Elder Scrolls Online: Elsweyr Review

Necromancers, Dragons, and Khajiit, what more could you ask for from an Elder Scrolls Online expansion? The latest expansion for the titular MMORPG opens up the land of Elsweyr, an ancient, rocky area that happens to have quite the infestation of both dragons and undead (thanks Tharn).

The second release for ESOs Year of the Dragon, Elsweyr follows the player as they accompany Abur Tharn, Khamira, and a whole host of other intriguing characters as the dragons terrorise the ancient Khajiiti land. The story, as much of The Elder Scrolls tends to go, is incredibly rich and detailed on a whole, with the added threat of dragons, Necromancers, and a prominent sibling rivalry sharing equal main quest time. You will venture into forgotten tombs, cities ruled by fear, and face powerful beasts of legend.

The story continues after the releasing of the dragons from their age-old captivity, led by the fearsome Kaalgrontiid, as they dominate the landscape and enact countless acts of destruction on the region. The story of Elsweyr is a standard Elder Scrolls plotline revolving around an intense, potentially world-ending event in which a small group of talented individuals battle to prevent it. That being said, the story does have a few twists and interconnected elements that make it enjoyable to play through. The one issue I found with the main story was the flow of the ending, where most things wrapped up in a neat little bow over the course of a few missions. It would have been nice to explore the consequences and some more background on the next threat on the priority list, such as the danger of the Necromancers. Side note: I miss Mannimarco.

And if you’re a fan of side quests, you’re in luck because Elsweyr has a ton. They may be scattered around the rocky landscape requiring a fair amount of exploration, much like every zone, but they offer great rewards and some amusing storylines. The detective arc was particularly intriguing. Plus a particular cheese-lover is back to his old hijinks.

Back to Death Wizards as Elsweyr marked the arrival of the first new playable class since Morrowind released the Warden, with the rise of the Necromancer. Necromancy has been a fixture of Elder Scrolls Online for many years and to have a playable version added to the game has made a lot of players very happy, myself included. With three distinct styles of play or an amalgam of the three, you can sculpt your Necromancer to the content you enjoy playing.

One of the best things about the Necromancer and something that, again, makes the world feel reactive, are civilian reactions to those abilities. Normal folks really don’t like Death Magic and it tends to get you arrested. Just ask our Breton friend.

But of course, it isn’t all graveyards and skeletons, as Elsweyr marks the first appearance of dragons in the Elder Scrolls Online universe. These mighty beasts presented their own set of challenges in regards to the game styling and pace. While the look and lore of the dragons matches with what players have come to expect from previous iterations, their execution was lacklustre at times.

While it is understandable that the limitations to the engine and the style of the game could have impacted the implementation of the dragons, it feels like they could’ve been more vibrant. The dragons in the story are few and far between, with players spending more time chasing them than battling them. When you do battle them, it’s more of a grind to take them down due to the large health pools, usually aided by some form of object, which was a not-so-subtle allusion to just how powerful the dragons are.

Then we have the World Bosses, which just sit there, feeding, and waiting for a group of adventurers to foolishly approach. With their large health pools and devastating damage, dragons are group activities where it’s not uncommon to see dozens to players all interacting to lay the beast low. This, of course, comes with a tremendous spike in lag, due to so many players coexisting in one space at one time. This could also be due to my crappy Australian internet.

The downside to these dragons is that there is nothing truly exciting or different about each of the fights. These are creatures most in Tamriel thought were just a myth; Kaalgrontiid has an ambitious plan to absorb more power and many years later Alduin was prophesied to end the World.

While the random no-name dragons in Elsweyr aren’t up to that level of devastation and power, it would have been nice to have more animation in the World Boss fights, as opposed to a mostly grounded battle with some aerial sequences. With all that being said, I do love the sense of teamwork and scale that the large health pools of the dragons bring to ESO, fostering cooperation and a desperate need for those half-digested packs.

What I truly love about Elder Scrolls Online is how each expansion contributes to the ‘living universe’ as it were. They don’t feel fragmented and separate instead feeling like the land of Tamriel is reacting to each new occurrence and threat. This is done mainly through the continuation of popular characters’ stories, introducing new lore and otherwise delving into their background a little more. Elsweyr is no exception, with several very popular characters, including Tharn, featuring heavily in the story. There’s even a minor cameo I found to be rather amusing in scope of its mundality, hidden within the vast rocky landscape that is the region of Elsweyr.

The new zone is rich in history, steeped in an ancient mysticism and culture that appears a lot more grounded and timeless than lands of other races. All of the zones in Elder Scrolls Online feel like they’ve existed for uncounted millennia, from the vast deserts of Alik’r and the rough mountains of Skyrim to the gorgeous Summerset Isles and the poisonous swamps of Murkmire. But there is something about Elsweyr that screams ‘beyond time’, with the temples and architecture, occasionally carved from the rock itself.

Exploring the land of the Khajiit, players begin to realise we know precious little about their relationship to the Twin Moons, Jone and Jode, how their native society functions, and even about the different types of Khajiit. From hulking mounds of muscle with thunderous voices, to small and sassy Khajiit with an affinity for Magicka use, Elsweyr opens the metaphorical flood gates in regards to different variants of the cat people.

And it just opens up so many more possibilities in regards to the wider lore. With all the different subsets of Khajiit, the lands and trading hubs of Tamriel could become populated with a wider variety, with maybe new quest givers and companions cropping up all over the continent. It would contribute to the living nature of the Elder Scrolls universe if we started seeing more large Khajiit roaming the forests of Grahtwood.

Elsweyr expands the story and universe of The Elder Scrolls in a big way, introducing more tales and extending their Year of the Dragon. In my mind, Elsweyr was a roaring success, with the introduction of the Necromancer (especially those Bone Colossi), the addition of the dragons, and lore of characters old and new. I, for one, cannot wait to see what challenges await players over the rest of the year.

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