Preview: The High Isle of Elder Scrolls Online brings knights, chivalry, and some tavern fun
High Island is the next chapter in The Elder Scrolls Online, takes players to the Systres Archipelago. The two main islands you will explore, the eponymous High Isle and Amenos, place players in the highly feudal society of the Bretons. This is a place where Breton culture was able to thrive and thrive. High Isle itself is a place where the medieval code of chivalry and duty to one’s noble house is paramount.
It is also a land inhabited by mystical forces that exist even before the magic of the Bretons, and an island that hides a mighty force beneath.
And a deck of cards.
I sat down in the Gonfalon Bay arcade ready to learn the new tavern game coming in the next chapter of The Elder Scrolls Online: High Isle. As someone who has spent hundreds if not thousands of hours gaming Magic the Gatheringthe idea of a deck of cards within the game intrigues me.
And thankfully, once you get the hang of the basic rules, it’s quite a lot of fun.
Tales of Tribute is a new activity that the ZeniMax Online team is adding to the MMORPG, and it’s part of their attempt to continue to fully flesh out the world. And if you think about it, the idea of tavern games makes perfect sense.
Since the start of IT Eight years ago we could explore taverns and more in pretty much every major city in Tamriel. There was lively music in the form of bards playing for coins, and a place to buy a Tamrielic brew and settle down after an adventure. But there was really nothing to do to do.
It’s not a new concept for that either IT Team add a mini-game or side activity to accompany the main meat and potatoes of the chapter expansion. Most recently, Antiquities gave players the opportunity to explore and learn more about Tamriel while earning some rewards.
However, there is nothing you can really do with your friends. And this is an MMO, after all.
That was something Creative Director Rich Lambert said the team was at the forefront of when developing Tales of Tribute. In fact, Lambert states that the team has been developing ideas for tavern games since 2009.
“We’ve wanted to do this for a long time,” Rich Lambert tells MMORPG. “I remember back in 2009 having ideas for tavern games and what they could be and what people do when they’re not looking and killing or waiting for someone to come and give them a task. So it’s something we’ve always wanted to do. And it made sense to do it.”
Looking at the other activities the team has built up in the past, Tales of Tribute takes on a completely different role in Tamriel. Not only is there a PvE quest chain and the like to work through, but this is really a game that’s going to be social. You can challenge friends, join in-game tournaments when they happen, and even compete on a leaderboard. There will be rewards for players who participate, so there isn’t really anything lost in your time spent sitting in a tavern dealing cards with the best.
How does it work? It’s simple but has impressive depth. Tribute is a resource building game in which both players bring decks to the table and shuffle the two. The goal is to gain a certain amount of prestige.
You do this by buying cards from the Tavern – the middle row between both players – which then add those cards to your deck. Each turn you draw a new hand, and if you run out of cards, simply shuffle them back together and draw again from the supply.
Some cards have effects such as giving gold that players can spend on tavern cards. Others, like The Armory, give both Gold and a resource called Power. Power accumulates during your turn based on the cards you play, and if you make the turn that power turns into prestige.
There are also four patrons that the two players choose at the beginning of the game. These patrons can buff you up and help you (or possibly hinder your opponent) and give a bonus to anyone the patron prefers should they decide to activate them. For example, one of the patrons gives those he favors the opportunity to draw an extra card at the cost of some power. Another could turn the gold you accumulate in a turn into power, which can then be turned into prestige at the end of the turn.
As I mentioned earlier, you win the game by gaining more prestige than your opponent, but you can also win by simply winning over the four patrons. So there will be a constant tug of war between you and your opponent for their favor, in addition to what is happening on the board in front of you.
It’s a fun little side hustle, although I could see wasting hours playing as much as I do Triple Triad and even Gwent. But it’s not the only thing High Island brings players.
Back to the roots
The Elder Scrolls Online, started out as a story about the politics of Tamriel. Sure, Daedric forces might pull a few strings here and there, but the all-out war seen in every corner of Tamriel really took center stage IT since its launch. The Three Banner War has been ravaging the country for years, pitting the alliances against each other.
However, expansions in recent years have seemingly moved away from the day-to-day struggles of those involved in the war, instead overly focusing on the supernatural. It’s also not difficult to understand why. That Elder Scrolls The series is full of some awesome Daedric Princes who deserve their own time to really shine and explore.
However, the outer cosmic struggle can feel a bit monotonous for both gamers and developers.
