Elder Scrolls Online: Blackwood Review
The Elder Scrolls Online (ESO) has become one of the biggest MMORPGs since its release in 2014 and currently boasts over 18 million players. Recently the game has seen the release of its fifth major chapter and 23rd pack of DLC content. ESO Blackwood pays homage to a fan-favorite classic title in the franchise: The Elder Scrolls Oblivion. New mechanics, enemies, and tense stories arrive with the DLC and are a fantastic addition to the award-winning MMO.
After completing the basic tutorial, players are able to choose which zone to start their adventure in. Those looking to dive right into the DLC can go straight to Blackwood and be immediately thrown into the newest content. The game’s level scaling system does an excellent job of letting returning, and new players alike get right into the heart of Blackwood. No matter what level players are, they can team up with friends and take on the coming Daedric invasion.
The main narrative in Blackwood revolves around a conspiracy that involves emperors, assassins, and Daedric cults. The secretive nature of the main story makes it hard to discuss without spoiling, so I will stay as general as I can moving forward. Compared to other DLC chapters, this story was one of my favorites. Companions work excellently within the narrative and help add an additional perspective for players. I found myself genuinely caring about the characters and welfare of Blackwood. The compelling nature of the story made me eager to see what happened next. One of the things the narrative did best was remaining concise, which helped to keep my focus and make the conclusion much more impactful.
With the new DLC comes the addition of several new gameplay mechanics. The game’s core is still the same with accepting and completing quests to progress the story, but new systems like Endeavors, which are discussed below, help break up the gameplay loop. I do have to mention that while the game ran quite smoothly, I did run into a single bugged sidequest that took some internet sleuthing to fix. Besides that, Blackwood has an excellent story to play through. The added mechanics help connect side quests and daily activities back to the main narrative. There was also the addition of companions, which adds many new interactions and conversations for player characters.
In Blackwood, there are two new companion characters that players can unlock by completing various quests. Each companion comes complete with their own skill tree, items, and inventory that can be modified and leveled up similar to player characters. Companion items are a new unique category of equipment that can only be used by companions. This new system made adventuring alone feel more rewarding and helps to complete more difficult content with smaller groups. The only drawback is that because there are only two companions at this time, you can see many variations of the same companions running around Blackwood.
Technically, Oblivion portals are considered public dungeons, so any player can enter without fear of it being too difficult. These new world events function much like Dark Anchors but with a mild twist. Oblivion portals will appear randomly all over Blackwood. These portals are guarded by a few Daedra. After killing the guards, players can enter the portal and travel to the Deadlands. On the other side of the portal, players will find dungeon maps filled with enemies, bosses, and loot.
Players can complete the dungeon by finding and killing the final boss, which will reward players with a chest full of high-power loot. This new addition was one of my favorites of the expansion and had me feeling tons of nostalgia for my time closing portals and fighting demons in Oblivion on Xbox 360.
One of the more exciting additions in Blackwood is the implementation of Endeavors. They are a list of daily and weekly tasks that players can complete to gain rewards, such as equipment or gold. The most interesting aspect is that in addition to items, players also gain Seals of Endeavor. This new currency can be used to purchase any item currently in the game’s microtransaction store. The addition of this currency opens up hundreds of cosmetics and other items to all players. No longer are flashy mounts or the best-looking armors reserved for players with real cash. As a long-time ESO player, this gives me another reason to play every day and genuinely makes me feel like the developers are focused on player experience and not microtransactions.
Elder Scrolls Online: Blackwood Review
- GAMEPLAY - 95%95%
- GRAPHICS - 90%90%
- NEW CONTENT - 100%100%
Blackwood is a tremendous return to form for The Elder Scrolls Online and will be a fantastic experience for both long-time fans of the franchise and new players. The level scaling in the game does an excellent job of making playing with friends as accessible as possible.
Diverse and intricate characters pair perfectly with the compelling and focused narrative to make the DLC a beyond enjoyable experience. Blackwood is Tamriel in its finest form and is an excellent introduction into the MMO genre for any gamer.
For more on The Elder Scrolls Online, check out our previous coverage.