Windows Central Verdict
A great new storyline and a stellar new class mean Necrom is a fantastic addition to the long-running saga of The Elder Scrolls Online.
Varied and gorgeous environments
The Arcanist is a fantastic new class
Great new companion
Quest design feels extremely familiar
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When Hermaeus Mora, the Daedric Prince of Knowledge, tells you they don't understand a mysterious new threat, it's probably worth paying attention.
That's the kickoff for Necrom, the 2023 expansion for The Elder Scrolls Online. The team at ZeniMax Online Studios made some changes for this year's content roadmap, but players still got a new large expansion to enjoy. With Necrom, a dark mystery lurks, presenting a threat to both the world of Nirn and to Apocrypha, the realm in which Hermaeus Mora lurks.
Outside of this story, which takes players across a new region of Morrowind and the Daedric realm of forbidden secrets, The Elder Scrolls Online: Necrom introduces a new class, companions, and more. Overall, it's some of the most fun I've had in this MMORPG so far, and a compelling expansion to pick up regardless of how long you've been playing.
Disclaimer: This review was made possible by a review code from Bethesda Softworks. The company did not not see the contents of this review before publishing.
The Elder Scrolls Online: Necrom — What I liked
Developer: ZeniMax Online Studios
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Playtime: ~15 hours (main quest only)
Release date: June 20, 2023
Platforms: Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Windows PC, Mac, PS5, PS4
Reviewed on: Xbox Series X
The plot kicks off quickly, as the eldritch Hermaeus Mora...needs some help? It turns out that the Daedric Prince somehow cannot perceive a threat to Apocrypha and Nirn, a thing that really shouldn't be possible. With the stakes so high, the player is recruited into unravelling a dark mystery with multiple components.
Without revealing too much, it's a compelling story, one that had me hooked almost immediately but doesn't show its hand too frequently. Last year's expansion, High Isle, was also a mystery, but here the story is more contained, and the developers have clearly taken feedback on the pacing of the 2022 expansion, as I never felt tired or like I was running around unproductively in circles.
Players also won't be waiting for DLC packs later on in the year for a final confrontation with some big antagonist. This change to how the developer is doing things has some potential drawbacks (more on that below) but overall, I really don't think it took away from how dense the narrative was in Necrom. On the contrary, it made things more exciting knowing for sure that most of the details would be wrapped up and that what's coming next would be something completely different.
Necrom also introduces two new companions to recruit: Azandar Al-Cybiades, a Redguard Arcanist, and Sharp-as-Night, an Argonian assassin. Both are solid additions to the small but growing roster, bringing personal side missions to get you invested before recruiting them.
In particular, I have a feeling that Sharp-as-Night, voiced by Brandon Keener (Garrus in the Mass Effect games) will become a fan favorite, not only for his versatility in combat but also his dry wit and constant wry remarks.
Outside of your companions, Necrom introduces an entirely new way to play The Elder Scrolls Online with the Arcanist class. One of only three classes added to the game since launch — the last one to be added was the Necromancer in 2019's Elsweyr expansion — the Arcanist draws on the power of Apocrypha to use weird magic for healing and offensive attacks.
I made an Arcanist character to play through Necrom, and I'm glad I did, as this class is extremely fun. It's fairly easy to pick up, with devastating energy attacks and powerful healing magic that keep you alive even against powerful foes. The class has some special talents that hard to master however, with the Crux system adding an additional layer of complexity for anyone that truly wants to see their spells shine.
Speaking with some of the developers before Necrom's launch, they noted that the Arcanist had already become a studio favorite, and it's hard to see how that won't extend to the general playerbase moving forward. The abilities and possibilities this class provides are exciting.
Finally, the developers have spoken openly about how things will work a bit differently for the year-long Shadow over Morrowind adventure. In previous years, a year's adventure in The Elder Scrolls Online would consist of a DLC pack, then the big expansion, and then two more DLC packs later in the year.
While we've already gotten a DLC before this with Scribes of Fate, the third quarter update for Necrom is going to be primarily focused on quality-of-life patches and improvements. Meanwhile, the fourth quarter DLC is supposedly something very, very different from any prior content packs. It's not easy to judge right now how this shake-up will play out, but in theory, the idea of taking a quarter to focus specifically on needed fixed and responding to community feedback bodes well for the game.
The Elder Scrolls Online: Necrom — What I disliked
While I didn't really have a problem with it, some players may be upset at seeing Morrowind again, even if it's a new section of that particular province. While I never get tired of the vibrant colors and all-around strangeness that Morrowind provides, I can see some players being annoyed that about half of this expansion is visually familiar, even if the Telvanni Peninsula is somewhere we've never technically visited before.
Outside of that, while the writing quality here is fantastic and carries the plot forward with speed, the actual quest design is extremely familiar to what's come before. It's not the end of the world, but if you've been tired before of having to find three key locations per quest before returning to a central location and then repeating the process again at each new spot, you better get comfortable.
The Elder Scrolls Online: Necrom — Should you buy?
Overall, The Elder Scrolls Online: Necrom is a great time and has provided a great new reason to jump back into ZeniMax Online Studios' MMORPG or check it out for the first time. The story and writing are top-notch, and even if the quest design feels a little dated, it's worth pushing through to find out just what's really going on. Picking up new companions (including the excellent Sharp-as-Night) doesn't hurt either.
Even if you've got characters you've invested a ton of time in, I highly recommend trying out the Arcanist, which is by far and away my new favorite way to play.
The Elder Scrolls Online: Necrom is currently available on Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Windows PC, Mac, PS5, and PS4.
The Elder Scrolls Online: Necrom
No matter if you're new to the scene or a veteran that's been in since day one, Necrom is one of the most compelling additions to The Elder Scrolls Online in a long time, bringing a solid story and an awesome new class that's almost certain to become the new favorite.