The Elder Scrolls Online has come a long way in only four short years. Not only have they revamped the gameplay by implementing content that scales to your level (“One Tamriel”), they’ve also been playing off the nostalgia factor with questlines like the Dark Brotherhood as well as the ability to enjoy old favorites such as the province of Morrowind via the expansion. Now, ZeniMax Online Studios has turned the dial back even further to The Elder Scrolls I: Arena by allowing players to revisit the Summerset Isles in The Elder Scrolls Online: Summerset.
The Summerset Isles are the ancestral home of the High Elves (or Altmer as they’re called in the game). It is situated to the southwest of the great continent of Tamriel and consists of three islands: Summerset, Auridon, and the nomadic island of Artaeum.
Following a public decree by the queen of the High Elves, Ayrenn, Summerset has opened its borders to all. Naturally, this has been met with animosity by the native Altmer living there, and they make it clear to all who come that not only do they want nothing to do with any newcomers. Some of them have even been actively working to send these immigrants back where they came from.
Whether you experience the new tutorial of the expansion or simply travel to the continent with your existing character, you come across a Razum-Dar, a mischievous Khajit (the world’s feline race) that shortly reveals himself to be an Eye of the Queen, one of a band of hand-picked agents of the queen tasked with protecting bother Ayrenn and her realm. He has come to Summerset to ensure that the transition to an open Summerset goes by with minimal incident.
As you work with Razum-Dar, who relies on you to assist him with his work, you will come across severe xenophobia on behalf of the Altmer as well as an undercurrent of cultist activity that preys on these fears. Your efforts will eventually lead you to the Isle of Artaeum for the first time in the series’ history.
Those are who have played previous Elder Scrolls games may be familiar with the monastic and secretive society of mages known as the Psijic Order. It is they that inhabit the secret island of Artaeum, and it is they that teleported the island (350 years prior to when the story takes place) away from the rest of Tamriel and Summerset for reasons that are on the surface logical (what better way to have solitude in your studies than to secret yourself away from the rest of the world?) but turn out to be for far more dire reasons.
The gameplay hasn’t changed much from the previous expansion, Morrowind. Since you can use the same character you have built throughout the game, don’t expect for there to be radical differences in the way that your character was built and the content that you can handle. But that doesn’t mean that ZeniMax hasn’t gone out of their way to make the expansion more than just a new setting. There are also new features to be experienced.
There is a new crafting skill in the way of Jewelry Crafting, which allows you to bolster your attributes and your skills via the creation of handmade rings, necklaces, amulets, and other accessories. By attaching Traits to your accessories, you will be able to enhance your stats as well as increase the effectiveness of various abilities and their effects.
The new features also include a Psijic Order skill tree which deals with mastery over time. Not only can you slow your enemies in place until they eventually freeze, you can also reset your Health, Magicka, and Stamina to what they were four seconds ago, allowing you to recover from an unfortunate decision on your part or a devastating attack from an enemy that caught you unawares.
The music in the new expansion matches the setting. The ambient soundtrack mixes calming tones mixed with an almost sorrowful, if not depressing, undercurrent with hints of something darker. Sometimes I would just stop moving and listen to the music and let it wash over me before proceeding on to the next step of my journey.
The scenery is often breathtaking. From the spires housing the Altmer and the beautiful mountains and grassy valleys of their surrounds to the mystical wonders of the island of Artaeum, there are plenty of moments where I would stop and just enjoy the view - maybe take a screenshot or two to save for later. The overprotective nature by the Altmer of their native lands is almost easy to understand with the untouched beauty that much of it is, even though you would be remiss not to want as many people to experience it just as you are.
With these beautiful lands as your backdrop, you will get to learn more about the nature of the Altmer, their connection to the rest of the world, as well as make a few friends along the way. However, the short length of the expansion’s main story content, as well as the shortage of additional content does detract from the experience.
If there was more to do, if the actions you took had more of an impact on the rest of Tamriel, and if there were perhaps a new race or class to be had with this expansion, I would have gladly given this a near-perfect score. As it stands, I still believe this is a must for those that wish to have a bit more from the game, but those who do not already own Elder Scrolls Online would perhaps be more suited to wait for a sale or perhaps a friend or two to experience the game with.
Versions tested: PC
Disclaimer: A copy of this game was provided to RPG Site by the publisher.