Is it just me or does it feel like The Elder Scrolls Online is still a fairly new release?

Incredibly, that’s not the case — it’s actually been around for eight years, and has racked up over twenty million players during that time. It’s done pretty well for itself, and boasts a constant stream of updates to help keep things fresh. Soon, the Bretonnian-centric expansion High Isle will be offering even more content for players to sink their teeth into.

The storyline for the High Isle addition primarily revolves around a shady group of deviants known as the Ascendant Order. They’re a secretive bunch of rogues with an eye on overthrowing the ruling classes of Bretonnia and grant freedom to the common people… but, naturally, it doesn’t look like that’s the whole story. These so-called liberators definitely have an alternate agenda tucked under their belts.

As things start out, secret peace talks are underway to put an end to a conflict known the Three Banners War. This effort is spearheaded by The Steadfast, a humanitarian organization aiding those affected by the war and founded by wealthy philanthropist Bacaro Volorus. Unfortunately, in comes the Ascendant Order to screw things up by kidnapping the delegates and… well, we’ll see how it snowballs from there.

There are two main islands in this expansion — the titular High Isle located in the Systres Archipelego where the political intrigue kicks off, but also a nearby prison island called Amenos where prisoners and other undesirables are tossed in and left to fend for themselves. Bethesda immediately got my attention while talking about it by comparing it to John Carpenter’s Escape from New York. Great stuff.

While the landmass of High Isle looks smaller on an overhead map than previous expansions, Creative Director Rich Lambert was quick to assure everyone that it’s at least as large in explorable space and available content to previous expansions such as Greymoor and Blackwood.

As someone who’s played The Elder Scrolls Online periodically in the past and in irregular bursts, one nice thing about this new expansion (and the game in general) is that it’s designed to allow anyone to play, regardless of level. Newcomers can easily start High Isle with a fresh character and experience the most recent content right away with friends, or on their own, or with two NPC companions.  

In addition to the add-on campaign, there’s also a new twelve player trial which is apparently a similarly sized undertaking comparable to the Rockgrove area. A bunch of pirates have been causing havoc in the surrounding region, so a call for aid goes out to nearby adventurers willing to do something about them. Permanently, one would assume.

If all the wanton bloodshed and pilfering gets to be too much, players can relax with a new addition called the Tales of Tribute. This is a collectible card game that can be played more or less anywhere, with a strong PVE and PVP component to it. It’s possible to challenge other players to matches directly, join matchmaking groups, or even follow storylines where NPCs are looking to kick the player’s ass via a game of cards in lieu of slipping steel into their guts.  

The idea is to make this card game seem like it’s been part of The Elder Scrolls Online lore since the very start, and the devs have put a lot of work in with a bunch of cards in the world for players to hunt down and collect across various modes. Furthermore, victory doesn’t simply result in more cards — expect things such as new house furnishings, crafting materials, emotes, gold and the like to start rolling in as players advance through the ranks.

As part of this preview, I was granted a new top-level character with access to all skills and bonuses. Naturally, I assumed that I could plow through hordes of early enemies without taking a scratch. Wrong! I took on three generic mobs shuffling around a beach at one point, and got my ass handed to me. This isn’t to say that the new area’s extremely difficult, but I’d not tuned my stats and abilities correctly thinking I’d be able to bulldoze through everything.

Once I did, the muscle memory left over from the last time I dipped into ESO came back and I was soon delving into caves in search of lost sheep at the behest of suspicious sheep-loving weirdos, or galloping across the land on horseback to hunt down evildoers, uncover long-lost secrets and work through what seemed to be an insane amount of available quests.

In a more technical vein, expect the usual quality-of-life changes when High Isle lands, such as Mundus Stones in the armory and a redesigned quick select wheel for PC players.

High Isle doesn’t seem like a radical departure from what ESO players might expect, but it’s certainly got the hallmarks of being a quality expansion to enhance what’s already in place. I had a good time playing on the preview server, and I’d assume most current players will appreciate the new content and quality of life changes introduced in this expansion.

High Isle will be available for everyone to check out when it releases on June 6th for PC and June 21st for Playstation and Xbox.

Darren Forman
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