Review: The Elder Scrolls Online: Murkmire – The Lizardfolk get some love

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The Elder Scrolls Online’s latest DLC takes players into the unique and swampy lands of the Argonian homelands of the Black Marsh. In Murkmire, you will explore, uncover, and seek to preserve relics of the past for one of the most unique and beautiful DLCs to date. Find out what we thought in our review.


Pros:
+Absolutely astonishingly designed landscapes and villages
+Extremely well-designed quests that offer more lore behind the Argonian race
+Each sub-area is uniquely designed and offers entirely new experiences as you explore
+Offers around 20+ hours of content to enjoy

Cons:
-Minor framerate issues
-Some of the quests can’t be done alone due to the difficulty of the dailies


In The Elder Scrolls Online, I’ve spent a lot of time traversing mountainous terrains, deserts, islands, and even otherworldly locales. I’ve taken on unimaginable foes, zapped, poked, and prodded enemies I’d never known I would encounter in all my time in all of Tamriel.

Now, I’ve even had a chance to traverse the Argonian homeland known as Murkmire, a glorified swamp I’d never known I’d come to love. The first thoughts I get about a desert aren’t what you’d expect. First, I imagine zombies, massive trees hanging just overhead while insects larger than horses float about as they await their chance to pounce some unexpecting fool.

But here I am, teamed up with Famia Mercius, an antiquarian who is fascinated with the ARgonian culture, so much so that it doesn’t even phase her the moment she swats a gnat off her neck with a smile stretched across her face. While she does explain what’s going on, it’s hard not to glance over the locals and how they sound, look, and how varied they are compared to the Argonian’s I’ve encountered once before.

They’re not happy with us being here and it almost seems that they would rather see us walking away with our tails tucked between our legs than skulking about their now fallen empire. Just to show how tense it can be, Famia lives in a stone house, one much different than the previously witnessed wood-crafted houses.

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I danced in the rain and splashed in the puddles

When it comes to settings, Murkmire is the riskiest of them all and for some, it sounded like Murkmire was bound to be a chapter-based expansion much akin to Morrowind and Summerset. Instead, it sounds comfortably side-by-side with the Wrothgard DLC, peaking somewhere near 20 hours to complete, that includes all quests, dungeon, and social events that can take place.

For approximately 20 hours, I splashed, I splooshed, and I slooshed my way through a flat and expansive swamp-like land, one given some thickness to it by the heft of various hills and intricately designed cave-like subsystems where you’ll enter and explore in order to find the mysteries that lie beneath the surface.

Unlike areas such as Summerset or Morrowind, Murkmire is something different, a beast of its own accord and its one that will leave you wondering what to expect. For roughly $15 USD, you are actually going to get quite a bit. The DLC changes its tone more than once, jumping into the modernized architecture that shows how the Argonian’s are moving forward and in others, how attuned to their past others actually are. It’s an inexplicable sight and one best left to experience.

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Someone call Indiana Jones or Lara Croft, we need their help with these traps

One of the most surprising things about the DLC itself is how well the DLC is sculpted inside and out. You’ll find yourself journeying through long-abandoned Argonian ziggurats, ones stuffed to the brim with blow-dart traps, puzzles and spikes galore. There’s been often times I’ve died to some random trap that awaited my missteps, quickly killing me off before I could venture much further into the dungeons themselves.

But that’s also where an arrow to the knee has been delivered to Murkmire’s DLC. You won’t spend near as much time as you’d hoped trudging through the swamplands themselves. I found that Murkmire itself was only the size (if not smaller) than Wrothgar, serving as a host to only two open-world bosses and dailies that seem to constantly revolve around the two alongside two new delves that can be completed in about 30 minutes each.

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The cultural depths of Murkmire run deeper than blood itself

When it comes to Argonian’s and the Black Marsh, we’ve only seen glimpses of it in the past through zones like Shadowfen and various concept pieces that have floated about for quite some time. Now that we’re actually here, we’ve learned more than what we would have ever imagined in our lives. Argonians aren’t your simple lizardfolk as we once imagined.

They’re one overshadowed by cultural forces we’ve not imagined before. They stand claw-to-toe with cultural boundaries ranging from the Dark Elves that treat Argonians as their slaves or the Imperials that only treat them only slightly better. Regardless, they aren’t treated well and their problems run just as deep. You’ll find that Murkmire is a shadow of their once proud culture, a culture brought to life by that of the Hist – a race of trees that are rumored to be as old as the Argonian races themselves – or even older than Nirn.

