Review: The Elder Scrolls Online – There be dragons rufflin’ my fur!

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The Elder Scrolls Online: Elsweyr expansion is the first time we ever get to experience the mysterious homeland of the Khajiiti people and the first time, we ever get to see the unimaginable foes and turmoils that they face that includes Necromancers and Dragons alike.


Pros:
+One of the most scenic and unforgettable settings to date
+Dragon fights are open world raids for fans to enjoy
+Public dungeons change up the functionality of how dungeons should be experienced
+The Necromancer class helps sell the story of Elsweyr and the strange occurrences in it

Cons:
-Rather small of a zone compared to most, but it packs a lot of content in it
-A few bugs that prevent completion of the entire zone (affecting all platforms)


When it comes to The Elder Scrolls Online as a whole, it almost seems that the game will leave no stone unturned as you adventure through the game. It also seems that Elsewyr could be considered the most important and somehow significant out of all the available expansions since the game released.

There’s a reason I say this though, we’ve never really seen Elsewyr in the series what-so-ever and there have only been murmurings of it since the series was established. Now, we finally get to experience itself: The homeland of the Khajiit themselves, but also, a place of mystical arts long-forgotten to the world around them.

This isn’t the first time, however, this has happened. No, we’ve been to Murkmire before but left alone since the days of The Elder Scrolls: Arena. It seems that The Elder Scrolls Online is the place to go, especially if you want to see places you haven’t quite been to before, and it only seems that it’s a continuing trend given how little time Zenimax Online’s series entry has been around.

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It’s a scenic trip through a place we’ve only heard a bit about throughout the series

One of the things we’ve heard about frequently is just how majestic Elsweyr actually is. It’s a land that is both beautiful and rather haunting on its own. It’s a land that houses temples, shrines, devastated towns alongside the tales they come packing. Surprisingly enough, during my entire trip, it didn’t feel as if I was seeing things over and over again, I wasn’t trekking through the same portion of Elsweyr time and time again, but rather, it felt like I was experiencing something new each and every time.

I’ve spent a good thirty hours in Elsweyr at this point. I’ve completed the core campaign for the expansion, I’ve even hammered my way through almost every side-mission it has to offer. I’ve even managed to bash my way through the public dungeons, beating each and every boss I could with the help of random players or my fellow The Elder Scrolls Online fanatic pal, Elona aka OokamiGozen.

During my time throughout Elsweyr, I’ll be the first to admit, it can be mildly overwhelming. Unlike other zones in The Elder Scrolls Online, Elsweyr is extremely vertical, so-much-so, you will often find yourself having to navigate the pathways in order to keep from falling to your death, running into an area filled-to-the-brim with enemy forces or getting stuck trying to navigate the mountainous terrain itself.

Oddly enough, you won’t spend all your time exploring these dangerous lands, there are dungeons galore throughout Elsweyr and oddly enough – you’ll also spend a fair amount of time going into public dungeons or micro-dungeons for the quests you will be given. But stranger yet is the fact you won’t want to leave them. The dungeons ZOS has created for this expansion are absolutely awesome. Each one is unique, packed to the brim with its own enemies, lore, and devastating foes that lie in wait.

Except, there is something a little off, which is something we loved about Murkmire that Elsweyr seemed to avoid: Traps in the dungeons. You won’t have poisonous darts, explosive fires bursting forth to incinerate you nor will you find yourself playing frogger to avoid getting gassed to death by a dungeon. Rather, there are bigger threats, ones that make the rest almost shake in their boots as your story gets underway: Dragons. There be lots and lots of dragons and necromancers galore thanks to the overarching story.

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Elsweyr isn’t going to leave newcomers behind, but it’s also solid for veteran players

One of the best parts about The Elder Scrolls Online: Elsweyr is the fact that newcomers won’t be left hanging out to dry if they decided to dive into the deep end with everyone else. Now, you might be wondering: How can Elsweyr not leave me behind if I’m a new player and why is it a solid pick for veteran players?

Well, two reasons really. One, The Elder Scrolls Online: Elsweyr isn’t by any means a small expansion. In many ways, it can come off as an isolated experience for new players who decide to jump right on in. Just like Morrowind and Summerset expansions, Elsweyr’s zone isn’t limited to just a rather intriguing story featuring dragons, but it also features several new things: Its own zone-based tutorial and a story that quite easily stands out on its own.

