The Elder Scrolls Online’s next expansion explores High Elven lands

Looking at those towers gives me Anor Londo flashbacks...

Back in my day, if a game tanked, that was it. You just shrugged and moved on, but these days? Whippersnappers keep on fixing things. Improvin’ stuff, as if the medium was malleable or something.

After FFXIV, The Elder Scrolls Online is probably the next strongest comeback that an MMO has made. Completely replacing its business model and progression systems after a very wonky initial launch, it’s brought a lot of players back into the fold with its renewed promise of a more traditionally freeform Elder Scrolls experience.

Following on from its Morrowind-led relaunch, ZeniMax have announced TESO’s second major expansion, this time taking the game to Summerset, improbably scenic home of the High Elves.

What we’ve got here is your usual slab of new adventuring opportunities – a new island nation, several towns and a big capital city plus a bunch of new enemy types and environments – that’ll act as a quest hub for another season of DLC/subscription content over the coming year or so. As is now standard for TESO, level has little bearing on what you can do and where you can go, so if you feel like hopping over to Summerset Isle fresh out of the tutorial, you can, making one of the less linear ‘traditional’ MMOs even more freeform. They’ve done well to make TESO feel more like a traditional Elder Scrolls game, at least compared to its sorry state at launch.

Summerset seems like it might be a little small as a land-mass, but it seems quite vertically dense, with mountain passes patrolled by Griffons, caverns and hidden coves containing pirate bases and sea-monsters. As part of one quest line in Summerset, players will have a chance to join the Psijic Order, a society of dimension-hopping mages that can teach you a neat line in time manipulation spells, such as a time-slowing bubble and one that resets your health, mana and stamina to whatever they were four seconds ago, which I can imagine being utterly infuriating to encounter in PvP.

The Elder Scrolls Online: Summerset is due out on the 21st of May, and is priced at £20/$30 if you own the base game, or can alternatively be preordered by new players for £30/$40, giving you immediate access to the base game and the Morrowind expansion. There are of course the usual assortment of price-inflated Collectors Editions, but as is common for MMOs, the perks included in these packs (in this case, a costume, a mount, some XP boosts a few treasure maps) tend to be rather underwhelming. You can snag all of these over on Steam, or via Bethesda’s own storefront.

The Elder Scrolls Online is also holding a free week trial, ending in five days at the time of writing. You can sign up for that on Steam or Bethesda’s site, too.

30 Comments

  1. Premium User Badge

    Drib says:

    Isn’t Summerset Isle one of those places that has hardly been explored at all in lore or games thus far? High Rock and Hammerfell were in Daggerfall, Hammerfell again in Blackguard, Morrowind had bits of… Morrowind, and Cyrodill and portions of adjacent provinces in Oblivion, and obviously Skyrim had Skyrim.

    But Summerset Isle is basically wholly new, right? Arena doesn’t count, nothing was anything in Arena. I guess it’s just the hist swamps of Black Marsh and the Khajiit deserts of Elsewyr left now.

    • ReluctantlyHuman says:

      I believe you are right. I can’t imagine they will be able to devote the level of quality to the isle that a standalone title could, but I can’t imagine they will consider themselves too beholden to previous game depictions if they decide to explore it in TES: X or whatever.
      This is the game series that literally wrote in one game having multiple conflicting endings into canon.

    • Dave Mongoose says:

      Elsweyr has jungles as well! Think Far Cry 2 but with more trade caravans and less malaria and automatic weaponry (probably).

      As a devoted Khajiit player, I would love to see it get a proper treatment beyond the small bits you see in ESO.

  2. Arglebargle says:

    I was in the ESO closed beta, and told them that their fixation on recreating Dark Age of Camelot was going to run afoul of the setting’s Elder Scrolls fanbase. It was a conceptual failure.

    The game was also very grouping-unfriendly, which was mind boggling with so many examples of success and failure tied to that everywhere.

    Came back at Morrowind, just to go back in time and ogle the netches and mushroom houses again. Die scurvy cliff racer!

    • Grim_22 says:

      With your perspective from the beta and now from Morrowind, how would you say it has improved? Is it worth diving into now for an immersive experience or is it still just another bland MMO?

