MMORPG 'Elder Scrolls Online: Summerset' brings arcana and intrigue to Xbox One and PC

The Elder Scrolls Online has gone through numerous changes over the years. What started off as a lackluster online role-playing game is now one of the best titles on the market. This is mostly due to the fact that ZeniMax Online Studios has aggressively supported the game since launch. The team hasn't been afraid to change the business model as well. There's no longer a mandatory subscription fee and you only have to pay for new expansions which add unexplored dungeons or regions.

Many months ago, Elder Scrolls Online added the Morrowind campaign which took players to Vvardenfell, also known as the Black Isle. This was really the turning point for the game because, beforehand, the only content the game received were small dungeons and quality-of-life enhancements. While they were welcome improvements and great places to test your combat prowess, that sense of grand adventure was missing due to the scope of the content.

Morrowind breathed new life into Elder Scrolls Online because that sense of awe returned, especially for veteran players who had seen it all. Traversing the large island, seeing the colossal mushrooms, hunting new creatures, and solving unpredictable mysteries was a welcome treat for those who were high-level players.

Luckily, Elder Scrolls Online is about to get another similar boost in the coming months. An expansion — which takes place in the high elf realm of Summerset — is going to hit PC on May 21, 2018 and Xbox One a few weeks later on June 5. However, calling Summerset an expansion doesn't do the content justice because it's more akin to adding a game within a game.

The high elves have always been a secretive and reclusive group ever since the advent of the franchise. Gamers haven't been back to Summerset since 1994's The Elder Scrolls: Arena. Keep in mind that this version of Summerset is quite different from the one found in the original game, although you do once again get to visit landmarks like the "Crystal Tower". Surprisingly, the new area is even larger than the one found in last year's Morrowind!

Now, by the decree of Queen Ayrenn, the Summerset's borders are open to all foreigners. The new map is gorgeous to say the least with carotenoid-filled leaves and other vegetation. The architecture also seems much more grand and polished than other areas because the high elves are known for their craftsmanship along with the "dwemer", or dwarves.

The Summerset campaign begins when you speak to Razum-dar, a cat-like Khajit who helps you along the way. Razum-dar wants you to find a few travelers who have gone missing since they arrived in this unfamiliar land. As expected, players uncover that Daedric followers are behind the disappearances. The Daedra are mostly evil spirits who live in the chaotic dimension of Oblivion. Unfortunately, the group has a habit of trying to wreck havoc on the land of the living by influencing their followers.

As such quests go, it turns out that the disappearances are connected to a much darker plot. Soon enough, the mysterious Psijic Order gets involved. The Psijic Order is an ancient guild who are credited as the founders of the oldest and least understood form of magic called "Mysticism". Players may remember a lot of these themes from games like The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.

While the Psijic Order quest doesn't seem to connect so naturally to the events occurring around Summerset, it's a great excuse to give players access to the Psijic Order skill tree. Now even a novice — one unfamiliar with how the universe works — can become familiar with these powerful spells!

The Psijic Order skill tree is available to everyone, regardless of their class. Once you discover the guild's island of Artaeum, you'll unlock the ability to acquire and upgrade the "Psijic Order Skill Line". This list features five new active abilities, five new passive abilities, and one ultimate ability. The spells mostly consist of the power to control time. As you gain ranks within the mysterious order, you get access to even more abilities.

For example, "Time Stop" allows players to freeze the passage of time at a specific location so that enemies are stuck in place. "Meditate" allow you to restore health, stamina and magic over time. Lastly, the ultimate "Undo" power allows you to instantly reset your health, stamina and magic to what they were only four seconds ago. The Undo ability seems a little overpowered especially when you consider the affect it might have in player vs. player battles. However, ZeniMax has probably balanced this considerably as to not give some players an unfair advantage.

Aside from the new main story, the Summerset expansion includes jewelry crafting, the "Cloudrest Trial", abyssal geysers, new world bosses, public dungeons, and much more. There's a lot for experienced players to do, but ZeniMax claims that this new content was also developed specifically with new players in mind.

New players can immediately start their journey in Summerset without the need to level up or finish legacy content first. Launching the game for the first time gives you access to a better tutorial which teaches you the basics. However, let's say that you want to play with an experienced friend who's Level 50. Now that's possible because the world automatically balances itself for the party so no one feels left behind.

Once you're finished with the main Summerset quest, Elder Scrolls Online will lead you back to the original content and story for even more adventures. There's the rest of the continent to explore as well as Morrowind! This is a great way to experience the new adventure without having to grind for it.

Jewelry crafting is similar to other crafting techniques where you can make, improve, deconstruct, research and refine materials at the dedicated station. However, you'll have to harvest materials from "Seams" scattered throughout the landscape to do so. Jewelry crafting now players a major role in "Traits" too.

Players use Traits to give their gear special effects and this allows them to further customize their weapons and armor. Traditionally, Trait materials could be found all over Tamriel, but with jewelry crafting, they can only be sourced by taking part in very specific activities. This seems like quite an annoyance, but you can always purchase them from guild stores if you're desperate.

For example, the "Bloodthirsty Trait" increases player damage against low-health targets, but it can only be found in player vs. player daily rewards. The list goes on and on. There are six new Traits coming alongside Summerset as well which should change up personalization even further.

Before discussing the Cloudrest Trial, it's necessary to draw a distinction between "Delves" and other dungeons. Delves are short, smaller dungeons with a quest attributed to them. Numerous such areas will be scattered around Summerset. In comparison, public dungeons are open for everyone and much more challenging. Lastly, world bosses are difficult groups of monsters that require teamwork to complete. Rushing into tackle world bosses on your own is foolhardy so there's quite a lot of strategy involved. Choosing your fights and circumstances carefully is key to success.

Elder Scrolls Online is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) which wants you to play with others. Forming teams and joining parties is part of the experience. While it's possible to play everything from a single-player perspective, it's not advisable because you won't get the most out of it. As the ages-old saying goes, everyone is stronger as a team.

One of the most exciting additions to Elder Scrolls Online with Summerset is the Cloudrest Trial system. The mission features challenging new mechanics and places an emphasis on greater coordination and teamwork. Trials are designed for groups of twelve players but aren't linear in their approach. Bosses can be defeated in any order, and you can even skip right to the last boss, but you'll then need to take them on all at once if you do so.

Overall, Summerset seems like a great addition to Elder Scrolls Online. There's a lot to do and a gorgeous world to explore. What makes this expansion so intriguing is that fact that we don't know much about the high elves. It's not only a new quest, but also a look into their culture. That sense of wonder never goes away.

Be sure to check out Elder Scrolls Online at your favorite retailer because it takes place in one connected world where you can stay up to date with everything your friends are doing. Whether you play alone or with companions, the MMORPG's combat system allows you to focus on action and tactics. You can use any weapon at any time, no matter what class, and customize your abilities to play the way you want. There are hundreds of quests and other activities to engage in. The goal is to uncover the mysteries of Tamriel and seek heroic missions on your own schedule. You can even explore the far reaches of Skyrim or the sprawling metropolis of Daggerfall. Despite its missteps at launch, The Elder Scrolls Online is now an expansive experience all gamers can enjoy. Plus, it runs at native 4K resolution on Xbox One X!

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Asher Madan

Asher Madan handles gaming news for Windows Central. Before joining Windows Central in 2017, Asher worked for a number of different gaming outlets. He has a background in medical science and is passionate about all forms of entertainment, cooking, and antiquing.