by William Thompson
reviewed on PC
MMO money, MMO problems
I don't like to delve into MMOs that often these days. I like to think I have beaten that addiction. Family life means that I don't have as much gaming time as I once did, and so sinking countless hours completing quests in MMOs has taken a back seat. But with The Elder Scrolls Online adding the Greymoor expansion and returning players to Skyrim, I thought I would dip my toes in again to the warm, relaxing waters of another MMO. I'm starting to regret it now though - not because it is a bad game, but because those toes I had dipped into the water are now wrinkled prune-like objects.
For those unfamiliar with the Elder Scrolls Online (or ESO for short), the game is an MMORPG set in the world of Tamriel made famous by the Elder Scrolls series. As with other games of the genre, gamers create a character and complete quests for NPCs to level up their character and immerses them in the deep lore that has developed within the Elder Scrolls world. It is an easy game to get into, with simple combat controls allowing your character (or characters) to grow and progress as new skills are learned.
The Greymoor expansion adds the area of Western Skyrim to the Elder Scrolls Online map. It is an area that will be somewhat familiar for those gamers who played The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, although the age in which the ESO story takes place is different. The DLC also includes a new main storyline that involves an army of vampires that are causing havoc amongst the inhabitants of Skyrim. Cyclone-like storms known as Harrowstorms have been converting the inhabitants to crazed beings. The main storyline requires gamers to find the source of this malevolence and destroy it. The Harrowstorms are a new 'timed' feature that can occur at scattered locations across the map. The strength of the Harrowstorms means that they are great for players to collaborate in order to destroy and then share the loot and XP that comes from defeating them.
Along with the new storyline and the plentiful side quests, the main addition in Greymoor comes in the form of Antiquities. Budding Indiana Jones types can travel across not only Western Skyrim, but across Tamriel in search of buried treasure. The Antiquities addition is, in effect, a couple of mini-games that gamers are required to complete to locate the treasures.
The first Antiquities mini game is Scrying, which helps to locate the areas of the world that the treasure is hidden. The Scrying mini-game plays out similar to a colour matching game, but whereby you match similar shapes to make your way through a series of nodes on the Scrying map. The more you match, the more treasure locations are indicated on your map. You can then travel to the highlighted areas in search of the dig site.
Once the dig site is found - depicted by a glowing mound of dirt, the excavation mini-game takes place. The excavation phase is akin to a game of Minesweeper, requiring gamers to pinpoint the location of the treasure in a patch of dirt. Said patch resembles a chess board, split up by squares that when selected indicate how close you are to the treasure. Unfortunately, apart from gaining some treasure that can be sold to a merchant, the Antiquities feature does not add much to the game, and in some ways takes the focus away from the main story. But if you're looking for a break from the grinding associated with an MMO, then it might just be a welcome distraction.
The visuals have not varied much in the expansion, although the familiar snow-capped mountains of the Western Skyrim do look gorgeous, even if there isn't much colour to be found in the area. But the haunting soundtrack that follows your character as he (or she) travels throughout the region, is amazing. The deep thuds of the bass drum as you approach danger immediately puts you on edge, whilst the mellow tunes immerse the gamer into the setting.
Up to my neck in it
The Greymoor storyline, as well as many of the other quest lines have immersed me into the deep lore of the ESO world. The gorgeous vistas of snow-capped mountains of the Skyrim region are beautifully presented, scattered with a plethora of inhabitants (both man and beast) that can be interacted with. So much so, that I discovered myself traipsing all over Western Skyrim, enjoying the scenery, and occasionally walking into danger because I wasn't looking ahead of me. Combined with the ease in which ESO guides you through the initial phase, questing is an enjoyable experience - one that I found I had to keep continuing. Dipping my toes back into the MMO water with the Greymoor expansion of The Elder Scrolls Online was probably a mistake, as now I am up to my neck in it - luckily, I can swim.
Immersive storyline and quests
Antiquities don't add much to the game