The Elder Scrolls Online: Elsweyr Review

PC


Share.

Dragons fizzle but Necromancers arrive to save the day.

Wander around Elsweyr—the ancient homeland of the cat-like Khajiit people—and you’ll find fascinating vistas around every corner. Windswept deserts lie on either side of the bridge-crossed canyons known as the Stitches while untamed jungles flourish to the south. In every region, Khmer-inspired ruins litter the landscape and hint at ages past when the Khajiit weren’t as disliked as they are now. You’ll also find exceptional sidequests and play as the outstanding new Necromancer class, and all of that makes up for the fact that the dragon-centric main storyline is a big letdown.

Something as inherently awesome as invading dragons should make for a strong questline, especially when there are also Necromancers and their undead minions running around, to say nothing of an Imperial takeover of a key city that has left the poor Khajiit second-class citizens in their own land. But the way Elsweyr crams all of this in is the root of its problem: there’s so much going on that it can’t focus. So disjointed is the pacing, in fact, that my questing buddy and I sometimes got the impression that the main story was finished before it actually was.

Exit Theatre Mode

You’d think everyone in Elsweyr would find little time to think about anything but dragons burninating the countryside, but in truth you rarely hear about flying death monsters unless you’re on the 10-hour main quest or hunting their world boss versions in the open world (which are essentially the same Dark Anchors that have been around since ESO’s launch). They come off as window dressing rather than all-consuming threats, and the predictability of their landing spots means they lack any of the menace of the dragons in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Hopefully, they’ll get more screen time over the course of the “Season of the Dragon” – a staggered content-release plan that Zenimax Online says will add another dungeon and story zone later in the year – but right now the colossal beasts are a disappointment.

Dragons do take quite a few people to fight, and fortunately, they’re considerably tougher than the Dark Anchors and Abyssal Geysers. A quick tail swipe can fell even the highest-level player around, and surviving long enough to avoid being killed by an all-familiar Dragon Shout can be touted as something of a badge of honor. Dragons drop decent loot and offer tons of experience, but I wish they were more than a repackaging of features that have been around for years. At least you don’t have to spend ages leveling if you want to see the new dragons in a single afternoon; as with the Summerset and Morrowind expansions before it, Elsweyr lets even new players start their adventures in the new zone from scratch.

I find Elsweyr itself a joy to explore.

And again, even if I expected more from the dragons and main quest, I find Elsweyr itself a joy to explore. I especially love the architecture of the Khajiiti temples and cities: The large hub of Rimmen specifically brings to mind Khmer-styled ruins such as Angkor Wat, which I rarely see in games. Screenshot opportunities abound, whether they’re of the aqueducts stretching from town to town or the canyons pocking the landscape. Elsweyr is a long way from the garden-variety fantasy the Summerset expansion brought us last year, and it adds a ton of character as a result. It feels smaller in scale than either Morrowind and Summerset, but it feels equal or greater in scope.

Exit Theatre Mode

As for the side quests, they’re some of the best I’ve played since ESO’s excellent Morrowind expansion two years ago. Standouts include one in which I had to recruit crooks for a heist; hilarity ensued when each brought unexpected skills and issues with them. In another, I actually felt sympathy for a lich after learning what led to his slide into darkness. My favorite quest, though, involved a Cheshire Cat-like being toying with acolytes at a temple. I even helped someone from a family of assassins discover whether or not his grandfather actually completed his last mission, and that storyline also taught me about Akaviri rituals that are rarely discussed in the Elder Scrolls lore.

These stories kept me on the edge of my seat and sometimes made me laugh out loud.

And that’s when it clicked for me: Elsweyr is advertised as a big struggle against undead and dragons, but it really comes into its own when it turns its attention to the Khajiiti people populating the countryside. Unlike the main story – which I’m already having trouble remembering – these stories kept me on the edge of my seat and sometimes made me laugh out loud. Each side quest is full of interesting characters that I want to help, while I only felt that way in the main story for two characters I already knew from other ESO stories. It was cool to quest alongside the arrogant battlemage Abnur Tharn and the whimsical knight Cadwell (voiced by John Cleese), but the overall story felt like a step back from last year’s Summerset storyline.

