My return to the fantasy lands of Tamriel took an unexpected detour – I had planned to dive into the newly remastered Skyrim: Special Edition for my Elder Scrolls fix, but instead I’ve found myself immersed in its massively multiplayer online cousin, The Elder Scrolls Online.
I participated in the open beta of The Elder Scrolls Online, or ESO for short, back in 2014 and found it to be intriguing enough to capture my interest, being filled with familiar lore and settings I’d first experienced in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, the only other Elder Scrolls series title I’ve played. However, I felt that I couldn’t commit to its mandatory subscription, given that I had multiple other MMOs competing for my play time.
When ESO dropped its subscription requirement and went “buy to play” back in 2015, I bought the full Digital Imperial Edition of the game and had an awesome time playing through the main story and exploring the game world. It really helped that a bunch of friends from The Secret World had also picked up ESO at the same time and we could experience it together as a group.
I took a break from the game shortly after completing the main storyline and all the content for the Daggerfall Covenant alliance. It’s at this point that the game offers you the choice to continue and play through the content of another alliance using the same character. At the time, I felt a bit too burnt out to start over and do another alliance storyline, plus I’d already experienced the starter zones for the other alliances on my two alt characters, so I’d be repeating content I’d done already.
So during 2016, other games took priority and I only logged in to ESO a few times to check out the new events the developers started adding, including the anniversary event and Halloween event. These were pretty lackluster, and mostly involved just logging in and activating a skill boost, then playing existing content with boosted experience gain.
However, the New Life Festival introduced for winter 2016 finally hooked me back into the game.
A New Life
The New Life Festival was similar to previous events, in that it offered boosted experience gain, but it also added nine new daily repeatable activities to complete, which each awarded a loot box with random event items.
Each activity was themed towards the different races of Tamriel, which ranged from Breton performing arts and Dunmer dancing to Argonian fishing and Nordic skinny dipping. I liked how the festival got you to travel around the world and experience the different cultures. The activities also only took a few minutes to complete and gave good gold and experience, making them worthwhile to repeat, despite losing their charming newness after the first day.
I’m used to grinding for unique event stuff in The Secret World, usually with abysmal drop rates for cool items. But in contrast, I was quite pleased with the items I was getting from ESO’s New Life Festival. You got nine chances per day to try your luck with boxes, the random drop rates seemed balanced and any duplicate items you received were tradable, so you could swap and gift items to your friends and guild members.
Despite jumping into the event quite late – I only played for the last couple of days it was active – I managed to get every new item that the event offered except for the rarest drop, the Hissmir Fish Eye Rye recipe.
After completing my daily run through the New Life Festival, I’d stick around in ESO to use the experience boost while my character explored the alliance storyline for the Aldmeri Dominion. When the event ended in early January, I decided to remain in ESO and make it my focus for the month.
After a slow start while adventuring through the lands of the Bosmer, I started getting interested in the storyline again when the new spiritual leaders of the wood elves, the Silvenar and the Green Lady, emerged. This then takes you on a journey exploring their origin story and culminates at their wedding. Everybody loves a good wedding!
Then, it was on to the home stretch with the final area of the Dominion storyline, Reaper’s March, which shifts focus on to the Khajiit and the ascension of their new spiritual leader, ensuring unity within the Aldmeri Dominion.
Normally, if you were playing as an Aldmeri Dominion character, you’d be launched into the Coldharbour storyline to begin the ultimate showdown with Molag Bal. But, as I’d already defeated Molag Bal, the story abruptly ends and you’re instructed to return to the Harborage. It seems like the developers could do some extra work to make the transition more natural.
I wasn’t quite ready to begin the storyline for a whole new alliance, so I decided to take a break and go to Craglorn. This is a group-focused area in ESO that recently changed to become more solo-friendly. Craglorn has its own self-contained storyline involving a mystery surrounding the appearance of celestial beings. I’d started the storyline before, but now with the majority of quests adjusted to be completable by a single player, I could finally experience the whole thing.
I found that I liked the Craglorn story and the ending was satisfying, although I think there’s some more stuff hidden behind group content, as there are three raids located on the map requiring 12-person groups. For now, that content is out of my reach.
The Gold Coast
Curious about the newer DLC areas, I ventured to The Gold Coast that was introduced in The Dark Brotherhood content. I didn’t really want to join a guild of assassins, as my main character is morally opposed to murdering people, but I thought I would try some exploring.
I was pleased to discover that there were non-assassination related quests available, and even better, they involve recurring characters you’ve met before. One of the things I love about ESO is that they often introduce a cast of recurring characters which you get to know and will encounter again later on.
After doing a few quests, I decided to put my exploration of the rest of the Gold Coast on hold, because I haven’t yet experienced the Ebonheart Pact alliance and don’t want to spoil anything in case there are reoccurring characters from that content I haven’t met yet.
A place to call home
So that pretty much brings me up-to-date with what I’ve been up to in The Elder Scrolls Online. I’ve got plenty of content that I haven’t experienced before to look forward to playing while journeying through the lands of the Ebonheart Pact, and then afterwards the DLC areas of Hew’s Bane and The Gold Coast to explore.
The next big update for the game is also about to arrive: Homestead, which will introduce player housing.
So, at least for now, it looks like I’ll be calling ESO my MMO home.