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

    
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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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John Mclain

This is one of those games with great atmosphere, good storytelling, and an amazingly large gameworld filled with stuff to do. And yet… is not an enjoyable game due to terrible combat, boring classes, and limited playstyles, not mention the weirdest difficulty curve I’ve seen outside of oldschool Eve. (The graph look like a perfect triangle.) And finally the new necromancer looks to fall into the same trap of being a BORING class with BORING skills, and you can’t even have a small undead group of pets, just some generic temporary one-off summons that vanish after a number of seconds, you know… the OPPOSITE of how a necromancer should work.

shazanti
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shazanti

My worries fall completely upon Elsweyr. I’m a Khajiit fan, and after seeing how they never manage to show more than 1 Khajiit form per game, always using the excuse ‘that particular type isn’t found in this region, but ((particular type)) can be found in ((particular previous game that type was found in)) and of course, they’re all in Elsweyr’. Sooooo then… hey ZOS, we’ll get to see more than a dozen Khajiit forms in Elsweyr? Or are you just going to show the one humanoid version already existent in ESO, plus the bestial (housecat/battlecat mount size) ones you already have skeletal animations for? Of course you are. Because creating that many animation rigs would be far too much (and too expensive) work.

Sigh. I completely understand why they wouldn’t be investing so heavily just to let us see the various Khajiit forms, BUT UGH THAT’S WHAT I’VE WANTED SINCE I PLAYED DAGGERFALL. So I have no hype for Elsweyr. I know I’m going to be disappointed because of what I’ve just said. Doesn’t mean I’m not going to enjoy it, as my disappointment won’t prevent me from enjoying other aspects, but I still know I’m going to be disappointed at whatever new excuse they come up with as to why all the other various forms of Khajiit are all in hiding even in their own homeland.

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Maggie May

Although I was kinda glad Dragons weren’t dropping from the sky like in Skyrim (just out taking a random walk somewhere …. ahhh Dragons !!! Dang .. Run Away, Run away!!!) I’m kinda missing them now, so they had me at cats and dragons. I’m taking a break for a while from eso, but I’ll likely come back for the expansion and get back to sprucing up my house. And Cadwell … he’s definitely one of my faves, I also usually save Abnar as he’s one of the most realistic, warts and all characters, in the story.

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Loyheta

I wonder if they’ll say ESO takes place during a Dragon Break as to explain why none of the events are recorded in any other game.

Loyheta
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Loyheta

I didn’t like the idea of dragons being in here because I thought they weren’t in this time period. However, I did some digging. This game takes place at the end of the 6th century of the second era a bit before Tiber Septum was born… dragons were around at that time and before. The dragons didn’t vanish until the end of the time of Tiber Septum. Only to reemerge in the 4th era during the events of skyrim. So … it does line up.

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flamethekid .

there were tons of dragons that weren’t dead yet you see the majority of them in ES:Skyrim and you see Tiber Septims dragon(and temporarily kill it) in ES:Redguard

Paarthurnax is one of said dragons who has been around since the merethic era
not only that but dragons are literally immortal in every way unless a dragonborn kills it and will eventually revive on its own or if Alduin forces it to get up.

there are literally a brick ton of dragons in Tamriel since nearly all of them fled from Akavir since the Tsaesci were genociding things on the continent

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Jeremy Barnes

Anyone got any good ideas? Nope? Well, Dragons it is then!

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Michael18

What’s the best way to experience the game’s story, for someone who hasn’t played (much) since shortly after launch?

Should the “chapters” be played in order? The original content of the base game before the chapters? Where to start?

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Michael18

Just in case anyone else has the same question … I just found this:
https://forums.elderscrollsonline.com/en/discussion/413807/what-order-should-i-do-esos-story-arcs-a-guide

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Loopy

I generally prefer more linear storytelling than anything else, so from my perspective the best way to experience ESO is to go through the main storyline alongside your faction’s zones (just like at launch). This sets the stage for the game’s setting and context, and you get an idea why the politics are set the way they are.

Once you’re done with your specific faction and the main storyline, go nuts and explore other quest hubs and DLCs/chapters. That would be my recommendation.

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Eliandal

Solidly on board the hype train ;)! A year long ‘ storyline’ doesn’t mean much for me. Even though I’ve been playing since beta, I’m still only halfway through Silver (so yeah – casual). Interested in the Cyrodiil changes. Performance isn’t much of an issue for me since I play exclusively in the sub 50 bracket. Having access to the Wabajack could be fun though!

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Sana Tan

I’m a lot more excited for this than I was for Summerset. Elsweyr looks a lot more interesting that magic elf land and although I didn’t ask for dragons, I will always love them when done right. (I hope they are done right). Same for Necromancer, looks cool.

The only thing that worries me is that the DLC dungeons feature stories related to the expansion, and they are difficult to complete even in normal mode for casual players, in top of that no one stops to read or listen the dialogues in group finder.

The game really needs a story mode for dungeons.

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Eliandal

Wouldn’t it be nice if something like this could be a toggle in the new guild finder? Now, there’s a suggestion! Think I’ll head over and make it!

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maydrock .

There are some threads on the official forums discussing this. Head on over and voice your opinion.

I know I would love to have a solo story mode added to dungeons, since I refuse to subject myself to forced group content in these games anymore. Pretty much have played ESO exclusively for 3 of 4 years and have yet to do my first group dungeon.