Unless you’ve lived under a rock during this Willenium, I’m willing to bet you’ve heard of Skyrim. Y’know, the game that involves huge dragons, magic shouting powers, and city guards taking arrows where they don’t belong? Well, it’s 2019 now, and Bethesda’s finally given us the ability to hunt and kill dragons with our friends. Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to The Elder Scrolls Online’s latest expansion Chapter, Elsweyr.
Here’s the story in a nutshell: Elsweyr, the homeland of the Khajiit, has a dragon problem. You are summoned by an old companion from ESO’s original story (voiced by the incomparable Alfred Molina), to help out.
When you think dragons, what comes to mind? I’m willing to bet its either Skyrim or Game of Thrones, since those are the only forms of media I can think of that got mainstream audiences to care about dragons. Luckily, Elsweyr’s release comes hot on the heels of the latter’s finale, so Bethesda’s got your back if you need a dragon fix. Smart release window, guys.
Elsweyr comes with plenty of opportunities to hunt down some dragons in all new over-world events, and in the expansion’s main campaign. The campaign is eight chapters long (not unlike most of ESO’s other main zone stories), and is – in two words – fucking awesome. Alfred Molina and John Cleese lead a memorable voice cast through Elsweyr’s struggle to beat back the dragons, and plenty of other memorable NPCs stole my heart and attention along the way. Elsweyr also features a brand new class (more on that later), a new 12-player Trial, new side quests, item sets, collectibles, and more. The titular Elsweyr zone itself is absolutely gorgeous, littered (no cat pun intended) with ancient ruins, vicious enemies, restless undead, and – of course – dragons, which you’ll engage primarily via Dragon Hunts.
Start this video at 12:37 if the link doesn’t do that for you already to see one of the new Dragon Hunts in action.
Dragon Hunts are those new over-world experiences I mentioned, where a dragon will spawn in a number of areas on the map, and players team up to take the beasts down. I chased down a dragon by myself a few hours into the new expansion, and got literally smoked within seconds. We definitely ain’t the Dragonborn this time around – so dragon encounters feel just as tense and deadly as any other boss fight in the game.
If you’re familiar with the Dark Anchors and/or Abyssal Geysers from previous ESO campaigns, you have an idea of how this is going to go. Dragon Hunts will be signified by special new map symbols, and will involve much more cooperation than any over world events from ESO’s past. The new map markers will let you know when a dragon is nearby and when one is already being attacked, so you can easily catch up and join the fight to reap some exclusive rewards that you can’t get anywhere else.
Even while still in Early Access, Elsweyr’s zone chat is flooded with would-be Dragon Hunters looking for groups to take down as many winged terrors as possible. Taking down a dragon feels just as awesome as you might imagine, and the familiar sounds (and shouts) that the dragons use to defend themselves will make Elder Scrolls fans of any stripe feel right at home.
Elsweyr’s new class, the Necromancer, is everything you might imagine. These dark spellcasters are just as good at making dead bodies as they are at raising them back up, and if that doesn’t work – they’ll unleash elemental volleys at enemies until they’re ripe for ressurection. I can’t say I usually gravitate towards a Necromancer class in any RPGs, but the Necromancer in ESO’s skillset is varied enough to keep me busy, and provides plenty of diverse skills and attacks to balance out the hordes of skeletons you’ll be unleashing on your enemies. The Necromancer was pretty much the only class I could think of that wasn’t already covered by ESO’s previous five, as they all have varying skillsets that allow for players to play pretty much however they want. The Necromancer is no different, and it’ll surely satisfy those looking to put a dark twist on their next character.
All in all, Elsweyr does a phenomenal job of buffing ESO’s existing strengths. Gorgeous locales, jaw-clenching battles and set pieces, and lovable NPCs are in abundance here – and there’s also TONS more items to craft, sell, and collect. It can be daunting at times to enter into a new ESO chapter, solely because of the scope of activities and quests in each new zone, but that’s really a credit to how loaded this game is with content. ESO’s zones are more rich with lore, activities, and scenery than any other online RPG I’ve ever played, and there’s not an ounce of filler to be found. At any given time, your compass is stacked with side missions, main quests, landmarks, delves, and assorted dailies. This may seem a bit overwhelming for new players – but after spending some quality time getting yourself acclimated, ESO’s diverse activities and wealth of content ensure that any RPG fan regardless of play-style will surely be able to find something to love.
The good: ESO boasts the strongest art, sound, level, and story design in any online RPG out right now. It delivers more of the same goodness that existing players have come to love, and provides lots of great reasons for new players to jump right in. Dragon Hunts alone should sway “single player only” Elder Scrolls fans to finally give ESO a spin.
The bad: ESO’s crafting and quest log systems can be a little overwhelming, and I find myself sometimes fighting with maps and journals to figure out where I’m going next for a quest. This eventually works itself out for me, but friends have found it frustrating to keep up when getting acclimated to new zones and while juggling quest chains.
Overall: 5/5. The Elder Scrolls Online: Elsweyr is a must-play action-RPG, whether online or otherwise. Whether you’re an Elder Scrolls fan who’s been holding out for the next single-player title, an MMO buff looking for something new and refreshing, or just someone in need of a dragon fix – look no further than Elsweyr.
The Elder Scrolls Online: Elsweyr is available right now on all platforms, and for $59.99 includes access to the ESO Base Game, Morrowind, and Summerset Chapters for new players looking to jump in for the first time. Existing players can purchase a digital upgrade to Elsweyr for $39.99.
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