Tamriel Infinium: Examining the features (and hype!) of Elder Scrolls Online’s Season of the Dragon


I have mixed feelings about dragons coming to Elder Scrolls Online. Originally, we knew that we would not see them because they were hibernating or had fled Tamriel in this time period. In fact, one of the things that intrigued and inspired me about ESO was its lack of dragons. Skyrim had hit so hard and made such a large impact on gaming in general that bringing dragons to ESO would have seemed like a knock-off of that major hit.

But does it still seem that way?

As we reported and others datamined, the new expansion — or chapter, as ZeniMax Online Studios calls them — will bring dragons back to Tamriel, and before anyone has a fit, there is some precedent in lore for dragons to be in Tamriel at this point in history. Tiber Septium was supposed to have had dragons working with him, and we haven’t even hit that point in the timeline, yet. But what other things will be included this year in what ZOS is calling the “Season of the Dragon?” And what, among the features highlighted in the livestreams and elsewhere, will go right – and what will go south?

The good

I don’t think that I have to mention to the ESO fan just how awesome Abnur Tharn is. He’s a terrible person but a great character. Of course, he also has some of the best quotes in the main storyline. And I can’t forget that he’s voiced by the wonderful Alfred Molina. Although he does sound like he’s phoning it in sometimes, Molina’s voice fits the snarky, sophisticated sound of Tharn perfectly.

Additionally, Cadwell is making a return. Even if you haven’t played through the entire main story, you’ll know Cadwell as the soul shriven who wears a pot on his head and is voiced by John Cleese. In the livestream, ZOS Creative Director Richard Lambert didn’t tell us what role Cadwell will have in this new storyline, but it should be fun to hear schizophrenic ramblings of the undead soldier.

When the chapter Elsweyr launches on June 4th, players will have access to the long-awaited class called the Necromancer. Lambert commented that the theme of the class is the manipulation of souls and reanimation of corpses. He dived into abilities that involve using dead enemies to give power to allies and using them as weapons. But from a lore perspective, we learned that even during this timeline, necromancy is frowned on and clearly illegal. Because of this, it will have consequences in the open world. If your character uses Necromancy and NPCs in the town see it, it will generate “heat” in the Justice System, eventually getting you flagged as attackable by the guards.

Next week, ZOS will drop the first part of the Season of the Dragon on the PTS: the dungeon-focused DLC called Wrathstone. Although the two dungeons will be the main thrust of the story content, Lambert also talked about some quality-of-life changes coming to the game. I understand the importance of the guild trader search interface. I’m sure I will make good use of it. But the zone guides will be so helpful! I wish they had been there since the beginning. Especially when I first started playing the game five years ago, all the stories intermingling made everything every chaotic and fragmented. In fact, there are some storylines that I didn’t even know that I didn’t finish. The zone guides will hopefully make it easier to track where you left off on a questline and which ones would be good to pick up on again.

The bad

First, I think that the Wrathstone I received in the mail without warning was great! And I really appreciate the fun that was had regarding the tablet, but just like I said in my piece last week: “The more hype placed on a property or project, the worse the product will be.” It’s beginning to ring true with the speculation around Dragon Break. Many people, including yours truly, read far too much into the tablet. Although I like that Abnur Tharn brings dragons into the world of ESO with the Wrathstone, the story that Tharn was hoping to create a Dragon Break is far more interesting to me. I was disappointed when Lambert said on the livestream that the Wrathstone was merely the key.

I’m also not a fan of the four-act story that seems to be the trust of this year’s Season of Dragons. The first act (Wrathstone) hits the PTS next week, and it’s named after the object gained at the end of each dungeon. Tharn sends your character on a mission to retrieve half of the Wrathstone buried at the bottom of each of dungeon. The second part is the expansion of Elsweyr itself; the third part is an unnamed dungeon DLC; and then the last part is the final story DLC about the size of Mirkmire. This year-long thematic structure could be wonderful, and I applaud ZOS for giving it a shot, but I’m concerned that it will create fatigue in the audience. I don’t think the hype train will have that much fuel left by the end of the year.

On another note, players have been complaining about performance in PvP, and hopefully, the changes and the separation of the Imperial City and Cyrodiil campaigns that Lambert mentioned in the livestream will finally help with that. However, I have my concerns about the Sheogorath artifact that will be introduced into the fray. I have never been a fan of an all-powerful object being introduced into PvP. I don’t believe it worked for Jedi in Star Wars Galaxies, and I don’t think it will work with the “Eye of Sauron” hammer in Elder Scrolls Online.

The ugly

The bottom line to all of this is that I don’t believe that the additions coming to ESO could possibly live up to player expectations, not after the last couple of award-winning years the game has had. That’s not to say that I’m not excited about the Season of the Dragon because I am – I look forward to everything that’s been announced. But I believe that Elder Scrolls fans will raise the level of expectation higher than any studio could achieve. Part of that hype level rests on the shoulders of ZOS, but part of it rests on the players.

My suggestion is to relax into the hype and set expectations low. Don’t read too much into anything that’s given to us. We know there are going to be dragons, but don’t attempt to make them into more than well-designed raid bosses. Of course, the designers of the dungeons and creative leads at ZOS are going to be excited about what they are building, but as the audience, we should temper our expectations with what has been delivered before. We shouldn’t expect more than that. If we are sold more than we’ve been given before, then great! We should enjoy it that much more, and that’s my hope.

What are your thoughts? Are you going into this with tempered expectations, or have you already boarded this hype train and getting ready for a wild ride? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Traverse the troubled land of Tamriel in the Elder Scrolls Online. Larry Everett will be your guide here in Tamriel Infinium every other week as you explore together the land created by ZeniMax and Bethesda. If you have any burning questions, send them his way via email or via Twitter.
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