For those wanting to know more about the Elder Scrolls universe, the new Greymoor chapter coming to The Elder Scrolls Online on June 9th should have you very excited.
Perhaps you’re jonesing for the next Elder Scrolls game, and you’ve installed every Skyrim mod in existence. Thankfully, even if you’re new to the world of The Elder Scrolls Online, it’s incredibly easy to jump in and do the specific activity you want — even if it’s content that was just released.
This is very much a chapter for the loremasters, the scholars, the explorers. If you’ve always wanted to quite literally stick your nose in some elder scrolls, Greymoor is going to feed that virtual wanderlust and passion for history, while also adding combat, theorycrafting, and questing challenges.
It’s not often that an expansion will introduce elements that have such monumental implications for iconic areas and core story threads, so let’s take a look at how Greymoor is expanding the familiar as well as the unknown.
Dark Heart of Skyrim
Over the course of 2019, ZeniMax Online Studios experimented with a pattern of four updates throughout the year that would all contribute to one overarching narrative. After much praise from the community, the studio knew it was on the right track, and now we’re poised to see the true manifestation of that idea.
Those who delved into the Unhallowed Grave and Icereach dungeons have already witnessed the beginning of the Dark Heart of Skyrim questline, and Greymoor will bring the meat and potatoes of the story. Being set about 1,000 years before the events of the Skyrim we’ve all explored every nook and cranny of in Elder Scrolls V, that offers a lot of freedom in terms of storytelling.
Greymoor introduces the world of Western Skyrim and ZOS has mentioned Haafingar, Hjaalmarch, and Karthald holds as feature locations — the latter of which we’ve never heard of before. What happened to Kharthald – an entire hold – such that it was erased from history? Was its destruction so complete that not one stone was on top of another, like Carthage suffered at the hands of Roman general Scipio?
Elsewhere the action will center around the port city of Solitude, Dragon Bridge, and Morthal, and the result is a feeling like coming home to something familiar, yet not quite the same, and bristling with all the potential of what you know is to come years later. Players can explore the snowy forests and cliff-bound fortresses of the Nords as the jarls of Skyrim contend with each other and new threats.
The most notable of those leaders will be King Svargrim, High King of Solitude during the Second Era. A lifelong isolationist who detests the Ebonheart Pact that facilitates cooperation with outside races, Svargrim’s goal is closing borders and retaining what he sees as the Nord identity.
He’ll have to contend with more than the other jarls though, because it turns out a lot has been happening right under their Nordy noses…
On the Down-Low
The Greymoor chapter doesn’t just send us West, it also sends us…down. The Nords grew up hearing stories about Blackreach, a massive underground network of caverns, around their campfires, thinking it was just the stuff of legend. In Elder Scrolls V we got to descend into Blackreach and see a Dwemer settlement, lit by glowing fungi and hiding unknown threats in the damp, dark corners of the underworld.
But it turns out that was just a small section of Blackreach — the real network of caverns reaches impossibly far, all throughout Skyrim. Always underneath your feet as your avatar curses their frozen toes on the surface. Think of all your favourite moments in the world of Skyrim, and think what could’ve been a hundred metres below your feet at that time.
Around 40% of the Greymoor chapter will be spent underground, in Blackreach. There are multiple biomes down there, ruins of past civilisations, and connections to iconic surface locations. Blackreach will be the home of many supernatural enemies, too — expect werewolves, witches, and of course, vampires.
And that brings us to the real Dark Heart of Skyrim…
A Total Re-Vamp
While the jarls bicker and argue about who killed who, there’s a threat brewing under their feet and it’s even grumpier than Svargrim. The vampire villain in the trailers looks mighty powerful, though not much is known of the new threat…yet. We’re putting our money on this being the equivalent of the Final Boss, the titular Dark Heart of Skyrim. We may see a new vampire clan announce itself to the world, and with two more large content drops coming in August and November, it’s entirely possible we won’t see the end of this big baddie after completing the main quests of Greymoor.
On top of the lore being expanded, ZOS is taking this opportunity to sink its teeth into the vampire skills in general, with an update that will be available for free to all owners of the base game. The “greatest hits” of vampire abilities will still be there, but there’s a general overhaul of skills, experience, and the ultimate ability. Before, the less you fed, the stronger you got and the more your look would change. That didn’t quite make sense — so, post-change, you’ll be rewarded with strength and vampy aesthetics for feeding more, not less.
There will be mesmerising abilities akin to Dracula, or more bestial abilities for stealing a target’s life force. Lots of work has gone into the animations of stalking your prey, jumping on people, and leaving a dry husk of a Nord.
You’ll be reported for overt vampirism, of course, so there’s an element of stealth involved. But the new ultimate ability also lets you take it further than you ever could before.
The end of the questline rewards you with the Blood Scion ability, essentially a transformation into a powerful new type of vampire. That has lore implications in itself, as we previously believed that kind of royalty was exclusive to the Vulkahar clan. ZOS has been showing a mysterious vampire in the trailers, and we don’t know its name or affiliation. But for all you aspiring lords, we’re pretty sure the new villain is your stepping stone to go from redblood to blueblood.
Pretty Fly for a Wight Scry
For those who get a loregasm from delving into the history of the land, Greymoor has a real treat in store. The Antiquities system is a way for players to find, identify, and dig up items of immense historical significance.
There are rewards attached to it, which will lead the PvP and raiding players to join in the excavating, but this is an activity you can engage in even if you don’t feel like engaging in combat or questing.
That’s an important step for any game to take, but especially one as large as The Elder Scrolls Online. With so many players, and so many TYPES of players, there will be moments when you feel like playing with friends without keeping your brain in its highest gear, or perhaps you’ve had an exhausting day and just want to learn more about the wider world of Tamriel.
Described as “Indiana Jones in Tamriel,” this takes the form of two different minigames. The Scrying minigame is akin to a colour- or shape-matching minigame, and that’s what helps you zero in on the location of these objects. Once you’re in place, you’ll open up the excavation/digging minigame, which is heavily influenced by Minesweeper and Battleship. True to MMO form, there will be skills that make these actions easier, and there’s no hard fail — you can always try again if your scrying left you crying.
That’s the mechanical element of it, but Antiquities will fully involve the NPCs and entire world. Every bit of ESO, past, present and future – will have Antiquities incorporated. The item you’re chasing is always relevant to the area you’re in, and will offer crucial clues for loremasters looking to understand what came before. While these events are roughly 1,000 years before Elder Scrolls V, the antiquated item might come from 1,000 years before THAT.
It looks like Zenimax is doing this in the perfect way. There’s a bit of mystery to it all, and players will have to fit together the puzzle pieces they find. A half-informed comment from an NPC here, a message carved into a cave there… This is far from just sitting there while someone dumps pages and pages of exposition on you. You’ll be collaborating with NPCs as well as other humans to tell the full story of Tamriel. The developers have said they even expect whole guilds to rise up around the Antiquities system and all the lore-hunting gameplay it brings.
The rewards, however, don’t just apply to die-hard history buffs. Successful Antiquity hunting will reward players with Mythic Items, which are so powerful the devs have seen fit to limit players to wearing one at a time.
Some antiquities will be cosmetic pieces for an avatar, or for display in your home. Some will enable heavy duty buffs, like one particular item that increases speed during combat, and doubles speed out of combat. Imagine gathering resources – or doing even more Antiquity hunting – while moving at double the speed! Another that’s been shown is a chest piece that restores magicka whenever it blocks.
Needless to say, the benefits mean that all types of player will engage in some treasure hunting. But most importantly, the Antiquities is offering a non-combat style of gameplay and helps ESO appeal to a wider variety of players.
It’s YOUR Story
In the MMO space, we’ve always been a fan of the idea of public quests — world events that make it easy for nearby travellers to team up and tackle. ESO is introducing another form of that now with Harrowstorms, which open up throughout the land and spew supernatural enemies until defeated by local heroes. It’s a great way to make new friends in the game, and for the introverts among us, a great tangent to grab some gear and experience you couldn’t normally get from solo questing.
Much like the piecing together of lore from the Antiquities system, in which the player is very much a participant instead of just a recipient of data, Harrowstorms offer a way to build your own personal lore throughout the land. That’s the lore that matters the most — the people you meet, the silly things that happen along the way, even – or, especially – things the devs didn’t intend.
After much tweaking, the class balance is in a great place in ESO, so you don’t have to worry about what the “overpowered” or “underpowered” class is. That, combined with the heavy duty lore implications for the world of Tamriel, means this is a great time to jump into ESO if you’re an Elder Scrolls fan.
If you saw something you like the look of, there are no arbitrary level gates preventing you from exploring straight to that element that caught your fancy. From level one, you can go anywhere and play with your friends, even the titular Greymoor. Though we’d recommend doing the Icereach and Unhallowed Graves dungeons beforehand, as they set up the story nicely!
A lot of performance and file size tweaks have been implemented as well, meaning the game is about 30GB less to download than it was before.
As we find more about the mysterious vampire plaguing Western Skyrim, and see the political intrigues of the vying Nord factions play out, we’ll always have the events of our beloved time with Elder Scrolls V in the backs of our minds. A little bit of history here and there can offer new perspectives, and new meaning, to that adventuring that took place roughly 1,000 years later. That’s probably why ZOS chose this place and time — the storytelling potential isn’t just coming out of the past, it’s literally coming out of the ground.