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Synopsis:


The Elder Scrolls Online Collection: Blackwood is the ultimate Elder Scrolls experience and includes the Base Game and all Chapters

  • Blackwood (New for 2021)
  • Greymoor
  • Elsweyr
  • Summerset
  • Morrowind

A deal made with the Prince of Destruction comes due in The Elder Scrolls Online: Blackwood, part of the Gates of Oblivion adventure. Explore Imperial cities and murky bogs, uncover Mehrunes Dagon’s sinister plot, and never adventure alone with the new Companions System.  Uncover the schemes of the Daedric Prince Mehrunes Dagon 800 years before the events of The Elder Scrolls IV in Gates of Oblivion, a new year-long adventure for The Elder Scrolls Online. In the upcoming Blackwood Chapter, you can continue the saga that begins with the Flames of Ambition DLC and investigate a conspiracy where all paths lead to the Deadlands.

ULTIMATE FREEDOM

Create your ultimate RPG character, play solo or adventure with friends, and determine your fate in an ever-expanding world. With no level restrictions, go anywhere, at any time in a truly open world. In The Elder Scrolls Online, the choice is yours.

CHOOSE YOUR ADVENTURE

With a new tutorial, begin your adventure where you like: emerge from Coldharbour in the Base Game, battle Dragons in the Elsweyr Chapter, or get ready to face the Prince of Destruction, Mehrunes Dagon, in Blackwood, the latest Chapter. All content is accessible for new players, and you can switch adventures whenever you like.

INCLUDES LATEST CHAPTER: BLACKWOOD

As part of the Gates of Oblivion adventure, a deal made with the Prince of Destruction comes due in Blackwood. Explore Imperial cities and murky bogs, uncover Mehrunes Dagon’s sinister plot, and never adventure alone with the new Companions System.

REVIEW

This exciting new expansion of the Elder Scrolls Online introduces the region of Blackwood which continues the Gates of Oblivion adventure. This is a prequel set 800 years before the events that occurred in Elder Scrolls IV in the Gates of Oblivion expansion. The Blackwood Chapter in essence leads you to uncover mysteries, exploring the Deadlands which is the sadistic version of Prince Mehrunes Dagon’s mind-warp and stumbling upon Daedric lore and monsters. For a new player, this chapter is suitably excellent to get immersed into. For a veteran player, this expansion is rather short and plays safely. 

The story often paces back and forth between the aspect of showing vs telling. The characters in this chapter are exciting, but they are sometimes often too numerous. Some characters come and go. Some don’t. In this case, since it is covering events that occurred in Elder Scrolls IV, it often explains to you rather than showing. In one sense, it often breaks the rule of worldbuilding of explaining too much. But I can understand why they needed to do this. The chapter has an engaging story however, despite its faults, and the voice acting carries the chapter to the next level. I wish they had taken more risks with the story and added more exciting action sequences. For this review, I will be exploring the story and the world. Briefly, I shall touch upon companions and dungeons. I play ESO more for the chapter expansions because I enjoy the story more often.

The Story

Blackwood visually is gorgeous to look at. It is a fascinating blend of classical Roman fantasy mixed with Medieval-Fantasy style castles that resemble something out of a fairy tale book. I love the Roman-inspired faction that is the Ivory Brigade and the stories you will deal with them when you enter Blackwood. We often don’t see much Roman-inspired fantasy in other worlds, but the world of Tamriel itself has elements of it in the Imperial City and Cyrodiil, and other places. Moving onwards, there are plenty of bosses to fight, engaging humorous quests to deal with, and more Argonian villages to visit. This place has more swamps than Shrek’s own home!

The main story quests are entertaining, and they do make you uncover mysteries to find out who is assassinating the councilors of the Elder Council for the secret of the Longhouse Emperors. You are thrust into a world of conspiracy and intrigue but that is where the quest-level designs fail to keep up the interest. More than often, as you uncover which rogues have interests in assassinating the councilors, you discover that most of these conflicts occur in houses and a few cities. You don’t get to go to massive arching castles, and you don’t often go into the past to find out who did what. You don’t have many mystical elements or enough variation between environments in my opinion. You go from city to city, navigating house after house, but the world does feel a bit tricky to navigate in my opinion. This is what I mean when I am talking about this chapter feeling safe.

For example, in the Greymoor Expansion in the Dark Heart of Skyrim that I played previously, I experienced an epic story in which Count Verandis left his brotherhood of Vampires to oppose his brother, Rada-Al-Saran from conquering humanity. That story often had weak moments, but what carried it forward was the personal story that the two main characters had. Exploring the past through a beautiful Vampire Citadel while experiencing flashbacks and exploring the vast Blackreach Caves which burst with color. There were nail-biting moments and characters that you fell in love with. With Blackwood, there are some seriously wonderful moments with discovering who the ambitions are, and dealing with good and evil governors. However, it felt like a short, contained story like Blackwood. I experienced too many characters to not establish an emotional attachment to them. They could have developed captain Rian Lore a lot more. The Councillors could have been interesting characters. I wanted to have more quests from their side and to have more exciting locations to go within Blackwood. 

