The Elder Scrolls Online: Gold Road Review

The Elder Scrolls Online: Gold Road Review – More Bronze Than Gold

[Note: Spoilers for the Necrom chapter are included in this review]

We’re at the midyear point, which means another Elder Scrolls Online annual expansion is upon us. 2024 is home to Gold Road, an all-new chapter that whisks players’ Soulless One to the Southern region of Cyrodiil, and it marks the MMO’s tenth anniversary. In Gold Road, our protagonist must venture to the West Weald, where a forgotten Daedric Prince and an emerging cult are wreaking havoc.

As far as premises go, the introduction of a never-before-seen Daedric Prince entering the fray presents a strong foundation for the added narrative. It’s a story the builds off of the events embedded within last year’s strong Necrom chapter. Furthermore, Gold Road houses the city of Skingrad, giving series’ fans their first chance to revisit the city since the 360/PS3-era Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. And while there isn’t a brand new class, like last year’s Arcanist, awaiting ESO‘s community, there is a scribing mechanic that promises to provide a long overdue shake up existing skills with added effects. On paper, Gold Road sounds like it has the makings for one of the greatest expansions to date… and yet, it’s not.

A Forgetful Forgotten Daedric Prince

Arguably more so than previous chapters, Gold Road all but requires playing through the previous chapter (Necrom). We learned that Hermeaus Mora, the Daedric Prince of Knowledge, perceived Ithelia as a threat due to her ability to manipulate fate and shape destiny. For this reason, Herma Mora erased the memory of the Mistress of the Untraveled Road from existence, leading her to become the forgotten Daedric Prince. Well, that memory wipe wasn’t meant to last forever, I suppose, as Ithelia is back. Since we’re still contracted to Hermaeus Mora in resolving this threat revealed last year, Gold Road feels more like a Part Two rather than a more standalone experience. Whether or not that’s a good thing is dependent on if you have been keeping up on the content.

While Ithelia represents an incredible opportunity to take the narrative in new directions with a previously unknown Daedric Prine, it largely falls flat. Unfortunately, primary characters felt either inconsistent or poorly fleshed out (or both). That’s not just true of Ithelia, but also of the Wood Elf-led faction called The Recollection who seek to restore Ayleid culture and have conjured an encroaching jungle in Cyrodiil. The motives and story beats felt predictable, although a handful of side quests were able to break into a higher tier of quality than the main questline. One of the main quests tasks players with holding off enemies with a ballista, but it felt like a poorly ripped segment from the PvP tutorial and didn’t offer anything impressive. In fact, the enemies didn’t seem to be in any rush to avoid getting obliterated by the incoming fire, happily lining up and remaining static as follow-up shots were readied. All in all, the story makes a great pitch, but it never fully realizes its potential.

The new environment itself fares better. Exploring Ayleid ruins is sure to delight players, as will the Mirrormoor plane of Oblivion. The amount of variety packed into the different areas made traveling around the new map one of the most exciting ventures. The ZeniMax team knows how to beautifully craft locales and evoke that sense of wonder as they piece together more of the Tamriel continent. That said, Skingrad felt a bit disappointing. I understand that the tighter, narrow design of the city seen in Oblivion was both built within the constraints of earlier technology and debuted in a single player game; the MMO version was undoubtedly always going to be more spacious. But the end result is something that doesn’t result in the same immediate nostalgia like we experienced when visiting Solitude again in the Greymoor chapter. Still, that’s only one area that’s lacking compared to the other gorgeous zones.

Scribing, Not Spellcrafting

While there isn’t a new class embedded within Gold Road, there is the scribing system. It may not exactly satisfy the longstanding call for spellcrafting, but it feels like a step in that direction. At level 30, the scribing questline becomes available. Mind you, it is one of the most unimaginative and tedious mission structures I’ve seen so far. Once unlocked, players can augment pre-existing skill with new effects. You’ll use Grimoires to alter these skills, and those Grimoires are further tweaked with scripts. Scripts come in three flavors: Focus, Signature and Affix. These define the function, add unique effects and provide a benefit, respectively. For example, you could use Soul Burst to, as the name implies, unleash a burst of powerful soul magic around you. This can be further modified with a shock damage focus script, a healing signature script, and an affix script that grants minor expedition. There are numerous combinations available to add some personalization and creativity to builds. However, the system is in its infancy and the system needs much more growth to truly shine.

Assessing the entire package, Gold Road falls short of its predecessor by a fair degree. The West Weald offers up some stunning locations, but it’s filled with a story that fumbles an exciting premise and contains tedious, formulaic mission design. And while scribing does create new build options, it’s far from being as fleshed out as it needs to be in order to provide major change. In the end, Gold Road isn’t the showing you’d expect for The Elder Scrolls Online‘s 10th anniversary milestone.

The Elder Scrolls Online: Gold Road Review Verdict

The Elder Scrolls Online: Gold Road: The Elder Scrolls Online: Gold Road doesn't make the most of its new Daedric Prince, nor does it drastically shake up the tired mission design. Scribing is a welcome inclusion, but it needs more expansion and tweaking to foster long-term change for the MMO. Still, Gold Road knows how to create gorgeous vistas as the backdrops for your continued adventure. Joshua

von 10

Editor’s Note: The Elder Scrolls Online: Gold Road was reviewed on PC and a copy was provided to us for review purposes.

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