The Elder Scrolls Online: Summerset – First Impressions

The last time I played Elder Scrolls Online, it existed for around a year and we were just getting the Thieves Guild content. That was back in 2014. Since then, The Elder Scrolls Online (ESO) has been a strong contender in the Massive Multiplayer Online realm, competing with the likes of World of Warcraft (WoW), Guild Wars 2 (GW2), EVE Online (EVE), Final Fantasy XIV (FFXIV), and a handful of others. For those of the community with a passing interest in the world of Tamriel, this is not the sequel to Skyrim. And with that, let’s dive into where this game sits.

Let’s Clear Some Things First…

ESO – Summerset is first and foremost a part of the online game content that takes place in the distant past of the main Elder Scrolls single-player games. It is totally optional whether you want to subscribe for a monthly fee and get perks or play the free-play model where you can buy various perks and content at your own pace. Given that I have not played ESO in years, I had to figure out this one detail: Didn’t they just release a new expansion last year? And indeed they did!

Last year, ESO – Morrowind had players return to the famous location of Elder Scrolls 3: Morrowind, a game released back in 2002. The homeland of the Dark Elves provided new content for the MMO that a handful of the gaming population felt was a bit short. However, ESO – Morrowind provided a new class for players to enjoy, the Warden, which feels reminiscent of Lord of the Rings Online‘s similar class which they released through an expansion.

Wait! Stop right there. Before we continue, I want to clarify that the way this content is structured similarly to an expansion but on a smaller scale. If expansions like the upcoming WoW – Battle for Azeroth has a variety of new regions and features, the ones released for ESO are smaller by comparison. And this is why they are comfortably called Chapters instead of expansions. While these Chapters add more gameplay value in terms of new storylines, areas, and a few new features, it doesn’t boast a game-changer of an experience. What Summerset adds is a new region, a new Skill line (Psijic Order), and a new Crafting profession (Jewelcrafting).

The closest comparison to ESO is GW2 since the regions you’ll be adventuring in will scale to your level, with leveling being attributed to additional skills points and attribute points. Some say it renders the leveling system pointless, and I would have to agree. It isn’t a bad thing though! Instead, players are able to enjoy the scenery and ambiance of a world that feels alive and busy, just like your typical Elder Scrolls single-player experiences. ESO only has one contender with its fun storylines and enjoyable voice acting, and that comes from the MMO, Secret World Legends (formerly The Secret World). What ESO has in terms of advantage over Secret World is the refinement of character animations, character models, and character designs.

But let’s dive into the experience of where Summerset stands, pending its upcoming June 5 full release!

Impressions, hmm?

Although I have access to ESO – Morrowind, I tried my hand at making a new character for ESO – Summerset. I was surprised! Instead of appearing in a prison in Coldharbour, which was the standard introductory experience when creating a character during the base game, I learned that Summerset hosts a new introduction scenario. It’s similar to Coldharbour, but this one is focused more on the mystery of what is happening on Summerset Isles. I did some cursory research on the matter and learned that the Morrowind chapter had a similar introduction experience for those in that chapter. Now, could you choose which introduction you want to experience? No, it’s not like you can throw yourself into whatever introduction prison you want to start from. It only provides you the introduction of the newest Chapter you have access to.

Experiencing content that I have missed over the several years of inactivity, you can see traces of the plotline that hosts involvement by the Psijic Order. The Psijic Order is a displaced magical society that lives on the extra-dimensional island of Artaeum, and they have been tracking a threat that has been hidden from view. Several of the story content, like The Clockwork City DLC, carries elements of the Psijic Order that continues into the storyline of Summerset. It’s uncommon for me to pay attention to the questlines provided by MMOs, so I was happy to experience a game that provides quality writing with its quests and storylines, coupled with voice talent that helps with the immersion and captures my attention.

Whether you are in the other regions of Tamriel or Summerset itself, the locations are beautiful. Diverse and beautiful! No other game showcases an assembly of environmental flora, fauna, and architecture, that feels alive. If Skyrim and its predecessors are crowned for its granular detail, Summerset maintains that tradition for ESO within the capacity of an MMO. You can’t get too detailed when constructing a game, as you can bog down the performance of the server and its clients. However, this beautiful piece of work is worthy of me barfing from its high-quality experience! If I were you, just walk around and enjoy this game at a slow pace. Leveling? Quest lines? You can do all that later, just walk around, socialize, watch people rushing around, and take a grip load of screenshots.

As a reminder, if you have an old character and want to jump into Summerset, go for it! Areas are scaled to your level no matter where you are, so you can easily enjoy this new chapter under level 10 as you could at level 50.

While a review from me is coming after Summerset‘s full release on June 5th, you can currently Pre-Order Summerset now and join the rest of us in the Early Access phase. Given that I enjoy the storyline experience of ESO more than most of the MMOs I play often, it’s definitely worth checking out, whether through the monthly subscription or in its free-to-play form.

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