The Newest Shadow of the Erdtree Trailer is Incomprehensible, As it Should be

Alright, I’m one of those gamers that is addicted to FromSoft. Played every game since Dark Souls (and went back and played Demon Souls), and I’ve watched every single trailer they’ve put out for any game or DLC as they put it out. I’ve watched countless lore videos on every game, especially Elden Ring, and in general, I really feel like I know what’s going on. I even was pretty confident that I’d picked up on all the important bits about Shadow of the Erdtree so far, as evidenced by my Shadow of the Erdtree DLC Analysis.

And so, I went in to Shadow of the Erdtree’s Story Trailer on YouTube with high expectations about my level of comprehension. Sure, FromSoft’s trailers are notoriously difficult to understand, even moreso than their in-game lore, but I did pretty good last time (Here’s my Bingo card to prove it). I thought I was past the need for 2 hour lore explanation videos made by warm-voiced Australian Elden Ring experts; I could puzzle it out on my own. And then, this dropped:

And I’ve gotta be honest with you, folks… I’ve got no idea what’s happening.

Well, okay, I get some of it. Messmer is a big scary bad dude, Marika’s cheating was more destructive than Tiger Woods’s (timely reference, I know), and “kindly Miquella” is no longer connected to his body (the one in the cocoon in Mohg’s arena).

But… That’s really it. And most of that we already figured out from the last trailer and previous advertising material. Everything else in this trailer? Yeah, no. I’ll have to sit and wait for the warm-voiced Aussie for this one. I don’t know what the birth imagery signifies totally, I don’t understand what the Land of Shadow really is. I don’t get Messmer’s deal. And, no, I don’t even have a clue about the wickedly-cool dancing lion (I also didn’t have much clue when it appeared before).

elden ring shadow of the erdtree story trailer incomprehensible lion dude
I don’t understand it, but I am terrified of it

I promise I’m not overstating this: this new story trailer has only made the story more difficult to understand. In a way that is even more incomprehensible than From Software’s usual style of incomprehensibility. And, while a part of me honestly thinks that this trailer may take the idea of a “mysterious world with unanswered questions” thing a bit too far, another part of me knows that this new trailer has done one thing perfectly.

One word: Tone.

Because, even without understanding anything that is going on, it’s easier to get this trailer than maybe any since Bloodborne’s. Sure, the plot is a mystery, the characters have unclear motivations and histories, and the world makes even less sense than ever before, but… Well, that isn’t why anyone plays Elden Ring, is it? You play — at least as far as the narrative is concerned — so that you can feel that adrenaline rush from taking on an evil-looking boss with the world’s coolest name while an orchestra blasts to accentuate your every dodge roll and strike (or death… Mostly death).

elden ring shadow of the erdtree story trailer incomprehensible who died
Who died? What’s with the army? Where is this? What killed it? Who knows! But it looks sick as hell, right?

And for that? This story trailer might not communicate anything that most would call a story, even less so than most trailers for From Software games, but it really does communicate the thing that matter most: what it feels like to play Elden Ring (and, one would hope, Shadow of the Erdtree).

What I mean to say, then, is this: though this might be the least story-focused story trailer I’ve ever seen, Elden Ring is at its best when it is running off of tone and vibes that you don’t fully understand the context of. I mean, how many of you understood anything that was happening when you fought Margit the first time? Or understood what Malenia’s deal was when you first walked into that rot-filled arena? Or really understood what Godrick was going on about while soliloquizing to a dragon’s head?

But that didn’t keep any of those moments from feeling like the coolest things you’d ever seen in your life while they were happening, right?

This trailer might be the first in From Software’s catalog to really get that. And I think it’s great. Even I — one of the resident FromSoft experts here at EIP — don’t really get what’s going on. And, for the first time since well before Elden Ring, all that I feel about that is excitement.

elden ring shadow of the erdtree story trailer incomprehensible bleeding shadow erdtree
I don’t know what’s going on, but I do know the shadow-Erdtree bleeding gold is iconic.

And so, I say this: Bring it on, Messmer. Bring it on, terrifying lion dancer dude. Bring it on, giant braziers of war. I don’t know what you’re doing, why you’re here, where here is, or why you want to fight. But, you know what?

This trailer gets it: all that makes it better.

Or maybe I’m just saying that so that I can survive without driving myself crazy trying to figure everything out before VaatiVidya uploads an hour-long explanation. The jury’s still out.

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Graves is an avid writer, web designer, and gamer, with more ideas than he could hope to achieve in a lifetime. But, armed with a mug of coffee and an overactive imagination, he'll try. When he isn't working on a creative project, he is painting miniatures, reading cheesy sci-fi novels, or making music.

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