Bethesda often surprise us, sending all kinds of things our way like chocolates for Valentine’s day, rare mount and non-combat pet codes, and even some Maiq’s Pure Elsweyr Moonsugar without even asking for coin in return. Once again, another surprise ended up in our laps with access to the next Elder Scrolls Online chapter a full two months ahead of its launch. Read on as we explore the new Blackwood zone and experience the Gates of Oblivion story (don’t worry, no spoilers!) well ahead of when we were expecting to.
Our Elder Scrolls Online: Blackwood Hands-On experience started with being able to choose from several character builds, allowing us to jump into the chapter at a point that we felt comfortable at. The new character starting zone felt very on-brand for the Elder Scrolls franchise, while the new zone Blackwood opens a stunning Imperial zone filled with medieval-style castles, ruins and more.
If you thought that the Gates of Oblivion storyline would have you revisiting Cyrodiil and the Imperial City then you may want to guess again. The Blackwood zone is located south-east of Cyrodiil with daunting walls forbidding entrance into the Cyrodiil zone, though you may find yourself closer to the Imperial City than expected once you start traveling through the gates of Oblivion.
One of the first things we were told before installing the game is that the Elder Scrolls Online: Blackwood hands-on build that we were going to play was already a month or two old. This allowed us to go in knowing the zone wouldn’t be complete, and also to assume there would be plenty of bugs and glitches that still needed to be smoothed out. What we got was a solid main story from start to finish, side quests that pack a punch, and a large new multi-layered zone to explore, like past chapters.
The Gates of Oblivion are never far away in Blackwood. Whether you’re following the main story or just exploring the zone, gates appear which will take you to the demonic realm known as Oblivion. This expansive public dungeon provides players with engaging content, some of which can be done alone while named demons will require groups, or your trusty companion. We completed the main quest in our time with the Blackwood hands-on and it played out quite well. Nothing (we hope) will ever compete with the back and forth questing that was required in the Summerset chapter, and we found that the fast-travel Wayshrines were well positioned across the new zone.
The companion system is the big-ticket item of this new chapter of Elder Scrolls Online, giving you a fully abled companion to assist you on your adventures. Whether this means easier questing or cutting your dungeon groups in half, companions can be used in everything except for PvP and solo dungeons. There were two companions available in the early build of Blackwood, and we have been told that these will be the only two available at launch, though we’re likely to see more added via future DLC.
The first companion is an Imperial named Bastion, while the second is a Dark Elf called Miri. Players must complete a straight-forward quest line to unlock the companions, and you can only have one at a time. It will probably be worth researching which companion best suits your character before diving in, as their gear and skills work differently to what you would expect, using a prioritized cooldown system that you don’t have much control over in combat.
As this game is colloquially known as Fashion Scrolls Online, ZoS has made sure that your companion can wear customised outfits and ride alongside you on their own mount, meaning your Elder Scrolls Online parties will now be filled with even more style and swag.
The Blackwood chapter introduces a new 12 player trial called Rockgrove which is located in the far south-west of the new zone, though players can immediately fast travel from the main city to the starting area which we thought was a nice touch. The trial has a standard three bosses, each with their own hard mode, offering new gear, cosmetics, mounts, and titles on completion of the achievements.
Overall, our Blackwood hands-on experience was an enjoyable one. It was a bit of a shock to the system seeing a zone that’s still being built with some expanses yet to be filled, but as a seasoned Elder Scrolls player, the Imperial style of the new zone felt very familiar and the surroundings in the Oblivion zone left us wanting more. We’re looking forward to playing the full retail copy of Elder Scrolls Online: Blackwood with other players and seeing how all the new mechanics work in dungeons and trials.
The Elder Scrolls Online: Blackwood chapter is expected to launch on June 1, 2021 on Windows PC and Mac, and on June 8 on Xbox and PlayStation platforms. June 8 will also be when the official next-gen console update hits, meaning those that own a PS5 or Xbox Series X|S can now experience an even better version of the Elder Scrolls Online package. Stay tuned to Rocket Chainsaw for our full review of Blackwood at launch.