When The Elder Scrolls Online first launched, the MMORPG was met with a really lukewarm reception. The vanilla recreation seemingly took endlessly earlier than the story kicked off, and even then, it struggled with pacing points. Since then, quite a few expansions have been launched, successfully constructing a wildly pleasing Elder Scrolls expertise. That development of participating content material continues in Oblivion with the Blackwood enlargement, set 800 years earlier than the occasions of its single-player counterpart.
As a large RPG lover, one characteristic I get pleasure from is romance. The introduction of one of these characteristic in an RPG setting provides one more layer of immersion to the story, particularly for these like myself that thrive on constructing total character sheets for his or her journeys. While The Elder Scrolls Online expertise would not have that fairly but, Blackwood does introduce companions. Even higher? Creative Director Rich Lambert confirmed to me earlier this 12 months that the addition of companions is to put the groundwork for doable romance forward. “Down the line, romance is definitely somewhere we want to get to,” he told Game Informer. “We just want to make sure when we add it that we do it right.”
Knowing that, I used to be desperate to study extra concerning the companions inside Blackwood and I could not wait to get began on this new enlargement. Returning to Tamriel for this new chapter, Blackwood has round 30 hours of recent narrative content material to discover. It additionally presents new dungeons, aspect quests, bosses, and different miscellaneous additions to the newly added zone. In true enlargement format, the following step for The Elder Scrolls Online will launch in waves, including new chapters, PvE instances, and more. For our hands-on preview, I used to be in a position to tackle the brand new story and the brand new world occasions as nicely. These world occasions function equally to the Abyssal Geysers from the Summerset DLC and all earlier additions all through every enlargement’s launch. They are fairly easy, performing as further challenges to achieve XP and earn loot. For Blackwood, these particular occasions come within the type of Oblivion portals, which is becoming with the Deadlands being a serious focus.
The new space that Blackwood opens into is the Leyawiin, an Imperial City. It wasn’t actually something particular, nothing like Summerset the place the zone appeared utterly in contrast to the rest. However, it wasn’t unenjoyable. The metropolis’s setup is fairly commonplace from what you’d anticipate from an Elder Scrolls recreation, however what did make it stand out was the NPCs. God, a few of them had been so annoying. Many of the NPCs encountered had been haughty and frigid, meant to make you’re feeling such as you had been beneath them. I’m not going to lie; there have been instances the place I wished to punch these sorts of characters within the face, however they weren’t all dangerous. More than that, every character was voiced to perfection. Whether annoying or not, each NPC was absolutely realized, which made falling into this story really feel extra natural, and it drove me to wish to discuss to everybody that I may and scoop up each questline that I may spot.
So what concerning the companion system? Look, if you do not have an annoying follower that does not bug you incessantly, did you actually play an Elder Scrolls recreation? Having a companion on this recreation is a serious game-changer and one which I can not wait to see evolve. For now, there are two companions we get to fulfill with Blackwood: Bastian and Mirri. “Bastian is kind of this chivalrous Knight kind of personality,” Lambert instructed me earlier this 12 months. “And he was the son of a noble; there was a little bit of strife with his history that you’ll learn more about while adventuring with him. He became a servant to another noble family and is essentially being the protector of this rich sniveling idiot. The questline that you go through to unlock him as a companion covers one of those adventures. And then once you unlock him, you find out a little bit more about who he is and what his personal tragedy is.”
On the opposite hand, Mirri is a Dunmer thief who Lambert describes as having a “stab you in the back” type of persona. Lambert talked about that she has an fascinating twist in her storyline, however wasn’t prepared to inform me extra irrespective of how a lot I used to be intrigued to listen to every part.
What’s even higher is that these aren’t simply fairly faces; they’re absolutely upgradable. Additionally, their inclusion is a large boon for people who wish to play solo. With the brand new dungeons and PvE situations, operating this recreation solo could be executed, nevertheless it may also be extremely irritating. Companions could be specced out to the combating fashion of your selection, which makes operating solo slightly simpler to handle and extra pleasing to do.
To get these companions, you have to full their questlines for them to be labeled as “allies.” Mirri was fingers down my favourite. There are elements in her writing that nearly jogged my memory of Isabella from Dragon Age 2 along with her sassy humor and take-no-s**t demeanor. When taking part in by way of what Blackwood has to supply, I genuinely discovered myself captivated by what each of those characters must deliver to the RPG side of this MMORPG, although I undoubtedly gravitated to her essentially the most due to her robust persona and wit.
But there may be extra to this enlargement than simply the NPCs and new companions. Upon leaving town, the true great thing about the brand new zone shines. The space surrounding the inside metropolis is past beautiful, full of greenery and playful wildlife that was genuinely enjoyable to discover. There had been many instances after I could be making my solution to a brand new quest space, solely to cease and simply mindlessly discover slightly bit. Plus, you’ve got gotta climb these mountains incorrectly; this IS an Elder Scrolls recreation, in spite of everything.
As lovely as the encompassing space is, and as excited as I’m to study how Mehrunes Dagon rose to energy along with his cult followers, there was one thought that adopted me round throughout my total development: I’ve been right here earlier than. I beloved the Elsywer, Greymoor, and Summerset expansions as a result of each felt vastly distinctive from each other. Every time I dove into a brand new DLC, it felt like I used to be each returning to an pleasing recreation and having fun with a brand new one on the identical time. The metropolis of Leyawiin felt too just like the bottom recreation to really feel new, which – sadly – coloured how I noticed all the interactions. With Greymoor, we had Vampire Bae Fennorian. With Morrowind, we had the Warden class and acquainted areas from Skyrim. With Summerset, we had the Psijic order to study from and discover. With Blackwood, I did not really feel that very same influence. It felt like a a lot smaller replace, and that is not one thing you wish to really feel when diving into a brand new storyline.
I’m enthusiastic about seeing the place this new journey goes, particularly with the promise that extra companions will likely be coming later. Each step of this ongoing Elder Scrolls journey has shed a brand new perspective on the video games we love, particularly Skyrim and Morrowind. I’m desperate to see Oblivion by way of a brand new lens as nicely, and Blackwood is poised to be that contemporary perspective. My solely concern is that the setting itself will not be sufficient by itself to separate itself from earlier iterations. However, the companion addition does change the sport really feel in a optimistic approach. Between that and future updates that may are available in true enlargement fashion for The Elder Scrolls Online, together with new chapters and narrative branches, I really feel like Blackwood may actually evolve into one thing particular as extra content material rolls out.
For these enthusiastic about testing the origins of Mehrunes Dagon and the historical past of Oblivion, Elder Scrolls Online Blackwood arrives on June 1 for PC and Stadia gamers, with a June 8 launch on Xbox and PlayStation. For these with a PlayStation 5 or an Xbox Series X, June 8 can also be slated for a free upgrade for next-gen systems.