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The Elder Scrolls Online

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Online Multiplayer
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Developer: ZeniMax Online Studios
Release Date: June 9, 2015

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PS4/XOne/PC Preview - 'The Elder Scrolls Online: Elsweyr'

by Adam Pavlacka on March 28, 2019 @ 7:00 a.m. PDT

The Elder Scrolls Online is the first Elder Scrolls game to allow gamers to explore the legendary Elder Scrolls world with others.

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When Bethesda's PR team asked me to take a look at the newest Elder Scrolls Online expansion, I was a bit hesitant. After all, this is an MMO that's been running since 2014. Wouldn't it be difficult for someone with no history with the game to just jump in? As it turns out, the answer to that question is "no." Zenimax has put a lot of effort into ensuring that the Elder Scrolls Online experience is equally accessible to newbies as well as veteran players.

Before jumping into the playable demo, Rich Lambert, the game's creative director, discussed a bit of the game's recent history and where Zenimax plans on taking players in the near future. During the course of 2018, the focus was on high fantasy with the Summerset chapter. Dungeon DLCs (Dragon Bones and Wolfhunter) were released before and after Summerset, while the story DLC, Murkmire, was released near the end of the year. While all of these shared a general theme, they didn't really tie into one another. For example, Murkmire centered on the Argonians and their culture, while Wolfhunter had you fighting a werewolf threat. The mix of content offered variety but didn't tie together.


For 2019, which Zenimax is calling the "Season of the Dragon," all of the content will tie in to a larger story. The story has already begun with the Wrathstone DLC, which serves as a sort of prologue for Elsweyr. Released in February (PC) and March (consoles), Wrathstone covers the events that lead up to the return of dragons. If you play Wrathstone before jumping into Elsweyr, you will be directly involved in said return. If you don't, the story will play out with another adventurer being responsible. This modular design ensures that everyone has an easy entry point into the new adventure.

Of course, Elsweyr's big draw is the dragons; this is the first time the creatures are appearing in the Elder Scrolls Online. Unlike in Skyrim, you are not a Dovahkiin (Dragonborn) here in Elsweyr. You're just a (relatively speaking) normal denizen of the world, which means you shouldn't expect to go toe-to-toe with a dragon. They're big, they're bad, and they're quite powerful. They're meant to be impressive, so if you encounter them outside the tutorial, be prepared.

Speaking of the tutorial, Elsweyr features its own introduction for new players. It's similar to the tutorial for previous chapters, but this time around, there is more of a focus on combat. The development team got feedback that players weren't using all of the combat skills, so they tweaked the tutorial a bit to try and address that issue.

In addition to the core questline, you'll face off against dragons in the 12-player Sunspire trial. Completely master the trial bosses in hard mode (100% completion in the zone) to unlock a unique mount as a reward. Dragons will also spawn randomly within the world. After spawning, each dragon will fly toward its set home. The random nature should help keep things fresh by ensuring unexpected appearances.

 


Aside from the dragons, the other major update in Elsweyr is the introduction of the necromancer class. Veteran players may have encountered necromancers in the world before but only as NPCs. This time around, you can play one yourself.

According to Lambert, Zenimax didn't just want to make a mage with undead pets and call it a day. The goal with the necromancer was to make the class feel distinct. A necromancer's power comes from their ability to manipulate mortal souls, while their combat has a positional focus. For example, corpses on the battlefield are a source of energy for a necromancer. You can suck the energy out of a corpse, and anything between you and the body is going to take damage.

Necromancer pets are fire-and-forget. Choose a target, cast a summon, and then let your minion do its thing while you move on to the next target.

One important thing to keep in mind when playing a necromancer is that necromancy is frowned upon in Tamriel. You can get away with it in the rural areas, but don't try it in town or near any major settlement with guards around. If you're seen practicing the dark arts, a bounty will be placed on your head, and guards will attempt to kill you. You'll need to pay off the bounty in order to safely walk around in public.

 


Story-wise, the Elsweyr chapter is centered around the Khajiit, one of the oldest races in Tamriel. Said to pre-date the Elves, the feline Khajiit are accustomed to fighting. They've spent the last few years fighting off Abnur Tharn's half-sister Euraxia to liberate the land from the clutches of the Imperial Army. Euraxia has been supplementing the Imperial forces with necromancers, and the recent appearance of the dragons hasn't helped the Khajiit forces.

Veteran players will recognize Abnur Tharn (voiced by Alfred Molina) from the base game. Sir Cadwell (voiced by John Cleese) also returns from the base game. The Khajiit character Razum-dar from Summerset plays a role in Elsweyr, as does Khamira, a Khajiit who has previously only been seen in CGI trailers. She is debuting in Elsweyr.

The land of Elsweyr is spread out over three different biomes. You'll find yourself adventuring through deserts, forests and grasslands. Khajiit towns will be found across the land, with designs that were influenced by Indian, Indonesian and Thai cultures. The development team has tried to blend different elements in order to give the Khajiit a distinct look.

Finally, among everything else that is new, the Elsweyr chapter is going to bring some quality-of-life improvements to the Elder Scrolls Online. Artifact weapon spawning is a major event, as it offers up six new abilities. The thing is that artifact weapons are "hungry." In order to use one, you have to feed it souls — and that means continually killing other players. If you don't, the weapon will simply kill you. The guest campaign feature is being removed. You'll be able to play with anyone you want, but you can only progress on the leaderboard in your home campaign. Skyshard collectors who also run alt characters will appreciate that you now have an option to purchase an unlock for your alts. You first need to collect all of the skyshards in a zone and get the corresponding achievement. Once that's done, you have the option of buying the achievement (and the corresponding skill points) for your alt.

 


While my actual hands-on time with Elsweyr was limited to the tutorial and the beginning of the main quest line, I did get to play around with a handful of the necromancer abilities thanks to some handy cheats that allowed us to quickly craft a leveled-up necromancer on the test server. Since I didn't know what to expect, the build was somewhat random, but the tools were appealing. There is definitely a ranged aspect to the necromancer, with the summoned creatures forming a core part of combat. With that said, there was nothing wrong with getting up close and personal, especially when the Pummeling Goliath ultimate is active.

With an integrated storyline and a whole new class, Elder Scrolls Online: Elsweyr is looking like a promising addition. Assuming the dragons are as engaging as Zenimax makes them sound, it should make for a fun way to spend time this summer.

Editor's Note: Want to see what I played during my time with Elsweyr? Here are 30 minutes of direct feed gameplay with the necromancer at the beginning of the chapter.



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