Later this year, Elder Scrolls Online will let players revisit a very special place - a strange and alien locale full of enormous insectoid creatures, houses carved into towering mushrooms, and a mortal god in need of your help. That place is the island of Vvardenfell, setting of the much-loved 2002 classic, The Elder Scrolls 3: Morrowind.
GamesRadar+ recently got a chance to sit down with the people in charge of Elder Scrolls Online to learn more about this next chapter in the world of Tamriel. Here's everything we learned:
This is, quite literally, a retread of old grounds
Morrowind put the Elder Scrolls series on the map, so it's fitting that in return, Zenimax Online Studios is putting Morrowind's map into Elder Scrolls Online. The studio has taken the original game's map and transferred it to the MMO's engine, albeit with some slight tweaks. ESO takes place 700 years prior to the events of Morrowind, so some towns are only half-complete, while others don't exist at all yet.
Still, players will recognize some of the biggest and most important settlements, like Seyda Neen and Balmora. Red Mountain lingers ominously in the background regardless of where you are on the island, and soot blankets vast swaths known as the Ashlands. Anyone who got a little excited at those proper nouns should feel right at home, or at least the tingle of nostalgia.
Rich Lambert, creative director, also revealed a few easter eggs that keen-eyed fans will appreciate. You might bump into the ancestor of an NPC from the original Morrowind, or help pass on a family heirloom, or witness how a false savior became the ghost that would come to guide a hero 700 years in the future. And yes, there will be siltstriders.
There's a new class, and it comes with a bear
Fighter, rogue, wizard. These three archetypes encompass most of the heroes we see in the world of fantasy roleplaying, and yes, even in Elder Scrolls Online. But they're by no means the only blueprints to follow. Matt Firor, game director of ESO, said that players wanted to see the game branch out and offer a new power fantasy. The result is the Warden, ESO's first new class.
The Warden fulfills the dream of controlling a druid-like character - someone who uses nature to strike at their foes, heal their allies, and command beasts. Like the game's other classes, there are three talent trees to pick from. Unlike the game's other classes though, these trees represent each of the major functions of an MMO party member, making them incredibly versatile.
Winter's Embrace lets you use ice magic to shield your allies and mitigate damage from foes, placing you at the front of the fight. Green Balance is the support specialization, calling forth plants to heal and buff your friends. Animal Companion is the most self-explanatory of the bunch, as it gives you… yes, an animal companion. Several actually. You'll be able to summon cliffracers and other Elder Scrolls fauna to damage your enemies, making you the ESO equivalent of Aquaman but cooler, because you have a bear.
The end of the world is high (in the sky)
Elder Scrolls lore can be a long-winded, contradictory, and confusing thing to explain, so let me break it down: the island of Vvardenfell is ruled by a mortal god named Vivec who is currently using his power to hold a meteor over a city which is also named Vivec. If Vivec should become ill, die, or just be in a particularly pissy mood that morning, the meteor comes crashing down, obliterating pretty much the whole island.
And wouldn't you know it, that's precisely the looming threat in ESO: Morrowind. Vivec has fallen ill, and it'll be up to players to find out why and how to heal him.
There's also a separate quest line involving the island's political leaders, which operate like mafioso families and utilize an organization of assassins to bump each other off. Add in various side quests, exploration, two dungeons and one new Trial (ESO's 12-player equivalent to Raids) and you're looking at more than 30 hours of content added to the game.
A CTF mode in ESO - WTF?
One of the major features of Elder Scrolls Online at launch was the ability to take part in large-scale sieges against other players. But massive-scale PVP can end up pretty boring if one side has hundreds of players and another has a scrappy few dozen. That's why ESO is adding in new Battlegrounds - small-scale PVP arenas with concrete rules and modes like Team Deathmatch and Capture The Flag.
There will be three maps at launch, entered by queueing up much the same as if you were searching for a match in, say, Call of Duty. Players are then split up into three teams of four, and separated from the rest of the ESO world so as not to be interrupted during their bout. You'll be able to earn XP and items through these 15-minute matches, though you won't be able to claim such rewards until you've finished a round.
PVP designer Brian Wheeler said that Battlegrounds will eventually spread to more areas of Tamriel, and won't be always be exclusive to Vvardenfell.
It's not an expansion, it's a "chapter"
Zenimax Online was careful not to call Elder Scrolls Online: Morrowind an "expansion." Instead, it's being labeled as the next "chapter." Whether you think that's a legit differentiation to make or just game industry double-speak is up to you - but regardless of what you call it, the studio says there's more on the way.
Firor said he and his team hope to produce content on this scale once per year, with quarterly updates to keep players invested. They've already made some major strides in that area; in the 10 months between the game's PC launch and its arrival on PS4 and Xbox One, the team added an outlaw system, a virtual currency and store, and a new progression system.
Since then, the game has received more updates, including a questline centered around the fan-favorite guilds The Dark Brotherhood and The Thieves Guild, and a new area, Orsinium. In summer of 2016, the game was overhauled so that players were no longer restricted by level in terms of what content they could experience.
So while one major "chapter" per year sounds daunting, the team at Zenimax Online has shown they're willing to make deep, significant changes when necessary.
On June 6, 2017 - 15 years to the day that Elder Scrolls 3: Morrowind arrived on the original Xbox - we'll find out if that world really is as magical as we remember.