Elder Scrolls Online’s Elsweyr Expansion Shakes Things Up

This isn’t the first time ESO has visited the beautifully sandy region of Elsweyr (pronounced Elsewhere) since some small zones in the base game let players dip their toes into the area such as Khenarthi’s Roost. However, opening up the whole zone for exploration is new. And with this new zone also comes the introduction of dragons into the world of ESO.

The prequel quest should be going live soon and will serve as a direct prelude to the events in Elsweyr (out May 20 on PC and June 4 on consoles), immediately following the Wrathstone DLC’s brief narrative. The gist of it all is that some Imperials have invaded the northern region of Elsweyr with a necromancer at their helm and something that the player does may have accidentally awoken dragons under the presumed guise of aiding natives in battle. Naturally, things didn’t unfold as intended and now all hell’s broken loose.

Fans of past Elder Scrolls games will obviously remember the ever-present flying beasts from Skyrim, but these are not the same dragons. In fact, ESO takes place during the Second Era, which is thousands of years before the Fourth-Era events of Skyrim. Since players are not Dragonborn, that means battling these monstrosities is going to pose a much larger threat and require groups of players to work together — allegedly.

ESO has one of the strongest narratives of any MMO and Zenimax Online’s knack for storytelling looks to once again carry over in this latest expansion. My demo build didn’t include proper voice acting, but the new tutorial scenario gets you up to speed quickly before dumping you into the massive new zone. This localized storyline promises lots of returning faces, as well as some new ones, with plenty of content for players to sink their teeth into. Elsweyr will include a ton of new quests, delves, public dungeons, and a 12-player trial named Sunspire. This is the first full, new 12-player trial (basically, the ESO version of a raid) that we’ve seen in a long time.

In the base game you fought back daedra at dark anchors and in Summerset you battled beasts at abyssal geysers, so now in Elsweyr dragons make up the dynamic open world content. Since the threat of dragons is entirely localized to the Elsweyr region, you don’t have to worry about them attacking any other zones. It’s a shame that the game as a whole isn’t evolving because that could have really shaken things up.

By MMO standards, ESO doesn’t have that many classes. Other than the four it launched with almost five years ago (Templar, Dragonknight, Nightblade, and Sorcerer), it’s only ever added one new class in the Warden, which came with the Morrowind expansion. However, one of ESO’s greatest strengths has always been in the flexibility of its class system, so that any class can fulfill either of the three core roles: tank, damage dealer, and healer. And Necromancer will be no different.

Based on my brief impressions of the Necromancer, it really does feel quite different than the other classes. For starters, combat is all about positioning. Rather than pummeling specific targets with burst attacks and rotating through spells to do big chunks of damage, it felt more like a mixture of crowd control and battlefield awareness. It plays much more tactically than something like a sorcerer would.

The build I tried was all magicka-based DPS with a heavy focus on summoning minions. I had abilities that let me summon a skeletal mage to cast spells at enemies and I could also summon an apparition that constantly healed me over time while I was busy fighting. Things got especially interesting with my powers that relied on the presence of corpses on the ground to do things like leech life and energy or in some cases create arcs of lightning between myself and the corpse. Keeping enemies inside that lightning arc was key to maintaining high damage over time and whole new strategies started opening up once I got the hang of these new powers.

I didn’t have enough time to really, really dig into what the Necromancer could do over just one brief preview session, but it certainly seems to be just as deep and diverse as the other five classes.

Since Necromancy is viewed as a dark and distasteful art, you can’t practice your skills in public. If someone sees you raising the dead or performing other such dark arts, they can report you to the guards, making it difficult to travel through towns. At one point in my demo I forgot I had a skeleton summoned and an NPC tripped over himself trying to run away in fear. Naturally, I made my character emote a maniacal laugh because that’s what any true Necromancer would do.

Other updates coming with Elsweyr include a detailed Guild Finder, the powerful Artifact weapon system for Cyrodiil PvP, alliance-locked campaigns, and a lot more I didn’t get the chance to try first-hand.

Unfortunately, the random open world dragon encounters were turned off for my demo so the one dragon I fought was at the end of the tutorial mission and it was, for lack of a better term, underwhelming. It just sat there in one spot, breathing fire every now and then, and sort of bugged out when it flew away, ridding it of even a semblance of intimidation. I could see dragons flying around overhead, but without actually facing off against any that posed a threat I can’t say I was very impressed. Hopefully they’re a bit more formidable come launch.

Elsweyr as a zone seems…fine, but I didn’t get to see much of it. While not quite as large as Vvardenfell or Summerset when looking at them side-by-side on a map, Elsweyr is actually hiding a lot of depth and complexity beneath the surface. Lots of structures are built into the sides of mountains and there are entire towns inside deep canyons around the center of the region.

I’m eager to see more of it since I spent most of the demo just running around a fairly bland desert. I found myself missing the quirky landscapes of Morrowind and lush forests of Summerset by comparison.

While I’m still not sold on Elsweyr as a region or the dragons as a threat just yet, the new Necromancer class seems fantastic. Elsweyr was hands-down the most-requested zone for an expansion, according to the developers, so hopefully that means they’re saving the best bits for launch in a couple of months.

David Jagneaux is a contributor to IGN. Talk ESO with him on Twitter at @David_Jagneaux.

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