The Elder Scrolls Online: Scribes of Fate Dungeon DLC and Update 37 are out on PC, Mac, and Steam. This update marks the start of a change in the yearly patch release cycle for the game. Veteran players will find the first half of the year familiar with the typical releases of a Dungeon DLC and a new Chapter. The change comes in the second half of the year. A focus on quality-of-life improvements, bug fixes, and a new game system is planned rather than another DLC. I had the chance to play through one of the two new dungeons in this DLC with the developers, Scrivener’s Hall, on normal difficulty. Read on to find out what locations players will be exploring and the challenges they will encounter.
Update 37 brings a slew of adjustments, balance changes, and quality-of-life improvements to the base game. The developers have already noted the implementation of screen narration, a hide shoulders item, and housing improvements. To cover everything would make for a massive article, but I did want to mention two changes that caught my interest.
The first one is a plus for all Elder Scrolls Online players, but especially tanks. Bar swapping while bracing (Blocking) will no longer disable Block temporarily. No more getting one-shotted by the boss on those rare moments when swapping weapons to refresh your back bar of abilities and the timing just happens to line up with a massive enemy damage ability. The second is a change to the Vampire skill line, Mist Form is now a teleport and should be more useful in various situations.
The Scribes of Fate DLC introduces two new Dungeons Scrivener’s Hall and Bal Sunnar. Scrivener’s Hall, located in The Rift, is the one I chose for my preview time since it involved Daedric influences. The players need to enter the location and help Keshargo, the former leader of Scribes of Mora, retake control from Valinna, the leader of a more violent faction.
To succeed, the group needs to help recover an artifact known as the Itinerant Staff. This item allows a wielder to return to Scrivener’s Hall from anywhere and acts as the badge of office for the leader of the Scribes. After creating a new High Elf Sorcerer character, Creative Director Rich Lambert, Lead Encounter Designer Mike Finnigan, and Lead Content Designer Jeremy Sera invited me to the group. Within a few minutes, we were in the instance.
After a short conversation with Keshargo to set up the background story the group is introduced to a new ally named Zilipif, a Daedric Watcher, who will help the party as they progress. Those familiar with The Elder Scrolls Online will recognize Watchers as typically being enemies, but they are also associated closely with the Daedra Prince Hermaeous Mora. Who is an ally this year?
Once underway, we started to encounter Runecarvers as one of our enemies. Mike explained the Runecarver abilities with green spell effects are the same abilities that the new Arcanist class will use later this year once the Necrom Chapter releases in June.
On normal difficulty, I didn’t find the enemies on the way to bosses difficult. While I could pick out the green glow of Runecarver abilities, most seemed to be throwing bolts of energy that quickly were obscured by our own spell effects. The path to each boss is straightforward and easy to follow, though the developers did note that players will notice certain branching green caverns, and others openings, along the way that a completionist, like myself, may want to explore. I was also pleased to see Zilipif wasn’t just along to advance the story and open doors. During combat, our Daedric ally was taking part in the combat, blasting enemies with its own abilities.
Both dungeons in the Scribes of Fate DLC will have three bosses with veteran and hard modes. The first boss players will encounter in Scrivener’s Hall is Riftmaster Naqri. The environment in which Naqri is encountered is interesting as it plays into the boss’ mechanics. Players will find him walking around the library while summoning various books. The books are the main mechanic a group will need to worry about during the fight. A red book summons a phantom which then casts and needs to be interrupted. A white book summons a phantom whose attack can be blocked A green book casts a ground AoE that needs to be dodged. To stop an ongoing book effect players will need to pay attention to glowing tracers in the air that will point to out-of-place books in the library. Running to those locations and clicking on the books will end a related effect. It took me a few tries to reliably pick out the traces in the air above the boss. By the end of the fight, it was easy enough and made for an interesting new boss mechanic. If players don’t keep up, they could get overwhelmed as more books appear. I could see this becoming a real issue in Veteran difficulty.
Once the boss was down, and we continued on, the dungeon’s environment started to take on new elements as we followed the Path of the Deadlands looking for the staff. This "path" eventually takes the group into the Deadlands and to the next boss, Ozezan the Inferno. I found this second boss fight to have more familiar mechanics compared to other boss fights in the game. Ozezan creates large AoE effects that have a long duration centered on the tank, so if they are not careful about the placement, it can cause problems for the DPS and healer. Beyond that, we had to squash bugs as they spawned, run from the occasional eye beam that randomly targeted a group member, and avoid a fire effect by running to the outside of the room or getting sucked into it for massive damage. Out of all the mechanics for Ozezan, the vacuum effect was the most interesting.
After the second boss, the Dungeon again takes a shift as we traveled into the realm of the Daedric Prince Mephala. The Spiral Skein has only been explored in a limited fashion before in The Elder Scrolls Online. The developers pointed out that the world builders and artists on the team were excited to expand further on the environment once again. As we moved forward, they happily pointed out the giant spiders hanging from walls and peering at us from pillars. Again, for those looking to explore away from the beaten path, there are web-covered side caverns that the developers, not so subtly, indicated were worth looking into.
The final boss fight of the dungeon is with the giant spider Lamikhai and Valinna. The fight has three phases and in the first phase, the group needs to face off with Lamikhai. The main mechanic here is for the tank to pull the boss into a frozen AoE created by your ally, so it will take more damage. As each phase progresses the group needs to run from one encounter area to the next or get caught in a massive amount of damage.
During phase two, a trap is placed on the tank where if another player crosses the border it causes an explosion that damages the tank and the player. Valinna then needs to be fought until driven away, and Lamikhai returns. As the party continues to down Lamikhai a large spider will randomly target party members and cocoon them, if the rest of the group doesn’t kill the spider quickly enough, that party member will die once pulled into the enemy.
With Lamikhai down, the fight moves onto phase three as the party runs out of the area and crosses narrow bridges. Players need to cross quickly to a free-standing platform as the bridges burn away behind them. I can easily see myself dying to the "bridge boss" on Veteran if I am not careful. The main mechanic during the final phase is meteors, that if not destroyed will explode, potentially knocking players off the platform into the webbing and darkness below.
Scrivener’s Hall was a fun experience and a nice mix of new and old boss mechanics. I loved dipping into Mephala’s realm again, and the team has done a great job of portraying what this spider-infested landscape might look like. I am looking forward to trying it out on Veteran in the coming weeks.
For those who prefer fewer spiders in their dungeons The Elder Scrolls Online: Scribes of Fate Dungeon DLC will also include the prologue quest for this year’s storyline and a second dungeon, Bal Sunnar. For this one, the Psijic Order is investigating the township and needs help. Players will need to help retrieve a second artifact from the area as they progress through three different time periods and solve the issue with a time anomaly.
For those who follow the story, the artifact from each dungeon will play an important role in the year-long story Shadow Over Morrowind, setting up future events. The Elder Scrolls Online: Scribes of Fate DLC along with Update 37 releases today, March 13th, for PC, Mac, and Steam. March 28th for Xbox and PlayStation.