The Elder Scrolls Online: High Isle Preview

When The Elder Scrolls Online: High Isle was announced alongside the year-long 2022’s Legacy of the Bretons adventure in January, two things really piqued my interest – the change of plot from a looming apocalypse to political plot, and the introduction of the Tales of Tribute card Game. Now, being an ESO nerd, everything about the game excites me, truth be told, but definitely these two ads are what caught my eye the most. So, when ZeniMax invited me to a digital preview of the upcoming High Isle Chapter, hosted by Rich Lambert, Creative Director of The Elder Scrolls Online, I was quick to accept.
The Elder Scrolls Online has just celebrated its eighth birthday – the Anniversary Jubilee event is still in full swing until April 19 – and it’s been a wild ride over the years, with five chapter expansions included, 19 DLC packs and a host of updates. Featuring over 200,000 audio lines in every language, hundreds of thousands of NPCs, and thousands of quests. “ESO is booming and we’re not slowing down. We announced earlier this year that we’ve crossed the 20 million player mark,” Lambert said. “We are advancing towards 21 [million players] Indeed, things could not have been better. We remain committed to quarterly updates and a huge chapter each year.”

Given that the team has been working from home for the past two years due to the pandemic, the constant flow of content and mostly uninterrupted schedule is an impressive feat. Both chapters of Greymoor and Blackwood were developed and released while the team adapted to the new way of working. “The challenges of working from home weren’t simple,” says Lambert. “The team has gone to great lengths to learn how to collaborate, [and] Learn to work together again while we are all together [working] from home. I’m really proud of what the team has accomplished over the past few years. “Both chapters launched with a slew of new content, including features like Antiquity and Companion systems, and were accompanied by three DLC versions each. The upcoming sixth chapter, High Isle, is developed from the team’s work-from-home environments like the previous two chapters, and is on The right way to offer the same amount of content.

Ancient manuscripts online preview High Island

“This is a location that has never been seen in The Elder Scrolls. The island chain was only on a map in Redguard, there are no science books about it, and there is absolutely no information about it, so this was an exciting thing for the team,” Lambert says. “They were able to work closely with Bethesda Game Studios on this to come up with what we wanted and how it relates to general lore, and I’m excited about what we came up with.”

In recent years, we’ve had the Daedric lords plot and the conspiracy to destroy Tamriel, vampires threatening to exterminate us with armies of werewolves and witches, dragons laying waste in vast swathes of land, and the load rising from their aquatic homes to once again become a royal pain in the ass. It was one horrific event after another, and as a result, it is easy to forget that Tamriel is still in the midst of the bloody Three Banners War. This year, Rich and the team have focused their attention on the most destructive and complicit Tamriel has ever encountered…humans.

“Don’t take the size of the island chain at face value according to the map,” Lambert explains. “Like the real world, not all world maps are correct.” “This year’s chapter is as big as the previous one in terms of exploreable space.” The High Isle is part of the Systres Archipelago, which was originally used as a springboard for all naval navies during the war with the Sload. Over time, it has transformed into an island resort for Breton’s richest and features Arthur’s tournament courts and magnificent castles, which showcase the best of Breton architecture. For the nobles of the High Isle, life is built on politics and grandeur – it’s not all about its neighboring Amenos Island.

Ancient manuscripts online preview High Island

Amenos is a New York-style prison escape on a lush jungle island. Dumpster for anyone not affiliated with, or unwelcome, on Hay Isle – political prisoners, criminals, dissidents, and the like. The prison itself is built on a giant caldera, and anyone thrown into it is on their own. Lambert did not go into details about what we would be doing on the island, but said there is a small group on the outskirts of the island with a safe area with missions and objectives to explore. Traveling between islands requires the use of boats, and any area with wealthy people riding boats, under video game law, must have pirates. If you’ve played Shipwright’s Regret’s new dungeon introduced with progressive DLC, you’ve already met scallywags that are wreaking havoc on the coasts of the High Isle.

The Nobles of High Isle have the guts of the Dread Sail pirates who have caused havoc and hired you to raid their home base in a new 12-player trial. According to Lambert, we can expect the new beta to be roughly the same size as Rockgrove, which was added with the Blackwood chapter. It features three unique bosses, all with their own hard mode difficulties, and ZeniMax has ensured that the experience is packed with new visuals and mechanics that will put the players under pressure. “The team really took a lot of lessons learned and did some pretty wild and crazy things,” says Lambert. “I think the players will enjoy a lot of what has in store for them.”

Ancient manuscripts online preview High Island

Ditching the cataclysmic events and focusing more on political intrigue, High Isle draws our attention to the War of the Three Signs and helps us dive into Breton culture. A humanitarian organization known as Al-Samidin Association is trying to negotiate peace talks to end the War of the Three Banners. Lambert describes them as being associated with the Red Cross, so they focus on providing assistance to those affected by war. Of course, negotiating peace talks would not be curious on its own, and war has a way of favoring certain people or organizations.

