Elder Scrolls Online has gone through so many changes since launch, I think it is safe to say that it isn?t the same game anymore. Each new chapter brings so many changes, whether they are environmental, Quality of Life, character changes, new classes, etc. These new chapters keep the game feeling fresh and new for veteran players, while also welcoming new players into the fold with helpful tutorials, starting boosts, and access to all of the content that has come before. Every new chapter is the ?best time? to dive into ESO, and that is something I feel is unique in the MMORPG space. Each expansion in other MMOs seems to offer something for new players, but skews more toward veteran players who have already completed the vanilla game. ESO allows players to explore the world and the story however they want, with the new chapter being a viable choice right away, with the option to go back and play the other chapters and the base game in whatever order you want.
While attending the remote preview event for Elder Scrolls Online: Blackwood, Creative Director Rich Lambert made it clear that this new chapter is going to be no exception. Blackwood has been built for all players, both new and veteran. As with all of the new chapters for ESO, Blackwood builds on everything that has come before it. He also made it a point to address the verbiage that ESO has preferred over the years, ?Chapters?. Bethesda chose ?Chapters? over ?Expansions? because they feel that expansion has a negative connotation, while chapter is more welcoming for new players. Rich was also quick to point out that despite Microsoft?s $7.5 billion acquisition of Bethesda this year, ESO will continue to support all platforms equally, and players should not expect any changes to come out of that deal. A free console enhanced upgrade will roll out for both the Xbox Series and the PS5 on June 8th, so console players will be able to enjoy ESO at its absolute best.
As with all of the previous chapters in ESO, Blackwood looks to be rich with new content. First are the standard changes to existing content, which has come to be expected. The new World Event is ?Oblivion Portals?. This will act in the same way as Dark Anchors, Dragonscours, Abyssal Geysers, and Harrowstorms. There is also a new trial called Rockgrove that will support up to 12 players, boast 3 new bosses, and offer a new mount for completing all of the trial specific achievements.
In terms of genuinely new content, the biggest addition here is Companions. You will be able to recruit specific NPC companions to accompany you on your journey through Tamriel. These companions are fully realized characters, with their own quests and upgradeable skill trees. Having an additional character with you will make life easier for players who prefer to enjoy ESO solo. Doing dungeons and quests will feel more dynamic, and less alone, while also allowing you to complete the content on your own.
There is an entirely new system being implemented as well, called ?Endeavors?. This will be separated into daily and weekly tasks, which award ?Seals?. These Seals can then be used to buy items directly from Crown Crates, which is not only a huge step up for the cosmetic portion of the game, but something that players have been requesting for a long time. With each new chapter, it seems the team behind ESO is listening and directly working to adjust some major fan feedback, and Blackwood seems to be no exception.
In addition to the preview event, I was granted access to a private server to test some of the new content. One of the biggest changes that new characters will note is the new tutorial system. You run through a brief tutorial area for Blackwood, then find yourself in a chamber with portals to every major starting point for ESO. From here, you can choose to go off and start the vanilla story, or any one of the subsequent chapters, in whatever order you would like. This also acts as a central hub of sorts, and allows the player to return whenever they would like to dive into different content. This helps connect all of the chapters, while also making it feel much more accessible. Tamriel is massive, and at this point incredibly daunting for any new players to try and approach. This new area brings it all together and into the player?s hands, in a way that makes sense both in the world and from a gameplay standpoint.
As with each of the previous chapters, I am SO excited to really sink my teeth into Blackwood. ESO has been one of those games that I am constantly picking back up and playing when there is nothing else on my schedule. Blackwood seems to be following the tradition of incredible new content, for both new and veteran players. Blackwood will release on June 1st for PC and Stadia, and on June 8th for PlayStation and Xbox.