If you don’t want to do the tutorial, here’s your basic story: You find out that a certain character’s sister has gone bonkers. We’re talking if you were to decide how bad your plan is on a scale of 1 out of 10, her’s is “I won’t take my happy pill today”, type crazy. So in her madness, she has decided to invade Elsweyr. Let alone has she decided to invade, she’s decided to bring a rage of dragons (a pack of wolves, a swarm of bees, or, y’ know, a pride of lions) with her.

But there is an adequate question: IS a rage of dragons a noun used to express a collective of dragons or is it literally a term for a select few dragons that have decided to join the fray? Well, Elsweyr is going to answer that, but not all at once. There’s still a lot of DLC left to explore and Zenimax Online Studios (ZOS for short), isn’t about to let you go quietly into the night without some idea of what is going on.

For veteran players, you aren’t going to be left out, if you decided to jump into the Wrathstone dungeon DLC (which you can read our review for here!) just a couple of months back. Well, even if you played the base story itself, you’ll recognize a few returning characters such as Razum-Dar and Abnur Tharn. Both of who have played key roles in The Elder Scrolls Online and most importantly, to that of the Aldemari leader Queen Ayrenn herself.

It’s a lot of lore and lore that we aren’t going to spoil for either newcomers or veterans alike. The story is fantastic, albeit rather short, if you decide to focus on doing all the content and not powering through leveling your necromancer (more on that here shortly) in a single go through dungeons after hitting level 10.

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Elsewyr comes with a few gimmicks of its own, one being that this zone is small… Very small, but the verticality is an illusion of sorts

One thing we do have to talk about is how small that Elsweyr actually is. Unlike zones such as Morrowind, Summerset, or Orsinium (the prior two being expansions and the latter being a DLC); Elsweyr is absolutely small. It’s disappointing because zones such Auridon, Vvardenfell, Orsinium, the Clockwork City, and even Murkmire are quite a bit bigger in both scope and scale.

Some of this could very well be on me though. When I think expansion, I think wide open spaces, lots to explore, and quite a bit to do in both that scope and scale. I don’t think about a relatively small zone, one that comes with six new delves, two public dungeons, and over twenty hours of quests to enjoy. There’s even a brand-new Trial for you to explore called Sunspire, which is ESO’s equivalent of a raid, which, believe me, is far from easy.

The public dungeons themselves are actually rather hard and they aren’t for the faint of heart. They are tough – very tough. Tough enough I had to get our very own Elona to come in and help me out with it a time or two (when we were both available to play that is). These self-contained dungeons are actually rather small, featuring their very own unique bosses, layouts, and enemy types you will encounter. They each even have their very own micro-stories, which are actually referenced quite a bit throughout the story in the greater Northern Elsweyr itself.

Just like any The Elder Scrolls experience, side quests are a unique selling point for The Elder Scrolls Online and it works in ZOS’ favor for a rather good reason. It’s massive when you think about it: Over 30+ active side quests to enjoy, one that includes Razum-Dar himself, others including a Khajiiti folk that aren’t… Well… Humanoid called the Alfiq. Some even having major drinking problems or skooma addictions themselves.

The best part of it all? Having John Cleese take on the role of Cadwell once again, a prominent character within all of Elsweyr from the very start. Don’t worry, he hasn’t changed, and he’s just as crazy as he was before – if you veteran players holding off for a review were wanting to know. But it does make you wonder: Did he use his time as Basil Fawlty to inspire his role? Certainly seems as though he has and I was half-expecting to see Cadwell start beating something with a tree.

Just don’t expect Cadwell to help with this troublesome dragons anytime soon. We’re sure Cadwell wants to know where his spoiled chicken leg he wanted for lunch actually went.

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The main draw of Elsweyr is the dragons. Yep, the dragons are a massive piece of the painting

Now, you might have already guessed: Dragons are the primary draw to the expansion. They are a central piece to this years theme, the Year of the Dragon, a season that will see an entire story about them play out over the course of the year. This means you won’t just get to see minor additions to the world we already have seen and experienced alongside the Wrathstone dungeon DLC, but rather, you’ll get to see a lot more as our story unfolds further than it already has.

