PAX East 2018: Summerset Expansion Preview

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I got to play The Elder Scrolls Online: Summerset at PAX East 2018 this past weekend in Boston. The demo paid off and I’m finding myself ready and willing to jump back into the land of Tamriel, brush off my old sword and shield, and spend some money on this MMO again.

Honestly, I had no clue a new expansion was coming to The Elder Scrolls Online (ESO). My guild disbanded shortly after the Morrowind was released and with free-to-plays like Guild Wars 2, my MMO itch was being scratched. Like all the expansions before it, Summerset brings life a new area of Tamriel: the Summerset Isles. This new area is an archipelago consisting of three islands and off the coast of Valenwood. It is also the home of the Altmer. The Altmer, also known as High Elves, are dicks. In fact, racism is a characteristic you’ll find explicitly expressed by Altmer NPCs throughout Tamriel. Their cultural xenophobia was key to their empire and shapes your interactions with them throughout other games. I’ve long admired the ways that The Elder Scrolls has mapped out lore and interpersonal relationships, grudges, and histories associated with the races you can play. By going to the home of the Altmer, I’m hoping there will complicated relationship dynamics reflected in the quests and explorations.

But Why Tho? the podcast co-host Matt playing the Play Station demo of Summerset

That being said, the importance of  this expansion lies in the fact that we haven’t traveled through Summerset before. The borders of Summerset have been shut for foreigners , giving players an entirely new setting to explore. When Morrowind released, it built on the nostalgia of that game in the series, for this expansion however, it opens the door to a society we haven’t seen before. Housed in the Play Station booth, I was given a pre-made character – the build was so awful I couldn’t tell the benefits of the new skill line – and allowed to play until the doors opened. I got a good 20 minute session in but couldn’t pull myself away from teleporting from wayshrine to wayshrine looking at the new and beautiful zone. I ran through Summerset killing new creatures and exploring every nook and cranny of the zone. From large arches on the coast made of shells and rock to the capital city of Alinor, the amount of beauty and attention to detail in the zone is what I’ve come to expect from the game. When it comes to the geography of the zone, Alinor is the most impressive. The tall gray architecture of a layered castle is accented with delicate  pink and purple blossoming trees and it’s amazing to run through. The depth of the capital city is interesting, stacked on top of itself, the building up of the city in a contained way is different than other ones I know in the previous expansions. In addition to new scenery, this expansion adds a new crafting skill (jeweler), trial (The Devine Prosecution), group-challenge (Abyssal Geysers), and of course new delves, public dungeons, and world bosses. But the star of the expansion is the is the Psijic Oder. After vanishing 350 years, the Summerset expansion allows you to explore the history of the Mage’s Guild and learn the secrets of the Order.

The Psijic Order, like other groups in the game (Fighter’s Guild, Mage’s Guild, Dark Brotherhood, etc.), comes with a new skill line with active and passive abilities. Given my build, a terrible hybrid Knightblade with weapons that made no sense, I was busy trying to figure out how to kill things in my encounters. However, the new power “time stop,” which stop times within a specific radius and attack enemies without them knowing, was useful and a skill I can see coming in handy in more than a few dungeons. The skill “undo” instantly resets your health, stamina, and magicka to their levels 4-seconds before the moment it’s cast.  The final addition attched to the Psijic Order is the creation of Psijic Portals. The portals are like Theive’s Guild chests, they’re loot caches spread throughout Tamriel. The inside is nothing too special but I’m a sucker for exhaustive achievements and the addition of new caches add another element of discovery to Summerset, which I hope will lead to more house of gameplay – yes, I am the person who spends hours on “collect all of x” achievements.

When it’s all said and done, I’m excited for the Summerset expansion and the new zone being a truly new area is enough to make me buy it. However, it doesn’t add a new class like the Morrowind expansion, and I’m hoping the lore behind the Psijic Order is enough to keep me interested in the story since it is embedded in the Mage’s Guild. Since my main in ESO is a tank, I’m not sure how much I’ll utilize this skill line or quest line.

The Elder Scrolls Online: Summerset is currently available for pre-order now and releases for PC and Mac on May 21st and for PS4 and Xbox One on June 5th.