I discovered Daedric mysteries and strange recollections in my The Elder Scrolls Online: Gold Road hands-on preview

The Elder Scrolls Online: Gold Road west weald
(Image credit: Bethesda Softworks)

Between the Daedric Prince, who nobody knows is on the loose, and a large forest that's popped up overnight, things in Tamriel are never boring.

I recently had the chance to play through the first several hours of The Elder Scrolls Online's next big chapter, Gold Road, where the aforementioned events are kicking up an environmentally incongruous dust cloud of new quests for players to explore. Continuing on from where things ended in last year's Necrom story, Gold Road follows up on the big reveal, with some uncertain but ill-boding repercussions as Ithelia roams and her followers take action. 

Overall, I came away wanting to immediately continue my time in Gold Road, and I'm looking forward to seeing the story through all the way when it arrives in the summer. Barring some technical issues that need ironing out, ZeniMax Online Studios and Bethesda Softworks appear to be offering one of the most interesting additions yet to this long-running MMORPG. For now, here are my thoughts on the opening to The Elder Scrolls Online: Gold Road.

The Elder Scrolls Online: Gold Road

The Elder Scrolls Online: Gold Road

Grab the next chapter for ZeniMax Online Studios' ongoing dive into the world of Tamriel. The Elder Scrolls Online is 10 years old, and there's a new Daedric Prince on the loose that you need to track down across the West Weald of Cyrodiil. 

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Back to the West Weald

There are threats lurking in the West Weald. (Image credit: Bethesda Softworks)

The Elder Scrolls Online: Gold Road takes players to the West Weald of Tamriel, a section of southern Cyrodiil that was previously seen in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. That means you'll be seeing a similar warm autumnal color palette, with plentiful rolling hills to frolic over. Much of what you'd expect is here, with new achievements and gear to collect. Things don't stay overly familiar, however, as there are also some alien elements thanks to a strange forest that suddenly appeared. 

Without diving into any spoilers, the main questline for Gold Road is focused on finding out just what Ithelia — the newly freed and previously unknown Daedric prince from the cliffhanger at the end of last year's story — is up to. There's also a new threat in the form of the Recollection, a strange faction of Wood Elves that have banded together much faster than would seem possible at first glance, whose influence even threatens the central city of Skingrad.

I'm always down for a mystery, so I had fun following these threads early on, trying to gather information on the who, what, where, when, and why, threatening to consume this portion of Tamriel. Being in the dark can be fun when there's a pressing reason to find answers, and the confusion surrounding trying to figure out what Ithelia is searching for is more than enough to keep me invested. 

There are some fun encounters with challenging mixes of enemies and a couple of threatening bosses early on that kept me on my toes — to be fair, I wasn't using my main handful of characters, so I was playing at a disadvantage compared to how I might normally be — which kept combat from getting too rote or annoying. 

Dangerous enemies lurk in Cyrodiil. (Image credit: Bethesda Softworks)

While I didn't get to play every side quest in the region, there were a couple of highlights that broke away from the normal "find these three items and return" design that has been heavily relied on for so long. A particularly fun side adventure saw the return of everyone's favorite Khajiit investigator, Mizzik Thunderboots! Together with the intrepid Elsweyr answer to Benoit Blanc, I enjoyed solving a mystery involving disappearing legionnaires, missing memories, and a strange tide of ill fortune for a well-off household.

The Elder Scrolls Online always puts a lot of effort into the performance acting for its quest, so allowing the dialogue and uneasy mood to take focus worked well. This is the kind of side quest I'd like to see more of moving forward.

A particularly fun side adventure saw the return of everyone's favorite Khajiit investigator, Mizzik Thunderboots!

While my time was naturally limited, there's also an all-new Scribing system that I can see absorbing countless more hours in the chapter's full release. Scribing is a predecessor to spell-crafting, allowing you to customize unique skills with different effects and appearances. The sample I've seen so far is impressive, and I can only imagine what dedicated players are going to concoct. 

Unfortunately, I did run into a couple of technical issues during the hours I spent in this early version of Gold Road. A couple of these issues were small glitches or errors with descriptions and text that'll obviously be fixed in the final release, but one particular problem caused a headache, as I ran into a gnarly crash error twice when exploring right outside Skingrad.

While a crash would be frustrating but easy to recover from, I was then unable to reload the character in question at all, as the game would continually run into the same exact error whenever I was trying to load said character. I did flag this problem for the developers, so I'm certainly hopeful it'll be fixed when the chapter arrives, but it's still worth flagging here as it did interrupt the flow of checking out the early quests in Gold Road.

A lot to look forward to

Just what is Ithelia looking for? (Image credit: Bethesda Softworks)

Having seen only the opening chunk of the 30+ hour storyline that this particular chapter of The Elder Scrolls Online has to offer, there are a number of questions that I still hold regarding how everything will play out. Just how far does the rabbit hole go for the Recollection? What is this new Daedric Prince really up to? These questions need answers, but so far, things are shaping up well.

I'm also hopeful that the technical issues I encountered will be polished up. Obviously, this build was a work-in-progress, and the team is still ironing lots of things out, but I certainly wouldn't want to run into those crashes on my main characters in the full release. 

The Elder Scrolls Online is celebrating its 10th anniversary across the next year — the celebrations are taking place across 2024 and 2025 in recognition of the gaming launching twice, first for PC and then later for consoles — and while it hasn't been entirely smooth sailing, it's really impressive to look back and see how far this game has come. With nearly $2 billion in spending so far and a by-all-accounts impressive chapter coming this summer, things don't seem to be slowing down anytime soon.

I'm eager to get back to the West Weald later this year and continue unraveling the mysteries surrounding Ithelia, the Recollection, Scribing, and everything else taking place along the Gold Road. 

The Elder Scrolls Online: Gold Road is slated to launch on June 3, 2024, for Windows PC and Mac, while the Xbox and PlayStation versions will arrive on June 18, 2024. The base game for The Elder Scrolls Online is available now in Xbox Game Pass

Samuel Tolbert
Freelance Writer

Samuel Tolbert is a freelance writer covering gaming news, previews, reviews, interviews and different aspects of the gaming industry, specifically focusing on Xbox and PC gaming on Windows Central. You can find him on Twitter @SamuelTolbert.