The Elder Scrolls Online’s grand finale for the Dark Heart of Skyrim has released and introduces the grand finale into the year-long adventure. Along with the story, it takes players to the long-awaited Markarth region of Skyrim. However, does it do much to add to the overall experience? Let’s find out.
+Gives us our first glimpse at ancient witches, elves, and the vampire and werewolf war
+Finishes out the year-long epic tale in amazing fashion
+While small, the zone is filled to the brim with side quests and Harrowstorms
-Touches faintly on the dwemer and their legacy without fully expanding on it
-At times, the verticality can be a bit much
I would be lying to you if I didn’t admit that Markarth feels right at home when it comes to The Dark Heart of Skyrim storyline. It’s a zone that brings forth both nostalgia and excitement, offering familiar regions while also, reigniting the hostilities between both werewolf and vampire. Using the impending lead up to the Gray Host as a roundup to its overarching year-long story that began a year ago this May.
Now, as Greymoor’s overarching story has concluded, it’s hard not to find why Bethesda began to tie the fan-favored land of Skyrim. The move to use Skyrim as a separate zone from its previous self is a bold move. Skyrim isn’t known as a small region, but rather, an amazingly large one, teeming with life and new adventures at every corner.
Markarth is both familiar and new all at once
Now, it’s hard to not understand why Markarth is such a bold step as was using Western Skyrim as an overall part of the game. Here, we visited the southwestern regions of the land, exploring it to its fullest in ways we’d never seen. The lands, unlike those hundreds of years later, is littered with werewolves, vampires, and witches. A threat we’d never experienced before outside of the the Dawnguard DLC for Skyrim.
To hopefully improve upon the overall Greymoor experience, Markarth does both good and bad at doing this. It’s a middle-ground experience in comparison. After all, this is a zone DLC, not a major expansion, which makes it hard to draw full-blown parallel’s between the two. You’ll find yourself in the Reach, an area that, somehow, seems more Celtic inspired than Norse. Probably since the Reachmen are quasi-Celtic and not nearly as brash as their Nordic brethren.
You’ll notice the zone quickly as much hasn’t changed from The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim to The Elder Scrolls Online, even with the 1,000 years time leap. Just enjoy the fact that almost every NPC in Markarth feels more organic than their predecessors. Each one is voiced, each one is almost human, but that also comes with almost two generations worth of technology and programming differences.
Markarth brings with it some Quality of Life improvements
Before we go deeper, we do need to talk about a qualify of life improvement to The Elder Scrolls Online, which shipped side-by-side with Markarth. ZoS is no stranger to improving the overall experience players have with The Elder Scrolls Online. One of the biggest changes comes in the shape of a re-imagined Set Collection’s system, which is a welcomed change. This system allows you to remake any items that you have sold at a vendor or deconstructed at any point in time.
It’s a useful system for those who accidentally sell or break down an item they didn’t mean to, which let’s be real, we’ve all done that a time or four. It’ll be interesting to see what future Quality of Life improvements get added to the game moving into The Gates of Oblivion expansion.
Markarth could have taken a few notes from the Murkmire DLC
Now, stepping in the right direction is important. The Reachmen become a rather important part to the experience as they are the inhabitants of Markarth itself, often at war with the witches, vampires, and werewolves that endanger their people. You’ll still find many themes appearing in Markarth ranging from Harrowstorms to going into the underground regions of Skyrim as well.
There’s also a delve you can explore, there are a few story elements that, somehow, work better than for worse, which is about normal for ESO as a whole. You’ll still find that the Reachmen are as they were before. They’re still xenophobic, they still work with their own brand of nature-themed rituals, using human sacrifice, entrails, and various other body parts for their rites. For some, it’ll be about on par for what they are.
You’ll, as expected, work with Count Verandis Ravenwatch on your journey while the current king hides deep within the confines of his castle walls. It’s an experience that only takes place within 10 hours, unfortunately, is rather short compared to everything else the game has had to offer so far.
There are a few references to older content
Bethesda and ZoS have done a few unique things here, ones that are worth talking about more than the rest, to be honest. You won’t find yourself agonizing over a ton of puzzles, you won’t find yourself scratching your head when something doesn’t work, but rather, being mystified over the ties to the Gray Host and the Dwemer themselves.
It works, especially as you’ll even find that the Daggerfall Covenenta’s main quests will tie into the game as well, making the lessons you learned from the game’s initial launch even more important when you begin wrapping up The Dark Heart of Skyrim. Don’t expect a ton of Lyris Titanborn, she’s not here, she’s been sidelined for the time being.
You won’t be disappointed, however, as Verandis is an adequate successor to Lyris and helps drive the story even further. If you aren’t wanting to spend time with him, you may want to head into Vatershan, a single-player dungeon, which to many, will just feel like a glorified Harrowstorm arena, but with all the goodies in store for those that decide to brave it. It’s hard, hard enough that I wasn’t able to even complete everything it had to offer in time for my review to get written.
That’s a good thing too as this means it takes a lot of awareness, a lot of understanding of the games more complex awareness checks, and a solid understanding of your class. If one were to decide to try and face roll your way through the dungeon, it wouldn’t be possible, which makes it even harder than one might expect. It’s worth adventuring into multiple times to get the most out of your experience with Markarth.
At the end of the day, The Elder Scrolls Online: Markarth isn’t some giant leap and bound away from Greymoor, but rather, subtle addition to it. The only major additions you will find are both in the form of Quality of Life and replayability factors. Some may even find that the story alone is enough to trek through it.
The Elder Scrolls Online: Markarth
Platforms: PC, PlayStation, and Xbox
Version Reviewed: PlayStation 4
Developer: ZeniMax Online Studios
Release Date: Available Now
Cost: $24.99 (Currency: 3,000 Crowns | Cost: 2,000 Crowns)
It’s also nice to see that Count Verandis has gotten a bit more screen time and expands on the original stories for those who played through the Daggerfall Coveneant storyline in Rivenspire. Those with ESO Plus will enjoy it while others will find the DLC justified in cost through the conclusion to the Greymoor expansion.
Our review is based upon a retail version of the game provided to us by the publisher for the review. For information about our ethics policy please click here.
About the Writer(s):
Dustin is our native video game 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. You can find him over on Twitter or Facebook today.