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May 2021

The Elder Scrolls Online

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: Online Multiplayer
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Developer: ZeniMax Online Studios
Release Date: April 4, 2014


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PS4/XOne/PC Preview 'The Elder Scrolls Online - Greymoor'

by Adam Pavlacka on March 31, 2020 @ 1:39 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.

Bethesda has published a number of Elder Scrolls games, and everyone has their favorite. For me, that favorite is Skyrim. Morrowind and Oblivion were both impressive in their own right, but the northern land of Skyrim had something magical about it. When Bethesda announced that the fourth expansion for The Elder Scrolls Online was set in western Skyrim, I was excited to give it a go.

Although TESO is set around a millennium before the events of Skyrim, the region is immediately recognizable as soon as you start the Greymoor expansion, thanks to the iconic city of Solitude. Set in the northwest part of the land, Solitude is built high on a rocky cliff, with a waterway running underneath. It's also where the main questline behind Greymoor kicks off.

Walking down a path, you're handed a note by a dying man. It seems a conspiracy of sorts is afoot, and it's up to you to figure out who (or what) is behind it all. Before long, you join forces with Lyris Titanborn and continue investigating the supernatural threat to the kingdom. A mysterious coven of witches is somehow causing Harrowstorms, which are ravaging the countryside. Anyone unlucky enough to get caught in one turns into a blood fiend or a "harrowed," a mindless zombie.

With vampires playing a large part in the overall story, one of the major updates in Greymoor is to vampires themselves. In the current version of TESO, the developers found that most players who chose to become vampires did so for one or two abilities. It wasn't really an active skill line, so the bulk of it was revamped (no pun intended).

Vampire players will find that most of the vampire abilities have either been reworked or replaced with new ones. Mist form and undeath are two abilities that made the transition mostly as-is. The new ultimate ability, Blood Scion, turns you into a unique form, though it doubles as a criminal act. You probably don't want to bust it out when there are guards nearby.

Feeding is how you become more powerful as a vampire, and the animation system now has specific frames just for this action. You can jump someone from behind, bite their neck, and drink their blood.

The overland area of Skyrim comprises the majority of the new area in Greymoor, but it isn't the only new land for you to explore. Adventurers will find that the underground area of Blackreach makes up about 40 percent of the new content. Anyone who played Skyrim is familiar with this underground area and its massive, glowing mushrooms, but for those new to this portion of the Elder Scrolls world, let's just say that the look and feel is distinct.

Speaking of look and feel, I didn't get a chance to go into Blackreach while playing the preview, but I did explore Solitude and the surrounding area, and it was all immediately familiar. Walking into Solitude felt much like the first time I wandered into the city in Skyrim. The only real difference is that the city felt much emptier. That could be due to the server being a development server, it could be due to the fact that the population is lower during the time of Greymoor, or it could just be a poor memory on my part (it's been awhile since I fired up my Skyrim save). Regardless, there is an instant sense of familiarity here, and that's a good thing.

Another new feature being introduced by Greymoor is the antiquities quest line. If you ever wanted to be a medieval Indiana Jones, your time is now. You kick off this quest line by joining the Antiquarian Circle in Solitude and learning how to use the Antiquarian's Eye. The eye is a special item that leads into a series of minigames. The first is a puzzle game that allows you to narrow down the location of the dig site for a specific item. Get it right, and you'll be rewarded with a single blob on your map, designating a small area to search in. Fail miserably, and you'll be shown six possible search locations. Get it partially right, and the number of possible areas will be somewhere between one and six.

Once you find a dig site, a second minigame becomes available. This one uses elements of both Battleship and Minesweeper as inspiration. The goal is to carefully dig out the buried treasure (and possibly some bonus items) without damaging anything or collapsing the dig site.

There is also a new 12-player trial being introduced with Greymoor: Kyne's Aegis. It is located in a keep on an island north of Solitude. The trial is similar in size to Sunspire, but the path is pretty linear. I didn't get a chance to give it a go during the preview, but it promises to be an enticing challenge for veteran players.

Finally, the dev team is also promising improvements in character loading, both on the server and on the client, along with some bug fixes to the overall game. These improvements should apply across the board, whether or not you purchase the Greymoor expansion.

Jumping into a six-year-old world may sound daunting, but Greymoor looks like it will offer content to players of all stripes. Skyrim fans finally have a new adventure in their favorite land. TESO veterans have new foes, a new trial, and a revamped vampire system, and casual players can forgo much of questing and killing, while still exploring as they search for buried treasure across the land.

The full expansion, The Elder Scrolls Online: Greymoor, releases on the Mac and PC on May 18, 2020, and PS4 and Xbox One on June 2, 2020, but you can check out the free prologue quest right now. The Coven Conspiracy is available for all Elder Scrolls Online players, and it sets up the Dark Heart of Skyrim storyline, which plays out in Greymoor. The quest will take you into Blackreach and introduce your character to Lyris Titanborn. All players will be able to check out the prologue quest from April 1-13, 2020, when TESO hosts free play days.

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