In the years since its release, Bethesda’s flagship MMO RPG The Elder Scrolls Online has been receiving a steady stream of ‘chapters’, substantial DLC packs which each bring a large map to explore, introduce new gear to grind, and come with copious numbers of quests to complete. Whilst the Elsywere and Summerset chapters focused on realizing little-seen regions from Elder Scrolls lore, others have sought to recapture the magic of fan-favorite locations from the franchise’s past.
Being able to seamlessly step into the familiar city of Solitude from Skyrim in the Greymoor expansion before venturing on to the surreal swamps of Morrowind is a treat for series veterans and presents new players with the exciting possibility of experiencing some of the most iconic areas from games gone by in a shiny, modern package.
Opening the Gates of Oblivion
Set almost a millennia before the events of Oblivion, The Elder Scrolls Online’s newest chapter, Blackwood, sees players return to the province of Cyrodiil to once again stop the mad plans of the evil Daedric Prince, Mehrunes Dagon. For players familiar with the fourth game this story may sound a little familiar, but its presentation through a rapidly unfolding conspiracy filled with intrigue, mystery, and an alarming amount of murder quickly had me hooked. For returning players, the plot kicks off almost immediately after you arrive in the new region by boat but for first-time players, a tutorial built specifically for Blackwood quickly gets you up to speed.
A number of familiar locations, like the cities of Laywiin and Gideon make return appearances, visually updated but still maintaining more than enough of their characteristic art styles to keep them immediately recognizable to the eagle-eyed. Exploring the neatly-tiled urban areas is a stark contrast to the challenges of the surrounding mass of gloomy bogs which have you constantly having to dismount your trusty steed to wade through waist-deep water and pools of mud. Visually, Blackwood absolutely shines both in the rain and at night, where the slight fog and abundance of reflective water surfaces lends everything an almost ethereal feel.
Occasionally, players are also granted the opportunity to enter Oblivion Portals which are randomly dispersed throughout the map and lead to large expansive dungeons set in the fiery Daedric underworld. These present a whole host of new challenges, with fierce demonic enemies to vanquish and unique loot to be found. Their unique art direction, filled with looming gothic ruins and billowing eruptions of bright red flames, is particularly fresh and exciting. The Oblivion portals serve as an enjoyable detour from the main campaign in single-player but stand out particularly as a fun activity to complete with friends thanks to their heavy focus on combat. There are also a handful of quests that involve venturing into these dungeons, so completing them is a necessity.
A Sword by Your Side
For predominantly solo players, Blackwood also includes the notable addition of a must-requested companions system, which allows you to find and recruit one of two unlockable non-playable characters to accompany you on your quest. Companions are useful in combat and can be commanded to target specific enemies or even have the activation of their specific combat abilities directed by the player. Although you are unable to create your own companions, at least not yet, you are allowed to customize their equipment and appearances via a new interface menu.
For players particularly interested in the roleplaying aspect of The Elder Scrolls Online, the ability to alter companion’s clothing styles is an excellent addition and even I soon found myself eager to change up their outfits to try and stand out from the crowd. Companions also level up alongside the player and can be assigned new abilities and roles, so help add an extra level of depth for high-level players to master.
An Adventure Awaits
On the whole, I loved my time with Blackwood and I can’t wait to have a little more free time to experience the entirety of what the almost 30-hour long storyline has to offer. The sheer novelty of seeing some of Oblivion's most iconic areas painstakingly brought to life once again and the ability to jump into that world with your friends at your side seems, to me at least, worth the price of admission alone. The new tutorial alongside the fact that purchase includes the previous four chapters as standard, makes this a fantastic starting point for newcomers whilst the exciting new dungeons, unique map, not to mention the long-awaited addition of NPC companions, make Blackwood one pack that The Elder Scrolls Online veterans won’t want to miss.
A copy of The Elder Scrolls Online: Blackwood was provided to TechRaptor by the publisher. The game is available now for PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4 with an enhanced upgrade for Xbox Series X|S and PlayStation 5 owners coming later this month.