Elder Scrolls Online: High Isle proves Zenimax Online can build worlds to rival the Bethesda greats

There’s a point while playing Elder Scrolls Online: High Isle that I think out loud, “This could be its own standalone Elder Scrolls game.” I’ve wondered if the same could be true of the MMORPG’s other yearly expansions, particularly the Skyrim-inspired Greymoor and its Oblivion equivalent, Blackwood, but High Isle excels itself by introducing a brand new side to Tamriel, proving Zenimax Online’s ability to craft dynamic, living worlds from whole cloth to rival Bethesda’s greatest.

High Isle is a triumph; nostalgic in the way its more grounded story captures the vibe of legacy Elder Scrolls games, yet fresh and exciting for the same reason. The last few years of Elder Scrolls Online have been about saving the world from existential threats, be that necromancers and dragons, vampires and harrowstorms, or the Prince of Destruction himself, Mehrunes Dagon. This time around, the story is less epic and more political, personal, and frankly, intriguing. Comparisons have been made to Game of Thronesand I think that’s warranted.

High Isle or High Garden?

Elder Scrolls Online

(Image credit: Bethesda)

The plot of Elder Scrolls Online: High Isle is centered around a tenuous struggle between rival factions that heats up when denizens of the city’s underbelly begin to rise up against the nobles. The way it unravels to involve layers of conspiracy adds a refreshing depth to the characters and their motivations, leaving you with more questions than answers even after you’ve exhausted all of the dialogue options in an interaction. The sympathetic character you meet today could be trying to kill you tomorrow, and you’ll be kicking yourself for not realizing the signs of betrayal earlier. Again, it’s a big departure from the dark magic and cataclysm that’s come to define Elder Scrolls Online, and the return to roots is a big win for High Isle.

Leave a Comment