trailer

The DLC also adds new weapons, magic, and ashes of war. This includes not just new weapons for existing weapon types, but also eight entirely new weapon types. On the simpler side are the Tachi, which is a larger katana, and swords which are held backwards, and on the side of more unique things are a melee weapon that allows the player to fight like a monk, the “Dueling Shield” which allows the player to attack and defend at the same time, and throwing knives which have all of the player’s attacks turn into thrown projectiles. He says that this should make the DLC feel refreshing even to players who have already tried out all of the weapon types in the main game.

The lion dance-like enemy shown in the trailer is brought up as well, and Miyazaki says that it is a boss that is very representative of the DLC’s setting. The Realm of Shadow is where Marika became a god and where the Erdtree was born, and as such things from cultures before the Erdtree exist there. The lion dance is something from one such culture, and the DLC will let players have a taste of such cultures different from the Erdtree’s.

The interviewer also asks about the veil in the sky, and Miyazaki says that the Realm of Shadow is cut off and hidden from the Lands Between, and the veil represents that.

In regards to the DLC’s ending, Miyazaki says that while there is no independent ending where the credits roll, it does have a clear end to it, and there will be something to have the player know it.

Next, Miyazaki is asked if there are plans to expand the world after this DLC, such as with more DLC, and he answers with a clear no. There are currently no plans at all for more DLC, and he says that the completion of this DLC is a clear cutoff point for Elden Ring for now. He does say, however, that his stance towards this is similar to that towards Dark Souls III, where he will not say that is definitively done, as he wants to leave possibilities for the future open.

Looking back at Elden Ring, Miyazaki says that in development for both the main game and DLC, they were always putting their all into it, and always wanted more time, and it is only after the fact that he realizes how much time they actually spent. There was a lot of hardship, but he also enjoyed himself a lot, and says that everyone on the team was fantastic, and being able to collaborate with Martin was a great honor.

Miyazaki says that creating games is not just a job to him but a reason for living, and as such Elden Ring was an irreplaceable experience for him, and he has nothing but thanks for being blessed with so many players.

Finally, the interviewer asks Miyazaki if he would like to make another Elden Ring-sized game, and the answer is a yes. While he is not sure if they will be able to immediately start work on such a game, he would like to. He believes that he is not alone in the development team in wanting to put the experience of working on Elden Ring towards a new game, and more than anything, making a huge world and adventure is fun and exciting to him.

 

Also see: Elden Ring: Ranni’s Age of Stars ending mistranslations explained

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