Last year ZeniMax set the ground and our hearts ablaze with larger than life battles in Elsweyr as they unleashed dragons upon Tamriel in The Elder Scrolls Online. So what could they possibly do to follow up such a colossal chapter? Well they shifted the focus from unmissable marvels to the sinister forces of the unseen as new and old players head to Western Skyrim with the release of The Elder Scrolls Online: Greymoor for PC.
While dragons are the first thing that most will think about when it comes to Skyrim, they are not the only foe that it has ever faced. This new chapter takes place 1000 years before the events of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim though it’s not without its homages for new players (or vets wanting a new character) that experience the all new tutorial. For you longtime players you’ve probably already kicked off the year long Dark Heart of Skyrim adventure with Harrowstorm which introduces the Icereach Coven of witches which are featured heavily in the Greymoor storyline. If you haven’t well you’re not at a disadvantage as Greymoor does a good job getting you up to speed.
Greymoor brings witches, werewolves and more importantly vampires to the forefront though they would just assume work from the shadows and deepest reaches of Western Skyrim. If you create a new character as I did, stepping away from my customary Khajiit for a more story fitting Nord, you’ll soon find out that not all vampires are out to cause trouble as darkness descends across the hold. In my case I meet Fennorian, a peaceful vampire of House Ravenwatch as it so happens, pretty early into the tutorial. As you both attempt to escape from you captors you will kick off a story that just may affect every living soul in its wake.
As with my previous Elder Scrolls Online content reviews, I like to avoid spoilers as much as possible so I won’t dive too deep into its actual main story that much. You can however look forward to find yourself once again in the company of Lyris Titanborn as well as a returning ESO character or two throughout your adventures. Instead I’ll briefly cover some of the outlying quests that I really enjoyed as well as the new features and a very unique skill overhaul perfectly timed for this chapter.
One of the biggest aspects to start with is Western Skyrim itself as we’ve already seen parts of Skyrim in the base ESO experience. This time around players will traverse somewhat familiar yet different locales including Dragon Bridge, Morthal and the iconic port-city of Solitude across the holds of Haafingar, Hjaalmarch, and Karthald. I couldn’t help but eagerly wander around Solitude and see just how much of it was similar to Skyrim’s version. I can say that they did a pretty impressive job of bringing this well know visage into Greymoor and ESO.
But Greymoor isn’t just about what lies on the surface but almost more so it’s about what lies unseen underneath. That’s right Blackreach returns to once again to get you lost in its vast subterranean caverns filled with dangers and marvels like only it can deliver. Any fan of Skyrim have undoubtedly traversed this place to various levels of ad nauseam so you already know what you’ve instore for here. Well Greymoor’s version doesn’t disappoint as I know I got turned around in there more times than I care to admit looking for treasures, battling foes like vampires and the resident Falmer and joining in on Harrowstorm events. Of course it wouldn’t be Blackreach without Dwarven ruins including Nchuthnkarst, one of the two new Public Dungeons.
Above ground in the cold regions of Skyrim players can tackle the other Public Dungeon together, in the form of the Nord barrow Labyrinthian, to earn powerful rewards such as item sets as well as some collectibles along the way. If you’re not quite ready to tackle dungeons, you’ve got the opportunity to earn various rewards including jewelry by aiding your fellow players in shutting down Harrowstorm events across both Western Skyrim and Blackreach. These events are similar to the core game’s Dark Anchors. Here you work to destroy witch pikes while battling deadly enemies while contending with the storm itself.
How you do approach combat in general is up to you but everyone can choose to make use of one of my favorite improvements from the included Update 26 if they want to when aiding in overall combat. Available to everyone is the newly re-vamped Skill Line for our most feared blood-suckers to make them more active in combat similar to the Werewolf skill overhaul in Update 19. Found within are all new abilities like Eviscerate and Blood Fury and an all new Ultimate called Blood Scion. Eviscerate is a spammable Magicka attack that can deal between 50 and 100% more damage based on your missing health depending on its morph later on.
Blood Fury on the other hand increases Weapon and Spell Damage by 630 at the cost of your own health. Not only is this ability particularly dangerous in combat if not careful but it’s a Criminal Act if used in public with the Skill lines integration into the Justice system. Activating this ability as well as others including the powerful Blood Scion Ultimate will land you with a bounty on your head if triggered in populated areas. While being a vampire won’t get you attacked immediately as in Skyrim, it does have penalties both in and out of combat.
