The Elder Scrolls Online Expands Again and It’s Impressive

High Isle Preview

With over 20 million players, Elder Scrolls Online continues to thrive. Even more important, the game continues to evolve, grow and improve. There is already an enormous amount of content to explore. Each annual Chapter adds more lore, more characters and more explorable landmass. High Isle: Legacy of Britons, due to pull into port in June, adds an archipelago to the west of Tamriel.

Island Paradise, Island Prison

One of the traditions of MMORPGs is that expansions often reveal never-before-seen areas of the map. The Systres archipelago includes two islands. The High Isle is a vacation resort for the wealthy. In contrast, Amenos is a prison island full of criminals, misfits and political dissidents. Both are lush with tropical vegetation and a variety of flora and fauna, both real and monstrous.

In a recent preview event, the developers said that the new zone — though deceptively appearing like a small area — contains over 30 hours of content, equal to the game’s other expansions. They emphasized that the focus of High Isle is not the supernatural, but political upheaval. After peace talks fail to end the Three Banners War, the feudal Britons are enmeshed in political intrigue and hidden machinations. The expansion has a goal of introducing “real world” politics into the fantasy world of Elder Scrolls. The engaging story contains more than a few surprises.

Like all the previous expansions, High Isle includes a large number of new consumables, weapons, armor and cosmetics that can be brought back into the base game and main campaign. The excellent Blackwood chapter from last year introduced the Companion system. The new chapter literally doubles down. It allows for the player to have two companions, and introduces Ember, a Khajit magic user, and Isobel, a Briton knight.

Game Within a Game

One of the most notable additions to ESO is a card game called Tales of Tribute. Much more sophisticated than a traditional deck building game, Tales of Tribute is a “unique, resource building” game. Tales of Tribute is definitely its own thing. There are both PvP and PvE components, leaderboards and special gear for players to win. There’s even a Tales of Tribute quest line that moves players around the zone, competing with key NPCs.

I spent some hands-on time with a special, pre-release build of the game. Though it was missing a few components, I was engaged. As always, the game featured excellent character work and stellar music. The quests were interesting and varied, though still largely following traditional ESO templates. The environments felt unique and visually impressive.

Elder Scrolls Online has taken some heat for its combat and character design. These have genuinely improved. Faces emoted much more naturally and expressively. Best of all, combat had much more of a visceral impact and even spellcasting had more weight. The evolution of ESO from 2014 — when the game was released — to the present is remarkable.

Sail Into High Isle

Although High Isle doesn’t release for several months, it’s clear that the team has created something impressive. The new Chapter’s story is less about supernatural fantasy, and more about relatable conflict. Tales of Tribute adds a new element that will give ESO an even longer lifespan. With ever-improving visuals and combat, and an immense amount of quality content, High Isle is further proof that Elder Scrolls Online deserves those 20 million players. It’s a great MMORPG that gets better with every Chapter.

***Preview code provided by the publisher for preview***

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