The Elder Scrolls Online: Greymoor and the Journey Back to Skyrim
Post by KostaAndreadis @ 11:01pm 30/03/20 | Comments
The Elder Scrolls Online journeys back into Skyrim with the latest Chapter - Greymoor. Where eveything both above and below ground, is not what it seems.
For those that have played their fair share of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – of which there’s probably many – you might recall the first time you discovered, and ventured, into Blackreach. The underground cavern full of Dwemer ruins and the remnants of an ancient civilisation. Lit by strange glowing fauna and crystallised rock formations — it presented a location as vast and mysterious as the sun-kissed mountains and forests of Skyrim proper. In one instant, it communicated the sheer scope of Bethesda’s brilliant role-playing game; the next, it solidified the boundless nuggets of lore and history that could be found throughout Tamriel.
Heading into 2020, The Elder Scrolls Online (ESO) boasts around 15-million players. A number that has been on an upward trend for some time. With annual Chapters that have taken players to new and familiar locations like Morrowind’s Vardenfell, the Elven sanctuary of Summerset, and the home of the Khajit -- this year the game and story will take adventurers back to the land of ice and dragons. Skyrim, Western Skyrim to be exact. As part of the new Dark Heart of Skyrim storyline that deals with witches, vampires, and other characters with a proclivity for flowing locks and gothic architecture.
In addition to being able to visit well-known cities and towns like Solitude and Morthal, converse with Nords, and spot the odd Giant or two, you’ll also venture underground and explore Blackreach. A location that in terms of size, The Elder Scrolls Online’s Creative Director, Rich Lambert, says makes up about 40% or so of the new Greymoor expansion. And builds on the foundation seen in TES V: Skyrim. Blackreach is a fascinating location to explore and in The Elder Scrolls Online its unique look and feel paves the way for staple ESO elements like Delves, World Bosses, World Events and questing to appear alongside uncovering new bits of history under the light of crystals and Dwemer lamps.
“Heading into 2020, The Elder Scrolls Online (ESO) boasts around 15-million players. A number that has been on an upward trend for some time."
Which will also illuminate those Chaurus centipede creatures – the creepy crawly ones. They’re still everywhere down there.
As per the teasers we’ve been getting, The Elder Scrolls Online: Greymoor makes up the major expansion and story chapter of this year’s narrative. One bolstered by dungeons, smaller story stuff and a new free-to-play Prologue Campaign that kicks things off underground. For newcomers, and for those looking to create a Necromancer/Vampire hybrid (thanks to the big rework the Vampire skill-line is getting), there’s also a revamped Skyrim-based tutorial. Where you’ll discover things aren’t so Sky-high in, err, Skyrim anymore. Ahem. What with the Icereach Coven up to no good. And that’s dark ritual and unnatural blood-red cyclones forming in the sky no good.
For a game that has seen several expansions to date these new adventures into ESO and Tamriel, at large, have settled into a steady groove, where new mechanics and features are presented alongside the return of fan favourite activities and characters. Plenty of things to see and do; those who enjoy the simplicity that comes with crafting jewelry, and for those that want to group up with 11 other players to meticulously put a plan in place to tackle one of the epic Trials. Where ESO has grown in leaps and bounds since the debut of the Morrowind expansion, for us at least, has been with the quality of the writing, the world building, and the renewed focus on exploration. Thanks to fewer quests that are simply there to pad things out – we now get smaller but meatier stories with branching narrative paths, twists and turns. And characters brought to the fore. Plus, just the right amount of humour.
On that front, Rigurt the Brash – diplomat and member of the Nord Cultural Exchange – makes a welcome return in Greymoor.
By focusing on story, it gives side quests the sort of weight that, in turn, makes environments and locations feel, well, more lived in. More so that that’s what’s probably expected in a MMO-style experience.
On the story front, Greymoor’s main questline is a gothic tale full of witches and vampires and ritual. One that leads to new and surprisingly challenging World Events called Harrowstorms - these feel just as epic as big dragon battles experienced in Elsweyr. It’s also a tale full of mystery and intrigue… creatures that lurk in the shadows, and whatnot. With a very different tone to the dragons and civil war of 2011’s Skyrim, and even recent ESO chapters like Elsewyr and Summerset, Greymoor has more than enough thematic reason for players to jump in.
Of course, there’s the familiarity.
Walking through the big gates of Solitude, the effect is immediate and very cool for Skyrim fans. Glancing to the right you wouldn’t be amiss feeling a little bit surprised not seeing a Nord about to get executed by Imperial guards. Capturing the look and feel of this part of Tamriel is kind of expected, and in terms of Solitude, the layout is identical. Right down to the cobblestone pathways leading to the capital, barracks and even the locations of the different inns and retailers selling bows, daggers, food, and different coloured potions.
“On the story front, Greymoor’s main questline is a gothic tale full of witches and vampires and ritual. One that leads to new and surprisingly challenging World Events called Harrowstorms - these feel just as epic as big dragon battles experienced in Elsweyr."
Things are, in Greymoor’s Western Skyrim, where they should be. From mountains to streams to bridges that look like the final resting place of an ancient dragon. Which, admittedly, is also a little weird for a story set 1,000 years before The Adventures of Fus-Roh-Dah. Although it proves that Nord stubbornness and unwillingness to change goes back millenia.
Except for all the new stuff of course, and the things that behave a little differently. Like Vampires. As part of the Dark Heart of Skyrim, the, err, dark heart of the ESO skill system – the Vampire Skill line that is – is getting a rework. Where now the Vampire Skill line feels more in line with the fantasy and mythology of ol’ Count Drac. In Skyrim and Oblivion turning into a vampire was more of a hassle than the walking-around-as-a-mortal alternative. The seductive quality of becoming a blood-sucking nightcrawler was almost completely absent.
Essentially, you needed to feed to be able to move about, becoming less and less like a powerful creature of the night with a thick eastern European accent. The big Vampire skill line change, outside of individual ability overhauls, is that it fundamentally rectifies this wider Elder Scrolls issue. The more you feed, the more powerful you become. Seduction, and blood, is back on the menu. And building on the new Justice system that was implemented so the Necromancer class fit into law abiding Tamriel, going all Kiefer Sutherland from The Lost Boys and feeding in broad daylight is a sure-fire way to put a bounty on your head.
“As part of the Dark Heart of Skyrim, the, err, dark heart of the ESO skill system – the Vampire Skill line that is – is getting a rework."
The other big change, or addition, and one that’s Tamriel-wide, is the new Antiquities system. Where players can join a group of Indiana Jones-style archeologists to search for and dig up various items that belong in museums. The Antiquities system is a brand new mechanic and thing to do in the game, and one that involves various mini-games to decipher locations and potential burial sites where rewards will lead to things like new cosmetics, mounts, housing items, and more. At once it feels like a great addition to ESO, whilst also offering up players good reasons to go back and visit past locations. Above all it encourages true exploration as opposed to simply more of the same in a new or updated setting.
As The Elder Scrolls Online continues to thrive, with its sights shifted towards yearlong thematic narratives and stories that feed directly into the types of updates and new content added to the game -- it’s carved quite a fine place for itself in the online space. And, hey, to borrow a phrase from Tommy C in that movie where he plays a Sports Lawyer - you had me at Skyrim.