The Daedra influences were not as intense as I would have wanted them to be. They rarely had enough side-quests to make me more interested in exploring the Deadlands. I would have wanted to explore different sides, or maybe agree with a Daedra or two. What I’m trying to say here is that the Daedra felt more like a punching bag and they fell into the good vs evil stereotype. With previous Elder Scrolls Online expansions, let’s take Summerset, for example, the homeland of the Elves. It depicts a rigid, racist society stuck in the confines of tradition and hating outsiders that arrive from Tamriel. They believe themselves to be civilized when, in reality, they’re no different.

While the Daedra are evil creatures, you really shouldn’t make pacts with them, I would have wanted to be seen as a better depiction of what they stand for rather than being the stereotypical evil that they were. They did not explore deeper shades of morality with the Daedra and they did not invest in me, the player, as much as I should have been about understanding the motive of the Daedra.  Of course, the Daedra influence the actions in Blackwood through the Order of the Waking Flame Cult, and they infiltrated the Ivory Brigade and managed events from there, manipulating the choices made in Gideon and Leyawinn to their will. But I didn’t get enough important characters to feel like I was playing for a good side or a dangerous side. It became more mundane in the sense: There’s an evil prince named Dagon, and you’ve got to kill his cultists, and then basically save Blackwood. That was it. There could have been so much more to this story.

I felt the story could have been much longer, and it didn’t need to be so much of an introduction to the Black Marsh which I presume we’ll be going for the next expansion. There’s a lot of Argonian Lore that is still to be uncovered. It initially disappointed me with this expansion’s story. For its strengths, it carried a lot of wonderful moments of writing, and it contained excellent voice acting. I could explore a beautiful world. For its weaknesses, it contained multiple characters that I could not form an attachment to, and the pacing sometimes went from one end of the spectrum to the other. When I was in the Deadlands exploring some interesting material, the story forced me back into Blackwood many times. As much as you explore time in the Deadlands, you explore more linear zones and, to be honest, much of Blackwood’s story could have also expanded into the Deadlands as a major portion of the story. You didn’t need seven major quests, it should have been at least 40-50 major quests. There’s a lot of content that they needed to add. 

The World

Looking at the other aspects of this expansion, there are Oblivion portals through which you can navigate the whole of the Deadlands, which are outstanding, and the two new dungeons are fun and difficult to do at the same time. There are world bosses to defeat, and they can be hard sometimes. I play ESO mostly for the story, so for this review, I touched upon this. As for the last part, I shall briefly explore companions. I love that ESO introduced this. Companions are excellent for players who only like solo playing in the vast open-world that is ESO. They are, however, not as powerful as the player, which has its advantages and disadvantages. I didn’t get this quest until late when I searched on YouTube and helped the Companions in their quests to recruit them. I feel ESO could really expand this for solo players and maybe introduce an adventuring party of two more companions to help you out in the next expansion. You can spend skill points and equip your companions, which is a plus, but you often get very limited moments of dialogue between you and your companion. I wish ESO would improve upon this. The biggest problem I have at the moment is how every companion is a clone and you can’t customize them. I wish they would improve upon this.

Conclusion

Overall, Blackwood is an exciting chapter. Full of lore, story, and great writing. As a veteran player, I found this chapter safer than the previous expansion. However, I would not let it detract from the fact that the writing in this game is much better than Ubisoft’s open-world games. And I say that without a doubt, the writing still makes you feel you want to be a part of Blackwood, to experience quests that will make you laugh and cry. The side-quests are the strongest aspect of Blackwood, especially with the new Argonian quests. There’s still a ton of great content to discover. I for one, cannot wait to play the next expansion next year. I would still highly recommend this chapter to new players. Oh, and one of the impressive aspects of ESO’s fresh changes that arrived with Blackwood is that you can start your tutorial anywhere in the world of Tamriel that you want to. So, when you get ESO Online for the first time and complete the tutorial, why not try Blackwood as your first starting location as you’ll be able to recruit companions which will help you in your epic adventures across Tamriel? It is still a significant expansion, and I loved it. 

Sources:

https://store.steampowered.com/app/1400970/The_Elder_Scrolls_Online__Blackwood/
https://www.elderscrollsonline.com/en-us/updates/chapter/blackwood
https://en.uesp.net/wiki/Online:Blackwood
https://elderscrollsonline.wiki.fextralife.com/Blackwood

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Madaaworld12

Ancient History fan and fantasy book reviewer/Gaming Youtuber! DM on twitter for review requests/blog tours. Youtube | alalhambrabookreviews.home.blog/

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