There have already been subtle hints that there is something much bigger out to play and it’s just how the dragons themselves are acting, but rather, what has motivated them to lead the assault that they have alongside one of our cohorts siblings. It’s fitting really, the overall theme from the beautiful architecture and landscapes that seems somehow almost akin to something between Persian as well as African in design. It works well and it’s actually one of the most beautiful of the settings we’ve had to visit yet.

As a former World of Warcraft player, it easily stands out against the most comparable expansions its competitor title has ever seen: Mists of Pandaria. Unlike Pandaria, Elsweyr doesn’t feel forced by any means at all. It feels natural and there’s a good reason for this setting is the one to be attacked by dragons. It’s already been a part of the greater established lore, it doesn’t feel forced as Pandarians and their zones actually did.

The dragons themselves feel, as stated, right at home, each one coming into play as mobile boss events that traverse the map as they see fit. Each one has its own combat zone, combat mechanics, and even allies that will assist it. It’s definitely an awareness check and none of these dragons can easily be fought one on one. They’ve been openly designed as group-based encounters, which should deter you from taking them on alone.

It’s quite fun, but again, it does require some advance combat knowledge in order to survive one of the encounters without dying. Unless you’re a healer, or, y’ know, a necromancer.

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Necromancers are the second highlight of the expansion

As a Warden and Dragon Knight main, it wasn’t hard for me to jump over to the Necromancer. Truth is, I haven’t been satisfied with the other two classes. I’ve built around them, transitioning between a hybrid of DPS caster and healer to straight-up healer. Necromancer, in many ways, is what I had hoped to be capable of when playing a healer or caster DPS.

Just like any other class, the Necromancer does come with multiple recommended builds that you can use or even your chance to create a build based on your preferences of how you wish to experience the class. Surprisingly enough, I’ve found my Khajit Necromancer does just fine, clearing content at a steady rate, but nothing near as steady as my Argonian Sorcerer due to the racial buffs.

Everything about the Necromancer screams what the class is through and through, and each tree comes with its own benefits. For example, I prefer caster turned healer builds. I like being able to alternate between both healer and a damage dealer, allowing me to maximize my group’s damage output while also providing necessary healing, which is a win-win if you really put the two and two together.

On one hand, I can unleash powerful damaging spells through the Grave Lord tree such as Skeletal Arcanist, Avid Boneyard, Ricochet Skull, and Stalking Blastbones; each allowing me to benefit from them when using my healing spells from the Living Death tree. It’s a real delight, quite honestly, to use the bodies of my fallen foes in order to keep my groups alive.

That doesn’t make other builds any less viable. I’ve seen some actually make a good tank build work rather well with a complimentary spell or two from the Living Death tree as well. It’s quite interesting seeing a tank hot swap to a healing staff in order to buff their healing while unleashing attacks that both absorb and dish out damage on their own.

To be honest, out of all the classes in the game, this one seems to have more synergy between its three skill lines than most of the others.

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The conclusion – Khajiit has wares, if you have coin.

Just like any expansion or any MMO, you’re going to want to go into The Elder Scrolls: Elsweyr expecting only the best. Truth is, this is an amazing expansion and its story involving the Necromancers themselves is quite a unique experience, one I’d not really been hoping to have when I first dove straight on in with a Necromancer myself.

The only downside? I was able to complete the core story int the twenty-hour mark, which to some, could be quite disappointing, but let me tell you – this isn’t bad at all. To be honest, there are dozens of more hours of content to enjoy ranging from the Sunspire trial (raid) to the public dungeons alongside the dragon encounters.

If that’s your cup of tea, then The Elder Scrolls Online: Elsweyr expansion is just for you, but let me make this clear: If you didn’t like The Elder Scrolls Online before, this may not change your thoughts about the game, mostly due to the fact that not a whole lot has changed. But I still recommend giving the game another chance if you haven’t up until this point.

The Elder Scrolls Online: Elsweyr
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One
Platform Reviewed: PlayStation 4
Developer: ZeniMax Online Studios
Publisher: Bethesda Zenimax
Release Date: Available Now
Cost: $39.99

If you do, I’ll see you in Elsweyr and we’ll be prepared to take another adventure through it with you.


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.


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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 borders 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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