Game Name: The Elder Scrolls Online: Imperial City DLC
Platform(s): PS4, Xbox One, PC, Mac
Publisher(s): Bethesda Softworks
Release Date: 15.09.15
Reviewed on: Xbox One (review copy courtesy of Bethesda)
Like a lovely Sunday roast or a cheeky Nandos, ZeniMax Online Studios have perfected a recipe for something that I can’t help but return to time and time again. The Elder Scrolls Online has been my delectation of choice for what feels like an eternity; the perfect blend of herbs, spices and outrageous MMORPGing action. How excited I was, then, to learn that more content was headed right for me in the form of the hotly anticipated Imperial City DLC. Surely this was to be the icing on my metaphorical gaming cake…
I’m going to drop the food analogies pretty swiftly here and delve straight into what this DLC pack contains. 2500 Crowns (£15) or an ESO Plus membership will buy you the following: six nostalgia-fuelled Imperial City districts, plenty of PvP/PvE combat areas, a huge public dungeon, new collectibles, a Tel Var Stone system and a variety of little armor upgrades and crafting skill lines that will probably mean very little to anyone other than the hardcore ESO-nuts. In theory this is fantastic value for money, providing gamers unlimited playtime in a new space – a hook highly similar to the map packs that litter the Call of Duty franchise.
Despite this being a substance-over-style expansion, the narrative is particularly uninspired. It seeks to resolve Mogal Bal’s Planemeld story arc, whilst embroiling gamers in a war spun between the evil lord and the three general alliances. Yes, he’s at it again, Molag Bal is now attempting to rule the Imperial City with his Xivkyn beasties and – for some reason – everyone else. It’s up to you and – for some reason – everyone else, to save the day. Confused? Let me enlighten you.
Imperial City is, for the most part, a wholly PvP/PvE experience. There isn’t much here to do as a solo gamer, meaning if you happen to play with friends half way across the world (as evidently, I do) you’ll more than likely have to twiddle your thumbs until they show up. Occasionally frustration gets the better of you and you’ll find yourself stocking up with the convenient sewer-based merchants’ health potions, ready to take on one of Elder Scrolls’ most important cities single-handed. Bad idea – bad, bad idea.
I don’t dislike the Imperial City DLC, not in any shape or form. At the end of the day it’s still the amazing Elder Scrolls Online experience just made far more difficult due to the consistency of human opponents and high-level creatures. Whilst attempting to play through the main quest (something I prefer to do rather than diving straight into any public dungeons) I was reminded of a line from a T.S Eliot poem: ‘Footfalls echo in the memory, down the passage we did not take, towards the door we never opened, into the rose-garden’. Try and overlook the pretentiousness of that and you’ll hopefully see what I’m getting at. No matter how hard you try and stick to your quest objective it’s usually hopeless; you’re consistently fleeing from opponents you didn’t ask to encounter, into rooms you didn’t want to enter, to safe areas you didn’t want to return to – all because your path is blocked by higher level opponents. I’m not quite sure T.S Eliot had The Elder Scrolls Online in mind when he wrote that one, but boy does it feel apt.
The city itself is built impressively; every sewer, every tower and every street you roam through charges your inner-nostalgia levels to over nine thousand. You can’t help but be taken back to the amazing adventures you had in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, fighting guards for no reason and hopping around the Arcane University like a child with ADHD. I wondered if ZeniMax would faithfully recreate the map’s layout with Oblivion in mind (or even Elder Scrolls: Arena) and I can positively say they have. Right down to the finite details, such as the seemingly archaic grey signs that signpost certain shops and inns. There’s an amazing public dungeon below the city which actually seems larger than the city itself, making no geographical sense whatsoever (not that I’m complaining). Here you have ample opportunities to grind and work your way up to a respectable level and once you complete the main storyline you’ll feel as though you’ve really, really earned it. I’ve never felt so relieved to complete a story as I have here – it required more effort than perhaps any other game I’ve ever had to review. After your adventure, you’ll return to Cyrodill feeling like you could take on Molag Bal armed only with a toothpick and a packet of crisps.
Boasting 20 hours worth of narrative content, the Imperial City really is a must have for exhausted ESO players who are in dire need of a new lick of paint. When playing with a team of four, the DLC really excels. Pick your classes and strengths correctly and you can assist one another whilst tackling the huge Xivkyn creatures and Daedra sorcerers. If, for some reason, any randoms try and attack you PvP-style, your friends can also then assist you in seeing them off. I highly recommend this as a way of getting the most out of your time with Imperial City – even joining groups with random people is highly recommended, down in the sewers before you enter the fray. The story isn’t exhilarating, questing with your buddies is – therefore bear that in mind before committing yourself to this one financially. There’s plenty of bang for your buck with Imperial City and if you consider yourself a talented ESO player I heartily recommend this content to you. If you’re fairly new to the entire game I’d definitely err on the side of caution; it sounds appealing in so much that it’s a classic Elder Scrolls city and is open to anyone over level 10, just please don’t forget that you’ll need a team if you have any chance of getting out of this one alive. Trust me.
Due to its very nature, this content is perhaps some of the hardest DLC you’ll ever play – even with three/four experienced ESO gamers by your side. The sheer fact you can be ambushed by real players whilst trying to take down some big enemies means you’re always vulnerable, constantly on edge and it makes being inside the city itself nowhere near as relaxing as it was in Oblivion. Perhaps one day in the future an option will be implemented whereby you’ll be able to switch off any PvP function and can roam the map freely, merrily visiting some of your old favorite locations. Now that would be nice.
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