In this land, you get that very vibe, you see it come to life in more ways than one. You get to see the very effects those born of the sap have and those who return to the Hist will have over time. You’ll get to see not just how the Argonians live, but you will also get to see races we’d not encountered in all of Tamriel until now – other types of Argonians that appear much different than the lizard-faced creatures we already know and it all comes to life in the central hub of the Black Marsh itself – Lilmoth.

A town littered with huts, buildings, and docks that are brought to life by figures of their past. To be honest, this has become one of my favorite zones within all of The Elder Scrolls Online next to that of the autonomous Clockwork City.

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Their history remains vastly unchanged as the kingdoms of Tamriel grow

While the Dunmer, the High Elves, and Imperials see their kingdoms grow, the Argonians remain departed from these ideals, only concerning themselves with the land they call home. However, they have their own concerns as they concern themselves with more troubling matters such as pleasing one another’s clans, celebrating their traditions, and even remaining reclusive among their very own kin.

While the world around them grows, the Argonian society itself breathes, its heart beats, and Murkmire explains how this manages to happen in an elegance of its own. You’ll find books, tablets, experience maturity rituals and even how their mating rituals work. You’ll get an idea of how their world works and the importance of the hist tree that breathes life into their very beings.

You’ll, across several quests, get an idea of just how troubled their society is due to substances such as Skooma actually work and just how far they’ll go to settle age-old debts. You’ll even find those who seek to preserve the old ziggurats or the “stone nests” – sites of importance they have long abandoned to a large majority of those that wish not to remember or honor their pasts.

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With change comes preservation

For the Argonians, you can’t fault them for the change. Just as the seasons change, so does their world, and Murkmire’s best story portions come with how the outside world has attempted to coerce their way into the swamp, seeking to exploit everything it has to offer. Among them is Famia, a person who is part of that very culture: A woman who has her heart in the right place, but her mind a bit out of touch with how preservation really works.

She has forgotten what makes the Argonian history all that more important, but unfortunately, the magics, the powers the Argonians have – have been used for all the wrong things even with good intention. But her investigations, her endeavors you’ll be drawn into, will give a fascinating glimpse into the depths of the hist and its bond with the Argonians.

It’s really fascinating, including all the twists and turns filled with betrayal and those moments you’d never be surprised to see. You’ll even get to briefly see some of the DLC’s strongest character such as Zadaza appear for some of her best moments before disappearing altogether. Unlike previous endeavors, there are very few cast members that are all that memorable and will be more of passerby’s it seems once your questing in Murkmire is concluded.

You’ll find that everyone’s agenda is something of their own, some providing a reason to let the past exist as a memory while others move to forget it and forge new pathways for them and theirs to exist within. But as you know, not everything changes and Blackrose Prison, a new arena-type four-man dungeon, takes place in an abandoned Imperial structure where you’ll take against a band of thugs who have taken a Wood Elf’s friend hostage. As you’ve already guessed, you are requested to rescue him and take on the brutal challenges that lie ahead.

For some, the dungeon may be the reason you return, others may return for the Argonian and Darkwater motifs in order to get the new crafting patterns for their gear. Murkmire isn’t just a unique zone, it’s one of the most unique zones of them all. It stands out due to its beauty and well-crafted areas that blend together rather perfectly, giving each of them their own unique feel as you move from village to village and ziggurat to ziggurat.

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I found a home within the swamp and now – I want you off my lawn

If you are one that looks to find uniquely crafted areas, ones that sticks out among the rest, then Murkmire may just be that DLC you are looking for. From the dangers of miss-birthed Argonians to killer plants, then you may find a soft spot for Murkmire in your heart. You’ll find a way to appreciate the Argonian’s who’ve been calling the swamp of Murkmire home.

To be honest, I’m not sure this place will ever grow stagnant, that I will ever grow tired of hearing the young Argonian musician just down the way or the young couple flirting with one another on the docks. Maybe, just like me, you’ll come to love the swamp just as I have in my 20+ hours in its wet, watery shores.

 

The Elder Scrolls Online: Murkmire
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One
Platform Reviewed: PlayStation 4
Developer: ZeniMax Online Studio
Publisher: Bethesda Zenimax
Release Date: Available Now
Cost: $19.99 | Free: ESO Plus membership

The Elder Scrolls OnlineMurkmire DLC is now available through an ESO Plus subscription or an estimated $20.00 USD through the in-game ESO Crown Store.


Our review is based upon a retail version that was provided to us by the publisher of the game. For information about our ethics policy please click here.


Final Score: 8 out of 10


About the Writer(s):

dustin_batgr_prof

Dustin is our native console gamer, PlayStation and Nintendo reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the boarders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPG’s, Anime, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable. His elitist attitude gives him direction, want, and a need for the hardest difficulties in games, which is fun to watch, and hilarity at its finest. You can find him over on Twitter or Facebook.

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