The Elder Scrolls Online: Blackwood Review – The gates to Oblivion have opened

The Elder Scrolls Online: Blackwood expansion offers some of the largest challenges the ongoing experience that The Elder Scrolls Online has to offer with bringing some of the best elements from Oblivion to the famed MMO.


Pros:

+Companions add a unique experience with their own skills, commentary, and combat capabilities
+Uniquely designed regions within the zone that stand out from previous releases
+A healthy amount of Quality of Life improvements including storytelling elements

Cons:
-Some side quests feel as if they add little to the overall adventure that is Blackwood
-Some of the areas are hard to navigate due to oddly placed quest markers


Whether you are ready for it or not, The Elder Scrolls Online isn’t done growing and it isn’t showing any signs of slowing down at all. Rather, it’s getting bigger, better, and even more epic with every single expansion as the world itself within the franchise continues to grow. You’ll constantly see new elements arise such as new Daedric deities, new forces yet to be fought against, and historical moments from the franchise come to life with each and every expansion.

To bring another large part of The Elder Scrolls to life, Bethesda and ZeniMax Online Studios dug deep into their lore, what their franchise has to offer, and what it will continue to offer as time goes on. Now, we’re seeing the legend of Mehrunes Dagon and his Waking Flame Cult joins the show and providing the warriors who seek to protect Tamriel with an all-new challenge that they have yet to face.

One of the biggest things though is just what this new expansion has to offer. It’s an interesting ordeal and it is one that helps shape what we knew would come in the future with the events of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. So, now, let’s take a deep dive and see what the series actually has to offer.

The rise of Mehrunes Dagon begins in The Elder scrolls Online: Blackwood

You’ll find yourself in familiar territories as you return to the city of Leyawiin, the Ayleid ruins that lay strewn about the lands, and visiting familiar other locales (we can’t ruin it all for you, now can we?) that should seem familiar to those who have trekked through those very lands that call the southeastern corner of Cyrodiil their home.

If you go through what content that The Elder Scrolls Online: Blackwood has to offer, you’ll find that the expansion can run roughly 30-40 hours of content, this includes the raid (it’s hard, don’t expect to clear it in the first go without a strong group), public dungeons, and even working on the daily repeatable quests to see what kind of noteworthy items or collectibles that they may have to offer.

Now, this is where things do begin to get a bit interesting, but confusing at the same time, as Blackwood will continue to follow a rather familiar formula that long-time players will have come to recognize over time. This includes story elements, placement of skyshards, public challenges, daily quests, and so forth.

You’ll find that that compared to previous expansions, that it all is pretty much the same size, scope, and scale. This means the number of quests, locations, etc. It’s a kind of formula that actually works, but to some, could be rather bothersome when said and done. Mostly due to the fact that some would perhaps, prefer something a bit more grandiose.

Don’t expect the classic Oblivion gates, but do expect a prequel style experience in Blackwood

When you explore through Blackwood, one of the first things you’ll wonder about is the Oblivion Gates that you used to have to navigate in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. Truth be told, don’t expect something as grand as they were. While the game does take place quite sometime before those events, they aren’t as prominent here and for those still holding off on traversing the lands of Blackwood, you’ll find yourself exploring a public dungeon when you jump into one of those gates.

They work much like the anchors from the base game and even the dragon boss fight events from Summerset. You’ll find that Blackwood, however, is a bit more unique in its overall layout and design as it’s more mountainous, marshy, and well, a bit of everything. It shows how unique its geography is and how interconnected other regions are in the overall experience. The most unique thing is that you can obtain a companion by completing one of the storylines in the lands and they will level up, gain new abilities, and gear up in ways much like your own.

This includes your ability to explore The Shattered Xanmeer locale where you’ll face down against Argonian priests, priestesses, and various other inhabitants that call it home. The reason this is most noteworthy, it’s a subtle nod to the previously released Blackmarsh region DLC. It’s quite fun to see the xanmeers scattered around the lands alongside various Ayleid ruins, and more.

Sidequests are hit or miss, but never-the-less, quite fun as they do offer unique experiences and companions

Now, it has to be said: Side quests don’t always hit the mark in The Elder Scrolls Online. Rather, they can struggle, which is true for any and every quest in any game. Unfortunately, some of the quests in the expansion overstay their welcome and they do leave a bit of room to be desired in the long run. Fortunately, there are redeeming factors throughout the overall expansion, which to be honest, is quite nice and does help quite a bit more in the long run.

Now, it is worth stating that the expansion does do something new with puzzles. Puzzle-based quests are a lot more prolific than they previously were. You’ll find somewhere you have to navigate an Argonian temple with your fellow companions, using the clones of one specific one (spoilers more is stated), and using various items scattered throughout the Argonian temple in order to help you complete the puzzle and end the quest.

While the story elements from some of the quests are great, they don’t stand out as much as the latest one, which also introduces an all-new Companion system into the game. You’ll find that each Companion comes with their own abilities, their own levels, gear sets, etc. This means you will have to level them up as you quest, and eventually, give them better gear if you feel that you must. This comes in the shape of two new companions: Bastian Hallix, a sorcerer, and Mirri Elendis, an assassin.

It’s a functional system that works rather well, but, let’s just be honest: The evolution of the game is continuing on and it works rather well. Companions work as you would hope: Each has their own personality, each plays to their own unique experience and Mirri brings that experience to life since she’s quite interesting as she isn’t a HUGE fan of insects or anything that wiggles. 

Their personality quirks are fun and it just brings the world to life even though the expansion hasn’t done anything to really upgrade the world of Tamriel or really upgrade it in any way outside of minor performance tweaks with the free update that launched side-by-side with it. Just keep your eyes peeled for a few fun easter eggs such as the White Stallion Inn, the Adoring Admirer, and a very notorious Ayleid Well.

Just don’t forget to visit locales such as Gideon, the forts, or even the Argonian camps. They are teeming with life and locals that are just looking for a few new faces to mingle with.

The conclusion

It’s hard not to say that I’ve left Blackwood. Truth is, that would be a lie. I’ve been spending a lot of time in this zone and absolutely loving what it has to offer, the designs of the region, and working with the daily quest givers while hunting down the last few collectibles that have yet to be obtained.

The Elder Scrolls Online: Blackwood
Platforms: PC, PlayStation, and Xbox
Version Reviewed: PlayStation
Developer: ZeniMax Online Studios
Publisher:  Bethesda
Release Date: Available Now
Price: $39.99

While The Elder Scrolls Online: Blackwood has leaned less on nostalgia than originally thought, its unique additions such as the Companion system, the addition of new public dungeons to experience, Oblivion Gates, and new quest-based puzzles, it’s just enough to get a veteran player back in and enjoying what The Elder Scrolls Online has to offer. For lore junkies, this is a perfect addition as it does a lot to build up to the events of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion.


Our review is based upon a retail version of the game that was 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.


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