The fourth full-scale “chapter” expansion for the story-rich MMO experience Elder Scrolls Online takes players back to a place close to the hearts of millions – Skyrim.
Legend has it that if you walk into the hallowed halls of the Bethesda headquarters, every hour you’ll hear the chants of a crack team of monks installed for one specific purpose. “Skyrim,” they chant over and over, reminding the entire team that if you want to make money with something, put a bit of Skyrim in it.
Jokes aside, the phenomenon that is Bethesda’s 2011 single-player RPG, the fifth in the Elder Scrolls series, continues to delight its fans while gathering up new ones every time it’s ported to a new platform (like the Switch), or enhanced with VR on the PS4 and PC. Millions upon millions of people love their Skyrim, know the vast game world backwards and treat it like a virtual second home.
So it’s probably not surprising that ever since Bethesda’s sister company ZeniMax Online Studios released The Elder Scrolls Online as an MMO in 2014, fans were scouring the massive in-game map, looking at the blank spots and thinking… “if only they would put Skyrim in it!” The game has, in recent times, been leaning heavily on the lore already built around the Elder Scrolls series, with annual “chapters” (major story-based expansions) augmented by regular dungeon and story DLCs. Morrowind recreated the famous zone from the third Elder Scrolls game, Summerset took players to the sun-soaked island home of the Altmer, Elsweyr added the dry desert lands of the Khajiit, and now the time has come around for another annual chapter. Those chanting monks at Bethesda HQ have finally gotten their way, and finally fans can explore Skyrim, home of the Nords, inside a persistent, multiplayer online world.
“Millions upon millions of people love their Skyrim, know the vast game world backwards and treat it like a virtual second home.”
Greymoor, as the new chapter (or expansion, if you like) is known, is part of an ongoing year-long event called The Dark Heart of Skyrim, which kicked off with a new dungeon earlier in 2020, continues with this meaty expansion and concludes with two further DLCs yet to be announced (they won’t be included as part of this chapter, though). It sends players into a familiar-but-different version of Skyrim – different, because the events of The Elder Scrolls Online all occur before the events of the single-player Skyrim – we’re a thousand years in the past here. Don’t worry, though – as fans of that game will know, this is an old, old land, and there’s plenty of recognisable territory here.
But wait, you say – isn’t that a bit too easy, just retooling Skyrim, sticking it on the map and calling it a day? Well, don’t worry – the ESO team has some surprises in store. This outing is a dark, dark fantasy story involving vampires, darkness and a vast underground empire called Blackreach, which cleverly lets the game go wild with the gothic design aesthetic that fits the vampiric story without completely breaking the Skyrim nostalgia.
Vampires being a key part of the story also means an overhaul for vampire-afflicted players, too. For the uninitiated, Elder Scrolls Online offers players the ability to become vampires by being bitten by a player who already is one. That vampirism gives players unique and powerful abilities, but at a cost. It’s been in the game for years, but Greymoor overhauls it substantially – and it’s the perfect expansion for vampires to get some, erm, love.
The new “thing to do” this time around is the Antiquities system, which involves travelling around the game world to dig sites and “scrying” for ancient relics, then digging them up for rewards that include everything from powerful new Mythic gear, cosmetics, valuables, even a Dwarven Wolf mount that is somehow still able to carry you around despite having been buried for thousands of years. It all might sound familiar to World of Warcraft players – it’s basically that game’s Archaeology system with a more complex minigame – but it’s stuff like this that provides the long-term fun with an MMO – being out exploring the world and collecting stuff never gets old.
The new zones look as superb as usual – this has always been a very, very pretty game, and the recent expansions have seen the designers push the detail and atmosphere in their zones further and further. As always, the quest storylines are fully voice acted, immersive and engaging, and the estimate to complete it all is around 30 hours – pretty much a full single-player game right there, but with a world that lives on afterwards and gives you plenty to do, such as tackling “Harrowstorms”, this expansion’s open-world drop-in multiplayer event.
So if you’re like many who loved Skyrim but have never delved into the world of Elder Scrolls Online, is Greymoor the time to do so? We’d say absolutely yes – not just because you’ll get to see a whole new perspective on a familiar place, but because there’s literally hundreds and hundreds of hours of quality story to be discovered across the rest of the game’s six-year history, and an incredible, detailed world to explore beyond the frozen peaks. It’s another high-quality expansion to one of the most immersive online RPGs you can buy.