Another year and another major expansion for The Elder Scrolls Online, and this time we’re taken to the Blackwood region of Cyrodiil. The last time this area appeared was in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. Just like the previous expansion Greymoor, this addition relies a lot on nostalgia to drive the appeal. However it’s been a long time since many players have seen these sights, so it works a lot better here. In fact, this is another very fine addition that, while not quite as good as some earlier expansions, is certainly more exciting than the last addition.
The first thing that is clear from entering the new area is how visually appealing it is. Blackwood has that classic high fantasy charm that Oblivion had. Fairy-filled forests, beautiful castles, and crystal-clear lakes. It looks like something straight out of a fantasy paperback cover and is a breath of fresh air compared to the muted greys of Western Skyrim. There’s a genuine excitement to see what’s around every corner and the locations that are straight from Oblivion look great in the engine.
In fact the whole expansion seems to be taking itself a little less seriously, which is fun. The sidequests and many of the premises for the dungeons are much more humorous and Blackwood had me laughing quite a few times. The Elder Scrolls Online is actually usually very good when attempting a bit of comedy and I’m glad that those behind it are leaning into their strengths with this expansion.
That being said however, the main quest is more serious; much more engaging than many of the other main storylines we’ve seen introduced with these expansions. There’s a variety of twists and turns following a twisted Daedra plot that will genuinely hook you in, in a way that other recent plotlines fail to. It can still sometimes dive too deep into exposition dumps but mostly Blackwood feels well-paced and fun.
The characters are also really interesting and engaging. The cast is varied and there are some serious highlights throughout, and whilst there is sometimes a problem with the storytelling in ESO, a good job has been done in keeping you invested in them in Blackwood.
Generally many of the public dungeons are also fantastic in this expansion. There are several present, but the one that will certainly be a stand-out is the Deadlands. This can be accessed through red glowing portals throughout the region, which will teleport you straight to the Daedric realm. This is beyond cool the first time you see it; essentially you are fighting through hell.
The major new gameplay addition is an exciting one, and is something that on a personal level I have been hoping for. You see, you can now recruit AI companions that follow and help you along the way. You can fully equip these two new recruits with armor and weapons and they also level up independently and unlock new abilities. There’s also a rapport system, where you can interact and grow a relationship with the character, unlocking quests in the process. These new additions are mostly done pretty well and while the companions are not as useful as I would have hoped, it’s a neat addition nonetheless.
There are also a variety of great new items included and I’ve enjoyed seeing all the Daedric equipment that is possible to nab. It’s always interesting to see the ways that the game creates new equipment.
There is also a new trial, which is very interesting; involving Argonians and their culture. This is something which does not get enough attention in The Elder Scrolls and so it’s great to see some kind of focus here. It’s properly challenging and complex and definitely a welcome addition to the roster of great raids that ESO has to offer.
The Elder Scrolls Online – Blackwood is an excellent inclusion. The new companion system is an awesome gameplay enhancement, and despite their lacking in combat it’s incredibly cool to have a partner to explore these worlds with. The new region is dense and gorgeous, offering a great selection of content to work through. In all it’s a return to form in a lot of ways for ESO and a vast improvement over Greymoor. If you’re invested in the current game, this is a no brainer. If you’re looking for a place to start, Blackwood will surely still bring a great time.
Cyrodiil is ready to explore with The Elder Scrolls Online – Blackwood on Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One