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Summerset Review

Elder Scrolls Online Columns - By William Murphy on June 05, 2018

Summerset Review

Last year’s Morrowind chapter put Elder Scrolls Online on a whole new level. I was already a fan, but that expansion cemented the MMO as my go-to game in what’s available today. I approached Summerset with trepidation, because the setting and story didn’t have the same draw as that mythical return to 2002’s Vvardenfell. I’m happy to report that Summerset is an even better experience than Morrowind.

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You can read my previous thoughts on Summerset with my Review in Progress.

On the surface, I dare say that Summerset doesn’t seem to be as “meaty” as Morrowind was. Morrowind had a whole new class, Summerset has a new skill tree. Morrowind had the new Battleground system, Summerset has a new Trial, and Jewelry Crafting. But for as much as I’d like Zenimax’ next DLC to include some new systems to play with (read: toys in the toybox), there’s little arguing that Summerset simply is a more robust experience in terms of questing, story, and dungeon-diving. There’s more meat on the bone, even if there are less sides on the plate.

There is something I feel could have been done better, though I think I understand the intent. As part of the Psijic Order, once you begin that quest series, you’re going to spend a WHOLE LOT of time roaming about older regions of Nirn closing breaches. The intent was to obviously introduce players to other regions of the game world, especially newer players who maybe only just joined ESO. But for folks who’ve been playing the game for ages, it’s more of a runaround that feels like it’s created to slow the process of unlocking the Psijic Order skill line.

See, you can’t level the Psijic skill line any other way - you must do the quest line that takes you all over Tamriel closing breaches. It’s a chore, of sorts. And you will have to do it on any characters you want to have the Psijic skills unlocked on. I’ve only done it once, and the story is solid, but the act of running all over the map is not. I can’t imagine doing it another time. Which leads me to believe that ZOS will likely one day need to figure out a way to let it unlock another way... which will probably be through the Crown Store.

Now, the skills themselves are awesome. There’s something in the line for everyone to fit into their builds - heals, tanking skills, DPS skills, great passives, and an awesome ultimate that lets you go back in time three seconds to where you were and how much HP/ST/MA you had 3 seconds prior. Basically, it lets you be Tracer in ESO. It’s an awesome skill line, and while you don’t need to unlock it to make a good build, the story of the Psijic is great, and the skills really do supplement your character well.

The content of Summerset, meaning the island itself, is sublime. Not only is the island probably the prettiest zone in all of ESO, but it’s also the biggest - larger even than Vvardenfell. But it’s also filled with some of the best quests the game has to offer. One standout so far has been helping a brother and sister work through their issues while also taking part in performing arts tryout. It seems silly, but the fact that it’s not about just going into a delve and killing things makes it that much more memorable.

The delves, public dungeons, and all the exploration content is all the quality you’ve come to expect from ESO. I’ve not yet had a chance to try the new trial, but that’s on my list once I’ve managed to finish all of the Summerset story.  I also dig the Abyssal Geysers, basically a rework of the original game’s Dolmens. They’re like public event “Horde Modes” that reward a great amount of loot and XP when you finish them. The only downside is that they’re still in static locations, and I think ESO missed an opportunity to take them to the next level and make them happen randomly in the open world of Summerset.

I haven’t touched much on Jewelry Crafting, if only because it’s fairly straightforward and the same as all other crafting professions. Deconstruct stuff to get parts, find metals in the wild, and research new stuff. It’s nice to finally make your own, that’s for sure. 

The story that’s been building in ESO since the release of Orsinium continues here, but it’s worth noting that you don’t need to have played all that content to understand what’s going on in Summerset. The stories are self-contained, even if they allude to previous events and use characters from other content as well. So if Summerset is your first foray into ESO, you’ll be just fine without having played the base game’s story or Morrowind, or any of the DLC for that matter.

Writing that sentence makes me realize something...

Elder Scrolls Online has, over the last four years, become the most content-rich MMORPG on the market. The sheer amount of things to do and see is absolutely staggering. I’d hate to be someone who refuses to play ESO on the grounds that it’s not a single player Elder Scrolls game. They’re missing what amounts to several TES games wrapped into an online experience. You can play ESO like a single player RPG, and experience fantastic storytelling and great freedom of character building, or you can go whole-hog into the MMO part, take part in the PVP, Cyrodiil, Trials, dungeons, and so forth. It’s everything to everyone, and it’s great. 

I find it hard to imagine that ESO will lose its luster for me if they keep up the pace of DLC and Chapter releases. But if I had one thing to wish for - it would be that some new unique systems or toys to play with come in future updates. Like, I don’t know... GARDENING. When Morrowind was released last year, it was what I’d call Peak ESO. Now that Summerset is here, it’s raised that bar even more. Where Zenimax takes the game next is anyone’s guess, but I know I’ll be there to find out.


Overall Score - 9/10


Pros

  • Fantastic story
  • Great new skill line
  • Absolutely gorgeous new zone
  • Razum-Dar

Cons

  • Jewelry Crafting is just “OK”
  • Psijic skill unlocking is a real chore
William Murphy / Bill is the Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, and lover of all things gaming. He's been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002. Be sure to follow him on Twitter for all of his pointless rambling.