The Elder Scrolls Online: Necrom preview — Familiar faces and a 'hardcore' Arcanist class

Screenshot of The Elder Scrolls Online: Necrom.
(Image credit: Bethesda Softworks)

The next major expansion to The Elder Scrolls Online, Necrom, doesn't arrive until June 5. But I had the opportunity to dive into an hour-long sneak peek at the game at GDC 2023, ahead of the public test server launch on April 17.

Necrom adds 30+ hours of new quests, so I could only scratch the surface of what this portion of Shadow over Morrowind will cover. But I had the chance to explore two new zones, test out the new Arcanist class, receive a quest from fan-favorite Skyrim character Hermaeus Mora from Skyrim, and catch a glimpse of the latest Trial. 

I also got a chance to speak with ESO game director Matt Firor briefly about what gamers have most to look forward to from the new expansion. Necrom absolutely brings a different vibe than the High Isle expansion last year. And based on my brief ESO: Necrom preview, I suspect Apocrypha will become a new favorite area for ESO players to explore.

Screenshot from Elder Scrolls Online: Necrom showing Arcanist combat in Apocrypha

(Image credit: Bethesda Softworks)

Elder Scrolls: Necrom adds Apocrypha — the Oblivion realm ruled by the Daedric Prince Hermaeus Mora in the Dragonborn DLC — and the Telvanni Peninsula. The second zone first appeared in 1994 Elder Scrolls: Arena and could only be seen at a distance in Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, making this the first time players could visit it in three decades.

I asked about how the 1994 game influenced Telvanni Peninsula design, and Firor joked that "it's not flat and 8-bit anymore," and that their main focus was to faithfully incorporate the lore across the last 20 years or so into your experience in Telvanni.

House Telvanni is a powerful, reclusive, and amoral group of Dunmer wizards that was popular with Morrowind players for their meritocratic approach to rising in the ranks (and in spite of some odious beliefs like being pro-slavery). No doubt you'll find plenty of morally dubious characters and tough choices in the Peninsula in ESO, too.

Screenshot from Elder Scrolls Online: Necrom showing Arcanist combat

(Image credit: Bethesda Softworks)

Still, I spent most of my hour as an Arcanist in Apocrypha, exploring my Eldritch horror surroundings; I was told about 60% of Necrom's content is in this zone, in order to counterbalance some players' fears that this was "just another Morrowind expansion." 

After the dungeon-heavy Scribes of Fate, Necrom will certainly shift in tone and ambiance. I liked some of the new monsters, like these hermit crab-like monsters burrowed into flying books that attacked me at one point.

I'm not allowed to discuss the main questline with Hermaeus Mora, but I can and will share my brief side quest I stumbled upon (skip past the next image if you'd rather not be spoiled, but I won't spoil much). 

I discovered a group called The Chorus whose bodies sang in harmony while their minds resided in a shared dream realm. But one chorus member was causing disharmony and waking people from the dream in their attempts to escape; so you had to defend the Chorus from monsters and then enter the dream yourself to find the culprit and discover their motive.

Rich Lambert, creative director of The Elder Scrolls Online, told WC in a previous interview that players found some of their recent quests a "little bit too formulaic," and that they've taken that feedback to heart. I can't possibly speak to Necrom's full experience after an hour of play, but this one side quest intrigued me, and I'm anxious to find out how it ends.

I'm also not allowed to discuss the Sanity's Edge Trial, beyond what's already been revealed (you'll enter a Mage Guild member's mind to save them). So I'll simply say that the creepy ambiance before the attempted delving has me excited to form a 12-person team and get started with the mental rescue.

Screenshot from Elder Scrolls Online: Necrom showing the Sanity's Edge Trial boss Ansuul the Tormentor

(Image credit: Bethesda Softworks)

I'll admit that I haven't spent as much time in ESO in recent years, so I died a few times trying to figure out the Arcanist class after skipping its tutorial. 

The Arcanist mechanics rely on "crux," or combo points. You build up crux by damaging enemies or healing allies in succession, and then you can activate crux to make your abilities more effective or trigger new effects. Any ability can be used without crux, but you'll need to use your points wisely or else certain moves won't be worth using!

With the Arcanist class, "you can choose when to be hardcore," Firor says. For more "casual" players like me, you can use its abilities without really relying on crux at all, as you would with another class, and still complete dungeons and quests. But for more hardcore content for long-time players, the Arcanist has more strategic depth than their previous classes.

What will intrigue players most is Arcanists' new portal ability called Apocryphal Gate to move to another location instantaneously; the portals are apparently static, meaning you don't have to recast the spell if you choose to return through it. The devs assured us that the portal ability can't be used to go out of bounds, though I'm certain players will challenge that claim during the PTS.

Screenshot of The Elder Scrolls Online: Necrom.

(Image credit: Bethesda Softworks)

I asked Firor what excites him most about Elder Scrolls Online: Necrom, and he pointed to the return of plotlines and characters from both the 2002 Morrowind game and the 2017 ESO Morrowind expansion. So you'll have both "fun stuff with new characters, but you're going to run into some old friends too."

Some of the allies revealed during my Necrom preview included an Altmer follower of Hermaeus Mora, a dead Telvanni magister who's prickly but lonely, and a Dunmer male whose name matches that of a Morrowind NPC you might remember.

Firor also hinted at the next fall 2023 update that they're not revealing just yet, but that would continue the theme that "Morrowind is in danger and Hermaeus Mora is involved somewhat." So you can expect to spend more time in that psychedelic, mushroom-filled land throughout the year.

Screenshot of The Elder Scrolls Online: Necrom.

(Image credit: Bethesda Softworks)

While I'm still eagerly waiting for Elder Scrolls VI, it was funny to see the devs reveal a map of Tamriel and just how much of it is now available to explore in The Elder Scrolls Online now. I can't share the map (sorry!), but there are only a few key locations left for Bethesda to mine that ESO hasn't already touched upon!

My Elder Scrolls Online: Necrom preview made me excited to dive back into the world as a relative beginner, and the reactions of my fellow media members (who all seemed to be more familiar with ESO's recent expansions than me) were all positive. Evidently, Necrom will only solidify ESO as one of the best Xbox games for anyone who loves MMORPGs and exploration. 

The Elder Scrolls Online: Necrom is launching on June 5, 2023 for Windows PC and Mac players. It's also coming to Xbox and PlayStation consoles on June 20, 2023.


The Elder Scrolls Online: Necrom

Inspired by cosmic horror mythos, ESO: Necrom offers a 30+ hour quest line, the Telvanni Peninsula and Apocrypha to explore, a new Arcanist class, two new companions, new music, new loot and achievements, and plenty of bug fixes and performance upgrades.

Buy from: Xbox | Xbox (Deluxe Edition)

Michael L Hicks
Senior Editor, Android Central

Michael is the Senior Editor of VR and fitness tech at sister-site Android Central, but happily lends his help to the Windows Central team for games coverage.