    • 7vincent7black7 says:

      I quit playing just before the Morrowind expansion released for 2 reasons:

      1. as a solo player, the Main Quest wasn’t gripping me enough to want to do it before the “Faction Side Quests of Thieves Guild and Dark Brotherhood”. I wanted to be the hero I would become before beating the Main villian, and the MQ didn’t compel me to drop the trend of how I played the single-player games in this respect.
      2. After a certain point, the storylines for the Faction quests would be halted until I reached a certain quota of trash-mob-level, throwaway, randomly-generated missions had been completed. For the Thieves Guild Faction especially, I kept getting missions that wanted me to steal from containers until I got the correct loot to complete a mission, from nowhere in particular, rather than stealing a specific item from a specific person or place. This resulted in me wasting hours, wandering around lost, with no idea where I needed to go to get what I needed to get, so I could finally get back to the gameplay I actually cared about. It didn’t build the game up, merely convinced me that I didn’t want to go the extra 600 miles I needed to go to in order to experience fundamental gameplay that was much easier to experience in single player gameplay models. So I eventually quit while I was ahead, and have since been unwilling to throw away even more money in the hopes that the DLC expansions would be enough “carrot” to keep me trudging through the rnd-generated muck that got in the way of my goals in the game in the first place.

      • Dave Mongoose says:

        I quit before Morrowind as well, but they have now updated it so zones scale to your level so you can pretty much go where you like. Not sure if that applies to the factions, though.

  3. Cartras says:

    TES VI when?

    • ZippyLemon says:

      2022 before we hear word of it I reckon. BGS got tired of it and wanted to work on fresh IP. Bethesda are not Activision, so they let them do just that.

      It’s been confirmed that they have two fully fledged AAA “BGS style” titles in the works, which will both come out before TES VI. We haven’t seen, uh, anything of them yet.

      Considering BGS’s list of job openings, it looks a lot like they spent the last years dicking about and tinkering with (read: gutting and completely overhauling) their creaky-ass engine, and are only now ramping up development on title 1 of 2.

      So, presuming the smoothest, fastest development imaginable, we might see two games out of BGS in the next four years.

      And then maybe they’ll tease TES VI.

  4. Servicemaster says:

    I spent $40 for ESO and Morrowind and they kept begging for money for QoL improvements everywhere I turned so after about 16 hours and level 20 I backed the fuck out, uninstalled and never looked back.

    Which is a shame cause I bought it to play with my 65yo mom but all she did was ride up to me on a magnificent steed, gave me 50k gold and told me she wouldn’t “boost” me. The fuck?

    • Dominic Tarason says:

      It must’ve been a Sunday, because your mum left you roasted and served.

  5. bramble says:

    I played this pretty heavily from the release of Morrowind to the new year. It’s a fun MMO, and going back to play older MMOs later feels like a chore once you get used to the more active combat and movement of ESO. It’s a strong evolution of the genre. I was also happy with how the game encouraged grouping while providing more than enough to do for solo players.

    The spotty writing definitely grated after a while though. After playing so many smart and well written games and RPGs (including MMOs, Secret World comes to mind), it felt like I was playing through a children’s book where subtlety was forbidden, everyone always meant exactly what they said, and every problem had the potential to end the fabric of existence. One wonders what all these peasants are paying taxes for when secret cultists are fielding armies so large even the most powerful kingdoms don’t let their troops leave the castle.

    My interest in MMOs is cyclic, and I’m sure I’ll get the itch again sometime in 2018. ESO is almost certainly a game I’ll pay another visit to.

  6. tsff22 says:

    Thankfully, I only got into ESO and the Morrowind expansion during the free to play promotion late last year, so I didn’t experience the wonky jank from the initial launch.

    What I DID experience was one of the best and most surprisingly fun and satisfying MMOs I’ve played since FF14. Like Dominic said, the game has come a LONG way since its launch, and there is polish everywhere. I am eager to see what Zenimax has in store for us with Summerset.

    PS: Dominion for life! Glory to the Queen and the Golden Eagle!

  7. satan says:

    I can’t go there without having played a complete TES single player game devoted to the region.

  8. BaronKreight says:

    This game has lootboxes BTW. BAM!

    • heystreethawk says:

      You mean the boxes of random cosmetics? You get actual loot from the actual game.

  9. fuzzyfuzzyfungus says:

    Is TES: Online on a different continuity; or are the Altmer just too snooty to have their assorted secret torture dungeons and similar high-elves-are-fantasy-fascist-pricks apparatus cluttering up their homeland?

    Based on dealing with them in Skyrim; I’d sort of expect the Summerset Isles to be ~30% labor camp by area.

    • Dominic Tarason says:

      TESO is set about a thousand years before Skyrim, so things are a little bit more clean-cut. There is a little bit of a global-scale Daedric invasion going on though, which makes for some fun wave survival stuff out in the wilds.

      • tsff22 says:

        This. Plus, oddly enough this version of the Dominion is quite possibly the friendliest and most moral of the three Alliances. While the Covenant and the Pact also have NPCs of other Alliance races throughout their areas, most of the time its implicitly stated that they’re travelling merchants at best, and servants at worst.