“It ultimately depends on whether you play the same thing as a player, doesn’t it [devs] Build the same similar thing over and over again, you get a little bored,” Rich said. “So that was a way for us and the team to stretch [our] creative muscles. Telling a more informed story is very different than telling a story about a 100 foot tall red demon that is going to destroy the world.”
The story revolves around peace talks that have begun in secret on the island of High Isle. The three leaders of the alliances meet with a society that Rich describes as practically resembling the Tamrielic arm of the Red Cross, the Society of the Steadfast, to try to broker a lasting peace.
However, as the trailer released earlier this year shows, the boats didn’t necessarily make it to their destination. Players must discover who is behind the attempt to block the peace talks and uncover some of the mysteries behind the magical powers of High Isle.
Like all IT In each chapter, characters from all the stories told so far return into the mix, such as the Breton villain Jakarn or the Khajiit ship captain Za’Ji. New characters are also introduced, such as the intelligent investigator Lady Arabelle and Lord Vacarro, the leader and benefactor of the Society of the Steadfast.
Facing them is the Ascendant Order – an order of knights who use subterfuge and sneak attacks to achieve their goal of throwing off what they believe to be the shackles of the Alliances themselves – led by the mysterious Ascendant Lord and Ascendant Magus. Uncovering the motivations and machinations of the Ascendant Order is central to the plot as they aim to threaten the peace talks.
The setting is very highly imaginative but also takes cues from the early Celtic, Welsh and the rest of the British Isles. It’s a very Arthurian setting, with the various noble houses dictating what happens on the island. Knights conduct tournaments and uphold knightly virtues associated with chivalry. The people of High Isle live in towns that might evoke Arthurian legend.
Stepping into Castle Navine’s courtyard felt like I was in Avalon: tall stone buildings surrounded by turrets and curtain walls dominated my view. The main town of Gonfalon Bay sees stone walls and cobblestone streets lined with waft and adobe houses and thatched roofs. It’s very Tolkien-esque, reflecting a supremely feudal society that the Bretons cultivated and nurtured in relative seclusion from their High Rock brethren.
Outside the towns, on the main island at least, you’ll find rolling green hills dotted with ruins and Stonehenges, the latter central to the druids and culture that inhabit High Isle. This was an interesting find for me as I usually forget that Celtic Druidic traditions are found throughout the original Arthurian legends before they were Normanized.
Amenos is another story. A dense jungle covers the island, acting as a natural prison for murderers, thieves, and even political dissidents that the continent and High Island just want nothing more to do with. It is a nice change and there is more to discover than just a lonely landscape, no matter how beautiful that landscape may be.
As someone who plays mostly Breton characters, it was fun exploring the island and interacting with the culture, which remains largely unexplored in the story The Elder Scrolls. Funnily enough, one of the characters from High Isle also embarrassed me a bit, so much so that I made a whole new preview character to explore the chapter with afterwards.
One of the characters, a mage, complained about the Breton’s focus on the martial aspects of the court, focusing more on sword and shield than what makes Bretons so unique: the blend of elven blood in their veins. As a result, all Bretons have some affinity for magic – and as someone who has played characters primarily associated with Stamina builds (even my Necromancer is a Stam Necro), I immediately rolled a Breton Magicka Wizard, to correct this.
I also enjoy the political intrigue behind the island’s main story. Uncovering the true motivations and identities of the Ascendant Order has felt like solving a riddle. While many of the caves and encounters play out as they normally do IT Fashion, uncovering clues and uncovering history was a blast.
And it’s a nice change too. Before that, the rationale for everything was a little clearer: we really don’t want a vampire lord taking over the world, or this 100-foot tall red demon somehow breaking out of the Deadlands to wreak havoc on Tamriel.
But what if you appeal to the sympathies of the Ascendant Order? What if they address the characters around you? It’s an intriguing thought and given ESO’s Relying on player choice as the driving motivation for some quest decisions could open up some possibilities as the story continues through the end of the year.
As it is now High Island might be my most anticipated chapters of late Elder Scrolls Online Memory. The idea of participating in a mystery that affects the denizens of Tamriel on a more personal, down-to-earth level is appealing, especially after years of celestial influence have dominated the storytelling. The Elder Scrolls Online: High Isle is due out this June for PC, Stadia, Mac, PlayStation and Xbox consoles.
https://www.mmorpg.com/previews/preview-elder-scrolls-onlines-high-isle-brings-knights-chivalry-and-some-tavern-fun-to-the-mix-2000124807 Preview: The High Isle of Elder Scrolls Online brings knights, chivalry, and some tavern fun