The new chapter in the ESO saga, High Isle, does not rely on past stories from the Elder Scrolls universe and it allows her to dare. ZeniMax Online Studios played their cards well manages to delight the many veterans by creating an experience that remains accessible even to new players.
The landscape is the real strength of the High Isle
ESO could simply offer players yet another “supernatural” danger that threatens Tamriel’s existence (a winning strategy in the past), but which has decided not to. High Isle chooses to tell a story imbued with political and overly human deception that inevitably risks lead to open warfare.
Without going into spoilers, know that the main story is centered on the relationship between the large houses and the Breton families. In short, the War of the Three Banners continues at a rapid pace, driven by two opposing factions with completely different plans to gain supremacy over the High Isle. The first of these is The steadfast, an organization founded by a wealthy local philanthropist whose main goal is to ensure peace. On their way, the ascending order, led by the mysterious wizard who seeks to destroy traditional heraldic alliances to continue the war, is all in the name of profit.
Organizations working in the shadows e.g. powerful aristocracies have always played a role in the world of Elder Scrolls but for the first time, they are at the center of a narrative that allows for authentic and intricate involvement of the players. Wandering through family hatred, poisoned relationships and conspiracies creates a kind of mysterious thriller that really enjoyed my time on the High Isle. The lack of established knowledge for the archipelago is a blessing because it makes the narrative unexpected and allows the authors to experiment with twists that come to almost every quest.
There are also several truly jaw-dropping moments that the writing team manages to deliver thanks to a delicate balance between shocking twists and a good dose of self-irony. Do not get me wrong, there are many battles, but the interactions between the characters and the relentless story development in this expansion is something the game desperately needed.
The eye also plays its role on the High Isle
When the expansion was first announced, both old and new players were concerned that there was not enough room on the High Isle (also given the price) to explore. The expansion as I played it showed them no less extensively and in-depth than many previous chapters, with the development team reassuring: “there is the same amount of explorable space as the other extensions“The real success lies not in the quantity, but in the quality of the realization of the game environments and quests.
The archipelago in which the extension is set consists of two islands, the High Isle and Amenos, with a third island formed by a dormant volcano. The sharp differences between these areas become almost a narrative element, as the story allows the player to travel from the relative tranquility of the High Isle to the wild jungle of Amenos. High Isle, the island, is green and relatively quiet in terms of landscape, but towns, villages and mansions belonging to noble families will teleport you to a ‘fantasy-chivalrous atmosphere that you will hardly forget. Amenos is only separated from the main island by a narrow sea passage, but its dense jungle and lingering darkness fit very well with the island’s fearsome nature and its risky inhabitants.
Elder Scrolls Online also has its own card game
As with any new extension repetitive activities, playoffs or side tasks, are just as important as the main story because that’s where players will spend most of their time when the campaign ends. ZOS (Zenimax Online Services) has dealt with previous allegations of neglecting the playoffs by creating some repetitive experiences in the High Isle that are more than just a fill. The most significant of these is Tales of Tributea card game where the citizens of Tamriel compete in pubs and inns.
I’ve decided to ignore the fact that this game has never been mentioned or shown before, because if Marvel and Star Wars are forgiven for any kind of ret-con (to introduce things into the game universe that should always have been there), do I do not see it because we can not also give any of this bounty to Elder Scrolls Online. Tales of Tribute has a different approach than many other card games because players must simultaneously manage resources and create their own card game during a given game. Each player is tasked with bringing four “cartridge” decks (with a total of eight that can be unlocked) into the game. These come then mixed together and players can build their hand by buying the right cards.
It lacks the original appeal of The Witcher’s Gwent, and there are areas for improvement. Resource management can be confusing at first, and learning card combinations and counters depends largely on the player, with the game that provides some information in the meantime. The pick-up-and-play factor is certainly lower than other card games due to its unknown design, but it is never so complex that it becomes hostile.
Tales of Tribute has a single player story mode that allows you to focus on PvE and also serves as a tutorial for the game’s finest strategies. there is also one Rated PvP mode with various rewards up for grabs. Nothing is crucial to your level of power, so if the card game is not for you, you can safely ignore it. First impressions are very promising and the different game strategies create exciting matchups. To address the inevitable balance problems it will have to prioritize ZOS in the near future, because with some card games it’s much easier to win.
Verdict: High Isle is the best time to discover ESO
The Elder Scrolls Online is one Extremely successful MMO which, like other titles in the genre, such as Final Fantasy XIV and Destiny 2, saw the release of one of its best expansions in 2022. High Isle has managed to stay true to the gaming universe, allows us more freedoms at the same time thanks to the fact that we knew very little about the Bretons and their homeland. The story is also one of the most exciting components of the game High Isle is the best chapter for new players who hopes to learn the basics.
In addition to the story, there is a lot to enjoy, even for casual gamers. Tales of Tribute is perhaps the most unexpected addition, and the game benefits undeniably from it. Its strength lies in its ability to be captured just as easy, for fun, just as serious as players who want to climb the PvP rankings like.
To returning players and veterans who are concerned that High Isle may not be worth the money, I would say there is so much to do at launch and there are many more updates planned in the near future. The island environment forced developers to reconsider their approach to space storytelling, and the expansion has benefited greatly. Instead of a huge, relatively barren land mass, these islands are dense and full of life. For new players who really want to try ESO, I recommend High Isle because it promises to start on the right hand side and then focus on past content or the playoffs.