Review: The Elder Scrolls Online: Summerset – As Elegant as the Altmer

For the first time since The Elder Scrolls: Arena, Elder Scrolls fans get a chance to see what all the fuss is about with the Summerset Isles. Just like the High Elves, who are regal and “perfected,” so too is The Elder Scrolls Online: Summerset.

A Daedric plot threatens the entire continent of Tamriel. Three Daedric Princes – Clavicus Vile, Nocturnal, and Mephala – are stirring up trouble in an attempt to gain great power. After players foiled their plots in both Vvardenfell and The Clockwork City, these treacherous entities now set their sites on Tamriel.

This is where the story begins for Summerset, but you by no means have to play the previous downloadable content to enjoy this new chapter. That said, if you buy Summerset you will receive the Morrowind expansion for free, so if you’re a lore junky, treat yourself. The story of Summerset is expansive and intriguing, and rivals that of most plotlines already existing in the game.

You’ll meet Razum-dar, everyone’s favorite Khajiit companion, as well as some new friends. You’ll be working with the legendary Psijic Order to stop the Daedric threat. The island of Artaeum on which these mysterious magi reside is small, but its large coral-like tower is a site to behold. Besides the main story, you can do guild quests for the Psijics like you would for the Thieves Guild. This means you also get brand new time-based skills to choose from. It will be exciting to see what kind of builds players will come up with.

The downside to this is that the quests to expand this skill line are pretty boring and monotonous. The Psijics will have the player seal rifts throughout Summerset and Tamriel proper, and it just isn’t very engaging. That said, the skills make up for it, at least.

But what of Summerset itself? Summerset is easily the most beautiful zone in the game. The landscape is so vibrant and colorful, with Greek-like ruins dotting the landscape and gargantuan Altmer cities spread throughout. I can’t figure out what I like more – the tranquil countryside or pristine cities. Truly these cities are remarkable. They’re filled to the brim with shops and NPCs, making them feel alive. Some MMOs struggle with creating a town or city that feels like a living, breathing entity, but Summerset has captured this exactly.

The downside to the beauty is that the expansion is quite demanding on your PC. There’s a lot of foliage, water, trees and fauna to render, and the cities are bustling with players at the moment. Players have already indicated that with Summerset there have been some performance issues. The solution is either to turn down graphics settings (which would be a shame to do in such a wonderful zone) or wait and see if Zenimax Online can find a fix.

While on the topic of the zone itself, it’s also riddled with plenty of danger. Delves are back and there are quite a few. I really enjoy delves because each one provides a brand new experience, and unlike dungeons or caves in, say, Skyrim, each one is usually unique. Now, there are a few here in Summerset that are really great, like a cave that leads into this beautiful, werewolf-infested landscape, or a coral-encrusted cove with Aldmer ruins littered throughout.

Then there are complete elven ruins proper, which are also really a sight to behold the first time around (especially with sun-shafts enabled), but there seem to be quite a few of these that it becomes repetitive. You’ll happen upon Aldmer ruins which you’ll have to explore, be it as a delve or through quests. These get very monotonous and kind of boring. It has the effect being recycled with only some slight variations between each dungeon. It just isn’t to my liking, especially when other dungeons and delves are so distinguishable.

Along with delves you’ll have plenty of quests. My personal favorite had me help a noble Altmer look into why his ancestral lands are a sunken, swampy waste. The adventure took me on some unexpected turns and I won’t spoil anything, but I will say that each and every random quest I came upon kept me engaged until the end. Truly, Summerset is a delight to those who enjoy solo content.

But there is plenty of group content, too. Geysers – which act much the same as anchors in the base game – are throughout Summerset and require players to work together by fighting several waves of mods to spawn a boss. Kill the boss, seal the rift and get a reward. It’s a good way to get experience and loot. World bosses are back too, and they are quite devastating this time around – I’ll leave it at that.

The public dungeons are very fun. One is Sunhold, which is an enormous city that was taken over by Maomer. It appears to me that it is one of the largest public dungeons in the game, and possibly the largest of any of the other cities in Summerset. Besides that there is Karnwasten, another large area infested by more pirates. It’s a cove that has plenty of twists and turns, and while it wasn’t as fun as Sunhold, it’s still a fun little run to do. For raiders, the trial Cloudrest is a small city high in the mountains of the island. It’s a brief run with just a few bosses, but it was enjoyable.

The last really big inclusion is jewelcrafting. Finally players can craft their own rings and necklaces. The crafting system is quite robust in Elder Scrolls Online, and, of course, so too is jewelcrafting. It works the same as other skills: gather resources, refine them, create items. You can deconstruct jewelry and improve existing pieces. It’s something that should have been in the game to begin with, but I can’t complain anymore since we finally have it.

Summerset is a very comprehensive chunk of DLC. The storyline is really satisfying and the new zone is by far Zenimax Online’s best work. All the other inclusions easily justify the price of this content. If Summerset is any indication as to the quality of future content, then the future is looking very bright for this MMO.

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