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Game review: The Elder Scrolls Online: High Isle

This year's major expansion to The Elder Scrolls Online, Zenimax Online's acclaimed massively multiplayer online role-playing game, takes players to the land of the Bretons: High Isle.

Previously, The Elder Scrolls Online's expansions have drawn upon regions featured, or at least spoken of, in the long-running single-player Elder Scrolls series. For the High Isle expansion, players are invited to journey to a completely new region.

High Isle is a land straight out of medieval romanticism. Noble knights and courtiers inhabit walled cities and grand castles, and the lush countryside is dotted with settlements. It's a far cry from the icy tundra of Skyrim.

This is a new direction for the ESO team as it allows them to somewhat break free of the constraints set by those that have gone before. The result is a rather entertaining chapter more about political intrigue than the usual dragons and monsters.

New players simply need to enter the portal to the High Isle at the end of the introductory mission, whereas veterans will find the quest starter in their "collections" tab of the user interface. Once on High Isle, Players meet with Lady Arabelle Davaux in the city of Gonfalon, who has concerning news regarding the scheduled peace talks.

High King Emeric, Queen Ayrenn, and Prince Irnskarr are missing; their ship's caught up in an unnatural storm. It is believed that a group known as The Ascendant Order is plotting to sabotage the peace talks. But, despite their efforts, they have not managed to kill the noble guests.

In the employ of Lady Davaux, players must investigate what has happened to the missing ships and find the VIPs before The Ascendant Order. This main quest line takes players across the new area, to castles, enemy camps, and even to the prison island of Amenos. The story has enough intrigue to keep you invested in the quest. The plot ties into the established mythology of The Elder Scrolls by way of the documented Three Banners War.

As well as the main quest line, there are also a lot of optional side quests. This adds to the already overwhelmingly huge amount of content that ESO presents to players. Zenimax Online's yearly expansions, along with intermediate DLC additions, have made the world of The Elder Scrolls Online absolutely huge and packed with content. Players can revisit familiar destinations across the continent of Tamriel, such as Cyrodiil, Skyrim, and Morrowind from previous games. Set 800 years before The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, The Elder Scrolls Online draws from an established mythology, recreating many of the events and situations referred to in the single-player games.

The fantasy setting is richly detailed. The game is full of lore that will excite and thrill players that like a heady tale and presents those that enjoy a lighter experience with a world that feels alive and very real.
Just as the game has expanded and improved since its initial release back in 2014, so have the visuals. Zenimax Online has never really promoted the visual improvements they've made to the game, but it always looks amazing and makes full use of current hardware.

Being an MMO, the combat follows the standard button-mashing mixture of melee weapon attacks and ability/spell triggers. It's not as refined as the single-player games but the norm for this type of multiplayer experience.

The game is designed to be played in a group, but the addition of NPC companions in the Blackwood expansion now makes the game very accessible to those that enjoy playing alone. However, some of the dungeon areas can be a bit too challenging to be played solo.

With High Isle, Zenimax Online has created an exciting new area that, at times, almost feels like its own Elder Scrolls game. The story, the new characters, and the voice acting are all top-notch. And, as The Elder Scrolls Online offers both casual free-to-play and subscription-based options, there's no better time to step into this massive world of adventure.

Verdict: 9/10

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