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Elder Scrolls Online: Greymoor Preview

The Elder Scrolls Online: Greymoor expansion releases this spring, and we've gotten to try it out.

Greymoor is a decidedly Elder Scrolls Online experience, not a single-player RPG one. Which is to say, while the nostalgia is definitely there, Greymoor lets you explore Skyrim in a new way, with several layers of added content and features that make it feel like more of a step forward into the future of Elder Scrolls Online than a trip back in time.

Here are our hands-on impressions:

Long story short: vampires are back in town, and they aren't the friendliest bunch. You can go after them with a brand new 30 hours of story quests, but with a rehauled Vampire skill line of your own, and two beautiful new zones to get lost in, why rush?

My time with the preview build of the Chapter started in a dungeon cell, with my Redguard Nightblade joined in isolation by a mysterious vampire who helps me escape. Before stepping out into the great outdoors of Western Skyrim, however, my fanged friend and I witnessed a nefarious meeting involving the leader of the witch coven that kidnapped us in the first place, setting the tone for the expansion’s year-long narrative.

Shortly after setting out into Skyrim’s wild West, I was approached by a mortally wounded Bronhold the Nord, who hands me a journal just before he takes his last breath. The journal contains investigative entries about the coven that kidnapped me, and the quests branch off from there. The conspiracies surrounding the coven bleed into the conflict between Skyrim’s kingdoms and the menacing red harrowstorms ravaging the landscape, turning people into Harroweds (essentially zombies) and Bloodfiends (raging vampires). As somebody who used to play with a Vampire character on the live server, I always thought that they were way too underpowered to be useful for anybody but the most specific Magicka builds. Greymoor completely changes that.

Where previously you'd need to regularly feed on humanoids for fresh blood to keep your Vampire stage from increasing, Vampires post-Greymoor work in the opposite way, making the slow transformation into a generally weak character with very specific combat ability boosts a thing of the past.

Another respite from the doom and gloom is the new Antiquities feature, which adds an Indiana Jones-like sense of adventure to Elder Scrolls Online, as well as a brand new way to play the game. After joining the game’s Antiquarian Circle, a guild of historians dedicated to finding relics buried across Skyrim, you set off on an adventure to find these items. Throughout Elder Scrolls Online (not just Greymoor), you can collect “leads” through various means. The leads vary in rarity and are discovered by playing a match-3 puzzle game, using an “Antiquarian’s Eye” to find the precise location of an artifact. You have a limited number of turns to match symbols and work your way across the board, and depending on how well you do, you’ll be given a number of areas on the world map where the artifact may be buried. If you do well in the minigame, one area on the map will be highlighted, where you can head to start digging. If you do poorly in the minigame (or you just don’t like puzzles), several areas on the map will be highlighted, and you’ll be forced to explore each one to find the correct dig site.

These new features, quests, and stories make Greymoor a truly new way to experience Skyrim and uncover its history.

Greymoor isn’t fueled by nostalgia, which is a great thing. The nostalgia is there, though, for those longing for Bethesda‘s earlier fantasy RPG adventure. Walking around the docks and alleys of Solitude feels delightfully familiar while helping save Dragon Bridge from attackers is a straight-up blast from the past. But there are plenty of new features and adventures here to make this new chapter in Elder Scrolls Online’s unfolding saga feel fresh and different. It also makes it easy for Skyrim fanatics who haven’t tried Elder Scrolls Online yet to jump in and feel right at home while having fun with the game’s growing community.

Greymoor is looking to be far more than a simple nostalgia trip through good old Skyrim. Bringing a potent cocktail of all-new quests, skill reworks, remastered locations, and game systems into the tried-and-true Elder Scrolls Online formula, Greymoor promises to be one of the most compelling chapters in recent years.

You can grab the PC/Mac version of Elder Scrolls Online on May 18. Console owners will have to wait a bit longer, though, as the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 versions of Elder Scrolls Online release shortly after that on June 2.

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