In 2014, Bethesda launched The Elder Scrolls Online and since then, the gaming community has been receiving additional stories, zones, systems, and skills at regular intervals. In 2021, an expansion will take us to the Blackwood region, an area that first appeared in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion and is located south of Cyrodiil, where shady people are involved in the daedra’s machinations. Political intrigue, a trip to the dead lands and the appearance of the Daedric Prince Mehrunes Dagon await all adventurers, newcomers and veterans in The Elder Scrolls Online: Blackwood.
Elsweyr took us back to the Age of Dragons and Greymoor explored the history of the vampires and introduced Shadow Limit to the Zenimax MMO. On Black wood, we are facing a political thriller in which a Daedric genius appears. While we enlist the help of Eveli Sharp-Arrow (the elven version of Sherlock Holmes) to uncover every political conspiracy, a masterclass on Daedric culture with Lyranth personally awaits us, which many players will already know from the base game. As if that weren’t enough, the Dark Brotherhood is also implicated in this delicate conspiracy …
As always, the main mission has interesting twists in the script and the company of different characters like Lyranth is sure to be entertaining. However, these detective stories don’t captivate me as much as real adventures like Elsweyr or Summerset. The design of the new zone is less subjective, but no less disappointing. After exploring the shadowy edge of Greymoor – one of the most beautiful regions in The Elder Scrolls Online thanks to its beautiful landscapes and vivid colors – the areas of Blackwood appear unabashedly barren. I would have loved to fully explore mighty, misty swamps or lush forests, but instead the map merges into a simple mass of forests and bodies of water.
In contrast, the Daedric scene is presented to us in all its terrible splendor of bubbling lava. Some of the new dungeons allow a glimpse of the Oblivion Plains from the Deadlands, which is not only home to Mehrunes Dagon itself, but also provides shelter for all sorts of terrifying Daedric creatures. The presentation is somewhat reminiscent of Doom Eternal (up to a point), with islands surrounded by lava and monsters fighting in the background.
With every new region that is added, a global event comes to us. In the line of the Daedric theme, whoever plays arrives as the portal to the kingdoms of Oblivion. These portals to another world are located in the event areas and lead players into small dungeons in which they have to face increasingly powerful enemy hordes. As a reward, there are many experience points and the chance of valuable items.
As in the previous chapters, Zenimax presents its content according to a certain formula. The new world event offers a nice change and, with its high level of difficulty, is also a challenge for adventurers. The new zone also offers another 12-player test version as well as new equipment sets, collectibles and more. The best thing about Blackwood, however, is undoubtedly the buddy system presented in the previous chapter.
For the first time in the Zenimax MMO, we will have other NPCs with whom we can go into battle and also become friends. At the moment we can only choose between a dark elf named Mirri Elandis and a man named Bastian Hallix. You can recruit both once you’ve completed their respective side missions, and you can only have one of them with you at a time (with the exception of PvP zones).
In the Relationship tab we can see the status of the relationship with our companion or change their equipment and active skills. Our new best friend will also be able to use collectibles like suits and mounts. Thanks to the lack of classes, these two characters can be used as a tank, DPS, or healer, so they adapt to each player’s desires. For those who play alone, it is p articularly convenient that they take an additional player with them into the public dungeons, because due to their level of difficulty, it is normal that these challenges are only successfully completed if they go in a group. If you don’t belong to a clan and only occasionally join the game, the new companions will give you the advantage you need.
Combat aside, I was amazed at the depth that Companions bring to the game for the better. Both Bastian and Mirra have their own tastes and this can influence our relationship with them. Mirra enjoys venturing through Daedric dungeons with players, digging up antiques or reading a good book. On the other hand, anyone who kills NPCs who are friends with Bastian in their group or loots treasure chests will quickly notice a negative change in their relationship status to him.
Players who greatly overstep their teammates’ boundaries and ignore the Relationship tab may even be able to suddenly abandoned by their companionthat will not be available for a certain period of time. However, a more positive relationship is rewarded with additional companion missions that reveal more information about the history of each of them.
When Greymoor came out, I praised Zenimax’s efforts to make the game more palatable to casual gamers and fans of the reversal elements. This time around, the Buddy System is possibly the most successful addition to the latest DLC as it delves deeper into the The Elder Scrolls Online experience. A larger number of companions would be desirable and this is certainly one of the major problems the study will face in the future.
Fans already live with a narrative breakdown that makes it easier the story of the “only true savior” and the hundreds of thousands of players who do their jobs better than most of us. A bunch of Mirri and Bastian clones wouldn’t necessarily improve this situation. Also, and especially for multi-character players, this feature is a bit repetitive at the moment.
In my opinion, The Elder Scrolls Online: Blackwood has a bit of everything. The buddy system is perhaps the best addition to the game to date, while the blackwood zone said little to me. In the end, as always, it all depends on each player of The Elder Scrolls Online, so it’s up to you to decide if Blackwood has something exciting to offer or if it’s better to pass. Daedra fans and all those fans who have been begging Bethesda for a buddy system for years are sure to have a lot of fun with the new content.
As for me, I think after two very dark chapters, it’s up to me to dive into calmer realms. Who knows if now that Bethesda has complied with the buddy system, the players will finally get the long-awaited bard class?