We’ve explored every inch of High Isle, the next expansion for The Elder Scrolls Online. Here’s how we feel about this vast DLC chapter.
The Elder Scrolls Online often doesn’t get enough credit, as far as MMOs go, the game really has been a triumph. While not perfect, it has stood the test of time. As with Square Enix’s masterpiece FFXIV, ESO not only works great on a console, but thrives. The latest expansion, High Isle, demonstrates this more than ever.
However, it’s not all plain sailing around the Systres coast. High Isle suffers from many of the same issues that have always been ingrained into The Elder Scrolls Online and does little to rectify them. Yet at the same time, High Isle offers a brand new region to explore, one that looks utterly gorgeous, and is filled with treasure and secrets to unearth.
The Elder Scrolls Online High Isle: Key Details
- Developer: ZeniMax Online Studios
- Price: $39.99/ £39.99
- Release date: June 6, 2022 (PC) / June 21, 2022 (Console)
- Platforms: Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PS5, PC
A new unexplored region of Tamriel
High Isle, and the other nearby islands. have never been visited before in any Elder Scrolls game, so it’s exciting for long-time fans to finally get a glimpse of them. Or to explore every nook and cranny as we did, and believe us, there are tons of fun things to do and see.
Due to the region being the historic home to the Breton race in The Elder Scrolls series, the expansion features some rather cool Game of Thrones-style knights. These guys take honor, chivalry, and battle prowess very seriously and it was exciting to experience this culture when talking to the NPCs and exploring more urban environments.
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No previous Elder Scrolls game has ever really focused on these elements before, and it’s something Thrones and even Witcher 3 fans will really dig. The story doesn’t involve any world-ending events such as dragons or incursions by evil Daedric princes, instead revolving around bringing the generation-spanning Three Banners War to an end.
All belligerents are weary from years of a habitual war they inherited and simply want to coexist peacefully. However, there is a meddling force out to prevent this progress – and that’s where you come in to help.
Finding your feet in High Isle
The new companions are an excellent way to get to grips with the gameplay changes and basic plot. Each is involved in some way and will lead you down a certain path that helps to familiarize you with the quirks of High Isle. Experienced players will be able to dive right in, but the companion quests offer a useful primer when getting to know this strange land, and how to get the best from it.
The plot delves into political intrigue more than any previous ESO expansion has, but never really leans into it too heavily. This is a shame in our view, as it was just getting good, and the plot could have really differentiated itself from what’s come before if it had included some Red Wedding-level twists or difficult moral choices like the Witcher 3.
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From a gameplay point of view, High Isle is more of the same in the ways that count. If you’re already an ESO fan, then you’ll probably enjoy this vibrant and refreshing change of pace. New players may also benefit from working through High-Isle’s story and quests first, before venturing out into the wider world.
Should you set sail to High Isle?
If you’ve tried ESO before and found it’s not for you, then High Isle is unlikely to make you into a believer. The combat is still as clunky as ever, and the game hasn’t become less complicated in the years since it was first released – only more so. Even veteran players who’ve been away for a while may get overwhelmed by the sheer enormity of what ESO has become. High Isle is a welcome addition but it also adds to that sense of “wow where do I even begin?”.
At the same time, as with any long-running MMO, new (quality), content is key and is what the players expect. High Isle represents an intriguing side-step with enough content to keep players busy for a long time to come. The expansion doesn’t need to be revolutionary, which is a good thing, as it isn’t trying to be.
The Elder Scrolls Online’s greatest strength has always been its biggest weakness. It’s a multiplayer game set in the Elder Scrolls universe, and that means it’s still not the follow-up to Skyrim that players have been craving. It’s its own beast, and if you are to enjoy it, that’s something you need to accept. While exploration and immersion are absolutely possible, this is an MMO, and it always will be.
High Isle feels the closest ESO has come to offering a meaty, single-player campaign in years but those ambitions butt heads with the core mechanics of the MMO.
As ever with ESO, this isn’t going to be for everyone, but for those who already love sharing the world of Tamriel with others, this is the prettiest playground yet.
For more reviews of the latest releases, be sure to check out our other reviews:
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