Tamriel Infinium: Everything you need to know about Elder Scrolls Online’s Gold Road chapter


The Elder Scrolls Online celebrated its 10th anniversary just this week, an impressive milestone and a chance to reflect on just how far this game has come. And yet Zenimax Online is showing no sign of stopping, and as such it invited us to preview its upcoming Gold Road chapter. This expansion is certainly worth getting excited for, regardless of your playstyle; it promises an epic story set in a gorgeous new zone, some potentially game-changing new additions to combat, new cosmetic options, and a challenging new trial.

I know ESO’s yearly expansions can sometimes be a bit of a non-event unless the zone story appeals to you, but this expansion is one you will want to pay attention to.

One of the biggest draws to The Elder Scrolls Online is always its story, and Gold Road is shaping up to have one of the more interesting narratives of the game’s 10 years. If you played last year’s Necrom story, you will recall that it ended on a bit of a cliffhanger. This is unusual for Elder Scrolls Online expansions, which are usually self-contained. Even in the era of zone DLCs that picked up the story of their associated expansion, the related stories were relatively self-contained, with stories that came to a pretty satisfying conclusion and a few dangling threads that led to the DLC later in the year, when the story was wrapped up completely.

Of course, things are a little different now. As of Necrom, the team is focusing on one chapter per year and one non-DLC major update that doesn’t add a new zone, such as Necrom’s Endless Infinite Archive. With no zone DLC last time around, the second half of the story falls to this year’s Gold Road chapter. I asked ESO’s Creative Director Rich Lambert if he thought two- or multi-part chapters are the future for ESO’s content.

“Honestly, I think it depends,” he told me. “If we have a story that we can tell in a year then, OK, we’ll tell it in a year. If we have a story that needs to go longer, we’ll go longer. I don’t think we will say ‘We can only tell stories in this particular fashion.'”

The story itself revolves around Ithelia, the lost Daedric Prince teased at the end Necrom and the recently released prologue quest, who has been spotted in the vicinity of Skingrad, which Oblivion players may remember as a city in the West Weald region southwest of Cyrodiil. This is the first time we’ve gotten a new Daedric Prince since they were established in The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall (unless you count Jyggalag, I suppose) so this is kind of a big deal for the franchise.

Of course, since ESO takes place before the events of TES III: Morrowind, and Ithelia was never mentioned in that game or any of its sequels, she will doubtless go back to being forgotten by the end in order to fit within the continuity. Lambert emphasized that his writers have been working very closely with the Elder Scrolls loremasters at Bethesda to make sure continuity is maintained. It will be interesting to see what bearing – if any – this development has on The Elder Scrolls VI when it releases approximately 47 years from now.

If you have previously completed the Necrom chapter, be sure to track down the capper quest after you finish Gold Road’s story, which ties the two stories together and wraps them up nicely. This quest is available only if you have completed both expansions’ main stories, though it is tracked by account-wide achievements, so don’t worry about making sure you do Gold Road on the same character you did Necrom on.

For me, the biggest new feature here is the scribing system, which allows players to create and customize a new skill for each skill line. Yes, after more than 10 years, we are finally getting the spellcrafting system that we were promised just after launch! Kind of. The devs have stopped short of calling this system spellcrafting, considering it more like a “precursor” to the spell making skill seen in Morrowind and Oblivion. To be fair, this does go a bit beyond the scope of those systems, giving you access to new skills that involve not just magic but also stamina-based weapons.

All scribed skills are based on a grimoire, which unlocks the ability on your skill menu. There is one grimoire for every active skill line in the game, including skill lines you probably don’t think about for combat, like Soul Magic. The grimoire skills themselves are pretty lackluster, and the more interesting combinations come from adding to the three script slots: focus script, signature script, and affix script.

As an example, we were shown the construction of a Shield Throw skill, from the sword and board skill line. The base skill does what it says on the tin: You throw your shield at a target, dealing a little damage. Into the focus script slot went “multitarget,” which causes the shield to bounce around a few times before returning to the user – not at all inspired by a certain patriotic superhero, I’m sure. In the signature script slot went a damage over time script. The affix was slotted with a script that puts enemies off balance.

Lambert noted that certain scripts that don’t make sense together will be mutually exclusive, so you won’t be able to accidentally make a skill that heals your friend and also puts a DoT on them, for example.

To actually scribe the changes to the grimoire skill, players will need inks, which are a new currency which can be obtained through the scribing quest line – which starts at the Skingrad Mages Guild – as well as random drops throughout the world. You will be charged only inks for scripts you are actually swapping out, so if you make only one change, the cost will be less than if you are completely changing out the skill.

Lambert was loath to disclose details of how scripts are found, what kinds of content they may or may not be locked behind, or how difficult it would be to obtain inks, citing that the rewards team is still tweaking these details, but he did say that he believed that the initial scribing quest series will reward enough inks to get players off to a good start and that “most” scripts will be available from a vendor unlocked by the quest.

I’m not min-maxer, so don’t ask me to calculate how much these skills will increase your damage or healing output — what I played was a development build anyway, still several balance passes away from what will be live — but in terms of potential customization for your character, this is unlike anything else in the game. And at the end of the day, I care more about playing the way I want to play than topping DPS meters anyway, and the scribing system is set to let me do that. My only concern is that it will be too complex and fiddly for the average player to bother with, but then again, if you didn’t immediately quit the game the firs time you saw the champion points screen, you can probably handle this.

Scribing also brings with it new skill stylings. These can affect a variety of skills, not just scribed ones. The example we were given was one that makes the destruction staff’s Wall of Elements purple. I understand 22 unique varieties are coming with this expansion, and hopefully this system will only continue to grow in the future. I’m a big fan of more cosmetic options, especially outside-the-box ones beyond your outfit or your mount. Even better, I am sure many players will be happy to have their attack effects look more unique so they can track them more easily in the visual morass that accompanies any large fight in ESO.

Last but not least, we were given a brief but tantalizing overview of the new Lucent Citadel trial. Without spoiling anything, Lambert said that he was really proud of what the trial team did with this one, devising some mechanics that have never been seen in The Elder Scrolls Online. He even went so far as to say that they did some things he didn’t think were possible within ESO’s engine.

Gold Road is shaping up to be one of the more interesting ESO expansions in recent memory. It brings with it a beautiful zone, with unique autumnal forest visuals; the scribing system, which promises to shake up the somewhat stale combat meta in a way that I didn’t think was possible without adding a new weapon or class; and large group content for those who enjoy it, with unique new challenges in tow. Maybe it’s just because we’ve been on a cliffhanger for so long, but the story has me quite intrigued as well, and I’m interested to meet this new Daedric Prince and find out why exactly she was “lost,” and how a daedric prince can even be “lost,” even from the other daedric princes.

We will find out all this and more when Gold Road releases June 3rd!

Traverse the troubled land of Tamriel in the Elder Scrolls Online! The MOP staff are your guides here in Tamriel Infinium as we explore together the world created by ZeniMax and Bethesda in one of the biggest MMOs in the genre.
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