Unlike Skyrim when you feed as a vampire, preferably unseen, you increase your vampiric power instead of suppressing it. Doing so does reduces the cost of vampire abilities but you do suffer an increase in regular ability costs. At Vampire Stage 4 you also take 20% more damage from flames and worst of all a -100% to your Health Recovery. So if you plan to go full on Vamp you need to find other ways to gain health such as Vampiric Drain or potions. Of course you actually have to find a merchant that will trade with you at Stage 4 as most of the world’s NPC will not talk to you as they recognize you for what you are. Pro tip: certain merchants have no qualms with dealing with particularly shady looking characters.
However even a feared vampire can participate in the newly added Antiquities System that encourages players to go out and explore all of Western Skyrim. This new system will also have you going to nearly all of ESO’s locales across the base game and most Chapters and DLC zones. There are some areas however that don’t have antiquities yet including Blackreach and a few others. This new system utilizes two new skill lines and their accompanying mini-games Scrying and Excavation.
Scrying is used to actually discern where a dig site is using the Antiquarian’s Eye tool. You’ll get a few leads for free but others will be found as you complete activities and quests. I’ve come across at least one on a monster during my adventures so far. The catch is that activity based leads are on 30 day time limit from first acquisition so you’ll have to keep an eye on that. You may not get to them all in time but you’ll have a chance to pick up a particular lead again as you play. But finding them is only part of it as you have to carefully extract them with the Excavation mini-game once you figure out where they are.
Excavation for me was the tricky part of the Antiquities System. Once you find the dig site there can be multiple areas that a certain antiquity can be. You may not even get the item on the first spot. You start out with only the Augur ability and a Hand Brush to use. As you level up your Excavation skill line you will earn more tools to aid you. From here it’s like a game of Minesweeper using color-coded boxes to discern the antiquity proximity under the dirt. You have a limited number of actions with the Augur to help pinpoint its location so for me it was a big game of trial and error as the antiquity is never in the same location or dig site with each attempt. This is just one of many things you can start to do in Greymoor including a musical instrument questline from the Bards College in Solitude. Chances are you find some of these 19 instruments before you even know what they are for like I did from just exploring and doing various quests. I had roughly half of them before I started the actual quest.
There are also plenty of enjoyable quests throughout Western Skyrim and Blackreach that will keep you entertained on your adventure. One of my personal favorites is the paranormal detective quest “The Long Journey Home” in Morthal which deals with freakish blizzards and afflicted ice touched humans and animals with a ghost of the daughter of Morthal’s Jarl added to the mix. This was a well-crafted story with some interesting turns. The other side quest that I enjoyed though for a different reason was “The Lady of Blood” quest found near Greymoor Keep. This easily could have been part of the main quest as it deals more with the vampire side of things but it’s not. This quest also brings other members of House Ravenwatch into play as you attempt to find and free one of the friendly vampires. The boss fight in this quest though is bit of a doozy as well for those unprepared or ill equipped.
For those that fancy the Housing System and want a break from questing, the free Update 26 includes a Precision Editing Mode that allows those eagle eyed decorators the ability to line things up with precision. This includes a Straighten keybind that allows snapping to the nearest vertical right angle if needed. You’ll definitely make use of these quality of life improvements with 2 new homes to purchase like Proudspire Manor which is currently available for 6000 Crowns ($45 roughly) unfurnished or 1,050,000 gold for those wealthy enough. For a whopping 7500 Crowns (or $60) you can get it furnished if home décor isn’t your thing. They have yet to unveil the price for the second home, a pretty wicked looking vampire home called Bastion Sanguinaris overlooking Greymoor Keep but I can only imagine it’ll be hefty. If you’re a little light in the coin purse there is also the Snowmelt Suite located in The Lonely Troll once you locate the quest brochure “Room to Spare” in Solitude.
Greymoor as a full chapter is currently only available to players either physically or digitally this time around much so you’ll have to seek out your favorite online store or local business to get your own copy. For those that shell out the extra gold for the Collector’s Editions you are rewarded with goodies including an Exclusive Crypt Warden Death Hound mount, a second Death Hound as a pet, the Sword Thane outfit conversion style, a Skyrim emote pack and Orb of Magnus memento to better immerse yourself in the world. This version, which I covered, is great for newcomers as well as it includes the main game and the Summerset, Morrowind and Elsweyr chapters along with Greymoor for $80.
I have to admit that while taking on dragons in Elsweyr was exhilarating, there was something even more enticing about the storyline in Greymoor. Partially I think returning to Skyrim’s beautiful locales was my biggest drawing factor, but I think it was the story writing and characters that once again sold me. The ragtag team of warriors, and unlikely allies against unwavering stubbornness and daunting forces at play dynamic kept me hooked even as I found myself taking on the various but well written side quests at every turn. As a player that favors things on the sneaky side I loved the new Vampire overhaul as well as conversing with characters such as Fennorian. If you loved Skyrim and all things vampire then you have got to pick up The Elder Scrolls Online: Greymoor for PC today.