It's fair to say that Elder Scrolls Online didn't have the strongest of starts. Lukewarm reviews populated the web surrounding its debut and many felt deterred by its non-distinctive gameplay and required subscription. After the initial wave of disappointment rushed over fans, Zenimax Online Studios then worked tirelessly, ushering in a slew of new and impactful updates to help capture the essence of the main series. With compulsory membership axed and gameplay finally mirroring the quality of previous entries, the title soon added millions to its playerbase, with many of those returning from the initial release.
News recently broke on Twitch that the next major expansion would be dipping into the franchise's illustrious past and returning to Vvardenfell, homeland of third installment and classic RPG Morrowind. As well as including the title's largest region to date, the Morrowind expansion was revealed to include a new Warden class, a small-scale PvP mode, and an all-new trial. Standing far from your average DLC expansion, Morrowind also features an impressive 30 hours of gameplay and is easily the series' largest expansion to date. Recently, we got the opportunity to take a closer look at some of the expansion's headline features, as well as hearing director Matt Firor's thoughts on the development cycle and future of the series.
Morrowind looks certain to seize the attention of players both old and new, as it features many subtle callbacks to please returning veterans and is fully accessible regardless of your experience or player level. Even if you've yet to try Elder Scrolls Online, you can delve straight into the Morrowind expansion, as both experiences exist independent of each other and can be accessed at different times.
The world of Morrowind looks better than ever, but still retains a touch of nostalgia due to how faithfully it is to its original design. Events within the story take place roughly 700 years prior to the events of Elder Scrolls III, and the devs have teased that there are several nods throughout to what occurs in future. Having the story set in a different era also makes things more enticing and easily approachable for those looking to jump in for the first time, as the narrative doesn't continue down a road that they have yet to tread.
A welcome addition is the inclusion of a new nature-based character class, the Warden, which marks the first new arrival since launch, and bumps up the current roster to five playable classes. The Warden can unleash water and ice-based magical attacks, and is accompanied on their quest by a ferocious bear who is hungry for battle. Playing as the Warden, you aren't restricted to Vvardenfell, meaning that you and your furry companion are free to venture to the very edges of the ESO universe. The team at Zenimax additionally described the Warden as being a support class that embraces the environment and possesses potent healing abilities, with these traits being further demonstrated through a short teaser.
Halls of Fabrication is a new trial which can be accessed in Clockwork City, and allows teams of up to 12 players to work cooperatively to overcome deadly encounters and seek handsome rewards. While not much more was detailed about the trial, we can presume that it will be a worthy test of your skills and is a welcome surprise, as the last trial was released roughly a year ago within the Thieves Guild DLC.
An intimate and blisteringly fast PvP mode comparable to the likes of Quake also debuts as part of the package. The new mode, Battlegrounds, differs from the mass carnage of Alliance Wars, in that its matches operate in much closer quarters and a revised queuing system makes for a more casual playing experience. At launch there will be three different match types available: team deathmatch, capture the flag, and domination, with many more maps and modes arriving in future. We were particularly impressed by the three different maps previewed too, mainly thanks to the variations in structure and design, where some featured scattered warp pads and others benefited from a sense of verticality.
Looking towards the future with a sense of optimism, director Matt Firor said: "We are doing great and we've actually have said things publicly that we want to do things like Morrowind annually. We have a roadmap that goes on for many years now that has lots of cool stuff in it - we're full speed ahead right now."
In the wake of forthcoming expansion Morrowind, it's clear that ESO has overcome its early problems and come out of it stronger. The new expansion further expands on improvements made to the game over the past few years by adding promising features such as a huge new region, a new character class, a new trial, and a new PvP arena mode. Morrowind offers a promising glimpse into the future of the MMO and with the prospect of similar expansions resting on the horizon, perhaps the wait for Elder Scrolls VI won't be as difficult to endure.
Elder Scrolls Online: Morrowind will be released on June 6 on PC, Mac, Xbox One and PS4.