        The Dominion, by contrast, welcomes non Dominion races with open arms, and is more than hospitable to them.

        A complete 180 from the Nazi Elves the Thalmor were in Skyrim.

        • Imperialist says:

          Actually, id argue that despite the war-shenanigans that the Pact and Covenant are up to during the war…
          (spoilers)
          The Dominion tried to destroy the Hist tree, and pretty much also tried to kill all the Argonian babies in their eggs.
          No, the Dominion is just as evil as the Thalmor in Skyrim…they just hide it with platitudes and a regal visage.

          But you wouldnt get that playing the Dominion story! They only let you see what you want to see.

          • tsff22 says:

            I’d actually argue that the Dominion leadership (or at least Ayrenn) were unaware of just how dark and genocidal Ruuvitar’s plan was. As far as they knew, Ruuvitar’s mission was to “pacify” the Argonians in regards to the war effort, and the letter you can find in the penultimate Shadowfen main quest suggests that the leaders don’t know the true scope of Ruuvitar’s plot.

            At the very least, from what I’ve seen of Ayrenn (the only Dominion area I’ve yet to clear is Reaper’s March), it seems WILDLY out of character for her to sign off on/sanction a plan as genocidal as what Ruuvitar planed to do to the Egg.

  10. racccoon says:

    Yes this is a good game to able to play. :)

  11. geldonyetich says:

    Usually when I’m expressing an unpopular opinion, it’s supporting of a game among complainers but, in Elder Scrolls Online’s case, it seems it’s my turn on the opposite end.

    The character progression system is unlikable. For me, at least, as apparently it has a far number of players well able to tolerate, possibly even like it. There’s basically only three builds in the game: stamina DPS, magicka DPS, and tank. Class choice comes down to a smattering of usually magicka-based skills, which means Stamina DPS is primarily leaning on the weapon skills everybody else gets. They were going for flexibility in character concept, but no matter what character I make, the difference seems substantial except for the choice of stamina DPS, magicka DPS, or tank.

    Unfortunately, no matter how I customize my character, they all play super boring. With only two hotbars of seven choices each, plus a block, power attack, or normal attack, this is one of the least involving, choice-free MMORPG mechanics in existence. Guild Wars 2 did that too, but there the active abilities have a lot more ramifications, in Elder Scrolls Online’s case easily 3/4 of active abilities are, “Do damage and buff/debuff something.” The min:maxers of the game is depressing, they’re mostly focused on animation times. Perhaps it’s an MMORPG for casuals, and that’s what they want.

    But the content in Elder Scrolls Online is good. Nay, the content is great. Fully voiced, high production values all around. And if you like Elder Scrolls, you’ll like what they did here, lots of familiar voices and characters show up.

    I wonder if they can make a VR interface. Marrying touch controls to the weaksauce combat mechanics might just give it the spice it needs. Plus, I’d like to be present with all that lovely content.

    • RubberbandAU says:

      They totally failed with the classes.

      But then I come from Rift which, whilst it had a steep learning curve, understood that players want to be individuals and not smash the same keys in the same rotation over and over.

      I wish MMO devs would just take some bloody risks.

    • malkav11 says:

      I don’t necessarily disagree with your criticisms, but I still feel that ESO has better character building and combat than the offline Elder Scrolls games. By a fair margin, actually.

      (I look at people who love Skyrim and then refuse to play Morrowind despite the combat in Skyrim being nearly identically bad like they’re crazy. These aren’t games about the combat. It’s tolerable at best. But the worlds!)

  12. Roest says:

    So can I have fun in this game if I absolutely loathe PvP?

    • Jernau Gurgeh says:

      I did, if you don’t mind quick and easy cookie cutter missions and just go with the flow of the game. I solo’d it, completing the main quest and faction quest, whilst totally avoiding any interaction whatsoever with those other idiots hopping around like vainglorious fantasy bunny rabbits, riding WoW-style fat-legged Day-Glo horses, followed by useless vanity pets that they actually paid real money for.

      (This is my first and only MMO, apart from very brief forays into Star Wars and LOTR).

    • Rosveen says:

      Yes, absolutely. There’s a ton of PvE content. If you want to optimize your build, it’s recommended to drop into Cyrodiil for a few evenings to unlock the PvP skills, but that’s all (and even then you can do fine without those skills).

  13. simontifik says:

    I played TESO at launch and every 6 months or so I get the urge to download and check it out again. Everytime the download reaches 10-15% the urge subsides and I go play something else.

  14. Stevostin says:

    When Morrowind (TES) was released if was a shinning beacon of innovation, talent, and boldness in its world design.

    This trailer is most exactly the opposite.

    How far we’ve traveled !