While I’ll be pledging my allegiance to the Queen and the Aldmeri Dominion at the launch of Elder Scrolls Online, I recently had an opportunity to find out how the other side lives in tackling the starting area of the Daggerfall Covenant: Stros M’kai. Keep in mind, there be spoilers ahead, so turn back now if you’d like to keep the Daggerfall starting experience fresh.
Elder Scrolls fans will remember Stros M’kai as the setting of The Elder Scrolls Adventures: Redguard. While all factions must escape from the same prison in ESO, those who select the Daggerfall Covenant will end up on the desert island of Stros M’kai, rescued by a Redguard pirate named Captain Kaleen. Abandoned by her crew for being unwilling to raid Bretons due to her allegiance to the Daggerfall Covenant, Kaleen is in need of a new crew for an important heist, and that’s where you come in.
The target? The sailing logs belonging to Headman Bhosek, the self-appointed ruler of Stros M’kai. While Stros M’kai is generally a safe haven for pirates and smugglers, it’s no paradise. Bhosek rules his island with an iron fist and he’s been up to no good, violating the orders of King Fahara’jad in directing the raiding of Breton ships. Looking to further the aims of the Daggerfall Covenant and make a pretty penny along the way, Captain Kaleen has put Bhosek in her crosshairs and it’s up to you to assemble a crew to help with the heist. The Captain has three candidates in mind: Jakarn, Neramo, and Crafty Lerisa.
Voiced by the ubiquitous Steve Blum, Jakarn is a handsome rogue whose sticky fingers got him in trouble and subsequently imprisoned. You’ll have to dodge flaming fire traps and take out a few Redguard guards in order to free him, but it’s a fairly straightforward experience. After setting him free, he’ll want your help in retrieving his plunder in exchange for helping out Kaleen with her heist. Also straightforward, this involves breaking into some mines and taking out a few guards and beasts along the way. Once you’ve got the goods, you need to meet Jakarn at the inn in town, but not before being approached by someone on his tail. It’s here you’re given your first moral choice: rat him out or lie on his behalf. I needed his help and didn’t want to jeopardize that so, yeah, I lied. Naturally, you’ll find Jakarn at the inn surrounded by ladies pining for his attention, and after turning over his plunder he’ll agree to join your crew.
Neramo is a bit less straightforward. If you weren’t paying attention to Kaleen when you arrived on Stros M’kai, you’d probably think he was just another sidequest NPC. Neramo is an elf looking to explore the Dwemer ruins of Bthzark on Stros M’kai, but he can’t get in without your help. You’ll have to navigate the exterior of the ruins and find two crystals that must be configured in order to aid you in gaining entry. Then you’ll meet Neramo who has provided you with a mechanical spider to aid you in the ruins. You’ll need to use a control rod to guide the mechanical spider to a number of generators that need repair. Once repaired, you’ll gain access to the inner area of Bthzark and navigate your way through a number of steam traps and Dwemer contraptions before finally acquiring the technology Neramo is after.
It’s only after you’ve helped Neramo that he insists on rewarding you and finds out about your plans to assemble a crew for Captain Kaleen. Once Neramo learns of Kaleen’s intentions to venture off to the Orc isle of Betnikh, he decides joining your crew would be a mutually beneficial reward. After all, there are more ruins to explore on Betnikh.
Crafty Lerisa is well, crafty. You won’t find her standing around waiting to talk to you. Instead, you’ll be approached by a random passerby on your way to the town of Saintsport where her ship is docked. This character will tell you to seek out Lerisa’s pet monkey if you want to find the crafty pirate. Sure enough, after a short monkey chase in town, Lerisa will appear in a puff of smoke behind you, curious as to why you are seeking her out.
Lerisa’s ship, the Maiden, is wrecked and her crew has been captured by Captain Helane and her Sea Drakes. While Lerisa is interested in joining in on your heist, she won’t leave without her crew, and so it will be up to you to acquire a Sea Drake disguise and undertake your very first stealth mission by sneaking around and freeing her crewmates.
Disguises will let you walk past NPCs of the affiliated faction without drawing aggro as long as you don’t attack, with the exception of ‘Sentry’ NPCs who can be spotted at a distance by the torches they wield. Walking too close to a sentry will reveal you and pop your disguise, aggroing any nearby enemies. It’s not too hard to avoid attention as long as you’re mindful of the sentry pathing, but it was an interesting twist on your standard MMO quest.
Once you’ve freed Lerisa’s crew, Lerisa will want to exact vengeance on Captain Helane, and she’ll do this by disguising herself as a member of her crew and poisoning her drink with a potent, but slow killing poison. With the antidote nearby, Lerisa leaves it to you as to whether or not you let Helane die or administer the antidote. Either way, she’ll agree to help you, even though she isn’t necessarily aligned with Captain Kaleen’s political interests. Money is money and Lerisa needs a brand new ship.
It’s important to note that assembling all of the aforementioned crew isn’t entirely necessary to proceed with the heist. If you like, you can wander around Stros M’kai, tackle sidequests and level up, and then return to Kaleen and begin the heist without having to recruit the entire trio. What the crew does is help you make the heist easier by providing you with tools to get the job done. I’ve done the heist with and without the help of the extra crew and it’s definitely a different experience.
Without the crew, you’ll need to take out a servant and acquire his disguise, knock Bhosek out to acquire his key by poisoning his drink, and distract a guard away from the sailing logs.
With the crew, you’ll meet Lerisa (sweeping the grounds disguised as a servant) at the entrance of Bhosek’s keep, who will then provide you with the disguise. Jakarn will steal the key for you, and Neramo will provide you with a tool that can be used to knock out the guard. He wants you to ‘test it’ for him, of course.
Aside from the main quest outlined above, there are numerous sidequests to tackle on Stros M’kai, but my favorite by far is a quest called Izad’s Treasure. To start the quest, you’ll have to find a ‘map’ in a buried chest at the base of a wrecked ship. It’s more of a list of clues than a map, so you’ll have to figure out how to find the real treasure by reading the clues and looking out for what they mention in the environment. You can also find treasure maps as loot and these maps will only present you with a drawing of where their corresponding treasure can be found. It’s up to you to figure out the rest. These sorts of quests will be really fun for explorers to tackle as long as you can keep yourself from cheating on database sites or asking on zone chat.
It’s also worth noting, just as Bill did in his piece yesterday, that while Elder Scrolls Online is still a themepark in the end, you aren’t really traveling from quest hub to quest hub. You really can just strike out and find things to do all over, though this is a bit less apparent in the starting areas. The starting areas are meant to hold your hand a bit more, but even then, I found all of my quests in a fairly organic fashion. I didn’t feel like I was being led by the nose from hub to hub, vacuuming up quests to tackle. Heck, sometimes the quests come to you.
Michael Bitton / Michael began his career at the WarCry Network in 2005 as the site manager for several different WarCry fansite portals. In 2008, Michael worked for the startup magazine Massive Gamer as a columnist and online news editor. In June of 2009, Michael joined MMORPG.com as the site's Community Manager. Follow him on Twitter @eMikeB