PAX East 2019: Elder Scrolls Online Elsweyr makes playing the bad guy feel very good

    
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During this year’s PAX East, freelance games journalist Sam Prell – you might remember him from his time at Joystiq and GamesRadar – took a peek at Elder Scrolls Online. We’ve got his thoughts for our audience here at MassivelyOP!

Necromancers, am I right? Weavers of the mystic arts who care not for the sacred veil between life and death, they practice profane magics and enslave the bodies of the fallen to carry out their will. Sauron from Lord of the Rings, the Night King from Game of Thrones, the Lich King in Warcraft. In the realm of fantasy, you simply don’t get any more iconic of a bad guy.

In Elder Scrolls Online’s upcoming Elsweyr expansion, it’s your turn to be bad. And it feels good.

The newest expansion (or “chapter” as developer ZeniMax Online Studios refers to these large-scale, premium priced add-ons) to Elder Scrolls Online, Elsweyr whisks would-be adventurers off to the Khajiit homeland, unleashes dragons, and lets players tap into the powers of life and death. It features a new 12-person trial (ESO’s equivalent of a traditional MMO raid), multiple dungeons, world bosses, and hours of new story content.

But let’s not kid ourselves: You clicked on this article to learn more about how it feels to play a Necromancer in ESO. The short answer? Pretty freakin’ rad. I got a chance to play the class personally at PAX East, and it’s a versatile spec, capable of putting out solid damage, tanking, or even acting as the party healer.

The Necromancer’s damage-focused skill tree is perhaps the most stereotypical. Here, you’ll find abilities that let you throw flaming skulls at your enemies, desecrate the ground in an Area of Effect attack, summon skeleton warriors (which can cast magic alongside you or rush in and explode when they die), or turn corpses into deadly traps.

If you prefer to get up close so you can see the light drain from your foes’ eyes, you can wrap yourself in magical bone armor, wield a spectral scythe, root your enemies in place with skeletal claws, or even transform into a “bone goliath,” which is absolutely, 100% as cool as it sounds. In this horrific form, you gain a massive health boost, and each attack restores a portion of said health.

Lastly, if you want to play support, you can rip the final bit of life force from a recent corpse and pull it into friendly targets, summon a ghost to play the part of healer over a short period of time, or sacrifice a bit of your own fortitude to heal allies. And of course, there’s the Ultimate ability, which lets you straight-up resurrect dead teammates. Handy, that.

It’s all wrapped in the sort of haunting atmosphere you’d expect, with lots of ghostly blues, greens, and blacks twisting to create wicked-looking spells. Enemy necromancers – of which there are plenty – lie in wait with a small army of undead at their command, ready to lumber toward you, slash at you wildly, and vomit putrid acid all over your face.

Of course, there’s always a great deal of fine-tuning with these sorts of games. What feels great and possibly even a little overpowered today (flaming skull) may feel flat tomorrow. And what feels flimsy and unappealing right now (ghost scythe) could become a defining feature in the future. But for now, I can say that if you’ve wanted to take your Elder Scrolls Online adventures to a darker, more exotic realm, you need to keep your eye on Elsweyr when it launches this summer.

Massively Overpowered was on the ground in Boston for PAX East 2019, bringing you expert MMO coverage on everything (and everyone!) on display at the latest Penny Arcade Expo!
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Daniel Reasor

I’m genuinely surprised that the healing skill line’s resurrection Ultimate is this close to going to the live servers without be replaced with something else. It sounds a little too good. Rezzing an ally in combat is a burden in terms of time and reagents for every other class; this has just been a part of the design of combat. It’s one extra incentive to have your act together and not let the team down in the dungeons.

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Siphaed

But that’s why necromancers exist. If a tank can’t do **** to defend your team, the Necro is going to resurrect the dead, useless tin can and have puppet to do a better job. It’s like….a tank that will listen to a party, right? Well think of that for the reason for Necros. You die? Necro laughs and says “hey, if I resurrect your corpse do you think it’ll do a better job of listening to me this time?”. Ego trippin’ deadite masters!

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drelkag

Liking this pattern of having a skill tree for every playstyle. Makes the lack of a new healer in Shadowbringers sting more.

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Tobasco da Gama

summon skeleton warriors

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Wakkander

I feel like a necromancer that isn’t wandering around with a small horde like Diablo II, always falls a little flat to me. If your not leading an army of the dead as a Necromancer what are you doing with your (un)life? In terms of attacks that have you wielding a scythe, I want to be able to have an actual scythe at that point (I have similar complaint with Aedric Spear for the same reasons)

That said, I’m excited for the expansion, already have it pre-ordered, but the necromancer class itself I am ambivalent on.

Mordyjuice
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Mordyjuice

How do the NPCs react around you, does it change the way a story play through feels because of your bad rep?

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nomadmorlock9

If you use certain Necromancer skills in town, the NPC’s and guards become hostile.

Mordyjuice
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Mordyjuice

So if you have to do any quests around friendly NPCs or towns/cities you have to pay off some guards?

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McGuffn

That happens with the other classes too.

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nomadmorlock9

Actually it doesn’t. There are no abilities you can use which would cause this currently. I’m not talking about being seen stealing, or attacking an npc. Certain use of class abilities for Necromancer (which damage no one) will still cause this.

It’s the first time they are implementing this system.

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thirtymil

That’s kind of nitpicking. Nightblade’s Path of Darkness was commonly used in town as a speed boost, right up to the point where they added the first half of the justice system and it started aggroing guards. You may be correct from a technical standpoint now you’ve clarified your point, but it’s going to look pretty much the same from a player perspective.

Mordyjuice
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Mordyjuice

They’ll never take me alive.