I’ve had absolutely no time on my hands lately. None. Between the entire world collapsing around our ears, to tons of new initiatives for the site, to my house being under construction – needless to say I’ve fallen into my old trap of losing time with my favorite games… One of those favorite games, as you know, is The Elder Scrolls Online.
I love ESO. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the last two expansions, and with World of Warcraft: Shadowlands set to drop in just a few weeks, I simply NEEDED to carve out time to finally finish Greymoor (which actually released back in May) so I could write up a proper review.
Back In The Saddle
For the uninitiated, Greymoor is The Elder Scrolls Online’s most recent expansion, which takes players back to Skyrim. Skyrim’s “Old Holds” – like The Rift and The Pale – were always in the game, but “Western Skyrim”, which includes Morthal, Solitude, Whiterun, and other major cities – makes its appearance for the first time in the MMO.
In the game’s lore, Western Skyrim was never available previously to players as High King Svargrim refused to join the Ebonheart Pact with the other Nords (one of the game’s alliances) – and so the nation of Skyrim was split. Western Skyrim ends up needing our help after all, however, as a dark storm is gathering over the frigid region.
Bad Dudes Rising
Greymoor starts us off with a nostalgic trip back to the Skyrim we know and love, and right off the bat makes it clear that you will encounter lots of nostalgia throughout the course of the expansion. I never heard any “arrow in the knee” jokes (thank god), but I’m sure they’re in there.
The crux of the story is this – some weird shit has been going down, as strange red storms have been appearing throughout Skyrim, dumping vampiric thralls all over the region, causing all sorts of havoc. Lyris Titanborn recruits your character once again to return home and investigate the happenings, and the rest is your classic mix of ESO fare. Map exploration, some stealth, a few boss fights, a Delve or two, and the grand finale.
All of this is a part of Bethesda and ZeniMax’s “Dark Heart of Skyrim” year-long campaign, which is still ongoing. Based on the success of ESO’s Season of the Dragon last year, the ESO team decided to roll out another year-spanning global event that would keep players invested in the themes and the stories that Skyrim has to offer.
Hearts of Darkness
There’s something about the aforementioned Dark Heart of Skyrim campaign that doesn’t quite grab me the way the Season of the Dragon did. We went from the sun-drenched cities of Elsweyr, with its bright, colorful cast – to a VERY dark, gloomy, and gritty Skyrim that has been almost entirely taken over by vampires. This stark contrast was a little jarring, and after a few weeks of being up to my eyeballs in undead thralls and icy tundras of Skyrim, I found myself longing for the sunshine of Elsweyr. Maybe I just need a vacation.
While the ever-present gloomy darkness of Skyrim can be a little exhausting, there is a TON to do in this expansion to keep your mind off the bloodthirsty enemies around every corner. Aside from the absurdly abundant new crafting recipes and patterns, Greymoor also introduces a new group-focused mechanic called “Harrowstorms”.
Not unlike Dark Anchors, Abyssal Geysers and Dragonscours before it, Harrowstorms require a number of players to work together to shut a vampiric ritual. This ritual opens up a huge red storm in the sky, which begins shitting out vampires and their minions all over the battlefield.
Players needs to destroy a series of totems in the eye of the storm, all while progressively larger (in quantity and in strength) enemies appear. The aforementioned storm also presents a threat, as I watch several unassuming players be zapped to death instantly because they weren’t watching where they were standing. There’s nothing quite like a group-focused Dragon Hunt, but Harrowstorms easily take a firm second place for my favorite group events in ESO.
Same Skyrim, Different Storm
Throughout the game’s story, you will encounter a lot of the similar tropes that ESO has employed in previous zone campaigns. You’ll run through a Delve or two, kill some bad guys, get some help from your friends to kill larger badguys, disrupt a few rituals – you know the deal.
The main issue I have is the lack of challenge that these obstacles present. Maybe it’s just the way ESO works, but I found it a little disappointing that I would just sprint through the majority of a Delve to get to the main goal, and if I timed things right – I could run past almost every minor enemy in the area to get to the next door without incident. This shaved off minutes (maybe a whole hour) of play time, and made every “gauntlet-esque” encounter a breeze for my Stamina-focused character.
The major encounters in Greymoor are a blast. The final showdown was a true nail-biter, very much worthy of standing alongside some of the other big boss fights that ESO’s story-focused content provides. The story provides a good amount of mystery, betrayal, and family drama – none of which I really expected from a story based in Skyrim. This is absolutely one of the more deep storylines that ESO has to offer, purely from an intrigue perspective.
The Elder Scrolls Online: Greymoor’s pros vastly outweigh its cons. While the combat and encounters can feel repetitive and sometimes formulaic if you’ve played other ESO expansions, the story has a lot to love and the return of Jennifer Hale’s impossibly badass Lyris Titanborn is a true treat.
While I was hoping for more variety in the bones of Greymoor, it is absolutely worth checking out if you’re an Elder Scrolls Online fan, or if you’re just looking for some Skyrim nostalgia.
The Good: The Skyrim you know is faithfully re-created, with tons of content to flesh out the ESO version of the region. Features a strong story with an awesome cast. Didn’t hear any arrow to the knee jokes.
The Bad: Some new Delves feel very thin, the minions you face feel a little repetitive. Feels odd to not carry over any dragon-y stories from the prior expansion into Skyrim.
The Verdict: 3/5. Greymoor is an exciting trip down memory lane, but wasn’t quite able to match the spectacle that Elsweyr presented.
The Elder Scrolls Online: Greymoor is available right now on all platforms.