The Elder Scrolls Online: High Isle is the sixth major expansion of the online role-playing game. Tenth if we count the game’s big DLCs Orsinium, Dark Brotherhood, Thieves Guild and Clockwork City. The developer Zenimax Online has expanded and refined The Elder Scrolls Online immensely since its release in 2014. Over 20 million players have had time to venture into the connected Tamriel. Countless updates and quality improvements have been implemented in addition to major content extensions. Today, it is hard to imagine that this game was launched to great criticism when it went.
With all that said, I want to point out that Zenimax Online has found a working formula for the online role-playing game. High Isle will be the fourth expansion that is part of a year-long adventure lined with associated DLC and microtransactions of various kinds. The structure of the adventures and activities have followed the same pattern for years. And even if it sounds like a weakness, I can attest to that The Elder Scrolls Online is an entertaining MMORPG, with high quality and great freedom.
This is of course reflected in every major chapter of the game. High Isle is no exception. Varvat has had the opportunity to visit the new region in advance and dip our toes in the adventure that comes to PC and Mac and Stadia on June 6 (and Playstation and Xbox on June 21). While the structure of the assignments looks like the majority of the game’s all chores, the quality of the script and voice acting remains very high. The musical arrangements for this expansion, along with the drama from the actors, are as usual phenomenal.
More medieval, a little less fantasy
High Isle takes a slightly more down-to-earth approach to storytelling. The epic battles between gods and cosmic powers that threaten the existence of all living things have had to take a step back. Instead, we are faced with a slightly more human drama. Inspired by Arturian tales and the European Middle Ages, we are thrown into a political struggle fraught with intrigue and conspiracies. Seemingly free from demons, death cults and the influence of supernatural beings. High Isle is less fantasy, more medieval.
The feeling of the Middle Ages is enhanced by the region’s nature and infrastructure. The first impressions consist of castles of gray stone and fields of sunflowers, lined with the occasional druid ring. Gone are all the giant mushrooms, ornamented elf constructions and magical things. Tamriel is admittedly a world cast in magic, but this adventure takes a short break from everything hypermagic. For the better.
The cards on the table
When High Isle was unveiled at the end of January, many of us were surprised by the game’s new activity: a card game. Tales of Tribute is a competitive card game that takes place in the online role-playing game rather than in an application outside. Zenimax has not done a half-baked job or simple mini-game. Tales of Tribute is a seemingly well-thought-out game system that complements the world of online role-playing. You collect deck of cards, challenge players and computer-controlled characters in games. A separate adventure is linked to the card game and it will have its own ranking system. A myriad of rewards can be won and committed players can put together their own tournaments between raider and leveling.
Tales of Tribute is not any strategy, or collectible-based card game either, and does not mimic Hearthstone, Magic: The Gathering or Pokémon Trading Card Game. Nor is it like Bethesda’s own The Elder Scrolls: Legends. Tales of Tribute is something completely new, with its own rules and functions. Just like the game’s other philosophy of an open and accessible game world without level restrictions, a beginner can play against a veteran and have the same technical conditions to win.
NOTE: Tales of Tribute has no booster packs to buy or microtransactions tied to the game. All decks of cards can only be obtained by playing.
Everyone is welcome at a party
We skip the rule explanations. However, what can be important to understand with Tales of Tribute is that instead of collecting individual cards and building a personal deck of cards, you use ready-made games that have their own themes and cards. The games are eight in number and you get them in a number of different ways. Some of the cards themselves can be upgraded with special items you may come across during your adventures. If the Tales of Tribute wins the hearts of the players, we can most likely expect more games over time.
What makes Tales of Tribute so inviting is that both players share four decks of cards. Each player chooses two games they want to contribute to the game. Then all four games are mixed and the opponents then share the pile. This means that both players have equal technical conditions to win, regardless of which games they contribute. For this reason, the entry threshold for Tales of Tribute is low. But of course it is much harder to master the game, as knowing the rules of the game and the different functions of the games becomes crucial.
In the same way, the basic rules of the game are easy to understand, while the interplay between all cards and features leaves room for advanced play and exciting tactics. Of course, it is impossible to determine how the card game will last in the long run, what uses the game will have in the online role-playing meta and social circles. What is clear, however, is that Zenimax’s commitment. The card game is proper and well thought out. It only remains to be seen if Tales of Tribute is something the player population did not know they wanted.