The crown jewel of the Elsweyr expansion, though, is the new Necromancer class. I spent the entire review playthough as the new class, and it’s one of the best classes I’ve ever played in an MMO. The community has been asking for playable Necros ever since the original beta, but I’m happy the developers waited to release it until they got it right.

Exit Theatre Mode

Necromancy is a touchy subject in The Elder Scrolls world, as its been outlawed by both the Psijic Order and the Mages Guild. In fact, that’s actually part of the thrill for me – knowing that the means I was using to save Tamriel wasn’t exactly on the up and up. Characters treated me differently based on the fact I practiced necromancy – I remember Abnur Tharn specifically vilify the Necromancers we were working against, while walking back his statements once I informed him that I, too, was a Necromancer. I’m someone who appreciates a little Role-playing in my MMORPGs, and knowing that most of Tamriel wouldn’t approve of the way I was working to save them brought a ton of satisfaction as I worked through the individual questlines.

The Necromancer feels incredibly versatile and is a ton of fun to play.

They are also just a ton of fun to play. I laughed almost every time I would summon a Kamikaze-esque skeleton who would race towards his foe and throw himself onto them, exploding on impact. Summoning my Skeleton Mage always felt like a game of chance as I tried to guess which race I’ve raised this time (My favorite is the Argonian skeleton draped in tattered black robes). Each Ultimate skill also felt useful, like throwing down a massive colossus who slams the ground damaging foes around you, or – rather aptly – using a skill to raise your fallen allies (though you don’t get to control them like any good Necromancer wants, unfortunately). Even the Bone Goliath – a skill that transforms you into…well, a massive bone goliath, felt powerful at the right moment, especially early on in my adventures where the health boost and regen the skill provides saved my life quite a few times.

The Necromancer feels incredibly versatile due to the fact that many of its skills work regardless of whether you focus on Magicka or stamina, and those skills allow you to handle yourself well regardless of whether you want your playstyle to focus on damage, healing, or tanking.

It’s also vaguely similar to the Sorcerer, with the main difference being that its pets (such as skeleton mages) don’t stick around like Sorcerer’s familiars. When your minions do die, they leave a corpse behind that you can use as a resource to either heal yourself or power other skills, such as a lightning area-of-effect skill that fries any enemies caught between you and the targeted corpse. This is always satisfying, especially since you can also use these skills with player corpses. Utilizing the corpses around you aptly highlights the flavor of the Necromancer class – by absorbing those spirits, you are literally sustaining and strengthening yourself off the essence of the departed souls around you.

All of this demands heightened situational awareness that kept me engaged throughout the 30 or so hours it took to complete all of Elsweyr’s content (aside from the new raid-like trial, which I haven’t yet managed to beat). Having to monitor both my regular Magicka resource pool and the corpses I left behind helps the Necromancer feel more like a real class instead of a memorized rotation of abilities. It’s also hilarious to accidentally summon your skeleton mage while near a guard or NPC and listen to them freak out in response. This has driven my bounty up quite a bit at times, but it’s worth it.

The Verdict

Elsweyr is a worthy successor to last year’s Summerset chapter, even though the main quests don’t live up to the hype. It’s actually the excellent storytelling and exploration in the side quests that outshines the underwhelming dragons with heartfelt drama and comedy. Meanwhile, the new Necromancer class is by far one of the best additions to ESO since the early days, with some very clever unique mechanics that work in any role. And of course, the land of Elsweyr itself is one of the best and most visually interesting areas to explore.

Products You May Like

Articles You May Like

Katamari Damacy’s Creator on Wattam’s Insane Initial Concept
When the Atari ST Was the Future of Computing
Star Wars Jedi Fallen Order Hands-On: Damn it Feels Good to Be a Jedi
List of All the Games Shown at E3 2019
Hitman: Absolution – E3 2012: Saints Trailer

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *