With a name like Elsweyr, any fan of Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series would easily surmise that the latest expansion for Bethesda’s Elder Scrolls Online had a lot of dragons in it. This time, they’d be right, even though there is no acknowledgment that it was a not-so-subtle nod to the late grandmaster of science fiction’s most famous work. In fact, there is lore in place to keep it firmly in its own canon. That being said, dragons are indeed one of the two big themes of this latest venture into the world of Tamriel, the other being the feline Khajiit whose ancestral home is the eponymous Elsweyr. This expansion is being billed as part of a year-long adventure called Season of the Dragon, which will include two more DLCs for the MMO later this year.
We met with the folks at Bethesda’s subsidiary Zenimax at their unabashed wingding at PAX East in Boston at the tail end of March. Last year’s event merely took over the comedy club in the Westin hotel lobby. This year, they took that and the adjacent Irish pub and restaurant for an even bigger experience. We had a chance to sit down Creative Director Rich Lambert to discuss what was coming in Elsweyr and even have a go playing their upcoming class, the Necromancer. Lambert said they wanted to dip into previous Elder Scrolls games for lore, particularly the Halls of Colossus from the very first Elder Scrolls game, Arena. Since the Halls were in Elsweyr, that led to the Zenimax team looking to explore what else was going on in this province originally formed through a marriage union over two hundred and fifty years before ESO‘s time began.
We discussed some of the new features of the expansion, with the key one being the new Necromancer class. Lambert pointed out that it was pet class that raises the dead to fight for them, many of these minions are fire and forget types such as skeletal archers. However, he added that the class also rewards positional tactics, which he said is something new they were trying for classes in the five-year-old MMO. In the right hands, a Necromancer will be a potent force to reckon with once the expansion is released. The animations of its spells were gorgeous even in comparison to ESO‘s general high quality of environmental art.
Another new feature of game is the introduction of a guild finder. In ESO, players can form their own guilds like in many other MMOs, but until Elsweyr comes out, they had to rely on word of mouth, chat spam, or going off-site to find guild ads. Guilds can list things such as type of guild, their usual timezone, what sort of players they’re looking for. Lambert said that players will be able to search the directory in this new tool and apply directly to a guild in-game. The guild can then react to the application right there without having to rely on third party tools to connect with like-minded players.
Since the One Tamriel initiative in 2016, ESO has been a smooth interactive experience for players, he pointed out. Many other games have to jump through hoops to let new players run around and adventure with veterans, while Zenimax had taken the steps to ensure that players can just roam the landscape wherever they want without artificial barriers such as overlevel mobs to prevent them from exploring. It also has a rich housing system to allow players some non-combat time to invest in the game, with crafting also tied into it. In response to my question about what players at endgame could do to occupy their time, Lambert replied, “Anything they want!”, and he cited a laundry list of Trials, housing, exploration, combat, plenty of stuff to entertain those who’ve reached that far in the game.
Later in the event, the Elsweyr team did a livestream, where they discussed the expansion in more detail. Much of the content in the stream covered PVP issues with the Cyrodiil campaigns and how various facets would be updated with the expansion. One of the PVE things they discussed was that players can see dragons on their map and chase them like storms in real life, but there weren’t static spawn points or landing points for the dragons to be attacked by players. However, Senior Community Manager Jessica Folsom asked if the dragons would be all over Tamriel. Rich Lambert explained that they had to work with parent company Bethesda to incorporate dragons into their world since they were mostly hidden in this time. Then Lead Dungeon Designer Mike Finnigan replied, “Are they gonna be in Tamriel? No, they’re gonna be Elsweyr.” The team broke for a few moments due to the horrible pun, and the audience was advised not to encourage Finnigan. The stream has been archived on the Bethesda Twitch channel, and you can check it out there for more information.
Elsweyr is due to launch on PC, Mac, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4 on June 4th, with early access for PC and Mac players starting May 20th. It’s now available on their Public Test Server. Pre-purchase of the expansion will grant certain rewards that will be unobtainable after launch. You can learn more about the expansion versions, rewards, and more at elderscrollsonline.com.
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