This particular organization is known as the Ascendant Order. It is a mysterious group, led by the most mysterious Rising Lord and Rising Magus. Nobody knows who they are because they never show up in their full clothes and masks – why do you when your armor is so cool, right? The ultimate goal of the system is to abolish the Three Alliances completely, and free Tamriel from their rule. It will be up to us to find out who they are and put an end to their schemes.

Ancient manuscripts online preview High Island

With each new chapter, the team is always looking to add a whole new feature to The Elder Scrolls Online, and High Isle is no different. This year we’ll be getting Tales of Tribute card game, a competitive double-sided turn-based PvE and PvP deck-building game, with science and storytelling at its core. The idea behind Tales of Tribute is that you build your deck when you’re actually playing rather than creating a deck out of the game and using it against your opponent. This is what the team imagines Tamriel residents play when sitting in bars or taking long boat trips to distant beaches.

The core of the Tales of Tribute is of course your deck of cards, or Patron Decks, as they are called here. As the name suggests, each collection is based on patrons of the different Elder scripts, such as Hunding, Pelin, and Duke of Crows. Each deck contains a deck of 20 thematically related cards focusing on different gameplay mechanics. Some decks are about drawing cards quickly, while others are about removing your opponent’s cards or generating resources. There will be eight decks available when High Isle launches; Four will automatically unlock once you complete the tutorial, and the other four can be won by other means.

It looks like Tales of Tribute will find its way into many other aspects of Elder Scrolls Online, with unlocking achievements, rankings, and other activities offering you a chance to earn upgraded cards for your decks. Various aspects of the gameplay can reward you with puzzles that, once solved, can take you to parts of Tamriel to find upgrades – this sounds like it might be similar to the antiquity system but on a larger scale, and the cards you discover will be just as relevant to you as the relics. Now, while upgrading your cards can certainly help with the power of your Patron Decks, that doesn’t mean you’ll have an advantage over your opponent. The Elder Scrolls Online has always ensured that it is accessible to players of all levels, and Tales of Tribute is no different. Just because your opponent has spent hours unlocking all the cards, it doesn’t mean that he will wipe the floor with you.

Ancient manuscripts online preview High Island

When starting a game of Tales of Tribute, both players choose two Patron Decks each, which are mixed into one pile and placed in the middle of the board, called Tavern. Both players get a hand of ten starting cards and start playing. The object of the game is to achieve victory in one of two ways: gain the favor of all four recipients by paying their price, or gain 40 Prestige Points, which are earned at the end of each turn when your remaining power is transferred. Basically, you earn more Prestige the more resources you control (gold, prestige, power). Of course, defending your resources or not blowing them up is the key to winning the Tales of Tribute, but it looks like you’ll be done with your work.

Tales of Tribute features three types of cards – Action, Agent, and Contract – all offering various functions such as destroying enemy cards, defending yourself, generating resources, etc. The main card type to be played are business cards, which have multiple purposes such as drawing and discarding cards, stealing resources from your opponents, helping you generate extra power, and the like. Once you play the action card, it is placed in your trash. Besides these special business cards are called agents, and unlike basic business cards, agents are placed on the board with various effects that hinder your opponent and force them to deal with their effects. Finally, Contract cards are powerful one-shot cards designed to be used immediately before being removed from the game.

As I said before, Tales of Tribute features both PvE and PvP game modes. It has a full story to experience with NPCs around Tamriel, a PvP side with progression and a seasonal leaderboard that pays rewards like Arena and Cyrodiil boards. Much like the other aspects of The Elder Scrolls Online, there will be plenty of rewards available to players who enjoy playing it, such as gold, crafting materials, furniture, emotes, cosmetics, transforming crystals, and the like.

Ancient manuscripts online preview High Island

We didn’t get a chance to get to know the two new companions, Ember and Isobel, during the event, but the latest reveal from ZeniMax has them covered in more detail. Lambert told us that the quality of life improvements are in the way the leaderboards are rewritten, which should provide a more reliable experience and show all the data once the High Isle is released. Plus, Armory will finally save your pick Mundus Stone with your gear, so you don’t have to trigger Mundus every time you switch to a different build – that was just a pain in the butt.

“This is really, really a big chapter for us, a big moment for us. It’s High Isle and Amenos, over 30 hours of quest content. There’s a lot of things to explore here. A very different story. We have appreciation coming and [and] “We have something for our veteran players,” says Lambert. “This is our moment and we are really excited about it. The team has spent a lot of time on this, and I think it’s our best class so far.”

That being said, The Elder Scrolls Online: High Isle looks amazing, and I can’t wait to dive into the content with Warden – dressed up as Breton Hero from the trailers because he’s an ace. I’m more interested in Tales of Tribute now that I understand its basic formula, and I’m sure it would provide a great way to spend a few hours downtime between veteran dungeon runs. I’ll be ready to launch High Isle on June 21! Who is with me?