The Elder Scrolls Online: Blackwood Review

Originally released in 2015 to a mediocre reception, The Elder Scrolls Online has since grown into something very different. Now, ZeniMax Online Studios’ game has grown into one of the most popular multi-platform MMORPGs, showcasing a vast swath of Tamriel for players to explore. Not only does ZeniMax continue to deliver content and quality-of-life upgrades to the game, but it also develops annual expansion packs for players to enjoy. Last year’s expansion pack took players to new regions, from the volcanic island of Vvardenfell in Morrowind to the dragon-infested arid savannah of Elsweyr.

The Elder Scrolls Online : Blackwoodnow takes players to the cusp of Imperial territory, sandwiched between the Khajiit homeworld and the Blackwood swamp. Those who played The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion will recognize the Blackwood area, albeit 800 years before the Kvatch heroes walked these lands. Blackwood continues a year-long story focused on the possible return of Mehrunes Dagon in “The Gates of Oblivion,” sponsored by the Fire of Ambition DLC earlier this year.

The  Elder  Scrolls  Online Much like previous game expansions, Blackwood Chapter opens up a new area for players to explore with dozens of hours of content. Area storyline quests to complete, new world events, six world bosses, a new trial called Rockgrove, new quests, tons of new Skyshards, and several other quests that can be found around the map. The new chapter gives players even more gear options, from the tank’s Swamp Reaver set to the unique Stone Whisperer’s Vow set in the new Trials. While these new gear sets have some interesting stats and effects, some of them may be ignored in favor of older gear.

When it comes to Blackwood’s story, the daemon’s plot to destroy Prince Mehrunes Dagon takes center stage. Regardless of which way players start The Elder Scrolls Online : Blackwood chapter, they will be approached by a soldier and told to find Captain Leon Leore of the Ivory Brigade to help investigate the mystery that has befallen the city of Layavin . The conspiracy between the Longhouse Emperors and the mysterious The Waking Flame provides a great starting point for telling the story of the Daedric Prince of Destruction. The original main quest was full of intrigue as players raced around trying to prevent the assassination of various members of the Leyawiin council. Players can even make relatively important choices among these missions, even if they don’t matter in the grand scheme of things.

Blackwood’s story is reminiscent of Oblivion, with certain areas and plot points clearly tinged with nostalgia. Preventing Mehrunes Dagon from traveling to the mortal plane is fun, as is finding out the truth about the Daedric Prince’s four ambitions. The story ends a bit too quickly, but that’s understandable since The Elder Scrolls Online is limited in the events it can cover. Regardless, Blackwood did a great job of laying the groundwork for the creation of Mythic Dawn Cult and Mehrunes Dagon’s eventual return to Oblivion.

misty  castle  across  lake Many unique characters can be encountered throughout Blackwood – some stiff, some almost entirely comedic, and some exceptionally well written. Seeing the return of a satirical Dunmer assassin from the region’s dark brotherhood is a special kind of surprise. Blackfin Keshu, the wise Argonian mayor of Gideon, is another standout. Players will also see some amazing locations in The Elder Scrolls Online, with the Blackwood District adding even more. While Blackwood might not be as bright and colorful as some other areas in the MMO, it has a beauty and majesty all its own. Seeing a misty castle or a lush swamp on a lake is a clear indication that the designer wants to present the player with captivating points of visual interest.

Another particularly egregious world piece happens to be a sprawling dilapidated castle haunted by various ghostly creatures in the middle of the area. Going a step further, it’s especially evident that all the different designers put a lot of effort into making the black wood. The level design of the different caves is interesting, and the place of the dead is spectacular. The various Daedric buildings have their own dark style, and the stunning sound design will keep players on edge. While some of the quests in Blackwood are standard fare, it’s clear the quest designers played a few with others. Some missions are particularly engaging, such as one about a romance novelist who gets caught up in a ghostly family drama.

One aspect that the designers said they wanted to experiment with were new world events, and in Blackwood those were Oblivion Portals. These portals were the early means by which Mehrunes Dagon’s forces, with the help of other Daedric cultists, opened a path from the Forgotten Lands into Tamriel. Once players enter these Oblivion Portals, they must fight enemies in the Deadlands, and then meet up with a larger team to take on Havocrel, the Storm Duke, and Mehrunes Dagon’s generals. Although these are world events, they don’t actually have a fixed spawn location. They appear randomly in different areas of Blackwood and can’t be found for a long time. Venturing into the Forgotten Gates to battle the Storm Duke is exciting, but these world events are too unpredictable and repetitive to enjoy in the long run.

red  hellish  interior  of  a  castle Each of The Elder Scrolls Online’s expansion packs introduces major updates that impact the game, whether it’s a new class like Elsweyr’s Necromancer or other gameplay elements like Greymoor’s Relics. For Blackwood, this happens to be the new Companions System. This new system unlocks the ability for players to travel with NPCs who can help them in battle. Two are available at launch, with more on the way. These companions have their own personalities and individual pursuits, which affect the rapport system that applies to all companions. Players are better off staying on the good side of their companions, or they run the risk of their companions not showing up when called.

One available companion is Bastian Hallix, which players can find in Deepscorn Hollow at the southern end of Blackwood. Another available companion is Mirri Elendis, a Dunmer that players can find on the north side of Blackwood in Doomvault Vulpinaz. Companions can be customized in a number of ways, from their outfits and mounts to their combat skills and roles. Damage dealers can configure their Companion to help heal them, while healers or tanks may wish to configure their Companion to help deal damage. Companions are definitely not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but they’re definitely a worthwhile investment. Adventure around with an ally feels immersive and exciting.

While there are several fantastic aspects to The Elder Scrolls Online : Blackwood, the expansion isn’t without its flaws. While the game’s new tutorial system is great, ZeniMax Online Studios tends to focus on introducing new players to the game, sometimes at the expense of old players. The game is also clearly showing its age, with a steady annual content drop not enough to hold the game back. While a year-long story is a great concept for a game, it should really all be contained in one expansion pack. With the Flames of Ambition DLC earlier this year and the upcoming Deadlands and Wakes of Fire DLC split from Blackwood, the formula became tiresome. As ZeniMax continues to develop its MMO, it should consider changing its formulaic expansion model in some way.

hellish  looking  tower In the end, The Elder Scrolls Online : Blackwood offers enough intrigue and content to whet one’s appetite for a new experience, but not enough to completely satisfy every player. Frustrating the Daedric plots of Mehrunes Dagon and The Waking Flame is an interesting experience, even if the current story doesn’t have a satisfying ending. What’s absolutely clear is that the developers put a lot of effort into the creation of Blackwood, from its sound and level design to some of its more haunting and hellish landscapes.

The Elder Scrolls Online: Blackwood is now available for PC, PS4, PS5, Stadia, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S. Game Rant obtained the PC code for this review.

Game Rant reviewed The Elder Scrolls Online : Blackwood on Origin PC’s Neuron 4000D. Origin offers a wide variety of customizable PCs to suit any gamer’s needs. Read more about Neuron here.

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