New chapter for ‘Elder Scrolls Online’

Achievement Trial Sunspire Normal.0

Bethesda’s ‘Elder Scrolls’ universe is a fascinating place with nearly unfathomable depth, vast amounts of lore and some great characters. The single-player games in the series have been huge hits, particularly ‘Elder Scrolls IV – Oblivion’ and ‘Elder Scrolls V – Skyrim’ and the online version – ‘The Elder Scrolls Online’ captures much of the series’ appeal in a free-to-play Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game, available on PC, Mac, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

First launched in 2014, it has steadily expanded ever since, with new areas and adventures being added regularly to the world of Tamriel, where the game is set. No subscription is required, but you do have to buy the game and new chapters to get the content, and there are also in-game purchases if you want to go down that road too.

The latest chapter, Elsweyr, adds the titular region to the game. Home of the catlike Khajit people and featuring a Middle Eastern/Mughal/South-East Asian aesthetic, Elsweyr is an exotic land that has been invaded by both dragons and the armies of the neighbouring Imperial faction.

The new chapter doesn’t make any fundamental gameplay changes, but it does introduce the new Necromancer class, who can raise dead enemies as minions during battle and generally do the various questionable stuff necromancers are famous for.

One of the drawcards for this chapter, beside the setting, is that yes, you get to fight, and you don’t even need a fleet full of ships with ballistae on them to do it. What you do need are a lot of other players however, because dragons are really hard to kill and can breathe fire and generally swat individual players around like the puny inconveniences they are.

Getting a dozen other players across the server to meet up and tackle a dragon together is a great experience though, with spells flying, arrows launching, swords flashing and hapless adventurers getting set on fire. The rewards for taking one of the winged behemoths down can be quite rewarding too, as you’d expect.

Like much of the Elder Scrolls setting, this chapter knows when to play things seriously and when to have a bit of fun with itself.

I really liked the writing in Elsweyr; it was very well done, often wry, and humorous at the appropriate times. The voice acting was good too – including a voice role by John Cleese.

Some of the quests were quite good too – in one of them, even though I worked out the twist quite early in the proceedings, it was still interesting going through the different elements to get to the conclusion.

Although there was a lot to like in the expansion, it still suffers from some of the general issues plaguing The Elder Scrolls Online generally – from dungeons full of simultaneous adventurers to immersion-breaking situations where other players are all mobbed around a questgiver, and having higher-level players come through and wipe out enemies for you, leaving you to basically follow them to the objective marker, clunky controls and animations.

I still encountered several glitches and issues during my playthrough, including unhelpful quest markers that weren’t guiding me usefully to where I needed to be – telling me “your objective is this way on the compass” doesn’t help if the objective is on the other side of the mountain with no apparent path around it.

imageThe most egregious were quest elements occasionally resetting part way through them, meaning enemies – including mini-bosses -would suddenly respawn after I’d already fought them, and on one particularly frustrating occasion I followed a quest marker back into the world from a dungeon, only to realise I’d been led astray – so re-entered the dungeon and had to start the quest over again.

The new chapter works well as a single-player affair, however, and recognises there are plenty of people who just want to drop into the game, do a quest on our own, then log out again.

The graphics are a curious mix of impressive and dated at the same time – they work very well and look impressive in their own way, especially with the lighting effects but the engine is starting to show its age.

There’s no denying The Elder Scrolls Online is a popular game – it’s had something like 11 million players since launch and it’s active monthly player base is thought to be around 2.5 million – and expansions like Elsweyr are one of the reasons for this, adding new content and further enriching the already considerable lore of the universe.

As a world setting, I like Tamriel and loved Elsweyr, but it’s definitely one for Elder Scrolls fans as much of its appeal would be lost on a newcomer, even when factoring in the whole “getting to fight a dragon” thing and the cool setting.

If you know the Elder Scrolls universe then Elsweyr is definitely worth visiting, but if you’re new to the whole thing you might find the earlier Morrowind expansion a more rewarding place to start before you work your way towards adventure in the mysterious home of the Khajit.

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